The Fallacy of the Belief that Israel is a Theocracy 

Some people believe that because the Israeli Declaration of Independence mentions the Prophets Israeli society and/or government must be theistic. Even though it’s true that the declaration does mention the prophets, it doesn’t necessarily mean the law of god (or prophets, or whatever) rules in Israel, any more than it does in the US simply because of the numerous times the creator is mentioned in multiple equally important American counterparts to the Israeli Declaration of Independence.

Gabriel Wilensky

The fallacy in that line of thinking is simple: proponents of this belief make their case on that clause, despite the fact that there is no evidence in reality to show that their assumptions are true. These types of arguments are built on conjectures and assumptions, all based on the putative fact of a theocratically-based Israeli government deriving their power, wisdom and policy from gods and prophets.

Anyone spending some time learning about Israel, past the cursory literal analysis of a short one-paragraph document, would find that Israeli government and religion are completely and totally separated. There is nothing in the governmental institutions of that country that require (or welcome) religious notions (even though its westernized freedom of expression means that the religious orthodox have their own party and thus one or more seats in the Parliament). Nowhere in that country’s actions will you see or hear the claim that they are acting on the will of god, prophets, rabbis, the Bible or whatever, unless you listen to the extreme right or ultra-orthodox.

“Israeli society, despite its inherent characteristic of being Jewish in the socio-cultural sense, is almost totally secular and wholly westernized, that is, with all the characteristics of the Western hemisphere which includes Europe and the entire American continent.”

It may help to understand the difference between a theocracy and a democracy by comparing the institutions and modus vivendi of countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia, and the US or Israel, respectively.

Israeli society, despite its inherent characteristic of being Jewish in the socio-cultural sense, is almost totally secular and wholly westernized, that is, with all the characteristics of the Western hemisphere which includes Europe and the entire American continent. This applies to form of government, freedom of expression, freedom of cult, the way they speak and act, the look of their clothes, streets, shopping malls, education curricula all the way from kindergarten to graduate universities, their outlook on life, sex, music, technology, marriage and anything else you may imagine. If you ever have a chance to visit that country, you will find that apart from the fascinating juxtaposition of the extremely old with the extremely new when it comes to buildings and the fact that street signs are written in three different languages, pretty much everything else looks and works just like any place in the US.

This is not to say that Israelis are not religious: many of them are. But as opposed to our own Department of Justice, where not too long ago the Attorney General required employees to pray every day or the President himself and many other US government officials invoke god at the end of every other sentence or official declaration or document, the Israeli government is devoid of any of that. As would be the case with any true secular government, policy and god are like oil and water.

Some folks have difficulty grasping the difference between a Jew as a socio-cultural entity, and Judaism as a religion. Israel is a Jewish state, and in order to qualify as a Jew one must prove one were born of a Jewish mother. Nobody there asks you or cares if you practice Judaism, either when your offspring is born or when you become an Israeli citizen. As a matter of fact, you can be a Jew in the Jewish state and practice Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Satanism or anything else. Nobody cares. Most young people there probably don’t even know what the prophets said, I’d venture to say… Regardless, I wouldn’t be surprised if the prophets’ notions of liberty, justice and peace quite symmetrically matched what the western enlightened people espouse. After all, the Enlightenment and the individuals that represent it are fruits of the Judeo-Christian tradition based on precisely the traditions and concepts envisaged by the prophets of Israel.

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