The boundaries of liberty and tolerance : liberal theory and the struggle against Kahanism in Israel
The problem of any political system is that the principles which underlie and characterize it might also, through their application, endanger it and bring about its destruction. Democracy is no exception. Moreover, because democracy is a relatively young phenomenon, it lacks experience in dealing with pitfalls involved in the working of the system. This is what I call the "catch" of democracy. The primary aims of this research are (1) to formulate percepts and mechanisms designed to prescribe boundaries to liberty and tolerance conducive to safeguard democracy; and (2) in the light of the theory to analyze a case of a democratic selfdefence. Hence, I employ the formulated philosophical principles to the study of the Israeli democracy, evaluating the political and legal measures to which it resorted in its struggle against Kahanism. In the first part of the thesis I examine two of the main arguments which are commonly offered as answers to the question: 'why tolerate?' The first is the 'Respect for Others Argument', and the second is the 'Argument from Truth'. I introduce some qualifications to these arguments, asserting that our primary obligation should be given to the first, and that in case of conflict between the two principles, this former principle should have preference over the latter. Through the review of the Millian theory and some more recent theories I try to prescribe confines to liberty. With regard to freedom of expression, I state two arguments: the first under the Harm Principle, and the second under the Offence Principle. Under the Harm Principle I argue that restrictions on liberty may be prescribed when there are sheer threats of immediate violence against some individuals or groups. Under the Offence Principle I explicate that expressions which intend to inflict psychological offence are morally on a par with physical harm and therefore there are grounds for abridging them. In this connection, I review the Illinois Supreme Court decision, which permitted the Nazis to hold a demonstration in Skokie. Moving from theory to practice, in the second part I apply the theory and the conclusions reached to the Israeli democracy, observing its struggle against the Kahanist phenomenon as it has been developed through the last two decades, and increasingly following the election of Meir Kahane to the Knesset in 1984. I examine the mechanisms applied in this anti-'Kach' (Kahane's party) campaign, the justifications given for the limitations that were set, and how justified they were, according to the formulated philosophical and legal guidelines.