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August 29, 2016 / 25 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Constitution’

Too Many Religious Officers and a Constitution

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

In an interview last week with Makor Rishon, Dr. Arye (Arik) Carmon, head of the Israel Democracy Institute said,

“as the number of religious commanders in the army increases, we’re in for bigger problems.”

Dr. Carmon is not only the president of the Israel Democracy Institute, but he is one of the senior members of a group of people trying to put together a Constitution (“by Concensus”) for the state of Israel. A Constitution that is supposed to represent all of Israeli society and our shared values.

HIS CLARIFICATION

Following the publication of his statement last week, Carmon felt that there was a need to clarify what he really meant.

Carmon said (with my comments added in [italics]):

“As someone who was injured during my army service [yes, because that now gives any statement he makes automatic legitimacy], and whose sons fight shoulder to shoulder with their brother’s [see previous comment], the religious soldiers, the alumni of the National-Religious educational system, I have much respect for them, to the soldiers and commanders in the IDF whose contributions to the security of Israel are priceless [did he mention that some of his best friends are religious too?].It’s important for me to clarify that in the heat of the interview, my words were not understood properly [Actually, I think we did understand them properly].

I meant, that as long as there is no solution for the source of the authority in the IDF in general, and specifically, including the integration of women [because listening to women sing, is the biggest problem the army faces], the problems will grow and increase. As the number of religious soldiers and commanders grow, since the authority of their Rabbis is what rules for them, the size of the problem will get larger. More and more officers and soldiers will find themselves indecisive when they face this conflict.

Any other way to understand my words is mistaken.”

I’m honestly not sure what is worse, the original statement or his clarification.

Carmon is clearly afraid of two things, that the soldiers have a moral authority and value system that he doesn’t share, that supersedes blindly following orders, and that religious soldiers are blocking his coercive goals of secular-democratic supremacy.

His first problem is that religious soldiers listen to a higher moral authority, and he is afraid of the conflict that religious soldiers might have, especially if there are too many of them, and how that will affect their following orders.

Though logically that doesn’t make sense, because if there are more religious soldiers who share a common moral thought process, the conflict is unlikely to trickle down, as obviously immoral and illegal orders will be identified and stopped higher up in hierarchy – as they should be.

But, Carmon is thinking of two specific issues – one he states, which is the integration of women, and the other, which I believe he implies, is not following orders in case of another Expulsion/Disengagement – the classic Israeli argument of moral/religious right vs. the tyranny of the majority- the Jewish-Democratic state conflict.

Carmon has firmly placed himself firmly on one side of that argument, the secular side that immorally kicked out 8000 Jews from their homes and let a terrorist state develop in Gaza, and would do so again in Judea and Samaria if they could.

ONE SIDED CONCERN

Yet Carmon apparently doesn’t have a problem with too many left-wing pilots or reservists, hundreds of whom famously signed onto petitions saying they won’t follow orders to attack our enemies. You would think that he would find an identifiable group who seditiously and openly called for disobeying orders to attack the enemy to be far more worrisome than religious soldiers and officers, with a healthy and respected value system. But as you’ll see later in the article, he doesn’t.

To my knowledge, Carmon has never said that as the number of Left-wing pilots grows, the problems will increase. No, he specifically said the problem is with too many religious commanders.

JoeSettler

Obama’s Threats

Monday, January 21st, 2013

In his quest to raise the debt ceiling, President Obama issued a threat in his press conference last week that troops won’t get paid and veterans’ pension payments will be delayed.  He warned of delays in Social Security payments as well.

It’s important to understand that these comments constitute a threat (which may or may not be a hollow one).  Obama is not stating some inescapable reality, to which he along with the rest of us is subject.  If retirees and vets see a delay in their payments, it will be because Obama himself decides to hold the payments up.  Moreover, Obama is not caught in a trap when it comes to paying the troops; he can make sure they get paid, if it’s his priority to do so.

The payments to retirees are going to go out unless Obama stops them.  The debt ceiling doesn’t prevent those payments from being made.  It requires that other types of federal expenditures – current-year operating expenses like federal purchases, welfare outlays, payrolls, etc – be suspended or managed differently.

