+972 Magazine » Analysis http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Fri, 28 Nov 2014 20:01:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 The ‘Jewish Nation-State Law’: Turning liberal Zionism on its head http://972mag.com/the-jewish-nation-state-law-turning-liberal-zionism-on-its-head/99329/ http://972mag.com/the-jewish-nation-state-law-turning-liberal-zionism-on-its-head/99329/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 18:22:07 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99329 Cementing the supremacy of national group rights over individual minority rights upends the precarious balance between Jewish and democratic, upon which liberal Zionism relies. For the ‘Nation-State Law’s authors and political patrons, however, this is just the beginning.

Liberal Zionists of all stripes tend to have one thing in common: the belief — or at least the hope — that Israel can reconcile and balance being a Jewish and a democratic state, serving both as the realization of Jewish national self-determination and as a modern liberal state that guarantees equality to all its citizens regardless of their religion or ethnic heritage.

Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, one of Israel’s preeminent jurists, perhaps best explained the mechanism and limitations of such a precarious balance. In the Ka’adan ruling (PDF), one of the most important contemporary legal precedents advancing equality in Israel, Barak explained that Jews may have privileged national rights when it comes to immigration, but that once inside the state’s borders, all must stand equal before the law.

It is true, members of the Jewish nation were granted a special key to enter, but once a person has lawfully entered the home, he enjoys equal rights with all other household members.

That formulation — and the ideology that relies on it — is about to be turned on its head, and along with it, the only palatable recipe for reconciling the competing values espoused by liberal Zionism.

A new proposed law moving rapidly through Israel’s Knesset with the support of the prime minister and a majority of the government would codify and constitutionalize legal discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities in Israel. The so-called “Jewish Nation-State Law” will upend Justice Barak’s “special key” theory.

Jewish national rights trump individual Arab rights

Several clauses in the draft law — and in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s principals, on which he has pledged to base its final wording — recognize national and group rights of the Jewish people inside the State of Israel while recognizing only individual (read: inferior) rights for members of religious, national and ethnic minorities.

In other words, Jews still hold have privileged status as key-holders to the gates of the country, but that privileged group status now follows them inside.

If passed into law, the bill, formally called “Basic Law: Israel — Nation-State of the Jewish People,” will have constitutional status, meaning it requires a super-majority to pass and revoke, and that Israeli courts will give it greater standing when weighing it against other laws or state practices that may contradict it. Israel does not have a formal constitution.

In just one example of discrimination in the Jewish Nation-State Law, the bill mandates that the State act to strengthen the historical and cultural heritage and tradition of the Jewish people — both in Israel and in the Diaspora. In contrast, the new law would only require the State to permit non-Jewish individuals to do the same on their own behalf.

Esteemed constitutional and human rights scholar Dr. Yousef Jabareen explains (PDF): “the preference for the Jewish majority engrained in the law paves the way for the granting of group-based rights and privileges to the Jewish majority while simultaneously justifying discriminatory and racist policy towards the Arabs on the individual and collective levels.”

Normalizing the national exclusion of Arabs

More troubling than the supremacy given to Jewish tradition and heritage over those of other indigenous and minority groups of citizens, is the supremacy the draft law gives to those ideas when it comes to judicial decisions and in justifying the violation of individual rights.

After defining the state as the national home of the Jewish people, in which the Jewish people “realizes its right to self-determination in accordance with its cultural and historic heritage,” the draft law says individual rights may be violated for the benefit of the values of the Jewish people. In other words, individual minority rights may be violated for the benefit of Jewish collective rights.

As it is, according to Adalah — the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, there are more than 50 laws that discriminate against Arab citizens “in all areas of life, including their rights to political participation, access to land, education, state budget resources, and criminal procedures.”

The Jewish Nation-State Law would make it much more difficult than it already is to challenge the constitutionality of such discriminatory legislation in Israel, Jabareen writes. The proposed law “not only deepens national exclusion of Arabs but also entrenches and normalizes it.”

But the primary purpose of the Jewish Nation-State Law is to constitutionalize a twisted exclusionary social contract — not between the State and all its citizens, but rather with one specific religious/ethnic group. Unlike most democracies where — at least theoretically — the state is given its legitimacy to govern by consent of the people, by giving ownership of the state to one subset of its citizens and their kin (Jews who are not Israeli citizens), the law inherently disenfranchises a significant portion of its own citizens.

That, of course, is nothing new. Among right-wing politicians in Israel, a favorite method for deriding political opponents on the Left is to accuse them of seeking “a state of all its citizens,” something most contemporary democracies aspire to.

In the Ka’adan decision, Justice Barak wrote that there is “no contradiction between the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and between the absolute equality of all of its citizens.” Whether or not he was right at the time is a wider, more contentious debate. If and when the Jewish Nation-State basic law passes, however, such a contradiction will be written into the closest thing Israel has to a constitution. And if the bill’s authors have their way, it will eventually be the bedrock of a constitution itself.

