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Does John Locke Approve of Israel?

March 8, 2011

Currently, a lot of Americans are strong supporters of Israel because it is the only form of democracy in the Middle East.  Therefore, when Israel is under attack, Americans are quick to defend it.  However, people fail to realize that Israel is a democracy for only the Jewish people.  Despite this fact, as I said earlier, Americans are usually quick to rush to the aid of Israel.  But is this the right thing to do?  John Locke does not think so.

During his time, Locke was very concerned about the various religious wars.  In fact, his doctrine “become a radical cry against both the church’s influence in government as well as feudal social arrangements and the forms of hierarchy of pre-modern society”.  Locke would not like the fact that Israel is considered the homeland of the Jews and that Israel was only a democracy for the Jewish people.

Locke would support a theory of religious tolerance and would not be a fan of the policy of Eretz Yisrael, which is that the land of Israel is growing to encompass more land for the minority.  This is where the problem occurs.  Locke wants equality among the people, so I’m guessing he would want democracy throughout the Middle East for all different groups of people.  However, every nation is allowed to pick their own form of government and not every country in the Middle East is in favor of a democracy.  At the end of the day, I think Locke would just want to support every person being treated equally regardless of religion and for every person to have a right to property (making Israel not just the homeland of the Jews, but for all religions).

However, I disagree with Locke.  Due to the fact that Israel is constantly under attack, it is hard for them to try and view all people the same.  I think it is a nice idea to believe that everyone int he Middle East will treat each other equally, but to be honest, I think that is just down right unrealistic.  Therefore, I support keeping the only democracy in the Middle East which at this time happens to be Israel.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke-political/

Thomson, Michael J. John Locke in Jerusalem. Print.

Josh Langer

6 Comments
  1. Emily Slaga permalink
    March 8, 2011 8:21 PM

    This is pretty interesting. I think it’s hard to say what Locke would think about the state of Israel. On one hand, he would support Israel because he believes in the right to property, and once you put labor into land, it’s yours. Biblically speaking, the land did belong to the Jewish people many many years ago. They were probably some of the first to put labor into the land, thus it was theirs. So the formation of the state of Israel would be justifiable to Locke because it’s their property. Or at least he’d support the right for Jewish people to live there. However, Arabic people also put labor into the land when the Jews were more or less absent from the Middle East, so it could also be said to be their property, so Locke may believe Israels ground for existence isn’t legitimate. That is debatable.
    I also respectfully disagree with your idea that Locke would not like the idea that the democracy is only for Jewish people. But I do agree that he would want equality/some democracy for all people in the Middle East. They don’t have to be under the same government though. Maybe he would be proud that at least one nation, Israel, is a democracy, and would wish other nations in the Middle East would follow.

  2. akarbel90 permalink
    March 9, 2011 1:32 AM

    You raise many good points in your post. However, I believe that Locke would have mixed feelings about the state of Israel. As you pointed out, Israel is founded upon religious principles and justified by biblical means. In the most basic sense this echos the justification utilized by absolutist monarchs throughout Europe pre-French Revolution: The Bible says that it should be this way and therefore it should be this way. At the same time, Israel is the lone democracy in the region and Locke would most likely be supportive of such a regime. I agree with Emily with regard to her skepticism about the Jewish-only democracy. As it stands, all citizens of Israel have rights regardless of religion. While Israel may have been founded as a religious state, it has been one of few that have successfully incorporated religion into politics. Additionally, Locke would favor equality for all and I believe that he would support the example that Israel is setting for the rest of the Middle East. Despite religious differences and a complicated history with her neighbors, Israel is the democracy of the Middle East and as such Locke would be supportive of any country that guaranteed rights to its citizens. Any qualms Locke may have about its founding as a religious state merely show that nothing it ultimately perfect.

  3. Ad maiorem Dei gloriam permalink
    March 9, 2011 10:03 AM

    I think Emily raises an extremely pertinent point because, yes, Locke does believes in the right to property, and that once you’ve tilled the land, it then belongs to you. It is precisely on this grounds that the Arabs challenge the Jews biblical and ‘primordial’ rights (a la Benedict Anderson theory of nationalism) to what they believe is a land that they have tilled and put labor into.

    I’m not from the U.S. so I think it’d be interesting to hear: Are most of the people in the U.S. in favor of a Jewish-dominated Israel? How do you guys know what you know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Through schools? What do they teach?

    There isn’t any right/wrong answer. I’m just extremely curious as to how foreign policy decisions and choices affect/ripple downwards and impact media broadcasts and state curriculums.

  4. lernerm permalink
    March 9, 2011 4:10 PM

    While your post raises a good question, I have a serious disagreement with your claim that “Israel is a democracy for only the Jewish people.” I would argue the opposite. Israel may have been founded with the Jewish people in mind, but 20% of Israel’s citizens are Muslims who are equally protected under Israeli law as Jews are. Arab-Israelis have the right to vote, to free speech, and to all the other rights that Jewish-Israelis have. One-tenth of the Knesset is Arab, there is a mosque in the Knesset building, and one of the members of Israel’s supreme court is Arab.

    Your conclusions were reasonable but it is wrong to call Israel a democracy for Jews only.

  5. Stephan Sakhai permalink
    March 9, 2011 5:50 PM

    Some very good points were brought up, but my main disagreement would also be to the comment that Israel is solely a nation for the Jews. Although it is dominated and was built upon the Jewish religion, it has become a democracy for all considering the political pressure Israel has faced in the past decades.
    In regards to Locke’s view on Israel, I would agree it would be one of ambivalence. It was mentioned that both Jews and Arabs have put direct labor into the land, and it is true who was there first is debated so I wont go into that aspect, but if both put labor into the land should they not both have equal right to the land?

    At first thought, yes they should. But then I thought, would Locke not support Israel as a Jewish state since they won a war that gave them the political right to declare themselves a Jewish nation. Do they not have the right to protect this nation at any cost against intruders, invaders, or those wishing to harm them?
    What would Hobbes think? How would Rousseau react?

    Israel is a perpetual conflict that has hundreds of quandaries to argue about… this is just another one.

  6. Natalie Turner permalink
    March 9, 2011 9:16 PM

    This post was very interesting, but I also have an issue with the point in your post regarding Israel being a nation only for Jews. A very controversial law that exists in Israel is called the Law of Return. Essentially, this law gives Jews, those of Jewish ancestry, and their spouses the right settle in Israel and gain citizenship. This raises a very contentious issue because the definition of being a Jew, according to this law, is somewhat ambiguous, thus allowing many non-Jews to attain citizenship in Israel when they may technically not be Jewish. However, this law proves that Israel is home to many more people beyond Jews.

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