"As long as men and women strive to civilize their society the problem of tolerance will remain, because the urge toward intolerance will not go away. The achievement of Dr. Cohen-Almagor's work is that it adds to our knowledge and awareness of this central problem of politics. . . . His arguments are made in the context of classical liberal thought, of practical politics, and of jurisprudence."--Wilfrid Knapp, St. Catherine's College, Oxford
In 1985, Raphael Cohen-Almagor participated in an Israeli demonstration against Rabbi Meir Kahane, a religious, quasi-fascist propagandist who had been elected to the Israeli parliament the preceding year. As the demonstration became a confrontation--people screamed, shouted, and whistled to prevent Kahane from speaking--Cohen-Almagor felt increasing discomfort. In the name of democracy, the protesters were using the same tactics against Kahane that Kahane would use against his own opposition. Advocates of free speech were denying Kahane free speech.
The paradox was the impetus behind this work, which proposes to overcome what Cohen-Almagor calls the "catch" of democracy, the idea that the principles that underlie any political system might also bring about its destruction.
Building on the framework of John Stuart Mill and other liberal theorists, Cohen-Almagor addresses the delicate issue of which boundaries should be set to safeguard democracy. He contends that restrictions of liberty and tolerance may be prescribed when there are threats of immediate violence against individuals or groups, or when the intent of a threat is to inflict psychological damage in circumstances when the target group is forced to be exposed to the threat. In this connection he reviews the ruling of the Illinois Supreme Court that permitted American Nazis to hold a demonstration in Skokie, and he argues that the decision was wrong.
The second part of the book explores the struggle of the Israeli political system against the Kahanist racist phenomenon as it has developed in the last two decades. Cohen-Almagor's perspective differs from that of philosophers who focus particularly on practical considerations. "My view is that the fundamental question is ethical rather than practical," he writes. "I argue that, as a matter of moral principle, violent parties that act to destroy democracy or the state should not be allowed to run for parliament."
This work, both a theoretical contribution and a discussion of a major current political problem, will be valuable to political scientists, philosophers, legal scholars, and anyone interested in First Amendment issues.
Dr. Raphael Cohen-Almagor is associate professor, director, of the Center for Democratic studies at the University of Haifa. He is the author of eleven books, including Speech, Media and Ethics (2001) and The Scope of Tolerance (2005)
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"this is an important book-very well argued, extremely comprehensive an thorough-which future judges and politicians should take into account when the next wave of intolerance washes over their democratic shores, whether in Israel, or elsewhere...."
--Studies in Contemporary Jewry
...provides important, scholarly pathways both to and from the study of Israeli politics.
--Middle East Journal
"Cohen-Almagor certainly knows the material he is dealing with and his own positions are well-grounded analytically, epirically, and normatively."
--International Journal of Middle East Studies
"includes a comprehensive survey of philosophical opinions on what Karl Popper has called the paradox of tolerance, and a number of original contributions by the author. Of particular interest is his distinction between manifest and latent tolerance."
--The Jewish Quarterly Review
"Raphael Cohen-Almagor's insightful examination of the meanings of liberty in relation to political extremism in Israel will interest audiences well beyond Middle Eastern studies."
"All participants in and observers of the on-going Middle Eastern democratic experiments will learn valuable lessons by reading Cohen-Almagor's analysis. The text is accesible and could easily be used in the undergraduate classroom. The rigor with which the case study is pursued makes it rich and detailed enough to hold the specialist's attention as well." -- MESA Bulletin