Playing the long game

The “Jewish Nation-State Law” was drafted by the Institute for Zionist Studies (IZS), a think tank that “seeks to strengthen Israel as the nation state of the Jewish People.” Its chairman, Yoaz Hendel, is a former senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office under Netanyahu.

The current version of the law, sponsored by Likud MK Yariv Levin — as well as the principles Netanyahu published as the basis for the bill’s final wording — are remarkably similar to the draft written by Hendel’s think tank.

One of the IZS’s primary raisons d’être is drafting and advancing the ratification of a constitution for Israel, something many others have tried and failed to do for decades. Realizing their short-term odds, it would seem that the IZS and its political patrons in the government have resigned themselves to a piecemeal approach to passing a constitution. Their vision for a constitution weakens judicial oversight, puts as much land as possible in Jewish hands, makes individual rights conditional on military service, and seeks to limit non-Jewish participation in government (by conditioning eligibility for public office on receiving a security clearance, a requirement that inherently discriminates against non-Jews and those who did not serve in the military).

Many observers of Israeli politics and history make the mistake of dismissing the existence of any strategic thinking, likening the state’s decision-makers to the CEO’s of its Startup Nation — all improvisation, all the time.

The Jewish Nation-State Law and its backers, like proponents of annexation initiatives and Netanyahu’s own status quo strategy vis-à-vis the occupation, are looking at the long game. It’s the same long game that early Zionist pioneers first adopted and which has become an Israeli pastime ever since: create enough facts on the ground and soon enough there’s no going back.

Read also:
Is the ‘Jewish nation-state’ bill good for anyone at all?
Israel’s Supreme Court legalizes segregated communities
Resource: Israel’s persistent policy of land discrimination

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New academic boycott effort — still the wrong target http://972mag.com/new-academic-boycott-effort-still-the-wrong-target/99305/ http://972mag.com/new-academic-boycott-effort-still-the-wrong-target/99305/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 13:25:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99305 Over 1,000 American anthropologists have signed onto a boycott Israel petition. What this type of activism fails to do is to target the occupation in its essence – as an international system, sustained by an array of multinational interests.

By Gil Hizi

Illustrative photo of boycott advocates. (Photo: Brian S / Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of boycott advocates. (Photo: Brian S / Shutterstock.com)

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) will hold its annual conference in Washington DC next week. This year there are several panels scheduled to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue, with particular focus of how to promote sanctions on Israeli academic institutions. At present, almost 1,000 anthropologists have signed a petition in support of a boycott and the AAA will supply plenty of ink for scholars who wish to add their signature to the cause.

The occupation is a grave matter and international intervention is necessary. Yet what this type of signature-activism fails to do is to target the occupation in its essence – as an international system, sustained by an array of multinational interests.

The AAA petition explains how Israeli universities participate in the occupation. It demands very generally to end the siege on Gaza, to provide Palestinian refugees the “right of return” and to guarantee equal citizenship rights to Israeli Arabs. While one letter of reply from Israeli anthropologists supports this petition, the official response from the Israeli Anthropological Society is highly critical of the boycott. It laments that the AAA, the largest anthropological association in the world, is exercising its power over Israeli anthropologists and the fact that the boycott ignores the “complexity” of the conflict.

Read also: The academic boycott of Israel: No easy answers

Another response, a worldwide petition of anthropologists against the boycott, emphasizes that the occupation must end immediately and that Israel carries responsibility for the situation. Its criticism of BDS lies in the probability that sanctions will only serve the interests of the Israeli government, which wishes to mute radical voices inside local academia. Left-wing anthropologists such as Dan Rabinowitz, Edna Lomsky-Feder and Eyal Ben-Ari, who have all dedicated the last decades to criticizing Israeli institutional power, are supporters of this initiative.

While that second message expresses important ideas, even it fails to point out the biggest flaw of the boycott. The BDS petition discusses the political problem and the responsibility of scholars but ignores two important questions: how is the occupation operated? What initiative is required in order to undo the occupation and improve the living conditions of Palestinians?

Anthropologists Lisa Rofel and Ilana Feldman, two of the most vigorous promoters of the AAA’s boycott proposition, seem to understand this problem. In a recently post they state that because of the U.S. government’s support for Israel, U.S. citizens are “not just witnesses to Israeli crimes, but complicit in them.” Nevertheless, Rofel and Feldman’s instrument for change somehow remains a boycott that isolates Israel.

The U.S. indeed invests billions in the Israeli army and in addition, blocks every initiative for Palestinian self-determination in the UN. Even those who place all the blame on Jewish lobbies understand that Islam-hatred in the U.S. is hardly fuelled solely by love for the Star of David. Yet these underlying factors don’t lead scholars to realize that the U.S. does not merely “support” Israel altruistically, but is also operating with/through Israel, and that perhaps the White House should become the address for protests, rather than petitions that ignore the large picture. And perhaps the position of U.S. scholars vis-a-vis their government’s foreign policy should be scrutinized before the U.S. academy extends its institutional claws toward small academic communities in Israel.

