Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Parties Aren’t on the Verge of Collapse

July 17 2019

The 2018 Israeli municipal elections brought to the fore political divisions among the country’s Ḥaredim. Most significantly, the major Ashkenazi religious parties—the ḥasidic Agudat Yisrael and the non-ḥasidic (or “Lithuanian”) Degel ha-Torah—ran separate candidates in many local races for the first time since their merger in 1992. Moreover, smaller ḥaredi splinter parties, both Sephardi and Ashkenazi, entered the fray, and tensions have increased between followers of Jerusalem rabbis and of those who live in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak. While some observers have predicted the imminent collapse of the ultra-Orthodox parties, Meir Hirschmann sees long-term stability:

[F]ollowing the first national election of 2019, . . . it seems that in the national arena ḥaredi politics have proved themselves to be a model of cohesion and stability. No party sailed through the elections as calmly as the ḥaredi parties. Not only were there no splits, there was even talk of a united ḥaredi front. No revolution, no collapse, and no crisis.

[S]plits at the municipal level in the recent elections had virtually no negative consequences for the national elections. [If anything, these] shocks at the local level assured that the national election would proceed calmly and smoothly, with each community recognizing the limits of its power.

A centralized, uniform, and homogenous ḥaredi leadership, [however], exists only as a nostalgic mirage, based on a very brief period in the history of ḥaredi politics. In practice, ḥaredi politics in Israel, at both the national and local level, have been characterized by a dynamic more reminiscent of the latest municipal elections. The splits, sub-splits, and local alliances are no exception in ḥaredi politics; they are indeed the rule.

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More about: Israeli politics, Ultra-Orthodox


The Evidence of BDS Anti-Semitism Speaks for Itself

Oct. 18 2019

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs recently released a lengthy report titled Behind the Mask, documenting the varieties of naked anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery employed by the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Jewish state (BDS). Drawn largely but not exclusively from Internet sources, its examples range from a tweet by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (the “world would be soooo much better without jews man”), to an enormous inflated pig bearing a star of David and floating behind the stage as the rock musician Roger Waters performs, to accusations by an influential anti-Israel blogger that Israel is poisoning Palestinian wells. Cary Nelson sums up the report’s conclusions and their implications, all of which give the lie to the disingenuous claim that critics of BDS are trying to brand “legitimate criticism of Israel” as anti-Semitic.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Roger Waters, Social media