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Support for Israel

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I think it's pretty obvious that, of the Islamists and the Israelis, who are the aggressors. What makes it obscene is that even the murderous Islamists expect to be able to blackmail the Israelis by their virtues. They often accuse Israel of not following rules that they themselves repudiate. How can a culture which praises sending someone to blow up a school bus have the chutzpah to morally condemn Israel for getting a few civilians in the process of killing a terrorist mastermind? (When it turns out that the Palestinians lied, oh well, move forward to the next incident).

It's clear to me that if Israel turned its armed might against the Palestinians, they could exterminate them. The fact that they have not chosen to do so should indicate something.

I have two other observations. First, Judaism is significantly less malevolent than other religions, and Islam is significantly more malevolent. It is not a coincidence, that most of the top Objectivists (starting with Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff) were born into Jewish families. Judaism does not demand the abject, mind-numbing, unquestioning faith that Christianity does.

Second, I am involved in the voice over IP space. I will note that there are many more Israeli companies in the market than its small population would lead one to expect. These are smart people and their products are competitive. Is Israel socialist? Yes. Is the US becoming socialist? Yes.

Compared to the Arab states (which are all murderous dictatorships), Israel is a mostly-free state.

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First, Judaism is significantly less malevolent than other religions, [...] It is not a coincidence, that most of the top Objectivists (starting with Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff) were born into Jewish families.  Judaism does not demand the abject, mind-numbing, unquestioning faith that Christianity does.

Observe that while Jews are only about 5% of the population, that Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, Harry Binswanger, Peter Schwartz, Michael Berliner, Andrew Bernstein and many other leading Objectivists as well as much more than 5% of the Objectivists _you_ know were raised in Jewish families.

Why is this so?

The reason has less to do with ethnicity than with philosophy. The appeal of rational values among Jews owes little to the Hebrew religion and everything to ancient Greek ideals.

At the height of the Hellenistic Age, the Greeks ruled Palestine and brought their culture to the Jews living there. The Jews (especially the young ones) became enamored of the Greek ways, sought to assimilate, and began to abandon their Hebrew traditions. Unfortunately, the Greek conquerors tried to _forcibly_ forbid Jewish practices, and this led to the Maccabeean Rebellion which overthrew the Greeks. When the Jews reasserted their religion, there remained a strong and vital this-earthly, rational streak of Hellenism in their culture.

Because the Jews were an isolated minority, they managed to preserve the ancient Greek world-view as the rest of Western Civilization sank into the Dark Ages. Jews were forbidden to own land, so they moved to the towns and cities. When Jews were denied entry into the artisan's guilds, they became merchants and traders. While Christians scorned life on earth, the Jews became physicians. The Church forbids the sin of usury, so Jews became the money-lenders and financiers. Like the Greeks who named their greatest city for the Goddess of Wisdom, the Jews revered learning and the "practical wisdom" that creates material prosperity.

The man who is generally considered the greatest Jewish sage, Maimonides (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon), was an avowed Aristotelian. In his book, _A_Guide_to_the_Perplexed_, he sought to combine Aristotelian epistemology with Jewish religious teachings. Later, Thomas Aquinas (who, it is believed, read Maimonides) was to attempt the same with Christianity and, in so doing, bring the light of Reason to the Dark Ages.

Reason, individualism, and this earth have been a crucial part of Jewish culture for over two millennia. It is not surprising that Jews and Objectivists have so much in common.

L'Chaim! (To Life!)

Edited by Betsy

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I would like to second Betsy’s post on the merit of Jewish culture, but disagree with her reasons for the prominence of Jews in Objectivism.

I have two compounding explanations for this:

(a) For historical and cultural reasons, Jews are more educated and intellectual than the average citizen, so they are more included towards participating in two the dominant philosophical trends of our time: Marxism, and it’s opposite: Objectivism. They are also more intelligent than the public (for social rather than biological reasons) so they are more likely to seek and adopt the root of the philosophical tendencies they are exposed to.