A post by highly-acclaimed anthropological blog Savage Minds, which supports the BDS motion, correctly points out that most arguments against the boycott are, in fact, opposing the general principle of a boycott rather than responding to the crux of the matter. Yet, it seems that those who promote the boycott are guilty of the exact same sin: they praise the importance of taking a stance and engaging in political activism, while they forget to examine the conditions that may actually facilitate change.

How can we expect political change when there is no overarching pressure on the U.S. — and other allies — to transform its policies in the Middle East? Isolating Israel here serves all actors of the occupation: it is used by the Israeli right wing to demonstrate that it is the only true guardian of Israel, and it plays into the hand of foreign powers who prefer to keep their contributions to the occupation in the dark. This charade of “good cop, bad cop” has been going on for decades already, while residents in Gaza and the West Bank remain in despair. The occupation will not come to an end until activists and politicians fully acknowledge its international character.

Gil Hizi is a PhD candidate in anthropology and the University of Sydney. Although not the focus of his current research, he is concerned with social problems (and their academic analysis) in Israel, especially in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has been a Tel-Avivian most of his life, with more recent episodes in Jerusalem and Neve Shalom.

Related:
The academic boycott of Israel: No easy answers
Stephen Hawking’s message to Israeli elites: The occupation has a price
The boycott isn’t economic warfare, it’s psychological

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Netanyahu’s xenophobia: Bad in America, bad in Israel http://972mag.com/netanyahu-a-xenophobe-in-america-too/99296/ http://972mag.com/netanyahu-a-xenophobe-in-america-too/99296/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 12:10:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99296 We know what he thinks of Arabs. Read what he thinks of Mexican-Americans.

Sign warning of immigrants near the U.S.-Mexican Border. (Photo by Shutterstock.com)

Sign warning of migrants near the U.S.-Mexican Border. (Photo by Shutterstock.com)

Of all the reasons Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu puts forth for why Israel needs a “Jewish nation-state” law, the most bizarre one is this: “There are those – including those who deny our national rights – who would like to establish autonomy in the Galilee and the Negev.”

Yeah, and there are those who would like to colonize Mars, and they will probably get there long before anybody establishes Arab autonomy in the Galilee and Negev.

This is another of Netanyahu’s endless supply of Arab scarecrows: we have to pass this cockamamie nation-state law or the Arabs are going to take over the Galilee and Negev.

Read also: Is the ‘Jewish nation-state’ bill good for anyone at all?

No surprises here; he’s built his career on scaring Jews about Arabs. But Netanyahu has a well-known parallel career as a pitchman to Americans, Christians as well as Jews, for the cause of Israeli Jewish chauvinism – and to get them on his side, he has been known to wave around a different ethnic scarecrow: a Mexican one.

In his 1993 magnum opus, “A Place Among the Nations – Israel and the World,” which was first published in English, he writes about what he calls the “Palestinian Principle.” He describes it as the idea that any ethnic minority has a right to carve out its own state on the land where it resides, regardless of the effect on the established surrounding state, and even if another state already exists where that ethnic minority is the majority. (At the time, Netanyahu was fighting against the Palestinian statehood campaign with the argument that “Jordan is Palestine.”)

After depicting the chaos that would ensue if the “Palestinian Principle” were applied in Europe, Africa and Asia, he writes on page 150:

The United States is not exempt from this potential nightmare. In a decade or two the southwestern region of America is likely to be predominantly Hispanic, mainly as a result of continuous emigration from Mexico. It is not inconceivable that in this community champions of the Palestinian Principle could emerge. These would demand not merely equality before the law, or naturalization, or even Spanish as a first language. Instead, they would say that since they form a local majority in the territory (which was forcibly taken from Mexico in the war of 1848), they deserve a state of their own. …

[This scenario] may sound farfetched today. But it will not necessarily appear that way tomorrow, especially if the Palestinian Principle is allowed to continue to spread, which it surely will if a second Palestinian state comes into being.

And that was only the mild, written version of Netanyahu evoking the Mexican peril for Americans to win their solidarity against the Arab peril in Israel. In person, he gets much uglier.

In April 2002 he spoke to a Dallas audience at an event sponsored by the National Center for Policy Analysis. Washington Post columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr. wrote, “The idea was to get Americans to feel Israel’s pain. But, as a Mexican American in the audience, all I felt was nauseated.” Navarrette continued (h/t to Doug Chandler):

When asked for a historical overview of Middle East turmoil, Netanyahu mentioned how Jews migrated back to the Holy Land in the early years of the 20th century, set up farms and businesses and turned a desert into a desirable destination. So desirable that soon there were hordes of Palestinians trying to get in and enjoy the fruits of Israel labor. Then, Netanyahu turned to the crowd and offered this bit of sarcasm: “Now, you here in Texas wouldn’t know anything about this phenomenon.” …

Asked about why Israel is reluctant to allow Palestinians living in refugee camps to enter into Israeli society, Netanyahu mentioned security concerns but also said that a mass migration would “flood” Israel. “You know about this,” he said. “This is the reason you have an INS.”

