David Tartakover | Israel

Mother, 1989

Digital Print
68.5 / 98.5 cm
Photo: Jim Hollander, Reuters

Courtesy of the artist

From the viewpoint of an anti-Fascist approach, whether humanist or religious, there can be no attribution of value significance to the state or sovereignty.

Furthermore, the state should not even be regarded as an instrument for application of values. The apparatus of state authority is maintained because of the necessity for it; to safeguard the minimum of security and the propriety of social reality.

And values cannot be applied by a governmental apparatus; they can be applied solely by the efforts and struggles of people as persons. The significance of the state in relation to values is solely in that it enables persons living within it to campaign for values without deflecting that campaign into bloodshed.

If we are not Fascists, we demand of authority only that it should not prevent people from working for those things they hold as values. From this point of view, the superiority of a regime is expressed in the degree of weakness of governmental authority; the less governmental authority is capable of imposing its will upon its subjects, the better.

Granted, it is essential to endow the governmental apparatus with coercive power so as to enable it to fulfill its legitimate functions, but that power should be restricted to an essential minimum.

That minimum still remains very large, and we have to come to terms with the fact that the citizen within his state is condemned to live in a structure that entails a constriction of the potential inherent in man, restricting and limiting his personality.

However, at all events, that restriction has to be reduced to the essential minimum. The government is authorized to decide on certain (not all !) pragmatic issues, but has no authority to decide on issues of values – neither moral nor religious, not even social (to the extent that they do not have legal consequences).

If there is no unanimity among people in relation to values, it emerges that the state that is not Fascist, is not a structure of unity; rather, it is an arena of struggle. The notion of the state as a structure for “national unity” is a Fascist ideal par excellence: “ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer” is the essence of totalitarianism.

The democratic state is an arena of struggle between persons holding different values. The superiority of the democratic regime is that it enables people to campaign for their mutually conflicting values – something the totalitarian state does not permit its subjects. … If edification of the state is an absolute value of the people and of the citizen as a member of that people – everything is permissible in its service, indeed, it is obligatory to do everything in its cause; and that permission is extended to the state itself, in its relations with other states and their peoples.

That is the form of nationalism referred to by poet and thinker Grillparzer when he spoke of “the way leading from humanity by way of nationalism, to bestiality”

Yeshayahu Leibovitz
“The Way of Nationalism to Bestiality”, published in Ha’aretz 5/10/1984