The two Social Security Trust Funds (one for old-age benefits and one for disability benefits) had nearly $2.7 trillion in assets at the end of fiscal year 2011. The most recent for which a trustees’ report is posted online.  The funds are used every year to ensure obligated pay-outs to beneficiaries, and have been borrowed against many times by Congress, under routine fiscal circumstances.  While repayment of any amount expended during a government shut-down should be part of a debt-ceiling deal, the trusts allow Social Security payments to be made on time during a shut-down – unless Obama decides against that.

Likewise, the Military Retirement Fund had about $428 billion in total assets at the end of fiscal year 2012, three-and-a-half months ago.  The fund’s assets can certainly be used to make on-time pension payments to veterans in early 2013 – again, with a repayment plan as part of the debt-ceiling deal.  In fact, military retired pay is already programmed for electronic distribution throughout FY2013; it takes active intervention to prevent it from being distributed.

Active-duty military pay is a current-year expenditure, and would be directly jeopardized by a government shut-down.  But whether or not the troops get paid is up to Obama’s leadership.  He could agree with Congress to set aside enough to pay the troops while the negotiations continue – a move that could well require cutting or suspending expenditures elsewhere in the federal government, in order to remain under the debt ceiling until a deal was reached.

Obama could also get a read from his attorneys on the precedents for and propriety of borrowing against one of the big trust funds to meet the uniformed payroll during the government crisis.  Paying the troops, especially when the military is forward-deployed and much of it is in combat in Afghanistan, ought to be politically unifying.  It’s hard to imagine Congress trying to impeach or otherwise hobble Obama over the actions he might take to ensure the troops are paid.

What Obama is doing, in effect, is issuing threats about what he will do, if Republicans don’t give him what he wants.  But he’s representing the threats as a consequence for which the GOP lawmakers would be responsible.

This kind of mendacious demagoguery flourishes when the press is biased and/or cowed, and fails to challenge the political leaders.  Every appeal from the leadership gets to be emotional; government is discussed in unaccountable, irrational, and even hysterical terms, as when the president postulated, in his speech on gun restrictions during the same press conference, that the victims of mass shootings had been “denied their rights” by the shooters.  The distinction between committing crimes against individuals, which the citizens can do, and denying the people’s rights – which only government can do – is one of the most important concepts underlying the American system of government.  But Obama elided it out of existence on last week, in his quest to depict the use of firearms as, principally, a means of injuring others.

Parse, parse, parse, my friends.  This president doesn’t speak in the terms of American political philosophy, which holds government and its leaders accountable for meanings both philosophical and practical.  It is not our practice, in American government, to shrug off misleading demagoguery.  That’s not “business as usual” for us.  Our president is supposed to bind himself to constitutional meanings.  He is supposed to depict the actions of government honestly.  It’s a big deal that this one doesn’t.

J. E. Dyer

So You Say You Want a US Style Constitution in Israel…

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

After you make aliyah from the United States, it’s hard not compare everything to what you’ve come to expect from your prior life.  Whether it’s people’s attitudes, prices, the government bureaucracy, and so many other things. As a lawyer who has studied American and Israeli law and someone who has been politically active in both the US and Israel, I compare Israeli and American constitutional law.

The first thing, of course, that jumps out is not that there is no constitution in Israel. That doesn’t in and of itself bother me. What bothers me is that the Supreme Court believes there is one and therefore acts as if it has the power of judicial review.

But after that, there is the fact that when Israeli legal authorities talk about a constitution they didn’t really mean a whole constitution, they mean only a bill of rights. That’s why it was so easy for Aharon Barak and the Supreme Court he led to rationalize giving themselves the power of judicial review. Israel, they thought, has basic laws on everything except a bill of rights. Now the Knesset has approved a basic law on “human dignity and liberty” so therefore the constitutional process has been competed and what are termed “basic laws” will automatically be considered superior law to regular laws.