However, this Dallas audience must have been a liberal Democratic one, not exactly Bibi’s crowd. Navarrette:

The good news is that, judging from the audience’s reaction, Bibi made a boo-boo. The ethnic pitch got no applause, only uncomfortable looks and nervous laughter.

My dear God, Mexicans in Texas, Arabs in the Galilee, the brown people are taking over: this is Bibi Netanyahu’s message to Americans and Israelis, his saviors of the free world.

He’s not only an Israeli Jewish xenophobe, he’s a wannabe American xenophobe, too. An old-fashioned white man, holding off the dark-skinned hordes.

Nightmare, he says? Given his attitude toward ethnic minorities, the nightmare is his vision of a “Jewish nation-state.”

Related:
Is the ‘Jewish nation-state’ bill good for anyone at all?
Bill aims to strip citizenship, curb speech — a bellwether of Israel’s Right
Israel’s UN ambassador puts another nail in the two-state coffin

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Gaza quiet shows Hamas’ pragmatism http://972mag.com/gaza-quiet-shows-hamas-pragmatism/99269/ http://972mag.com/gaza-quiet-shows-hamas-pragmatism/99269/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:18:52 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99269 Despite violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank, for the past three months Hamas has maintained calm on the Gaza border — curbing rocket-fire against Israel.

By Aaron Magid

A Palestinian youth holds a mock rocket as thousands of Palestinians celebrate Hamas' 25th anniversary in the West Bank city of Hebron, December 14, 2012. This is the first time since 2007 that the Palestinian Authority has allowed Hamas to celebrate its anniversary in the West Bank. (photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

A Palestinian youth holds a mock rocket as thousands of Palestinians celebrate Hamas’ 25th anniversary in the West Bank city of Hebron, December 14, 2012.
This is the first time since 2007 that the Palestinian Authority has allowed Hamas to celebrate its anniversary in the West Bank. (photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Opponents of Hamas often accuse the Islamist organization of acting irrationally. In a National Review article titled, “Hamas’ Suicidal Tendencies,” the author writes, “[w]hy is Hamas pursuing such a self-destructive strategy? Ideology.” Yet, in the months since the Gaza war, Hamas’ leadership in Gaza has repeated its pragmatic approach by not launching rockets into Israel, instead choosing to downgrade its ideology so that it may fight Israel more effectively in the next war.

After the bloody summer war, the Gaza-Israel border has remained remarkably quiet. Hamas has deployed a special unit to guard its border with Israel and prevent smaller militant groups from shooting rockets at Israel. A Hamas security source told Al-Monitor, “Gaza’s border will not be violated by group firing rockets at Israel in light of a national consensus for a cease-fire.” Hamas security forces have been successful in preserving the calm — only one rocket has been fired in three months at Israel — despite the growing unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank. After this rare cease-fire violation on October 31, Hamas criticized those responsible and quickly arrested the five suspected individuals. This dramatic reduction in Gaza attacks dispels another myth: that Hamas is incapable of cracking down on other Gaza militants.

Read also: How Israel taught Hamas that violence is effective

Although Hamas leaders have offered mixed appraisals about future violence, senior official Ahmad Yousef emphasized that with the growing reconstruction needs, the current situation “mandates a cessation of armed operations for two or three years in order to close the door on Israeli excuses and lift the people from the catastrophe that fell upon them.”

This calm is hardly fortuitous. The year following the November 2012 conflict saw the fewest amount of rockets launched into Israel since 2003. Following that conflict as well, Hamas established a police force near the Gaza border to prevent rocket fire and preserve the shaky cease-fire.

An Israeli police officer and reporters take cover during a rocket attack in the southern town of Sderot, Israel on December 30, 2008 (photo: Amir Farshad Ebrahim / CC BY-SA 2.0)

An Israeli police officer and reporters take cover during a rocket attack in the southern town of Sderot, Israel on December 30, 2008 (photo: Amir Farshad Ebrahim / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Hamas’ realism was apparent when in September its deputy chairman, Mousa Abu-Marzouk, surprisingly suggested direct talks with Israel for the first time due to the difficulties of Egyptian mediation during post-war negotiations in Cairo. Although others in the organization rejected his idea, Abu-Marzouk broke a taboo within Hamas on a sensitive topic, preferring pragmatism over ideology. Similarly, former Hamas Prime Minister Ishmael Haniyeh sent his daughter into Israel for emergency medical treatment last month. While Haniyeh previously praised Hamas fighters in their battle with the “enemy” Israel, this did not stop him from making a cold-calculated move to save his daughter’s life.