(B) A history of persecution and holding unpopular minority beliefs had led many former Jews towards more radical social solutions, especially utopian ones. (Ironically, this led Jewish intellectuals to be some of the strongest supporters of the Weimar-era philosophical and political movements that brought about Fascism. It also created the utopian socialist vision that brought about the State of Israel, for better or worse.)

Regarding Israel:

I am (ethnically) Jewish and visited Israel six years ago. I found it to be an overwhelmingly secular state similar to Western Europe in culture and politics. This is unsurprising, as the majority of Israelis emigrated (or escaped) from there.

In terms of population, it is much more secular than America, and not much more religious, if at all, in the influence of religion over government. The laws pertinent to religion are simply more visible in Israel because we tend to accept laws rooted in Christianity as a given. I have heard that 4/5 Israelis are secular, and this is consistent with my experience. Unlike America, religion tends to be an all-or-nothing thing there, and it’s mostly nothing. The Orthodox minority parties have much more power than votes, mostly because of their prestige and solidarity. Also, the Israeli Declaration of Independence and Constitution have no mention of God – contrast this to the American versions.

In terms of economic freedom, it is freer than many European countries, such as France. The major interventionist aspect of government is caused by its response to military threats, which while misguided is much more reasonable then European welfare Statism.

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I have neglected to post in this forum far too long. Let me state that I support Israel and that I was pleased that Israel has finally decided to eliminate the leaders of the Hamas. I truly believe that if Israel had to worry less about its security that it would move ever further to being a secular state.

For someone to claim to support America but yet have utter disdain for Israel is an inconsistency. True Israel is not a perfect state but neither is the USA. In the whole of the Middle East there is not a nation that closely reflects the values of freedom than that of Israel.

It would be suicide for Israel to capitulate to those who are hell bent on her destruction. It is not that case that the terrorists want to remove a despotic regime (which has no rights) but it wants to obliterate a state that respects to some extent individual rights. All this so they can add one more theocratic dictatorship to the world map. This is unacceptable.

On another note I agree with previous post. While reading it I remembered that I have always been intriqued as to why there are so many "Jewish atheists".

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I would like to second Betsy’s post on the merit of Jewish culture, but disagree with her reasons for the prominence of Jews in Objectivism.

I have two compounding explanations for this:

(a) For historical and cultural reasons, Jews are more educated and intellectual than the average citizen, so they are more included towards participating in two the dominant philosophical trends of our time: Marxism, and it’s opposite: Objectivism.

I agree, but I believe the "historical and cultural reasons" for being more educated and intellectual reduce to the underlying Aristotelian epistemology and its resulting this-earthly individualism. Observe that Aristotelianism, applied incorrectly, can also lead to Rationalism: the Rationalism of the Christian Scholastics or the Rationalism of the Jewish philosopher, Spinoza. The Marxism tends to come from two sources: Rationalism and the necessity for Jews to band together and rely on the collective community to survive in a hostile world.

In a more benevolent atmosphere. like the US today, most Jews aren't very religious, they freely intermarry with non-Jews (a huge no-no in the Old Country), and a lot of them are switching their party affiliation to the Republicans.

They are also more intelligent than the public (for social rather than biological reasons)

The "social reasons" again reduce to Aristotelian epistemology. A little bit of good philosophy does wonders for your brain. :)

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Also, the Israeli Declaration of Independence and Constitution have no mention of God – contrast this to the American versions.

Jefferson was probley a "closet" atheist, he never refered to Christian God only Nature's God.

But yah I agree Israel it is not as religious as leftist make them out to be. Israel deserves our complete support.

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Yes he was a deist and unitarian I believe but it seems like he was also agnostic.

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

Thomas Jefferson

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I write this post from Haifa, Israel.

Israel is far from being perfect - and the two problems you described are serious. However both of them (the compulsory army service, and the inherent favoritism for religious jews) are both debated very heavily in Israel.

The truth is that today less than 50% of young people ever serve in the army. There is a plan to privatize the army and this is supported by many in the army and the parliament. It will take a few years at least to implement - but we're heading there.

