Reclaiming Secular Zionism’s Religiosity

A recent article in an Israeli political journal argued that anyone who wishes to revive Israel’s moribund left must stay true to its secular heritage and “take a stand against both religion and religious people.” But to Gershon Hacohen this claim rests on a profound misunderstanding. While it is true that David Ben-Gurion and other early leaders of the Zionist left were secular insofar as they were agnostic and did not observe halakhah, their ideology was deeply enmeshed with the Hebrew Bible and Jewish traditions:

In his writings and speeches, Ben-Gurion made use of Jewish ideas fraught with religious content. [In] February 1937, for example, he asserted, “The definition of the ‘ultimate goal’ of Zionism is nothing other than the full and complete redemption of the Jewish people in its land. The ingathering of the exiles, national sovereignty.” And the Declaration of Independence [invokes] “the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream—the redemption of Israel.” There is a fundamental difference between aspiring to no more than a civil-law state that is pleasant to live in and aspiring to eternal redemption.

[U]nlike secular circles that reject any definition of Jewish identity that does not distinguish between the religious and the national, Ben-Gurion insisted on the unique and indissoluble link between the two dimensions: “The Jewish religion is a national religion, which has assimilated all the historical phenomena of the people of Israel from its beginnings up to the present. It is not easy to separate the national aspect and the religious aspect.”

In the face of the ḥaredi opposition to Zionism, Ben-Gurion stressed that not only did he refuse to turn his back on the age-old Jewish heritage but, in fact, the opposite: he sought to renew the connection with the Jewish legacy of “Rabbi Akiva, the Maccabees, Ezra and Nehemiah, Joshua son of Nun, Moses our teacher.” Disavowal of this connection is the main reason for the left’s loss of a path to the national leadership.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: David Ben-Gurion, History of Zionism, Labor Zionism, Religious Zionism

Israel’s Retaliation against the Houthis Sends a Message to the U.S., and to Its Arab Allies

The drone that struck a Tel Aviv high-rise on Thursday night is believed to have traveled over 2,000 kilometers, flying from Yemen over Egypt and then above the Mediterranean before veering eastward toward the Israeli coast. Since October, the Houthis have launched over 200 drones at Israel. Nor is this the first attempt to strike Tel Aviv, only the first successful one. Noah Rothman observes that the Houthis’ persistent attacks on Israel and on international shipping are largely the result of the U.S.-led coalition’s anemic response:

Had the Biden administration taken a more proactive and vigorous approach to neutralizing the Houthis’ capabilities, Israel would not be obliged to expand to Yemen the theater of operations in the war Hamas inaugurated on October 7. The prospects of a regional war grow larger by the day, not because Israel cannot “take the win,” as President Biden reportedly told Benjamin Netanyahu following a full-scale direct Iranian attack on the Jewish state, but because hostile foreign actors are killing its citizens. Jerusalem is obliged to defend them and the sovereignty of Israel’s borders.

Biden’s hesitancy was fueled by his apprehension over the prospect of a “wider war” in the Middle East. But his hesitancy is what is going to give him the war he so cravenly sought to avoid.

In this context, the nature of the Israeli response is significant: rather than follow the American strategy of striking isolated weapons depots and the like, IDF jets struck the port city of Hodeida—the sort of major target the U.S. has shied away from. The mission was likely the furthest-ever carried out by the Israel Air Force, hitting a site 200 kilometers further from Israel than Tehran. Yoel Guzansky and Ilan Zalayat comment:

The message that Israel sent was intended to reach the moderate Arab countries, the West, and especially the United States. . . . The message to the coalition countries is that “the containment” had failed and the Houthis must be hit harder. The Hodeida port is the lifeline of the Houthi economy and continued damage to it will make it extremely difficult for this economy, which is also facing significant American sanctions.

Read more at National Review

More about: Houthis, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy