Instead of Catering to Anti-Religious Bigotry, Israeli Secularist Politicians Should Learn from David Ben-Gurion

Sept. 6 2019

With Israeli elections on the horizon, David M. Weinberg notes that a number of politicians—from the right-wing secularist Avigdor Liberman to the left-wing Stav Shafrir to the centrist Yair Lapid—have been trying to gain votes by scapegoating Ḥaredim and stoking fears of disappearing religious freedom. Weinberg finds the tenor of these appeals both hysterical and intolerant:

The religion-baiting campaigns of these politicians goes . . . beyond expected (and sometimes justifiable) criticism of the ḥaredi-ized rabbinic bureaucracy. . . . If such [rhetoric] were to be used [in the Diaspora], every Jewish defense agency would be screaming bloody murder. I hear things like this [from speeches and campaign advertisements]: rabbis are out to indoctrinate your children and subjugate your women; religious Jews will imprison you (in your home on Shabbat), spoil your food (via kashrut impositions), and restrict your sexual freedoms (especially LGBTQ rights).

It’s time to reassert some rationality and moderation in national debates over matters of religion and state, or faith and democracy. . . . I am convinced that the vast majority of Israelis are profoundly uncomfortable with the current anti-religious rabble-rousing. Disagreements about matters of faith and policy can be adjudicated reasonably out of respect for both tradition and [personal freedom]. And we are, ultimately and unquestionably, a nation of believers and democrats.

Not so long ago, the steadfast leaders of the socialist-secularist Zionist left like David Ben-Gurion had no problem articulating their love for Jewish erudition and acting on their desire that all Israeli youth be knowledgeable of Jewish texts. Ben-Gurion would have angrily rejected the simplistic and false dichotomy that [some politicians] promote about Judaism and liberalism. “There is no wall of separation in Israel between Judaism and humanism,” wrote Ben-Gurion in 1954. “Our physical and spiritual lives are entirely integrated in one overarching and embracing framework: Jewish sovereignty.”

We need politicians like Ben-Gurion . . . today; men of reflection whose non-religious ideological moorings were secure and deep enough to embrace [both] Jewish and Zionist roots.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: David Ben-Gurion, Haredim, Israeli politics, Judaism in Israel

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.

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Fathom

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