That was how they glossed over the fact that only some basic laws have “entrenchment clauses,” which say make the law superior to later laws unless the later law is approved by a certain sized majority, and that when Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty was approved legislators were told by the Chairman of the Knesset committee on the Constitution, Law and Justice that it would not give the Supreme Court the power of judicial review.

But a constitution is much more than a bill of rights. It’s about the structure of government and how that impacts decision-making and in and of itself protects the rights of the people.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear much thought was put into the system of government in Israel – not the serious kind of political philosophy that when into the U.S. Constitution. Israel’s governmental structure is very simplistic. There are no districts, so elections are just one big free for all, with whoever can form a majority-coalition in the legislature forming the government. And then off to the side there is the Knesset. Of course, that doesn’t make politics simple. In fact it makes it unduly complicated, but in all the wrong ways.

While studying the evolution of judicial review in Israel, I read Emmanuel Rackman’s account of early Israeli constitutional decision-making – both in the provisional government and then in the Constituent Assembly, the body elected to adopted a constitution and which became Israel’s first Knesset. The main constitutional issues which were discussed and debated were the concept of the a written constitution and a bill of rights. No one could agree on those so it was agreed to disagree and make laws about the basics parts of government in “basic laws” which would later be used as the basis for a constitution.

In my op-ed in last Thursday’s Jerusalem Post, I wrote that the Disengagement – which involved a forcible mass transfer of thousands of a certain class (Jews) – was a result of the inability of the Israeli governmental system to protect citizens’ rights and ensure the adoption of sound policy, due to the fact that it lacks the checks and balances as they exist in the US constitutional system (as well as many others).

My conclusion was that,

Those who recognized the disengagement as the act of despotism it was ought to consider how our form of government affects the policies which are adopted and how it should be changed to ensure that a plan that pits soldiers against thousands of their countrymen is never approved again.

But against all my arguments and comparisons between the Israeli and American systems, first person to comment on the article argued that, “The grass really isn’t greener elsewhere. Here in the US, our one-time system of checks and balances has been largely destroyed, and we are on the fast track to financial ruin.”

That wasn’t the first time I’ve gotten such a response to a US-Israel constitution comparison. Once, while making the point about Israel’s judicial selection procedure (judges are chosen by a committee of nine, three are from the Supreme Court, two from the Knesset (one is an opposition member), two from the government and three from the bar association who side with the judges) and how it was inferior to the American judicial selection procedure, in which judges are more tied to the people since they are chosen by the political branches, a distinguished ivy-league educated law professor remarked about how judicial committee hearings in the Senate can be a joke, so perhaps it should not be so emulated.

That all may be true. The US system has its dirty moments. It’s the nature of democracy and politics in any system that politicians will play to the cameras and their base for popularity and in so doing make a mockery of themselves and potentially lead to bad decisions.

Nevertheless, the US system is quite remarkable and renowned around the world. It has also served the US quite well. When it was first adopted it was not even agreed that the US was to comprise a nation, but in the framer’s vision that’s what the country became.  And it stayed that way despite deep-seeded differences between the North and the South, which only turned to civil war once (which was perhaps inevitable) – and the Union – i.e. the United States as bound by the Constitution won out.

Senators who might make a show for the public over a judicial nomination dispute are doing just that – making a show. The rhetoric is just the public face for whatever  actual reasons they are voting for or against the judge, reasons which may differ from time to time, but it’s still a story as old time.

And the US may be facing a recession, maybe one day another depression, I don’t know. But something tells me – that the US will come out alright in the end. I believe it will remain the world’s foremost superpower for decades to come, if not much longer.  (One of those things that informs my opinion on this is an excellent essay, “The World America Made,” by Robert Kagan).

As for Israel – thank God, Israel has survived and done pretty well since it’s birth. But I wouldn’t thank it’s current system. Let’s face it, people here don’t vote for representatives. Party bosses and power players do. The judges choose themselves. The government controls the legislature. It’s just a no good, very bad, terrible system.

