Thursday, January 21, 2010
A Libertarian Kahanist
Rabbi Shalom Carmy once told me a story about a student who signed up for numerous courses with both him and Rabbi Moshe Tendler. It turns out that this student was interested in Rabbi Carmy because he wanted to start a "true" Zionist club at Yeshiva University and by this he meant a Kahanist club. He wanted Rabbi Tendler because he was looking for support for his vegetarianism. So we had a vegetarian Kahanist. Who knew that right wing nationalist politics could mix with liberal culinary tastes? Rabbi Carmy ended by noting that if only the student had switched and come to him for vegetarianism and Rabbi Tendler for Kahane. Rabbi Tendler actually spoke at Rabbi Meir Kahane's funeral.
Despite the fact that I am, at least in principle, sympathetic to many of Kahane's political policies, I view myself as a strong opponent of Kahanist ideology, particularly in its modern manifestations such as Moshe Feiglin. As a classical liberal/Libertarian, I have little patience with national identity politics, particularly if religion gets thrown into the mix, and if I might not join the modern left in point blank condemning it as racism and bigotry, I still see it as a well trod path to such a downfall. I am not against nation states nor am I opposed to political Zionism. As a minority group, Jews are unlikely to ever be on equal footing with the majority culture. Therefore it is a reasonable solution to suggest that Jews immigrate to one place where they can be the majority and set up their own Jewish society and State. I will take a Jewish State in Israel over one in Uganda. This is not really any different from the Free State movement amongst Libertarians, which argues that Libertarians should move to one small State, like New Hampshire. This would allow us to get the votes to enact libertarian policies and thus demonstrate that they work. This Jewish State, while giving equal rights to all, is allowed to wrap itself in Jewish religious and cultural symbols and take an active interest in protecting Jews around the world. It is free to offer a law of return to all Jews, allowing them to come to Israel at a moment's notice if they so choose. I have yet to take advantage of this offer, but I am certainly glad of having it. This is no different then Ireland being an Irish State and the Irish government deciding to take an interest in protecting Irish people, even those who live in Boston.
That being said, the moment you come out and declare the state to be primarily about the promotion of a religious nationalist ideology then you have crossed a line. You may claim to support liberal democracy and tolerate all beliefs and cultures, but what that can that mean if such principles become secondary to national identity? To be a supporter of the free society means that you are willing to support it at the expense of nationalist sentiment.
I just found an interesting blog by Michael Makovi, who coincidently, while now living in Petah Tiqwa in Israel, comes from Silver Spring MD where I live. Michael is a Libertarian, with some wonderful stuff on John Locke. He is a defender of Kahane and offers an eloquent defense of the compatibility of Kahanist ideology and democracy. A Libertarian Kahanist; who knew.