PHOTOS: In Gaza, rebuilding is still over the horizon

Hamas’ current rational approach stands in stark contrast to the movement’s previous hardline record. Hamas and other militant groups launched approximately 1,035 rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel from January to mid-November 2012 before Operation Pillar of Defense.

Some would suggest launching a massive war against Israel this past summer contradicts the thesis that Hamas acts pragmatically. Nonetheless, Israel repeatedly shows that it rewards those who utilize violence efficiently. Only after the 2014 war when Hamas managed to mainly shut down Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport for one day and kill over 70 Israelis did Israel considerably ease the siege around Gaza. For the first time since 2007, Gazans were permitted to sell sweet potatoes to Europe in addition to allowing the transfer of more goods to the West Bank. Furthermore, only after the summer war did Israel permit the Palestinian reconciliation government to meet in Gaza, despite Netanyahu’s earlier declarations that this same government “strengthens terror.” Similarly, by October for the first time in seven years Gazans were allowed to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Although Israelis declare that they won’t reward “terrorism,” Hamas understands that only after painful violence will Israel ease its siege.

Palestinians walk through the Shujayea neighborhood of Gaza City, nearly three months since a cease fire ended Operation Protective Edge, November 16, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians walk through the Shujayea neighborhood of Gaza City, nearly three months since a cease fire ended Operation Protective Edge, November 16, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Hamas’ refrain from using violence from Gaza does not mean that the movement has become conciliatory. After a stabbing last week in Tel Aviv, Hamas spokesman Husam Badran exclaimed, “the attack is part of a welcome plan that reflects the tenacity of our people to resist the occupation.” Following the recent Gaza war, Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar has repeatedly called for armed resistance to spread to the West Bank. Hamas leaders in Gaza understand that despite all of its inflammatory rhetoric supporting attacks in the West Bank, Israel has yet to target Hamas officials in Gaza. While Israel has increasingly arrested West Bank suspects — after the painful summer — Israel has no interest in opening up another front in Gaza due to the growing deterrence Hamas established.

Hamas leaders say they are rebuilding its tunnels to attack Israel following the summer war. Yet, one cannot ignore the massive Israeli damage inflicted on the movement’s military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, and its arsenal. Hamas found itself further isolated after Egypt established a buffer zone along its own border with Gaza this month, dramatically impacting Hamas’ supply routes for weapons. The Islamist movement needs time to refurbish its long-range rocket supply along with restoring its tunnels to a pre-war levels. Otherwise, a weak military performance would lead to declining support from Gazans and no meaningful reduction of the siege.

Following the 2012 conflict when Hamas only killed six Israelis, Netanyahu did not significantly alter the Gaza siege, all while increasing Israeli incursions into the territory. With such limited military success in 2012, Hamas was unable to establish deterrence vis-a-vis Israel. Hamas leaders realize that only by again staging an especially lethal operation like this summer’s, in contrast to 2012, will Hamas receive tangible concessions from Israel. In order to obtain such military achievements, Hamas requires additional time without disruption by Israeli attacks, which would be the case if it shot rockets into Israel. The current cessation of rockets into Israel is part of Hamas’ more sophisticated planning.

With violence spiking across Israel and the West Bank through stabbings and car attacks, ironically the volatile Israel-Gaza border is one of the only locations experiencing calm. Hamas’ intentional choice abstaining from launching rockets during these tensions demonstrates the movement’s pragmatism in its continued clash with Israel — at least until it gains enough strength to powerfully confront the Jewish state.

Aaron Magid is a graduate student at Harvard University specializing in Middle Eastern Studies. He has written articles on Middle Eastern politics for The New Republic, Al-Monitor and Lebanon’s Daily Star. He tweets at @AaronMagid.

Related:
How Israel taught Hamas that violence is effective
A siege of inertia: Israel’s non-policy on Gaza
Space for perpetuating the conflict: Tunnels, deterrence and profits

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Bill aims to strip citizenship, curb speech — a bellwether of Israel’s Right http://972mag.com/bill-aims-to-strip-citizenship-curb-speech-a-bellwether-of-israels-right/99249/ http://972mag.com/bill-aims-to-strip-citizenship-curb-speech-a-bellwether-of-israels-right/99249/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:15:08 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99249 A senior Likud MK is proposing to suspend much of Israeli democracy. His bill has zero chance of passing muster, but it does show where the Israeli Right thinks the future of the conflict lies. 

MK Yariv Levin (Likud), chairman of the House Parliamentary Committee, is pushing a new directive — temporary legislation — to “combat terrorism” that amounts to perhaps the most sweepingly anti-democratic legislative project in recent years, whether implemented or proposed. The directive is extraordinarily harsh even by Israeli measure, and is almost certainly unconstitutional on several levels. It is meant to apply both to the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel proper.

