Monday, December 29, 2008

Community vs. Democracy: Communitarian Theories and the Israeli Settlers

As an American who knows virtually nothing about Israeli politics or struggles, this paper provided me with a rare, brief glimpse into the Settlers' war against the Israeli state and the Arab Palestinians. It's also interesting that the "father" of American Communitarianism was a German born immigrant raised and trained as a soldier in an Israeli kibbutz settlement, yet his input into the "moral dialogue" is not included in this paper. This paper focuses on Taylor and MacIntyre and neglects to mention Martin Buber, the Israeli philosopher who coined the modern terms for moral communitarianism and then taught it to his pupils, including Amitai Etzioni.
Community vs. Democracy: Communitarian Theories and the Israeli Settlers Prepared for delivery at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August 28 - August 31, 2003. Copyright by the American Political Science Association. presented by Avia Pasternak, MA The Department of Political Science, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem ## email not listed ##

The communitarian critique of liberal thought, which defied the liberal conception of the autonomous subject and the neutrality of the liberal political sphere, attracted much criticism for its vagueness in what regards the practical implications of communitarian politics. More specifically, critics of communitarianism argue that communitarian philosophers, when shaping their proposed political model around a rather obscure definition of the community, do not consider the possibility that ‘ communities’ may have some negative implications as well, if they impede individual autonomy. Accordingly, these philosophers fail to provide a sufficient explanation as to how the political models they propose can be disassociated from anti-democratic communities. 1 This paper aims at reinforcing such a critique on communitarian thought by comparing the communitarian theory with the praxis of an actual community. Focusing on the thought of Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre it strives to show that there are distinct similarities between these philosophers’ ontological premises and those of the Israeli Settlers, 2 and that such similarities raise doubts as to level of {2} compatibility between the political solutions suggested by Taylor and MacIntyre and the modern democratic order. The paper begins by analyzing Taylor’s and MacIntyre’s ontological premises and argues that their critiques of liberal thought rest on a similar perception of the modern subject, which consists of two competing manifestations: the Atomist-Self and the Communitarian-Self. Both philosophers condemn the image of the Atomist- Self and the moral neutrality of the liberal political sphere it leads to. They argue that in order to assist the Communitarian-Self in overcoming her deficient rival, modern politics ought to reintroduce fundamental moral questions to the life of the modern individual, and thus reawaken her communitarian qualities. Nevertheless, albeit Taylor and MacIntyre argue that the political remedies they offer will solve the malaise of modern political order, namely its lack of democratic participation, I argue that these political remedies can in fact have some anti- democratic implications as well, when applied to reality. However, since neither philosopher discloses with clarity what real-world communities accommodate his theoretical conjectures, the paper proceeds to examine Taylor’s and MacIntyre’s conjectures by juxtaposing them with the Israeli Settlers’ worldview. This comparison is conducted through a text analysis of the Settlers’ periodical Nekudah. It focuses on the year 1995, in which many of the Settlers openly defied the democratic order in Israel, a defiance which reached its tragic culmination with the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Thus, by comparing the Settlers’ ontological premises to those of Taylor and MacIntyre, the paper discloses the distinct similarity between the communitarian dual image of the subject and the Settlers’ portrayal of the self. However, contrary to MacIntyre’s and Taylor’s predictions, the Settlers draw some {3} clearly anti-democratic conclusions from these very premises, thus attesting to the anti-democratic potential embedded in the communitarian image of the self.

1 Buchanan Allen, "Assessing the Communitarian Critique of Liberalism” Ethics, 98(3), 867; Phillips Derek, Looking Backward (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 7-8; Holmes Stephan, The Anatomy of Anti-Liberalism (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993), 178.

2 The Israeli Settlers are Israeli-Jews who reside in settlements in the occupied territories (Gaza Strip and the West Bank). They are motivated by a strong religious ideology, claiming that the settling of the biblical Land of Israel is a divine commandment; and hence they strongly object any territorial concessions to the Palestinians.

(From pages 14 and 15): The Settlers’ ideology originates in the political and theological premises of their founding movement, Gush Emunim (The Block of the Faithful). In a nutshell, Gush Emunim was the offspring of Rabbi A.Y. Kook’s Religious Zionism, which composed a unique dialectic combination between Zionism and Judaism, claiming that Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel signified the first stage of the heavenly redemption of the Jewish People. 60 Rabbi Kook’s son, Zvi Yehuda, gave a more radical and material tone to his father’s metaphysical teachings, placing special emphasis on the sanctity of the Land of Israel and preaching for the retrieval of all the ancient Jewish biblical land-patrimonies, then under Egyptian and Jordanian rule. The Israeli dazzling victory of the Six-Days 1967 War, which resulted in the occupation of Eastern-Jerusalem, Sinai, Gaza and the West Bank, conferred a prophetic validity to his preachings. This henceforward led to the establishment of Gush Emunim, whose declared purpose was to hasten the redemption of Israel, via the settling of the Promised Land. 62 Gush Emunim’s principal guidelines were, mainly, the belief in the sanctity of the Land of Israel, the People of Israel and the Torah (Pentateuch); the belief that our age, that of the unification of Israel with its Land, is the age of Messianic redemption; the perceiving of the State of Israel as a sanctified manifestation of Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel; and a total refusal to discuss territorial concessions to the Palestinians, together with the denial of Palestinian rights over the land. More generally, Gush Emunim viewed itself as the natural heir of secular Zionism, which had lost its momentum due to its secular flaws.

