Democracy and the Internet

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A few weeks ago I wrote about the internet’s potential to help democratize Judaism. I hadn’t seen these lines from Al Gore’s new book then, but if I had I surely would have quoted them:

In fact, the Internet is perhaps the greatest source of hope for reestablishing an open communications environment in which the conversation of democracy can flourish. It has extremely low entry barriers for individuals. The ideas that individuals contribute are dealt with, in the main, according to the rules of a meritocracy of ideas. It is the most interactive medium in history and the one with the greatest potential for connecting individuals to one another and to a universe of knowledge.

An important distinction to make is that the Internet is not just another platform for disseminating the truth. It’s a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas, in the same way that markets are a decentralized mechanism for the creation and distribution of goods and services. It’s a platform, in other words, for reason.

Posted on June 20, 2007

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16 thoughts on “Democracy and the Internet

  1. Pingback: University Update - Al Gore - Democracy and the Internet

  2. Ezekah

    [font=Times New Roman][size=3]I attended a discussion in Israel last year at which an ex-Mossad agent was the guest speaker. She said that there is one main dilemma in Israel from which most of its problems come. The dilemma is whether Israel should be a democracy or a Jewish state. For the past 50 years, Israel has tried to do both, but it isn’t working very well. [/size][/font]

    [font=Times New Roman][size=3] [/size][/font]

    [font=Times New Roman][size=3]If Israel wants to be a Jewish state, then Torah and its interpretations should become the law of the state. Jews would have, if not superiority, at least preference over non-Jewish citizens. Sabbath rules, Kashrut laws, inheritance, domestic-family law and a host of others would be decided according to Torah.[/size][/font]

    [font=Times New Roman][size=3] [/size][/font]

    [font=Times New Roman][size=3]If Israel wants to be a democracy, then one person one vote should be the law of the land. Laws would be written by elected legislatures. The uniqueness of being the only Jewish state in the world would be replaced by being the only democratic state in the Middle East. However, given non-Jewish birth rates, Jews could become a minority in their own country.[/size][/font]

    [font=Times New Roman][size=3] [/size][/font]

    [font=Times New Roman][size=3]This is a difficult problem to resolve. However, it is one in which I believe the Diaspora should not have a voice. The people that have chosen to live there must come to terms with this decision.[/size][/font]

  3. The Doctor

    I appreciate your analysis. I have only one thing to comment on, which is likely going to start a wildfire.

    If, as you say, the diaspora can have no say in how those in Israel solve this puzzle, then are you saying that those of us living outside of Israel have no stake in what happens there?

    On a practical, even venal level, if we should have no say in how the future of Israel [theocracy which cannot help but being compared to Islamic states vs democracy, in which Judaism does not hold a trump card] then how should we respond to the annual/semiannual/daily requests for support, usually financial?

    I don’t want to make the analogy too close, but what would happen if a teenager told his parents “I am responsible for my own decisions, you can’t tell me what to do” and then says “I need help paying for the petrol, the rent, whatever.”

    I also don’t know the answer, but I am troubled by the concept that those of us who support Israel, who stand up for Israel [and yes we do!] and have always been there for Israel when needed should accept being told “this isn’t really any of your business.”

  4. clara1

    Doc,

    I agree with you and I feel very close to Israel. And i know that all practicing Jews and some non-practicing Jews feel the same. The Reform Temle certainly does (the most denigrated by the Othodox) and sends money, etc. to Israel.

    And, many Jews is despora do return to Israel.

    So, as you said, we have a stake in Isreal even if some never get to visit Israel, our hearts are in Israel. I can’t even begin to imagine a world without Israel, even before I knew I was a Jew.

    Shalom,
    Clara

  5. mbczion

    בס’’ד

    On the other hand, (also at the risk of starting a “wildfire”), with all due respect to support from diaspora Jews, financial support is NOT quite on a par with serving in the IDF or having to worry about whether or not you should let your kids board a bus in Jerusalem.

    Where do we draw the line between having a say versus dictating (or maybe “pressuring” is more accurate a word) whether or not we should give up yet more land for “peace” or whether we should reconquer all of Eretz Yisrael? These are indeed decisions that can ONLY be made by those of us who are Israeli citizens, just like whether or not America should pull out of Iraq is a decision that can ONLY be made by American citizens.