According to Ynet, the provisions of the bill include:

• “Terrorists,” which includes anyone throwing a Molotov cocktail, will be stripped of their citizenship or residency and expelled to the Gaza Strip.

• Stone throwers, inciters, and anyone displaying the Palestinian flag or flags of terrorist organizations will be arrested and held until trial — without bail.

• Anyone convicted of terrorism will be denied national insurance benefits and will lose their driver’s license for 10 years.

• The homes of accused terrorists’ families will be demolished within 24 hours of the terrorist act.

• Bodies of terrorists will not be delivered to their families, and will be buried secretly, without funeral rites.

• Citizenship/residency will be stripped from family members who express support for the terrorists.

• Businesses that print [sic] publications supportive of terrorism will be shut down.

• Employers summarily firing workers with a record of “security” offenses will not be liable for compensation claims.

The bill is so off the wall that it’s nearly comical. Some details have very little grounding in Israeli law (what constitutes an “inciter,” for instance?) or in 21st century realities (confiscating printing presses? go right ahead.) It also contradicts several basic laws and overrides existing criminal law, which already sets punishments for many of the listed offenses.

That is probably why Levin is  proposing it not as a law in its own right, but as a “temporary directive.” Regardless, it’s highly doubtful it will make it even to a preliminary vote, much less so further down the legislative process — through committees, three more votes, and finally into the books and possible review by the High Court of Justice. In other words, this is more likely to be a spin rather than a legislative proposal: Levin is putting it out there to show how “tough on terrorism” he is,  while relying on his fellow MKs to check his pace. He can then blame these fellow MKs for hampering his efforts and make them look less tough on terror in comparison.

Nevertheless, it is interesting and alarming. A few years ago, such legislative deformities would be produced by the margins of the margins of the Israeli Right — provocateurs like Michael Ben Ari, for instance, who used them mostly to stir controversy and secure some airtime. Yariv Levin, conversely, is a stalwart of the Likud, the former coalition chairman and probably a future minister. The audience he is aiming to impress isn’t radical settlers, but center-right and right-wing voters floating between the Likud and Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party. If this is where the center-right is shifting, it doesn’t bode well for anyone.

The specific concern that the legislation pretends to address — while actually fanning it — is more alarming and interesting still, and is revealed in the bill’s frequent references to the revocation of residency and citizenship. These measures are overwhelmingly directed at citizens of Israel and residents of East Jerusalem as opposed to residents of the occupied Palestinian territories; they aim, therefore, to respond to the disquieting realization of many on the Israeli Right that getting rid of the two-state solution did not make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict go away, but rather brought it closer to home. The bill, like many other pieces of far-fetched legislation, is a weather balloon: it is one more early indicator that with the creeping demise of the Palestinian statehood project, the focal point of the struggle is beginning to spread, if not shift, inside the Green Line — with everything that implies for the “Jewish and democratic” state structure.

Read also:
Is the ‘Jewish nation-state’ bill good for anyone at all?
Israel’s UN ambassador puts another nail in the two-state coffin
Israeli gov’t votes to support annexing West Bank settlements

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Israel’s UN ambassador puts another nail in the two-state coffin http://972mag.com/israels-ambassador-to-the-un-puts-another-nail-in-the-two-state-coffin/99201/ http://972mag.com/israels-ambassador-to-the-un-puts-another-nail-in-the-two-state-coffin/99201/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:51:02 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99201 ‘Imagine the type of state [Palestinian] society would produce. Does the Middle East really need another terror-ocracy?’ Prosor said in a speech on Monday.

In recent years Israeli government officials have learned that rejecting the rights of Palestinians should always go hand-in-hand with a verbal commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state. But the consensus in Israel is moving toward the right, and Israeli officials are more explicit than ever in their rejection of Palestinian statehood or any form of equal rights for Palestinians, for that matter.

Since his appointment, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has made it clear that regardless of any political solution, the Israeli army should have the freedom to operate within the Palestinian territory. Prime Minister Netanyahu insists that Israel maintain control over the Jordan Valley for an indefinite period of time. Neither demand leaves much in the way of a sovereign Palestinian state, with Ya’alon even admitting as much in a recent interview, in which he said that this “state” will actually be an “autonomy,” regardless of how people choose to call it.

Another such acknowledgement came Monday in a speech by Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor. Prosor attacked the European parliaments who are voting on the recognition of Palestine, dismissing the Palestinian issue as less important than the plight of other nations. After blaming Palestinians for celebrating and supporting terror, he rejected the mere idea of handing them their independence. Here’s the money quote:

Imagine the type of state [Palestinian] society would produce. Does the Middle East really need another terror-ocracy? Some members of the international community are aiding and abetting its creation.

