Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Israel at 57: the political side

Mazal tov to the State of Israel for surviving 57 years amid much adversity, external and internal. It's not perfect, but it's much better than the United States in 1833, when 2 million people lived in slavery and only white males could vote. Still, that's a poor excuse. We can do better.

On the 4th of July, it has of late become poignant to read the U.S. Declaration of Independence and see how much it rings true for the United States today:

The history of the present King ... is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

And so forth. Likewise, on this Independence Day, the Israeli Declaration of Independence reminds us how far we still have to go:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

It is hard to read that paragraph with dry eyes. But this year, there is renewed optimism that we are gradually moving toward a future in which Israel will no longer rule over 3 million disenfranchised people against their consent, and will truly be a Jewish and democratic state.

Then we can start addressing all that other stuff about freedom and justice and equality. Let's have a country where all Jews have freedom of religion, to be married by the rabbi of their choice or by no rabbi. Let's address the creeping socioeconomic inequality in Israel, and work toward creating the ideal society "as envisaged by the prophets of Israel".

Then we can truly be am chofshi b'artzeinu, a free people in our land.

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