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

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.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

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


What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship