Civ­il Disobedience:The Israeli Experience

Che­mi Ben-Noon; Baruch Gefen, trans.

  • Review
By – March 1, 2016

Based on the author’s Hebrew-lan­guage doc­tor­al dis­ser­ta­tion, Civ­il Respon­si­bil­i­ty by Che­mi Ben-Noon address­es the wide­ly-dis­cussed ques­tion of how Amer­i­ca, Israel, and India con­tend with dis­si­dents with­in their respec­tive societies.

Ben-Noon, who teach­es at Shaarey Mish­pat Aca­d­e­m­ic Cen­ter, starts with the con­tro­ver­sial views of his men­tor, the late Yeshayahu Lei­bowitz, and argues against them, hon­ing a phi­los­o­phy of com­pli­ance when — and only when — the state leg­is­lates rea­son­able policies.

Ben-Noon goes to great lengths to exam­ine all per­spec­tives on the vio­la­tion of pub­lic leg­is­la­ture, draw­ing upon the rich lit­er­a­ture on the dif­fi­cul­ty of bal­anc­ing a culture’s nation­al secu­ri­ty against the rights of its indi­vid­u­als to self-deter­mi­na­tion. Although laws are designed to pro­tect those liv­ing by them, man must be free to artic­u­late and respond to his own polit­i­cal insights into law and civil­i­ty. Oth­er­wise, soci­ety would be unable to pre­serve itself and pro­tect its citizens.

The care with which the author presents his argu­ments can make Civ­il Respon­si­bil­i­ty a rather slow and tedious enter­prise for the aver­age read­er. Acute­ly aware of the con­tro­ver­sial nature of the top­ic of his book — par­tic­u­lar­ly for Israeli audi­ences — Ben-Noon care­ful­ly maps out pic­ture of the nature of protest to sup­port the idea that non­vi­o­lent respons­es invari­ably must trump vio­lent actions and reactions.

Civ­il Dis­obe­di­ence is a seri­ous and stim­u­lat­ing tech­ni­cal work that will sure­ly find its audi­ence in law schools and universities.

Mor­ton Merowitz holds degrees from Yeshi­va Uni­ver­si­ty, the Drop­sie Col­lege for Hebrew and Cog­nate Learn­ing, and the State Uni­ver­si­ty of New York at Buf­fa­lo. He was involved in Jew­ish edu­ca­tion for some ten years and cur­rent­ly reviews non-fic­tion lit­er­a­ture which may be of inter­est and rel­e­vance to stu­dents and teach­ers of Jew­ish studies.

Discussion Questions