Letters to the Editor
Sharing the burden: no mere slogan
With all the talk in the news and all the speculation surrounding coalition talks, I’d like to add my take on the slogan “Sharing the burden.” I think every citizen of this country is entitled to privileges, but these privileges come with obligations. We should all make a contribution to the state, to our welfare and to upholding democratic institutions.
With all due respect to the religious parties, they are not democratic and do not contribute to safeguarding or advancing our very precious democracy. On the contrary; they are mainly led by rabbis who have held sway over our lives via the Interior, Health, Housing and the Religious Affairs Ministries, not to mention the Chief Rabbinate. These parties are takers, not givers, and we have encouraged them to take by cultivating a growing population of “entitled ones.”
“Sharing the burden” includes several aspects that are cardinal to our democratic life here, the least important of which is army service. First and foremost is education: we need a uniform education system for all. Currently, we have secular, religious Zionist, schools for Haredi boys, schools for Haredi girls and education for the Arab population − five separate systems for fewer than 8 million citizens.
After our boys and girls complete their army service and go on to university or college, they have huge tuition costs; many work and study at the same time. Religious boys go to yeshivas or kollels; not only are they paid for by the state, but these “students” are paid to study! With education comes joining the work force, paying taxes and reaping the benefits of working. At the moment, some religious citizens work, but many more don’t, or do “gray” work and avoid paying taxes.
Then there is the issue of civil service. There is no shortage of places for Israelis, including the religious and Arab sectors, to contribute − for the country and for their communities. After these requirements have been filled, then we can look to army service and examining how enlisting Haredi youth will change the fabric of the military.
Yes, it’s time to “share the burden,” but we must examine exactly how this is to be accomplished − and the sooner the better.
Children of Abraham
In response to “As Lincoln abolished slavery, Israel must abolish occupation” (Bradley Burston, February 26)
Bradley Burston says that “as Lincoln abolished slavery, Israel must abolish the occupation.” These evils, which are otherwise so different, are similar in that they have needed to be literally, and not just figuratively, abolished.
But Burston’s metaphoric analogies to Lincoln’s issue are also striking − the Palestinians’ lack of rights, dispossession, that they are beaten, shot and jailed, sometimes it seems almost at will − and that their families are split by artificial boundaries, and with ancient Biblical justifications.
Lincoln famously said, in 1858, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” and “cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.”
Israel is such a house − Israel proper and the occupied territories; free and occupied; pro-freedom and pro-occupation. But Israel will be one house, either based on its 1967 borders or as an annexationist “Greater Israel.”
Lincoln spoke against Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, who advocated “popular sovereignty,” where each new state’s free population could vote to be a slave or a free state.
Israel is a democracy in Israel proper and when decisions refer to it; but not when it decides in favor of occupation. Palestinian freedom is inalienable and not decidable. When others decide, we have Senator Stephen Douglas’s sovereignty proposal all over again. In the occupied territories itself, Israel is no more (or less) democratic than the slave South, apartheid South Africa or the segregationist South.
Lincoln opposed the Dred Scott decision (1857) of his Supreme Court, according to which blacks had no constitutional protections or citizenship, which also recalls the Plessy v. Ferguson decision (1896) for “separate but equal” segregation.
These legalistic rationalizations of oppression − also like the Levy Report − would be denounced by Hebrew prophets like Amos and Micah, by America’s founders fighting Britain’s “legal” Empire, and by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, David Ben-Gurion and also Ariel Sharon.
As Burston says, Israel must abolish its own expansionist and oppressive decrees to act in the spirit of the Hebrew prophets of righteousness and of the biblical Abraham’s most renowned namesake, Abraham Lincoln.