As to favoritism of religious jews: this is an old vestige of the Israeli welfare state, that achieved a semblance of unity when signing an agreement with religious jews back in the late 40s, sparing them from Army service, and establishing a status quo regarding many religious laws: For example - forbiding of public transportation on Saturday.

These laws are being cancelled one by one, and many government companies (the latest one being El-Al, the airline company) were recently privatized, and therefore stopped being influence by the status quo agreement and resulting laws.

As for being "the chosen people": this is a very religious notion, and I don't personally know ANYONE here in Israel who believes this. Only the Ultra-religious do, and they compose less than 20% of the population. Seculars are around 70%, and 10% are religious on varying degrees.

(BTW - even those few who believe Jews to be "the chosen people" see it as a mark of duty towards the other peoples, not necessarily of racial superiority. They believe jews were chosen to lead the other peoples into moral perfection. You can't really compare it with the Nazis, who believed in a different kind of hierarchy).

Israel's third largest party (and some say it will be the second largest by next elections), called Shinui (meaning - Change), rose to it's current position by writing "separation of religion and state" on it's ideological banner. This is a party which is explicitly secular, support free markets and push for abolition of many laws that force religious imperatives on seculars.

Shinui is now the second largest party in the government - they hold the ministry of interior, the ministry of justice, the ministry of science - and more!

Just to give you an example - there is a law forbidding to display bread for sale on Passover. You can sell it, but not display it in public domain. The fine for breaking this law is around 100$. Shinui couldn't abolish this law in parliament - but they did not enforce it (the minister of interior is responsible for sending inspectors - and he, being a Shinui member, did not).

Israel still has a long way to go to reach the level of freedom in America, but when I look at America I see deterioration in this respect, while Israel is getting freer and better from year to year.

I think in terms of religion, Israel's culture is far more secular than American. Religious people are a minority, and they are clearly marked (they wear a special skullcap, which is clearly visible, and you can avoid them pretty easily :-) ).

I plan to move to the US by this year's end. But I want to assure you that Israeli people have in general a lot of respect for the individual, and work hard to make Israel a better, freer place. And that's DESPITE the fact that Israel is suffering one of the worst times in its history.

P.S. (1) - Drafting a constitution is also heavily debated here in Israel, and I believe the public is in favour, and so are more secular politicians. However, the block of religious party can make passing a liberal constitution quite hard. This brings us back to Shinui party - that are one of the forces behind the idea of an Israeli constitution.

P.S. (2) - The "Foundation Law" or "Basic law" that someone mentioned is exactly like a constitution in it's legal sense: It needs a very special majority to change (85 out of 120 parliament members), no laws can contradict it, and the courts must interpret any legal case according to them. However - these "basic laws" are built in patches, and are sometimes deliberately unclear, or even seemingly contradictory. That's why Israel needs a new constitution to be drafted from scratch. I personally believe it will be best to wait until religious parties lose their momentum, and Shinui gains more influence.

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Thank you all for the excellent information on Israel. While I have long been a supporter, I am very encouraged to learn that Israel is so secular.

On a related subject, can any of you explain why 80 - 85% of the Jews in the U.S. consistently vote Democratic in the presidential elections? Is it a reaction to the influence of Christianity in the Republican party?

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On a related subject, can any of you explain why 80 - 85% of the Jews in the U.S. consistently vote Democratic in the presidential elections?  Is it a reaction to the influence of Christianity in the Republican party?

Not any more!

Most of the middle-aged and younger, middle class, professional Jews I know have switched from the Democrats to the Republicans in the past ten years. Jews used to be intellectual liberals of the Old Left. With the ascendancy of the New Left and its rabid anti-intellectualism and anti-Americanism, many Jewish intellectual leaders have become Neo-Conservatives.

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The growing trend seems to be the population explosion of Arabs in Israel due to high birth rates. If Jews do not wish to be supressed in their own country through the opression of democracy, maybe some will revert and publisize objectivism.

(Just wishful thinking on my part)

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The truth is that today less than 50% of young people ever serve in the army. There is a plan to privatize the army and this is supported by many in the army and the parliament. It will take a few years at least to implement - but we're heading there.

