The proposed bill to declare Israel “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” put before the Knesset last fall, engendered much discussion about the need to reconcile Israel’s democracy with its Jewish character, as if Judaism and democracy were fundamentally at odds. They are not, argues Joel Fishman:
The politically correct wisdom which has become part of the present debate asserts that Judaism and democracy are inherently antithetical, but this is not necessarily true. Several great political thinkers have argued that under decentralized conditions, both religion and democracy can work together quite well. For example, in his classic, Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville argued that Christianity made a positive contribution toward creating a climate of good sense and moderation which permitted democratic habits to thrive. From the colonial period, Protestant Christianity held a preeminent status in the United States which encouraged a positive civic culture and the responsible exercise of freedom. Not least, religion fostered inner restraint and limited excesses of behavior. In his famous conclusion, Tocqueville warned that if the state possessed the tools of supervision, it might introduce a “democratic tyranny” which would bring an end to personal freedom.