This book looks at the theoretical issue of how a democracy can defend itself from those wishing to subvert or destroy it without being required to take measures that would impinge upon the basic principles of the democratic idea. It links social and institutional perspectives to the study, and includes a case study of the Israeli response to Jewish extremism and violence, which tests the theoretical framework outlined in the first chapter. There is an extensive diachronic scrutiny of the state's response to extremist political parties, violent organizations and the infrastructure of extremism and intolerance within Israeli society. The book emphasises the dynamics of the response and the factors that encourage or discourage the shift from less democratic and more democratic models of response.
The ‘defending democracy’ in Israel – a framework of analysis
This book provides an academic discussion and analysis of the response of Israeli democracy to the various challenges facing it. It places the issue at the political-institutional frame, as well as the social frame of analysis, at centre stage. The combination of these two latter frameworks carries the potential for a better understanding of whether the ‘golden path’ does in fact exist—whether there is a course enabling democratic systems of government to protect effectively themselves without crossing the legal and ethical boundaries on which they are founded. This chapter introduces the concept of ‘defending democracy’; the Israeli politics; the book's themes; and data sources and methodology.
This chapter focuses on the historical campaign undertaken by the State of Israel against extremist parties, beginning with the ‘Socialist List’ in 1965 and concluding with the Yemin Yisrael (‘Israel's Right’) party in 1996. It discusses Rabbi Meir Kahane's party Kach, whose ideology, proposed patterns of action and leader's rhetoric have played a key role in shaping the normative legal defensive measures devised by the Israeli democracy. The chapter aims to trace the changes in measures taken by Israel in its struggle with extremist parties and to indicate the gradual transition from a ‘militant’ to an ‘immunized’ model of response.
Attitudes towards subversive movements and violent organisations
This chapter presents a chronological synopsis of the Israeli response to extra-parliamentary radical elements, and begins with the Altalena affair, a weapons ship sunk by the IDF close to a month after the declaration of the State's independence. It considers the Israeli reaction to those far-right elements which emerged during the 1980s and flourished during the course of the 1990s. The major loci of discussion are the Kach Movement, the ‘Jewish Underground’ movement, the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and the evolving character of the State's response towards each of these phenomena. It also reviews the state of emergency that held sway in Israel for many years and the legal infrastructure deriving from this predicament which, in effect, enabled the State, in its struggle with violent and insurgent elements, to employ means that would often deviate from the acceptable rule of law in a democratic state.
This chapter focuses on civics education. By means of a historical and textual analysis of school curricula on the subject of civic studies in the State of Israel in the first decades of its existence, it tries to demonstrate that the State did not attempt to reinforce its democratic character but in fact took steps to weaken it. The education system of the newly born State set about the task of nation-building, to a great extent by means of underscoring particularistic nationalist qualities while banishing universalistic liberalist strains to the margins of the education curricula. In this fashion, the country inculcated among its future citizens dominant nationalist attitudes, which in many cases digressed into nationalist ethnocentrism. The chapter also looks on the State's response to the incidental ultra-nationalist repercussions of this policy.
This chapter, which aims to complete the investigation into the ‘immunized’ potential of the State of Israel, presents the reader with the connection between ‘civil society’ and the ‘immunizing’ process of the Israeli democracy. It suggests that ‘civil society’, because of its state-free status, carries the potential for playing a central role in the transition to the ‘immunized’ model. The chapter's conclusion underscores the awakening of the ‘pro-democratic civil society’ in Israel and profiles a number of notable successes which can be chalked up to its credit.
This chapter is divided into three main sections. The first part presents the reader with the accumulated body of facts with regard to the Israeli response to extremist phenomena and political violence throughout the history of the State of Israel. The second part of the chapter assumes a comparative perspective between the Israeli response and that of other Western democracies, principally, the United States and Germany. The third part of the chapter highlights the theoretical developments accompanying the analysis and submits questions which remain unresolved and worthy of future investigation.