The privatization of the armed forces would represent an abdication of the government's responsibility to protect the rights of its citizens.

My opinion- that would be a big mistake.

Elimination of mandatory service is a good idea.

As to favoritism of religious jews: this is an old vestige of the Israeli welfare state, that achieved a semblance of unity when signing an agreement with religious jews back in the late 40s, sparing them from Army service, and establishing a status quo regarding many religious laws: For example - forbiding of public transportation on Saturday.
I interpreted this as an "Old World" value. In the old world, the rule of thumb seems to be that each country has its own singular ethnic group.

P.S. (2) - The "Foundation Law" or "Basic law" that someone mentioned is exactly like a constitution in it's legal sense: It needs a very special majority to change (85 out of 120 parliament members), no laws can contradict it, and the courts must interpret any legal case according to them. However - these "basic laws" are built in patches, and are sometimes deliberately unclear, or even seemingly contradictory. That's why Israel needs a new constitution to be drafted from scratch. I personally believe it will be best to wait until religious parties lose their momentum, and Shinui gains more influence.

It's still a constitution. Amending it to clarify the sparation of religion and state is probably the only major change that I can see making sense, thus far.

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]Israel does TOO have a Constitution.  It's called "Basic law".

Not really. Israel has NO constitution whatsoever.

A constitution is a system of laws according to which a state is governed.

What Israel HAS is a bunch of contradictory, socialistic SUGGETIONS, made shortly after it's establishment. As suggestions usually treated, sometimes the judicial system accepts them and other times, ignores them blatantly.

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I am appalled at Tomer's response.

After directly linking him to Israel's basic law, he still proclaims that Israel has NO constitution whatsoever.

Are we to get into a pissing match on semantics?

Whatever one's views on Israel, it is a government of law. Basic law. A basic law which is very synonymous in letter and intent to the American Constitution. So the argument reduces to one of semantics- in which because Israel calls its law "basic law" not "Constitution."

My point-of fact stands.

And GreedyCapitalist, in your argument, you appear to equate the government's hiring of private security forces to the government's hiring of architects and contractors to design and build government facilities.

That is a very interesting and provocative argument.

I'm not sure how Capitalism would address this issue. So forgive me if my argument is flawed here, because I am trying to demonstrate here something that is in concert with government's function to protect the rights of its citizens.

Government has to furnish the manpower to protect our rights. So government works in executive, legislative, and judicial, and defense.

To contract the executive functions, i.e. president, et. al., to a private entity would appear to favor such entity and give it power, would it not? Whereas to contract an entity to construct a facility for the use of the government wouldn't favor anyone, since the government becomes a consumer in this case, purchasing goods and services like any entity would.

Now let's go to the judicial, i.e. law enforcement and interpretation branch.

If one contracts the police to a private entity, again it would appear to give such private entity power that is outside and alien to the principles of Capitalism, would it not?

Now let's go to defense. To contract the function of an armed force to a private entity would again give such entity power that is not in concert with Capitalism. However, when the government contracts out for weaponry, it functions more like a consumer in the marketplace in that it is attempting to purchase goods. Unless the government winds up buying from just one supplier, (in a monopoly scenario) the entities who furnish goods and services to the government compete against each other, denying any one entity any power whatsoever.

So this, in a nutshell, is the peril that government would face by contracting armed forces to a private contractor. The government should never, ever, give such power to a private entity.

I have serious problems perceiving government contracting basic functions such as armed forces and police to private companies. Perhaps the reasons I cite may be ultimately nonsense, but there is a reason why this hasn't been done here in America.

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Well actually, to be exact, there is no plan in Israel to privatize the army in the sense of leasing a contract to a private company.

The plan that IS being talked about is a plan to make army service voluntary, paying the soldiers much higher salaries, and downsizing it to the necessary minimum.

I guess I should have said not privatize, but professionalize the army. Make soldier a profession like any other.

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Well actually, to be exact, there is no plan in Israel to privatize the army in the sense of leasing a contract to a private company.