For Israel’s survival and lack of devolution into civil war or national destruction at the hands of our enemies, I would thank those who had the foresight not to let things get out of hand – such as Menachem Begin, when he did not allow the Irgun to retaliate for the Saison or the Altalena, who ensured that Israel would have a democracy instead of a one-party dominated system, and whose victory stopped the two-state solution from being implemented (Labor had by that point endorsed withdrawal from all disputed territories).

More generally the culprit of our prosperity is the ingenuity and persistence of the Jewish people, that, and by God’s grace do we go on. Those things will keep Israel around despite whatever terrible decisions are wrought by it’s current governing system. Not that anyone should rely on that – bad things do happen when the citizenry is apathetic, regardless of divine preference (recall the joke about the Rabbi praying for God to save him, but every time someone comes a long to rescue him he says he would rather wait for God to do it) or our national qualities.

Making these comparisons is not to simply to complain and let out frustration, or to put the US on a pedestal (though denying American strength, success and generosity is just being intellectually dishonest) or conjure up fear that if we don’t change things the state will be destroyed some time soon (the direction that many Israel-related political arguments take).

When it comes to our national prosperity, we should never shy from imagining the ideal and advocating for its realization.  And while we’ve done relatively amazing compared to the odds stacked against us, life in Israel and Israeli policy making is still far from ideal. If we can prosper even with this system and in our geopolitical situation, imagine how much better we could do with a system of government that could properly reflect and channel our exceptional national ingenuity and will.

Daniel Tauber

Egypt Falls Over the Islamic Cliff

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Both the Islamists and the opposition in Egypt confirmed that Egyptians overwhelmingly chose to become yet another Islamic, Sharia-based state with the adoption of their new constitution.

It is estimated that 64% of those voting in both rounds, voted “yes”, with numerous irregularities reported during both votes.

And to top it off, as pointed out in Forbes, the new constitution does more than just enshrine Islamic Sharia law, it also enshrines socialism as their economic structure.

Ahram Online reports that Egyptian President Morsi has announced his list of 90 representatives who will become members of the Shura council (out of 270 members).  The Shura Council will take on the powers from the president to issue laws.

But despite Morsi including a handful of women and minorities in his list, Ahram Online reports:

Tens of liberal and leftist figures have declined the positions offered to them by the president in the Shura Council.

This means that members of the main opposition’s parties, previously represented in the now-dismantled People’s Assembly, are now not represented in new appointments to the Shura Council.

 

Jewish Press News Briefs

Egypt Democratically Adopts an Anti-Western Dictatorship

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

The victory in the referendum on the Constitution is the fourth straight Muslim Brotherhood success—including the overthrow of President Husni Mubarak’s regime with army assistance, the parliamentary election and the presidential election–in the process of taking over Egypt for the long-term and fundamentally transforming it into a radical Islamist state. This last one should be sufficient to go all the way.

This event is also producing a new stage of Western rationalizations that whitewash the Muslim Brotherhood and rationalize support for Islamists being in power.

It isn’t that the constitution, as many Salafists would have liked, explicitly mandates a revolutionary Sharia state. Rather, the constitution sets up a framework that will allow the Brotherhood to do so. Between the president and the constitution, the Brotherhood will now march through every institution and remake it. Judges will be appointed; school curricula rewritten; army generals appointed; and so on. As the Brotherhood shows patience in carrying out this process of gaining total, permanent control, many in the West will interpret that as moderation.

“The problem with [President] Morsi isn’t whether he is Islamist or not, it is whether he is authoritarian,” said a Western diplomat in Cairo. Wow, talk about Western misunderstanding of the importance of ideology. Perhaps whether or not he is an Islamist—and of course he is–has something to do with his being authoritarian? Since his goal is a Sharia state then that is an authoritarian destination for which authoritarian means are considered acceptable and are in fact a necessity. One might as well insert the words Communist, fascist, or radical Arab nationalist for Islamist.

There are three factors involved here in setting Western policy: ignorance, a desire to avoid crises, and a foolish belief that having a radical regime in Egypt will moderate the extremists.

