Which brings me to MJ Rosenberg, who consistently embodies all of the above. Normally, I ignore his cant and pretentiously oh-so civilized rant (even when it comes in the Jerusalem Post). Today, though, at the request of a friend I looked over his column (available here). I then recalled why I've pretty much stopped reading the newspaper on Shabbat. Yes, he was ostensibly attacking the Left's love affair with Islam(ists). However, the piece is studded with observations that vitiated the article.
The following points were especially galling:
Israel is a secular democracy. Yes, it is a Jewish state. But no one is forced to practice the Jewish faith. In fact, Israeli Jews, for the most part, are less religious than their American counterparts (and certainly less so than American Christians).
Who is he kidding? Israeli Jews overwhelmingly believe in God and want a qualitatively Jewish State. Jewish tradition, even today, is far more programmed into the public space than in the US.
You will not, for instance, find many Jews on the beach in New York or Los Angeles during holy days. In Israel, the beaches are packed.
Who is he kidding? Yes, Rosh HaShanah is not as heavily observed in Israel as it once was in the Diaspora. However, Yom Kippur is still the holiest day of the year. 73-77% of Israelis fast. Non-Orthodox Jews build sukkot. 95% attend a Seder and over 75% don't eat Hametz.Orthodox Jews make up a sizable segment of the population but they do not run the country and never have. Only a radical fringe would choose to.
Would someone tell me what this means? Is he ignorant of the fact that 30-40% of the members of Knesset are Orthodox? There are three Orthodox Major Generals on the General Staff. What kind of racist paternalism is this? Let me give you a pat on the head, little Ortho, stay in your place and you can live here. Yok! [If he means having an Halakhic State, he should say so.]
Israel does have its share of violent fundamentalist crazies: right-wing settlers who terrorize Palestinian children in Hebron and lynch Arabs, rabbis who pray for the murder of leaders with whom they disagree (successfully in the case of Rabin) and religious fanatics who would, if they could, roll back the last several centuries of social progress and growing equality.
So we are all 'violent fundamentalist crazies'? My late father-in-law would say, 'Wrap it up in plastic so that it shouldn't smell' and throw it away.
But not very many Israelis are of that ilk. The heart of Israel is Tel Aviv, one of the freest and most tolerant cities in the world. The heart of Hezbollah is in Teheran where freethinking modern men and women (the majority of the population by far) live essentially in a giant fundamentalist prison, an American secularist's worst nightmare.
Reality Check....Jerusalem is the largest city in Israel and is still the political and spiritual capital of the Jewish people. I suspect that he's equating it with Teheran.
Congressman Barney Frank points to Israel's acceptance of gays and lesbians as emblematic of the difference between Israel and its Islamic fundamentalist enemies...Again, the issue of gay rights is far from the center of the issues dividing Israel and Hezbollah (and the Iranian government). But in today's world the treatment of gays is often a litmus test.
So it all comes down to gay rights. If you're in favor, you're ok. If you're against, you're a primitive mullah. I don't want to get into a discussion of Gay Rights. However, there are good, principled reasons to oppose the legal enfranchising of homosexuality, without resorting to perscution (or worse). It is mendacious, and demagogic, to make the legitimacy of Israeli society contingent upon that criterion. God save us from such "Directors of Public Policy."