    מנחם בן צבי הכהן

  6. clara1

    mbc,

    I also agree with you. I don’t know all he ins and outs of either side. You live there, you know. And I’m planning to live there some day also. I believe in democracy–being in America, but Israel is a country of a different reality.

    (And mbc, I knew you were a guy and not physically pregnant yourself–if you had been, you would have been the talk of the world. LOL)

    Shalom,
    Clara

  7. mbczion

    בס’’ד

    “And mbc, I knew you were a guy and not physically pregnant yourself–if you had been, you would have been the talk of the world. LOL)”

    Well, there was that movie with Arnold Shwartzneger where he was having a baby. I think it was called “He’s having a baby”. Who knows? Maybe someday this will be possible too….LOL

    מנחם בן צבי הכהן

  8. Ezekah

    [color=black][font=Verdana]

    [The Doctor] If, as you say, the diaspora can have no say in how those in Israel solve this puzzle, then are you saying that those of us living outside of Israel have no stake in what happens there?

    [/font][/color]

    [color=black][font=Verdana]Of course not. Having a stake and having a say are two different things. Just look at US foreign policy for hundreds of examples. We have a stake in what Russia does, but we don’t have a say.[/font][/color]

    [color=black][font=Verdana]

    [The Doctor]On a practical, even venal level, if we should have no say in how the future of Israel [theocracy which cannot help but being compared to Islamic states vs democracy, in which Judaism does not hold a trump card] then how should we respond to the annual/semiannual/daily requests for support, usually financial?

    [/font][/color]

    [color=black][font=Verdana]The same as you do for any donation that you make. Don’t you donate to your alma mater, because you care about it, despite having no say in how its run? I give money to Israel and buy Israeli bonds because I care about it. However, as a US citizen, I know that I have no say in telling it how to run its business. If I want that power, then I should move to Israel.[/font][/color]

  9. The Doctor

    Once again, the difference is that we are told from our birth that Israel is our country, that we are potential citizens; the advertising over and over again is not “Israel is nice, support it”—it’s “Israel is your country, Israel is your home.”

    I agree that the line between support and control is a fine one [and by the way when I give money to Federation or my university it is directed; I don’t want it spent on athletics or on projects that I don’t believe in]. But this isn’t a question of America has a stake in what happens in Russia. We’re talking Jews and Israel.

    That’s a special, close, intimate, unique relationship. Or at least it used to be.

  10. mbczion

    בס’’ד

    Doc, there is a close relationship between Jews and Israel in the sense that a Jew can automatically obtain Israeli citizenship for no other reason than being a Jew, as opposed to any other country. However, until a Jew makes aliyah, he/she has no more voting rights in Israel than an American of Italian lineage/ethnicity who is not a citizen of Italy has in Italy. And that is the way it should be. If a Jew wants to have a say in the tough decisions that Israel has to make, the door is always open to him to make aliyah. Until then, he can voice his opinions away, but that is about as far as it goes.

    מנחם בן צבי כהכן

  11. The Doctor

    Again, if we’re not that closely related to Israelis until we make aliyah, quit using the idea that we are all Israelis and Israel is our home too when we’re asked to lobby Congress, to come visit with our moral and tourism support, and to whip out the checkbooks whenever Israel has a crisis or for an annual appeal.

    Can’t have it both ways.

  12. mbczion

    בס’’ד

    Doc, first of all I think you might be putting words in my mouth. I never said that all Jews are not related. Of course, we are. Jews in America, France, Russia, Mexico and Israel are all part of Am Yisrael. However, just like America is a sovereign nation and only American citizens have a right to vote in American elections which are the biggest influence in American policy, just like France is a sovereign nation and only French citizens have a right to vote in French election which are the biggest influence in French policy, so Israel is a sovereign nation and only Israeli citizens have a right to vote in Israeli elections.

    You say we can’t have it both ways, so does that mean a Jew in California should vote on whether or not my family and I should be kicked out of our home in Efrat? Should a Jew in London vote on whether or not we should give up the Golan? Should a Jew in Paris vote on whether or not we should divide Jerusalem? Should a Jew in Montreal have a say in how the IDF should protect the residents of Sderot?