Other nuggets include:

“Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, less than half a percent are truly free – and they are all citizens of Israel”.

“Israel learned the hard way that listening to the international community can bring about devastating consequences.”

And so on. You can read the rest here. The text is full of manipulations. Prosor claims Israel didn’t listen to the international community when it decided to withdraw from Gaza. In reality it was a unilateral move initiated as an alternative to the two-state solution promoted by the international community.

The speech, however, does capture the current mood in Israel. The two-state solution is simply not on the table anymore, nor is the idea of giving Palestinians their rights within Israel. For Ya’alon or Prosor, and certainly for Netanyahu, the status quo – keeping millions under a military regime without rights – is the solution. The world simply needs to accept it.

Related:
Ya’alon: I am not looking for a solution, I am looking for a way to manage the conflict
The occupation will last forever, Netanyahu clarifies
Replacing the peace process with a civil rights struggle

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Is the ‘Jewish nation-state’ bill good for anyone at all? http://972mag.com/is-the-jewish-nation-state-bill-good-for-anyone-at-all/99192/ http://972mag.com/is-the-jewish-nation-state-bill-good-for-anyone-at-all/99192/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 22:03:09 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99192 A law seeking to prioritize and designate Israel as the Jewish nation-state is exposing the crazies in Israel’s government. This proposed basic law would codify and demarcate the state as something that belongs only to a subset of its citizens.

The cabinet on Sunday passed a preliminary reading of a law — with the weight of a constitutional amendment — that would declare Israel to be the nation-state of the Jewish people. In order to pass the vote, Prime Minister Netanyahu put forward 14 principles on which the basic law’s final wording will be based. Democracy is in there as an afterthought, equality treated weakly by guaranteeing individual rights, and allowing all people to preserve their culture and language.

Here are seven of the main reasons why “Basic Law: Israel – the National State of the Jewish People” is wrong for Israel and should not be passed.

No solutions. The prime minister’s 14 articles do not deal with cost of living and they do not protect the residents of Sderot or the woman whose house was burned yesterday by violent Israeli extremists. It doesn’t lower tuition fees for students or the price of chocolate pudding, connect Negev Bedouin to the water grid or create jobs for factory workers laid off in Arad. It doesn’t address the growing chasm with the Western world and the crisis of relations with the U.S. Yet this is what the government is doing while its citizens wait, and suffer.

Freeze a flawed reality. While the proposed basic law will effect little tangible change, it will go a long way toward anchoring the current situation of de facto discrimination into law. I recently got into a big argument with a foreigner who accused Israel of being racist in its “DNA.” I was heated. “Like all human beings, people can change,” I shot back. “Bad regimes can turn to other directions.”

Now the law is making exclusivity and inequality part of Israel’s legal DNA. Yes we are changing – but not in the right direction.

Clinging to crazy. The debate over the proposed Jewish nation-state law exposes the deepening isolationism of the small clutch of extremists at the country’s helm. They long ago isolated Israel from the Western and Arab worlds. Now, just as the prime minister and his henchmen contradict their own security chiefs when the latter don’t fall into line, this bill pits its plotters against Israel’s attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein. Weinstein said the proposed Jewish nation-state law dilutes democracy, sharply criticizing the government’s intention to support it. To which Likud MK Yariv Levin, one of the bill’s sponsors, snarled back:

The attorney general’s statements are arrogant and have nothing to do with his position as attorney general or with the legal world. The question of the image of the state and its fundamental values on which it will continue to be built, are given, in a democracy, to the public and only the public through its elected representatives, and under no circumstances must it become the private realm of a group of jurists who are trying to place themselves above the Knesset. (As quoted in Haaretz — my translation.)

It seems that Levin, and probably numerous other ministers, has lost his marbles. The attorney general has overstepped his boundaries by providing a legal opinion to the government about the imminent passage of a law with constitutional status? The character of the state is to be determined in a way that rejects checks and balances? The Hebrew term for attorney general is “legal advisor to the government,” for crying out loud.

Then there’s Levin’s imaginary cabal of jurists levitating themselves above the Knesset. In fact, there is a very real gang of supremacist thugs leading the country into an abyss.

Constitutional-coup. The bill is part of a minority imposed creeping constitution instead of a healthy participatory process. Other basic laws were passed this way too, but those were more amendments; this one involves national self-definition that reads like the body of a constitution. The kind that should be put to wider public debate or at least not by an extremist coalition as part of coalition horse-trading.

What could the law mean if passed? Theoretically, but quite realistically, it could enable the High Court of Justice to uphold a law that violates the equality of Israeli citizens, since the Jewish nation-state law would provide constitutional foundations for privileging Jews over all others.

As normal as ethno-nationalism. Some insist that it is hypocritical and maybe even anti-Semitic to protest a simple law of national self-definition, when ‘France is for the French people,’ or ‘Germany is the land of the German people.’ Can we lay this argument to rest already? In those examples citizenship overlaps with nationhood. Yes, France is for the French. But what makes someone French is not birth or ethnicity alone, but citizenship.

