David Yerushalmi replied to the charges leveled against him here and in Larry Cohler Esses’ article in Jewish Week. He doesn’t deny that he opposes democracy in Israel and the U.S. But he clarifies his meaning:
…Your “journalists” lead the story with the statement that I oppose “democracy” in the US and Israel, without any hint of an explanation of what that means in context.
…There is a clear distinction between raw or radical democracy and what we in the US adopted at our founding: a constitutional republic based on federalism…The founding fathers themselves of course opposed “democracy” in its simple form and created a wonderfully elaborate system to shield government from mass democracy (you of course are aware that neither the president, the judiciary, or even senators were elected by the direct vote under our Constitution [note the 17th Amendment]).
He expands on his rejection of “raw democracy” in another passage:
Mr. Yerushalmi criticizes…raw or radical democracy where all men and all ideas and all cultures are deemed equal and given equal voice. That is of course the agenda of the Left (and often blindly supported by “conservatives”) which attempts at every turn to destroy national sovereignty with a One World Government.
There you have it. David Yerushalmi doesn’t believe in the 17th amendment and prefers returning to the Constitution circa 1789. You see, we’ve allowed too many of the unwashed masses like former slaves and Arab-Americans to enter into our democratic processes. Even we Jews have infected the body politic with our leftist notions. They shouldn’t vote for U.S. senators nor even for president. Best to return to that time in history when Blacks equalled 3/5 of a white person and Southern whites got to increase their voting power by subsuming that 3/5 into their own voting bloc.
To be fair, we should allow David Yerushalmi to reply to my own attack on him. Note the honeyed tones of pseudo graciousness which are applied to those who call him out for what he is:
Dear Mr. Silverstein:
I find it interesting that you would attack me so viciously without first reaching out to dialogue since you have done so with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
To label someone a Supremacist or racist is fine as long as the facts would support it. Rather than just take quotes out of context, I would have thought that a man so devoted to peace and dialogue would have at least extended to me the courtesy to inquire of me whether your understanding of my views was in fact correct.
Then, you could have said that indeed went right to the source and have determined that Yerushalmi is x, y, z. That you drew conclusions of this sort without any such effort speaks volumes, does it not?
All the best,
Keep in mind this guy thinks I’m a member of the extreme left, a traitor to all he holds dear, and dangerous for the Brave New World he’s planning. Keep in mind that he has a plan for what he’d do for people like me (and probably you) and it probably involves incarceration at places like Guantanamo and a little electric current running under the fingertips. Why he thinks I would find it useful to dialogue with him is beyond me. But he’s welcome to participate here as long as he can keep a civil tongue in his mouth.
One point that Yerushalmi raises that is valid is his discussion of Israeli democracy. He is right in the limited sense that there is an outright contradiction in the way Israel currently balances its commitments to democracy and being a Jewish state. To Yerushalmi’s way of thinking there is no possible way to bridge the divide and Israel must shed democracy in order to hold true to its real mission as a state of the Jewish people. This would include eliminating (by expulsion or perhaps more extreme measures) those Arab citizens who could not accept Israeli supremacism and Arab subjugation.
A racist Jewish state like the one Yerushalmi envisions precludes the possibility that Israel could be a state that guarantees equality to ALL its citizens while protecting the religious and political rights of all as well. My vision would be a different Israel than the current system which Yerushalmi correctly notes discriminates against its non-Jewish citizens. It might be a system closer to our own with a constitution guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens and specifying what those rights are and how they are to be protected. And it would be a BETTER Israel both for its Jewish and non-Jewish inhabitants.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.