To add insult to injury—literally—the New York Times, which has continually portrayed the Brotherhood in glowing terms, now explains to its readers that the opposition has nothing to offer:

“The leading opposition alternatives appeared no less authoritarian [than the Brotherhood]: Ahmed Shafik, who lost the presidential runoff, was a former Mubarak prime minister campaigning as a new strongman, and Hamdeen Sabahi, who narrowly missed the runoff, is a Nasserite who has talked of intervention by the military to unseat Mr. Morsi despite his election as president.

“’The problem with ‘I told you so’ is the assumption that if things had turned out differently the outcome would be better, and I don’t see that,’ the diplomat said, noting that the opposition to the draft constitution had hardly shown more respect than Mr. Morsi has for the norms of democracy or the rule of law. ‘There are no black hats and white hats here, there are no heroes and villains. Both sides are using underhanded tactics and both sides are using violence.’”

This is disgraceful, a rationalization for either failure or worse. The idea is that it really didn’t matter who won because they are all the same so why not a Muslim Brotherhood government with a powerful Salafist influence? Any leader of Egypt is going to be a strongman. The question is a strongman for what causes? And if people were talking about unseating the democratically elected Mursi that’s because they view him as the equivalent for Egypt of some new Khomeini, a man who will drag Egypt into decades of repressive dictatorship and war.

I’ve often written of the weakness and political incompetence of the anti-Islamist forces but these are courageous people fighting for a good cause. True, their side includes leftist and nationalist extremists but should that be used to discredit them all when the Islamists are constantly whitewashed?

And for U.S. interests it certainly does matter who wins. Extend this wrong-headed analogy: the Iranian Islamists are no worse than the shah; Saddam Hussein was no worse than the oligarchs who ran Iraq before it went radical in 1958; the current Islamist regime in Turkey is no worse than the high-handed Kemal Ataturk? One might have well had Communist regimes in South America rather than military dictatorships?

It might not sound nice to some people but the main task of Western diplomats is not to worship democracy but to try to promote behavior in other governments favorable to their own country’s interests. In those terms, Mubarak or Shafik is better than Mursi. And since Mursi doesn’t even stand for real democracy the choice is even more obvious.

And there is a dire implication here: If there is no real democratic opposition then the United States doesn’t have to help it. Is this principle thus extended to Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Tunisia? Are Islamists the only alternative or, to put it in a slightly less obviously objectionable way, should we accept and even help Islamists because everyone is the same?

Wow, has the Western elite lost its way. There is so little sense of who is a friend and who is an enemy; the lesser of two evils; the strategic interests of their own country that one can only despair of any lessons being learned from experience.

It’s ironic that Obama has spent so much time talking about how past U.S. support for pro-American dictators has been a mistake that led to a legacy of crisis when he is now supporting an anti-American dictator.

The argument presented by U.S. officials that compromise is in the Brotherhood’s interest is laughable. Do people in Washington know what the Brotherhood wants and conditions in Egypt better than the Brotherhood leadership? We have seen this same mistake made many times before by Western governments and editorial writers, lecturing a radical regime that it would accomplish more by being totally different.

What is most disturbing is not that the Obama Administration is supporting this regime–which is bad enough–but that its not even suspicious of the Egyptian government’s intentions and behavior. It thinks the Brotherhood is going to curb the Salafists while it actually uses them as storm troops. And so in the coming months we will see more obfuscations and apologies about Cairo’s behavior.

The sad truth is that it is too late for U.S. leverage—which the Obama Administration doesn’t want to use any way—to have an impact. The Brotherhood is already in power. If the United States gives it money and support, the Brotherhood will use that to consolidate its rule while mobilizing the people against the United States; if Washington doesn’t, the Brotherhood will then mobilize the people even more effectively in that way. A U.S. policy coddling the regime will be seen as the weak and stupid response of enemies; a tougher policy will be portrayed as hostile.