(Page 25) Yehuda Etzion’s Hai Vekayam 'identity card' reads: "Even 120 Knesset members – as well as elections or referenda – cannot change the People’s truth. The Land is a bequest for the people and its generations. It is a trust in our hands, which one generation does not have the authority to desert and destroy", quoted in: Sprinzak, Brother Against Brother 224. Etzion is a convicted member of the Jewish Underground, which committed terror acts against Palestinians and planned to blow-up the Mosques on Temple Mount in 1984.

Read the whole paper at


gang stalking said...

This video is great because it explains the various forms of government. It talks about democracy and why it consistently fails. It also talks about the American constitution and the fact that they were given a Republic by their founding fathers, and not a democracy and it explains why.

It also explains what always happens to democracy. It shows where we are now and where we are heading. A really good and worthwhile video.

Anonymous said...

Hi Niki

Dunno if you have seen this:

mary said...

I don't know that much about settlers, as it was not where my focus was, although they are an important element in any consideration of the landgrab and population distribution in what I consider Palestine. I consider all Israelis settlers, but that is not the conventional definition, so at this time, I'll comment by using the standard one!

The settler movement has been very much one of flux. While you are right to consider the more religiously inspired (sic) ones, especially those of Rabbi Kook (I will have to direct you to my dear friend Khalid Amayreh of Hebron, who first introduced me to Kook, he will have information you need. But don't worry, I will get you in touch with some people who can give you information on a lot of things. I just spoke with the son of the person I mentioned the other day, and will write privately to you about this, we are going to make progress), the current settlement movement is almost totally ECONOMIC resettlement.

There are a few parameters to consider: They come from 2 places, internally from Israel and from the Diaspora. Those who move to the Occupied Territories are given economic benefits for doing so, and in fact, often the settlements are not even called that, but they are referred to as "development towns", which means, they are going to get the infrastructure "soon" but first, they have to fill up the apartments. They are almost ALWAYS on a hill, for some interesting reason. They also are gigantic clusters of apartments, and they are sold at cheap prices. This is to get the poorer Israelis out of Tel Aviv, Jaffa, etc, so that the elite from the USA can move into those flats.

The other kind of settlement is one from the Diaspora and these are benefitted by the Nefesh b'Nefesh and other groups that work in the USA and Europe and offer "opportunities" to Jews. There is a film on it that I saw a few weeks ago, a UK family leaving, when I find the link, I will send it. These products are circulated, to show that it is well-adjusted people who simply want to "live in a Jewish atmosphere" and who are leaving behind successful lives. You see, they have to convince people that the losers don't go, just the real successful folks, and it is of course, going to be a success.

This way, those who are not able to afford a flat in Manhattan or London, go to a bigger flat (given economic incentives) in one of these settlements, they are also given the hint that THERE they will find community. This is another thing that drags them in, because while one moves alone, the program operates in a way to make these MASS movements, it is a psychological thing. Their entire propaganda is about the individual being part of history, but the actual event is indeed a communal one.

Well, enough on this now, I don't know too much about these movements, as I said, just as an observer, but there are those I know who do study it, and when the smoke in Gaza settles some, I will put you in touch with some of them. We will all benefit from this!!!

Keep warm, dear Niki!!

Bobby Garner said...

Well, I just did a Yahoo search this morning for "communitarian party", and didn't much of interest. I just went back to check again, and out of 500 plus hits, not one is However, Google places it near the top with the same search term. It turns out that its a new site with only 16 posts. Its revealing that it took that long to post the teachings of Jesus following the social creeds of some churches. Communitarianism is obviously touted as the moral responsible of every Christian, and most of them will agree I suspect.

This is a very bold and significant move illustrating their exuberant confidence now that they have their own team in the White House.

Lark said...

Now being a Good Samaritan will be a good citizen's civic and moral responsibility... or else! ~lol~

How soon before you suspect they'll be pounding at my front door passing out leaflets and pamphlets, Bobby?

I like it that you haven't lost your sense of humor! :)

the tent lady said...

g.s. I can't watch videos with my dialup connection but thanks for posting the link for people who can.

Mary, whoa, development settlements appears to be the same process used under the guise of Local Agenda 21 and the entire sustainable development movement. LA 21 Palestine is a key doc. Resettling humans into government designated communities is a huge part of what I've studied in the US. I also don't think many American Jews want to move to Israel and that is why the Zionists have to make us all believe antiSemitism is on the rise in the US and that we have a huge organized agenda against Jews. In my experience nothing could be further from the truth, as most of the open and threatening "hate" mongering I hear nowadays (which didn't exist prior to 9/11) is directed towards Islam, more often referred to as "Islamofascism."

Please tell your friends I am grateful for any info they send me that contributes to furthering my education about the state of Israel. From what I just read in a Fox news email forward, it doesn't look like the dust will be settling anytime soon. I'm sure my studies are not on the top of anyone's list who's facing the Israeli promises to exterminate the Hamas, on either side of the fence. I also don't know anything about Islam really, other than what I was taught by a Greek Biblical scholar in Anchorage on Nordica's 21st birthday. He told me that my overcoming so many flaws of character is valued in the Muslim religion more than someone who has not had to struggle. Ever heard of that?

Bobby is right, they are becoming bolder by the minute. And Lark they may not come pounding on your door, but they will probably send you a new communitarian datagathering form called The 2010 American Community Survey, and they'll try to tell you it's the US Census.