Professor Paul Eidelberg
October 31, 2009
The claim that the Palestinian Arabs are entitled to independent statehood is based on the principles of contemporary or normless democracy. This claim, we shall see, can be refuted by those very principles. The same claim can be refuted by employing the principles of classical or normative democracy. What are the differences between these two types of democracy?
Although both normative and normless democracy emphasizes freedom and equality as basic principles, normative democracy derives these principles from the Genesis account of man’s creation in the image of God. As a consequence, freedom and equality in normative democracy have rational and moral constraints. This is not the case of normless democracy, where moral relativism flourishes and prevents those tainted by relativism from opposing a Palestinian nation-state on moral grounds.
Now, it should be obvious that Arab-Islamic culture is utterly opposed to the basic principles of democracy however the term “democracy” is understood. But if this is the case, then the Palestinian Arabs, in this period of history, have no right to an independent and sovereign state anywhere—certainly not on Israel’s doorstep. Indeed, the creation of such a state, at this time, would serve neither the good of these Muslims nor the good of Israel. Any claim to the contrary by Arabs is but a ploy to truncate Israel and thereby facilitate its destruction. If such a claim is made by Jewish democrats, it merely reflects abysmal ignorance if not intellectual dishonesty.
That Arab-Islamic culture rejects the basic principles of democracy is so obvious that I must apologize to the reader for enumerating the following well-known facts:
Whereas, freedom, including freedom of speech, is one of the two cardinal
principles of democracy, Arab-Islamic culture is strictly authoritarian,
which is why its media are state-controlled.
2- Unlike democracy, whose other cardinal principle is equality, Arab-Islamic culture is strictly hierarchical. Top-down leadership is a fundamental principle of Islamic theology. Authority runs down from Allah to Muhammad and from Muhammad to the imam, the ruler of the regime.
Democracy is based on the primacy of consent or persuasion. This adorns
democratic societies with a certain easy-goingness and civility. Not only
are past grievances readily swept aside, but political opponents can be
friends despite their differences. Differences are resolved by mutual
concessions, and agreements are usually lasting. In contrast, Arab-Islamic
culture is based on the primacy of coercion. Agreements between rival
factions do not really terminate animosities, which is why such agreements
are so short-lived.
4- Because democracy is based on the primacy of consent, the pursuit of peace is the norm of democratic states. In contrast, because Arab-Islamic culture is based on the primacy of coercion, the foreign policy norm of Arab-Islamic states is intimidation and conquest. Jihad (holy war) is a basic Islamic principle, which is why Muslim violence will be found throughout the world.
5- Whereas democracy is based on the primacy of the individual, Arab-Islamic culture is based on the primacy of the group—be it the village or the extended family. The individual Muslim has no identity outside the group; it is to the group that he owes all his loyalty. This is one reason why internecine conflict has been endemic among Arabs throughout history.
6- Contemporary democracy is regarded as a process by which various individuals pursue their private interests and have diverse values or “lifestyles.” This is not the case in Arab-Islamic culture, which binds everyone to the set of substantive values prescribed in the Koran and in Islamic law (the sharia).
7- Whereas contemporary democracy is inclined toward moral relativism, Islam is based on absolutism. When moral relativism does not degenerate into moral inversion, contemporary democracy conduces to tolerance, whereas Islam conduces to intolerance. Admittedly, Islamic regimes tolerate non-Islamic minorities, but only as dhimmis—virtual pariahs.
8- Democratic societies are preoccupied with the present (the Now). Conversely, Arab-Islamic culture exists under the aspect of eternity. Islamic mentality is dominated by the past, which is why revenge for past injuries is a dominant motif of the Arab world. And given their group loyalty, Muslims are religiously bound to wreak vengeance against those who have slighted the honor of any Muslim.
9- The openness or publicity found in democracy stands in striking contrast to the hiddenness, secrecy, and dissimulation characteristic of Islam. As one intellectually liberated Arab sociologist writes: “Lying is a widespread habit among the Arabs, and they have a low idea of truth.”2
10- Whereas contemporary democracy is rooted in a mild secularism, Arab-Islamic culture is rooted in a harsh religion. Even Arab leaders who are not devout Muslims identify with the basic goals of Islam. The radical separation of religion and politics found in democracy is foreign to Islamic regimes.
The ten preceding considerations demonstrate that the democratic concept of national self-determination has no logical application to the Muslim Arabs called “Palestinians.
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This conclusion requires a clear understanding between “normative” and “normless” democracy. The former is equivalent to what the American Founding Fathers called a “Republic.” The latter is what Aristotle equated with “anarchy.”
© 2009 Paul Eidelberg - All Rights Reserved
Internationally known political scientist, author and lecturer, Eidelberg is the founder and president of The Foundation for Constitutional Democracy with offices in Jerusalem.
Prof. Eidelberg served in the United States Air Force where he held the rank of first lieutenant. He received his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago. He designed the electronic equipment for the first brain scanner at the Argonne Cancer Research Hospital.
Before immigrating to Israel in 1976, Prof. Eidelberg wrote a trilogy on America’s founding fathers: The Philosophy of the American Constitution, On the Silence of the Declaration of Independence, and a Discourse on Statesmanship.
In 1976 he joined the faculty of Bar-Ilan University in Israel. He has written several books on the Arab-Israel conflict and on Judaism. Demophrenia: Israel and the Malaise of Democracy analyses the mentality of Israel’s ruling elites. Jewish Statesmanship: Lest Israel Fall, which has been translated into Hebrew and Russian, reveals the flaws inherent in Israel’s system of governance and how they may be remedied. A Jewish Philosophy of History investigates the world-historical events leading to the rebirth of Israel in 1948.
His latest publication, The Myth of Israeli Democracy, provides an abbreviated version of a Constitution which shows how to make Israel a genuine democracy based on a Jewish conception of freedom and equality.
is on the Advisory Council of the Ariel Center for Policy Research,
which has published many of his policy papers. In addition to writing
more than 1,000 articles for newspapers and scholarly journals in the
U.S. and Israel, he has a weekly program on Israel
Prof. Eidelberg has been lecturing throughout Israel and the United States. He conducts seminars on constitutions, diverse parliamentary electoral systems, Jewish law, and related topics at the Jerusalem center of the Foundation for Constitutional Democracy.
Web site: Foundation for Constitutional Democracy