Published by The Freeman Center

The Maccabean Online

Political Analysis and Commentary
on Israeli and Jewish Affairs

"For Zion's sake I shall not hold my peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I shall not rest."


 By Professor Paul Eidelberg



If we juxtapose the policies of Israeli governments and certain passages of Alexis de Tocqueville’s The European Revolution, where he discusses France under Napoleon and Rome under Augustus Caesar, we shall see that Israel approximates a democratic despotism! Here are his most revealing remarks: 

1.  “Public opinion, favorably inclined, let Bonaparte dare anything. People are tired of confusion whose end is not in sight. For the sake of rest and order the nation throws itself into the arms of a man who is believed sufficiently strong to [end the violence and render them safe and secure].” 

That’s what the people of Israel did when they elected Ariel Sharon Prime Minister and allowed him to trash not only the principles of his own Likud Party, but also to nullify the January 2003 election by adopting the Labor Party’s policy of “unilateral disengagement”—a policy rejected by more than 70 percent of the voters in that election! 

2. “Whenever a despot rises, one may be sure that soon legalists will appear ready to prove that violence is lawful and that the defeated have been guilty.” 

Recall how Supreme Court President Aharon Barak “legalized” Sharon’s forced evacuation of 10,000 Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria by ruling that these areas constitute “belligerent occupied territory.” Barak based this ruling on non-binding UNGeneral Assembly documents and International Court of Justice advisory opinions which he blithely incorporated into Israeli law!  Recall, too, how the Barak Court was complicit in the Sharon government’s violation of the civil rights of citizens who lawfully demonstrated against the expulsion. Indeed, as Caroline Glick wrote at the time, Barak “enabled unindicted citizens to be barred from their homes and prohibited from seeing their families. He ruled that they could be divested of their property rights without due process and without equitable restitution by the government; could be divested of their livelihood without due process or equitable restitution; … and could be held for months in administrative detention.” (Jerusalem Post September 5, 2006, p. 15.) 

3. “[In the ‘structure’ of the Roman Empire one may discern] the despotism of a single person resting on a democratic basis.  This [curious] combination was … supported by the greatest number [of people] and at the same time by the least responsible of people. [How] extraordinary the character of a government which pretends that its mandate originated in a popular election.” 

Sharon repeatedly claimed that he had a democratic mandate for his disengagement policy, even though that policy, as noted, was rejected by an overwhelming majority of the voters in the January 2003 election. 

4. “[Behold a democratic despotism that] governs in the name of the people but without the people; that represents the masses yet governs with the enlightened classes. Satisfaction given to the masses … to the sentiments of equality … At the same time satisfaction given to the rich by assuring them of material order, the tranquil possession of their goods, by continued well-being and opportunities of enrichment through official positions …” 

Judge Barak had the temerity not only to declare that the Court represents Israel’s “enlightened population,” i.e., Israel's intelligentsia, but he also handed down the dictum that “everything is justiciable,” a dictum of that allows the Court to prescribe the morality of the Jewish people, a dictum that entails judicial despotism. 

5. “Augustus and his first successors portrayed themselves as representatives of the Roman people (and, which is more complex) as champions of democracy…” 

6.  “It should be noted that Augustus maintained the semblances of electoral procedure and of popular government while in reality he made them illusory and impotent.” 

The same may be said of Israel’s Knesset which is not only subservient to the Government but whose members, though elected democratically, can ignore public opinion with impunity. 

7.  Here is a more revealing discussion of what Tocqueville means by democratic despotism: 

The form of tyranny sometimes described as "democratic despotism" (it would have been unthinkable in the Middle Ages) was championed by the Economists [the socialists of the 18th century] well before the [French] Revolution.  They were for abolishing all hierarchies, all class distinctions, all differences of ranks, and the nation was to be composed of individuals almost exactly alike and unconditionally equal.  In this undiscriminated mass was to reside, theoretically, the [people or] sovereign power; yet it was to be carefully deprived of any means of controlling or even supervising the activities of its own government.  For above it was a single authority, its mandatory, which was entitled to do anything and everything without consulting it.  This authority could not be controlled by public opinion since public opinion had no means of making itself heard; the State was a law unto itself and nothing short of revolution could break its tyranny.  De jure it was a subordinate agent; de facto a master. 

The democratic despotism lurking in Israel’s was tacitly confirmed by Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin in an interview with Ha’aretz Magazine Section, of June 5, 2003. Rivlin admitted that Israel is governed by a “gang” that rules under the façade of the rule of law. The “gang” was then led by Ariel Sharon and Aharon Barak. Today Israel is led by that glib democrat Binyamin Netanyahu who, without public or Knesset debate, trashed the teachings of the prophets and sages of Israel endorsing an Arab Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, the heartland of the Jewish People. 

Despite all this blatant evidence to the contrary—and I could add a volume more—politicians, academics, and journalists, with hardly an exception, persist in referring to Israel as a “democracy.” No wonder the people of this country have been brainwashed and sheepishly tolerate a regime that very much resembles a democratic despotism.