A Blow for Democracy
"A Blow for Democracy"
THE CHAIRMAN of the Jewish Agency, or of the Zionist Organisation, must be a member of the ruling Labour Party. That is the open and unequivocal stand of the Prime Minister, Mr. Rabin.
It is characteristic that Mr. Rabin did not insist on qualifications, standing, experience—only party membership.
Whoever does not belong to Labour, the minority party, which constitutes the Government of Israel, cannot stand at the head of the central Zionist organisation.
If this were the political philosophy of the western democracies, then the Conservative Lloyd could not serve as leader of the House of Commons, while the Socialist Wilson was Prime Minister; nor could a member of the Democratic Party by majority leader in the U.S. Congress while a Republican, Mr. Ford, held sway in the White House. In those democratic countries, such a "split" in functions is regarded as a significant expression of democracy, a means of maintaining checks and balances, definitive either in legislation or in reality.
Nations with much experience in government recognize the danger of concentrating all the authority in the hands of one party. With us it is different. Everything is in the hands of one party, even though it is a minority party.
Factually, Mr. Rabin has formulated a rule of partisan discrimination. If you wish to hold public office, you must be a member of the "right" party; if you do not belong, you will not be able to gain office—every effort will be made to thwart you.
It is a long time since we have heard words so explicit and cynical, in justification of partisan discrimination.
True, Mr. Arye Dulzin, the acting Chairman of the Jewish Agency, has announced that he is not entering his candidacy in the name of the Liberal Party, or of the Likud, but on the basis of his extensive experience in Zionist work. His antagonists in the Labour Party reject this statement, reportedly with some irritation. "You are a Likud man", says the spokesmen of the Labour Party to Mr. Dulzin, "and we shall therefore do our best to prevent your election." An injustice? I am sure that the members of the ruling party do not see it as such. It's a matter of habit. They no doubt feel that they, too, in their thousands, are suited for the post, so that there is nothing wrong in keeping the Likud people from getting it. However, there is an historical echo to this feeling, or this indifference, or compliance.
There were the days, as we know, when Britain maintained discriminative restrictions on Jews in parliament or in public office. The great historian and statesman, Macaulay, spoke up against this discrimination, delivering one of his famous addresses on it. Quoting the utterances of those who sanctioned the discrimination, he deviated their duplicity. "They claim", said Macaulay, "that no injustice is done to anyone who does not get the post; he in fact becomes a member of the vast majority of the population. Now in the United Kingdom there are 25 million Christians who do not hold public office, and if they don't complain, why should the 25,000 Jews in the same situation do so?"
If Mr. Rabin decrees that only a member of the party in power may be Chairman of the Jewish Agency, it is as if he had announced that each and every one among the hundreds of thousands of citizens who are members of other parties is not eligible for the post. This discrimination is not on the law books, but the Prime Minister has asked that it be introduced and observed.
Those who are not counted among the monopolists should rise against this attack on civil equality within our people. All of them together, in Israel and abroad, form a decisive majority of voters. They can and must prove that not all authority has to be vested in the representatives of one party. Accepted democratic procedure is to allocate among all those who posses the required qualifications.
None among the Alignment spokesmen has argued that Mr. Dulzin is not fitted to, or incapable of, filling the post of Jewish Agency Chairman; the trouble is that there is a "flaw" in him—he is a member of the Liberal Party, a Likud man, and not a member of the Labour Party, the regime in power.
If this "flaw" were to decide the elections, as Mr. Rabin has demanded, it will be a blow against democracy in Israel.