True, if Obama doles out money and military equipment to the regime with conditions and slowly, Morsi has an incentive to go slower and more carefully yet it also strengthens the regime’s ability to fulfill its goals and entrench itself in power. But the army isn’t going to do anything against the regime even though, at this point, it will not repress the opposition for Morsi. The Islamists aren’t going to be won over by the United States. And Obama isn’t going to be serious about using pressure except for meaningless statements and phone calls. The administration will speak nice language about protecting women’s and minority (Christian) rights while it looks the other way when these are violated.

Understandably, the democratic opposition—like its counterparts in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Iran—has learned that the United States will not help them. As one sign at a demonstration put it: Obama: Our dictator is your bitch. One day, decades in the future, an American president might be apologizing to Egyptians for a U.S. policy that backed a repressive Islamist regime in their country.

What are the next steps for Morsi? To out-wait the opposition demonstrations, which might well diminish since the constitution is now an established fact, begin the transformation of Egypt’s institutions, and figure out how to handle the problem of parliament. Can he reinstate the results of the earlier election—with a 75 percent Islamist majority—or will he have to hold a new vote next year that might yield a much smaller majority?

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Barry Rubin

The Breakneck Speed of Islamist Transformation in Egypt

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

A critical moment has arrived for Egypt. But in what way?

President Morsi has rescinded much of his decree claiming total power right now. But he could accomplish much the same thing after the Constitution is confirmed and perhaps by forcing reinstatement of the parliament whose election was declared invalid by a court. At any rate, Morsi’s concession has not quieted the demonstrations–another sign that concessions in the Middle East don’t bring agreements–and so this crisis isn’t going away.

There are three broad possibilities: the regime will fall; the opposition will be repressed; or there will be an increasingly violent civil war.

The regime will not fall due to these demonstrations. Remember what happened to the previous, Mubarak regime. It fell for the following reasons:

–The army would not defend it.

–The army then overthrew it.

–The Muslim Brotherhood-led opposition would not compromise.

–The West would not support the regime.

These conditions, except possibly the first one, are not in place today. Ultimately, Mubarak’s regime—not just Mubarak but the whole regime—fell only because the army overthrew it. There is no sign of this happening now. And the West, ironic as that might be, supports the Muslim Brotherhood government, especially because it is willing to go ahead with almost $10 billion in aid. And the Brotherhood will not give in to the opposition on any substantive point, whatever cosmetic maneuvers it makes.

Let’s remember that Western, and particularly U.S. policy has spent the last two years talking about how terrible it is to have a dictatorship or military rule. The armed forces have been systematically discouraged by the West from being in government.

By definition, of course, the Brotherhood regime is supposedly not a dictatorship because it won two elections and is probably about to win a third one. So an elected regime cannot be a dictatorship? Yet this regime has declared that it is above all court decisions and all previous laws. Isn’t that a dictatorship? It intends to impose a highly repressive law on its society. Isn’t that a dictatorship?

The opposition thinks so; the West doesn’t. But what does the army think? Well, it does not take a principled stance against having a dictatorship. It is happy to live with a dictatorship that meets the military’s conditions. These are:

–The army chooses its own leaders.

–The security services set their own budgets.

–Nobody interferes with the military’s vast economic holdings.

The regime has already met the second and third conditions and to retain the military’s backing would give in on the first as well. But the regime wants more: that the armed forces actively put down the demonstrations and this is something that the generals are reluctant to do.Now Morsi has given the army the power to arrest civilians but does it want to do so? The army doesn’t want to be hated, shoot down people, and set off a civil war in which it has to round up hundreds of thousands of people and launch scores of operations each day. True, the police are obedient and will act against these demonstrations just as it formerly tried to repress the anti-Mubarak demonstrations. But the police alone aren’t sufficient.

What happens, then, if the regime doesn’t give in and the army doesn’t stop the demonstrations? The logical conclusion is that the Brotherhood and Salafists will increasingly send violent vigilantes into the street to defend their government. (As this article predicted, on December 11 gunmen opened fire on anti-government demonstrators in Tahrir Square, wounding nine.) They want to ensure the Constitution is adopted on December 15—whether the opposition boycotts the vote is irrelevant to them—and afterward the Brotherhood regime can operate under that Constitution.Then, the opposition will be told: you’ve lost, accept it; you have no choice. And besides, we are acting legally under this Constitution that the people accepted.

