Sunday, April 10, 2005

Religious Zionism in Crisis (Part 3)

I have maintained for a long time that there are two, interlocking struggles going on in Israel today. The better known controversy concerns peace negotiations with the Arabs. However, this has been accompanied by an all-out kulturkampf over whether Israel will be a qualitatively Jewish country, or not. As Dan Michman notes, in his important reader on post-Zionism, the Israeli Post-Zionist Left is interested in divesting itself of Yesha not solely in order to achieve peace with the Palestinians, but in order to detatch Israel from the Biblical heartland and thereby advance its agenda of de-judaizing the State of Israel. This goal is helped by the fact that the most prominent settlers (though not the majority) are religious.

Since the 1996 elections, this agenda morphed into an all-out campaign of demonization against Orthodox Judaism, generally, and the settlers in particular. I recall, in particular, a series of Meretz commercials in which blatantly anti-semitic images were used to depict both RZ and Haredi Jews. (Though I generally eschew referring to the Shoah, in this case I must add that they would not embarress
Der Sturmer, Der Angriff and Volkische Beobachter) The settlers were denounced as 'enemies of peace' and all religious Jews as obstacles to modernity, liberal democracy and progress. (This where Shinui enters the picture. Indeed, it is deeply ironic that a Holocaust survivor like Tommy Lapid inspires this kind of campaign.)

Truth to tell, the post-Zionist, anti-Judaism campaign went into retreat when the war broke out in September of 2000. In fact, I actually thought that the confrontation with evil and with Arab and Western anti-semitism was advancing Jewish identity and involvement here.

I was wrong.

As soon as the war wound down (it's not over) and Sharon started gearing up for the retreat from Gaza, the unholy trinity of media/police/Justice Ministry combined with academia to renew the diabolization of Jews, Judaism and settlers with a ferocity that was unseen since Rabin z'l"s murder. Hysterical headlines scream that 'the Jews' are going to blow up the mosques on Har HaBayit. More strikingly, the media is carrying on an ongoing celebration of the destruction of Gush Qatif and the expulsion of 8,000 Jews from their homes. Now, irrespective of one's political position, isn't there any room for compassion here? Evidently not, after all we're not dealing with people here. We're merely dealing with Jews, and religious Jews at that. In this situation, the Jew can't win. If he fights to save his home, he's a right-wing extremist; a messianic psychopath and an enemy of peace. If he fights for real compensation that will allow him to rebuild his life in Israel, he's a parasitic, money-loving Jew. [The situation reminds me of Joshua Trachtenberg's Introduction to The Devil and The Jews, where he notes that only a Jew can be a Communist and a Plutocrat at the same time.]

In this climate, Judaism and rabbis (though, here, they themselves contributed) are being pilloried per se. Judaism is the enemy of the State and of Democracy. You don't believe it? Today's Ynet reported that MK Danny Yatom warned that if too many religious officers enter the army, they will take over the country by military coup. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Independent of the crisis of faith brought on by the destruction of settlements, is it any wonder that even moderate Religious Zionist Jews are having second thoughts about whether the two words go together.

I"ll expand on this in my next post.

[Later addition: Meanwhile, the poison keeps coming fast and furious in the media. Nachum Barnea, Israel's self-appointed leading journalist, has decided that the settlers are nothing special and deserve no consideration. He lives in a formerly Arab section of Jerusalem....]

1 comment: said...

more on the kulturkampf between Israelis and Jews - this time from Amnon Lord, editor of Makor Rishon, former culture editor at Maariv, former kibbutznik and Peace Now activist.

also, Rav Shaul Bar-Ilan's P'sak Halacha on the halachic issues concerning the disengagement (aside from Lo Tchanem and Mitzvat Yishu Haaretz) is now on line at

It is a .pdf file so you need acrobat.

For years RZ have fooled themselves - as long as there is a pretense of kosher food and shmirat shabbat, then the army was OK. It's clear that any soldier being called up for duty after Pesach is faced with a moral and religious dilemma that goes well beyond a simple utilitarian political analysis. The fact that army isn't doing the evacuation (at least publicly) on Shbbat in order to placate religious sensibilities, is laughable at best.