The plan that IS being talked about is a plan to make army service voluntary, paying the soldiers much higher salaries, and downsizing it to the necessary minimum.

I guess I should have said not privatize, but professionalize the army. Make soldier a profession like any other.

In other words, the armed forces consist of personnel who are paid wages/salaries, as is the case here in America.

An excellent idea, in my view.

By paying your soldiers, as we do in America, and offering them benefits as well, you are taking the concept of sacrifice out of the equation, and emphasizing the more important concepts of "fighing for freedom" and "fighing aganst being enslaved."

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I am appalled at Tomer's response.

After directly linking him to Israel's basic law, he still proclaims that Israel has NO constitution whatsoever.

Are we to get into a pissing match on semantics?

Whatever one's views on Israel, it is a government of law.  Basic law.  A basic law which is very synonymous in letter and intent to the American Constitution.  So the argument reduces to one of semantics- in which because Israel calls its law "basic law" not "Constitution."

My point-of fact stands.

It was not my intention to get into some kind of a pissing match.

I'm am a citizen in Israel, learned the basis of those "basic laws". I also know that up to this day, nothing compels the judicial system to apply those rules, which means that they are treated as regular laws.

on June 13, 1950, the Kneset (parliament), excepted the following resolution: 'The constitution and law' committee has to propose a constitution draft to the state.

Over the years, a few Suggestions were made of what the constitution WILL consist of, but even now, there is no constitution.

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This is mainly to AutoJC.

I hope what I'm writing now will make the issue clear once and for all, and you will see that semantics have nothing to do with it. I live in Israel, both Tomer and I are aware of the basic laws of our country since all students learn them in school over the years.

What we also learn in school, and see everyday in our own eyes is that the government takes the right to ignore these rules according to its momentary needs.

You posted a link specifying our basic laws.

To make it easier, I bring excerpts:

Violation of rights  8.

There shall be no violation of rights under this Basic Lawexcept by a law befitting the values of the State of Israel, enacted for a proper purpose, and to an extent no greater than is required.

Reservation regarding security forces  9.

There shall be no restriction of rights under this Basic Law held by persons serving in the Israel Defence Forces, the Israel Police, the Prisons Service and other security organizations of the State, nor shall such rights be subject to conditions, except by virtue of a law, or by regulation enacted by virtue of a law, and to an extent no greater than is required by the nature and character of the service.

Validity of laws  10.

This Basic Law shall not affect the validity of any law (din) in force prior to the commencement of the Basic Law.

Stability  12.

This Basic Law cannot be varied, suspended or made subject to conditions by emergency regulations; notwithstanding, when a state of emergency exists, by virtue of a declaration under section 9 of the Law and Administration Ordinance, 5708-1948, emergency regulations may be enacted by virtue of said section to deny or restrict rights under this Basic Law, provided the denial or restriction shall be for a proper purpose and for a period and extent no greater than is required.

(Italics mine)

This is one example, from 'Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty'. They are called "Limitation Paragraphs".

Do I have to explain what this means? In short- it means they are not absuluts.

And just to let you know, about patagraph 12- Israel is in "Emergency state" since it was established.

We live here, we experience it on our flash everyday. I don't understand your persistence on calling our basic laws "a constitution", they are not(theyr'e the best wev'e got, but they're not a constitution). Our government is not even trying to hide the fact that we don't have a constitution, it's a well known fact. This is mainly because of the religious people here, they insist it should come out of the bible.

So your'e saying that its meaning is the same as constitution and all the rest is semantics- IT IS NOT. Are there any parts of your constituion saying when it is permissible to condradict all the other parts of it? I'm talking, of course, not about two laws contradicting each other(we have planty of that too), but about a part of a law saying when this law itself could be ignored.

Check for yourself- read about the battle to a constitution, about all the resolutions to write one(non came true), about all the usless committees appointed just for this purpose. Also, check in archives, maybe in our high court decrees and old newspapers for violations(well, "legitimate" violations, according to the law itself) of those basic rules.

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