President Morsi will have to decide whether to try to override the courts and reinstate the previously elected parliament (almost 75 percent Islamist) or make a concession and allow elections for a new parliament (that might be only 55-60 percent Islamist).

Thus, the key issues are how high the level of violence will rise and whether the current conflicts will make the regime speed up or slow down the fundamental transformation of Egypt into a Sharia state in which Islamic law is strictly interpreted.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Barry Rubin

Constitutional Confusion and Contusions in Egypt

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

In a democratic state, a constitution is supposed to express in words the basic values of its citizens and state the foundational principles that will guide the conduct of the government in a way that reflects the values that most of the citizens believe in, led by the value of freedom. The constitution is intended to limit the powers of government and to defend the citizen from the whims of those in positions of power.

Even in dictatorial states there are laws, however they are mostly not effective; they do not defend the citizen from the power of the government, and the recent situation in Syria is a convincing proof of this fact. In dictatorial states the constitution is the tool that is used to carry out the will of the dictator, as well as his intentions and sometimes even his excesses, while he shuts the mouths of his opposition with the usual claim that everything he’s doing is in accordance with the constitution and the laws that are based on it.

Egypt, after the revolution of January 25th 2011, is a state that has freed itself from the burden of a dictator, Husni Mubarak, who, together with his cronies and predecessors, the officers, ruled Egypt since July 1952 in accordance with a constitution that served as a fig leaf to cover up the fact that the government was entirely in his hands, and the whole country revolved around him as if he were a god.

Now the Egyptians want a different constitution, a “democratic” one, which on one hand will promise that the government will not become a dictatorship again, and on the other hand will express the basic values of the society and defend them. This is the reason that Egypt needs a new constitution, because the previous one was nothing more than a tool to serve Mubarak.

The reality of recent days is that certain groups are not pleased by the way that President Muhammad Morsi is trying to secure the constitution by referendum, so they go out into the streets to express their opinion with demonstrations that sometimes deteriorate into acts of mass violence, injuries and deaths. In order to simplify the discussion for the purpose of this article, we will say that the population in Egypt is divided into three main groups: the Secular, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis.

The secular group wants to turn Egypt into a modern, liberal, open, Western style state, that is neither religious nor traditional in character, where the status of citizenship is equal for everyone, and takes the place of all of the other ethnic, tribal, religious, and sectarian affiliations.

The Muslim Brotherhood wants a religious state, in which Shari’a rules but does not prevent the state from adopting modern tools that exist in the world. They are in favor of women’s participation in public activities, with limitations for modesty, and believe that it is important to integrate the Coptic citizens – who are Christians – into the society, economy and the various governmental systems. But equality among citizens is seen as problematic, because according to Islam a Muslim and a Christian can never be equal, since the Christian is a “ward of the state” (dhimmi) who, according to the Qur’an (Sura 9, Verse 29) must exist in the shadow of Islam and under humiliating conditions. The statement that women are equal to men is problematic for them too, because of traditional concepts that say that “the men are responsible for the women” (Sura 4, Verse 34).

The Salafis want to see the implementation of Islamic Shari’a in all areas of life, and do not accept the adoption of any Western, modern characteristic. They insist on regarding Copts as class B citizens, and do not accept the idea that women should have public positions. They take literally the saying attributed to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam: “The best hijab for a woman is her home.”

The main problem with the constitution in Egypt today is that every one of these three sectors sees the revolution as his own revolution, defines “democracy” according to his own concepts and values, and if the new constitution goes in a different direction then he will claim that “they stole the revolution,” he will go out to the streets and will raise hell. The only common factor to all of the sectors is their avowed refusal to allow a dictator to take control of the state, even though each one of them would agree that whoever represents their world view should rule with broad powers. In other words: each sector would agree to a “soft dictator” if he would represent that particular sector’s world view.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/dr-mordechai-kedar/constitutional-confusion-and-contusions-in-egypt/2012/12/11/

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