    Doc, Israel is your home should you choose to make it your home. No one is putting a gun to you or anyone else’s head to donate money to Israel. However, most American Jews realize that most of the world is NOT America (not that America is exempt from the possibility of a holocaust, Chas Ve’Shalom!!!!) and that too many Jews rely on Israel as a refuge when their native countries no longer want them. That is reason for most American Jews to want to support Israel.

    מנחם בן צבי כהכן

  13. The Doctor

    All I’m saying is don’t tell us the things that are in every piece of information about Israel and then turn around and tell us that we’re not part of the process.

    I support Israel because it’s good and right and proper, not because I think I get some personal benefit out of it. But I still think it’s a bit chutzpadik for the powers that be [not you personally, but for lack of a better word Israel’s marketing department] to tell us how important we are and then tell us if we don’t live there it’s none of our darn business…makes a person feel used, know what I mean?

  14. mbczion

    בס’’ד

    Doc, there are two sides to every coin. It is also a bit patronizing [also, NOT you personally, but too many Jewish organizations in the diaspora] who say, “you run Israel how WE think it should be run or we won’t have anything to do with you”. And, I say this about diaspora Jews all over the spectrum, from those who want us to give up everything except Tel-Aviv to those who want us to re-conquer everything in biblical Israel and from those who want Israel to become just another “nation of all her citizens” to those who want Israel to be run according to halacha. Again, it is not those who live in the diaspora who will have to serve in the IDF or send there kids to serve in the IDF or face the day to day consequences of suicide bombings or katyushot, Chas Ve’ Shalom!!!!

    Of course Israel is EVERY Jew’s business, but when it comes to having a DIRECT say in Israel’s policy (i.e. VOTING), this can and should ONLY be reserved for Israeli citizens.

    And, all emotions aside, nothing you, I, or anyone else can say changes the fact that Israel is the ONLY place on this planet which a Jew can obtain automatic citizenship for no other reason than being a Jew. For most diaspora Jews, this is reason enough to support Israel, even if they don’t agree with Israel’s current policies (diplomatic, domestic, or otherwise). And, of course, there are those like you, Doc, who support Israel because it’s “good, right, and proper”, rather than personal benefit. More power to you.

    מנחם בן צבי הכהן

  15. Ezekah

    [font=Times New Roman]Doctor[/font]

    [font=Times New Roman] [/font]

    [font=Times New Roman][quote]Again, if we’re not that closely related to Israelis until we make aliyah, quit using the idea that we are all Israelis and Israel is our home too when we’re asked to lobby Congress, to come visit with our moral and tourism support, and to whip out the checkbooks whenever Israel has a crisis or for an annual appeal. [/font]

    [font=Times New Roman] [/font]

    [font=Times New Roman]Can’t have it both ways.[/font]

    [font=Times New Roman] [/font]

    [font=Times New Roman]I’m not having your experiences. I support many Jewish and Israeli organizations because I agree with their objectives. I’m not pressured because “it’s a fellow Jew”, but because I am interested and want to show my support. If I don’t support the course that an organization is taking then I don’t support it. It is as easy as that. [/font]

    [font=Times New Roman] [/font]

    [font=Times New Roman]Mitch said[/font]

    [font=Times New Roman][quote]And, all emotions aside, nothing you, I, or anyone else can say changes the fact that Israel is the ONLY place on this planet which a Jew can obtain automatic citizenship for no other reason than being a Jew. For most diaspora Jews, this is reason enough to support Israel, even if they don’t agree with Israel’s current policies (diplomatic, domestic, or otherwise).[/font]

    [font=Times New Roman] [/font]

    [font=Times New Roman]I suppose this is always in the back of my mind. But I pray that America never follows Germany’s example.[/font]

  16. lornewel

    I know this won’t fly with those “Jews” who do not believe in G-d nor that He gave the Torah nor made covenant with Israel, but…

    Is not the reason that the modern nation of Israel exists on the specific land upon which it exists, only and solely because of the firmly held belief that G-d gave that particular land by an everlasting covenant to Avraham, Yitzak and Jacov and theri descendants? Suppose the League of Nations had decided to give the persecuted and dispersed Jewish people a place to have their own nation-state, but there was no necessary connection with “Palestine,” so they gave them Greenland because nobody was really using it anyway. Had that happened, could this thread have happened?

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