This proposed basic law would codify and demarcate the State of Israel as something that belongs only to a subset of its citizens. State rights will not overlap with citizenship; they privilege a subset of citizens. Non-Jewish citizens have no route to sharing in the privileged national group. Being Israeli won’t be enough to live equally in this country. In fact, the state has consistently rejected the very idea that there is an Israeli nationality.

The true comparison is simple: the law says Israel is for the Jews, just as America once said America is for whites.

Avalanche of inequality. This is a time of worsening relations between Jews and Arabs/Palestinians in Israel.

Anyone who says this law is mainly a cover for coalition and electoral politics that won’t make a difference in real life, should look at another recent example. In 2009 a politician invented a fictional concept of Arab disloyalty, to arouse nationalist jingoism and get elected. The slogan itself, “No loyalty, no citizenship,” was a political marketing ploy. Once that politician entered the halls of power, it became his legislative vision, leading to a string of nasty, exclusionary, hate-inspired bills linked to this concept. Some of them passed.

The Nakba Law rejects the history of the Arab population; the Acceptance Committee Law rejects housing integration, the amendment to the Citizenship Law rejects their presence by keeping families apart. Now the foreign minister — recently joined by the prime minister — calls to strip their citizenship altogether, for no crime at all.

What will the nationality law be the beginning of?

Stoking rage. The prime minister says the law was devised to anchor Jewish identity in the face of growing challenges to the character of the state. Here is the challenge to my identity in Israel: rising strife, and the fact that a football match between Jewish and Arab teams requires one security person for every seven fans; frenzied chants of “death to Arabs” in a growing number of situations. Doesn’t the need for peaceful relations among fellow countrymen mean anything, or is the government only concerned with the phantom threats of “delegitimization,” which if it happens, is primarily due to developments like this?

This law is fearful. It is not closing the chapter on Israel’s tense relationship between Jewish identity and the State, as I once hoped possible; it is opening the window to acid rain.

It is creating a false god, a Judaism that is primarily political, material, imposed, devoid of humanity or humility.

Related:
Why I oppose recognizing Israel as a Jewish state
WATCH: Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, or an ‘ethnocracy?’
‘Religion and politics’ in Israel: The mythology of Jewish nationalism

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Abiding by international law — when it’s convenient http://972mag.com/abiding-by-international-law-when-its-convenient/99183/ http://972mag.com/abiding-by-international-law-when-its-convenient/99183/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:15:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99183 Israeli institutions seek to obtain the benefits of the international legal order while refusing to accept the corresponding burdens and obligations.

By Gerard Horton

For some time now the Israeli army’s Military Courts’ Unit has distributed a five-page briefing paper to foreign delegations visiting military courts in the West Bank. The briefing paper is intended to persuade the reader that the military courts — which have been used to prosecute approximately 755,000 Palestinian men, women and children since 1967 — were established, and are currently operating, in accordance with international law. The document commences with the following statement:

The Military Courts in Judea and Samaria (hereinafter: ‘The Military Courts’) were established in accordance with international law, and have jurisdiction to hear ordinary criminal cases and cases involving security offenses.

This statement is significant because the only provision of international law that authorizes the prosecution of civilians in military courts is the Fourth Geneva Convention (the Convention). Under Article 64 of the Convention the penal laws of the occupied territory should remain in force, but may be temporarily suspended and replaced with military law in cases of security or in order to facilitate the application of the Convention.

In circumstances where military law has been imposed, Article 66 of the Convention provides that persons accused of violating the temporary measures can be prosecuted in “properly constituted, non-political military courts.” These are the legal provisions the Military Courts Unit is referring to when it asserts that Israeli military courts “were established in accordance with international law.”

However, in circumstances that can only serve to undermine the rule of law, the political, military and judicial authorities in Israel refuse to apply the same Convention, for example, in relation to settlement construction or the transfer of Palestinian detainees to prisons inside Israel.

Article 49 of the Convention provides that Israel is not permitted to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, thus making all settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank illegal – a conclusion confirmed by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice.

Article 76 of the Convention prohibits the transfer and detention of Palestinian detainees outside occupied territory – a legal conclusion confirmed by the U.K.’s Foreign Office and senior government ministers. Be that as it may, approximately 90 percent of Palestinian prisoners continue to be transferred and detained inside Israel.

This gives rise to the untenable situation whereby Israeli institutions seek to obtain the benefits of the international legal order while refusing to accept the corresponding burdens and obligations. It may be that this inconsistency is of little concern in the region today, but no one should later express surprise if one day Israel finds that it has stumbled into pariah status.

Gerard Horton is a lawyer and co-founder of Military Court Watch. Gerard has worked on the issue of children prosecuted in the Israeli military courts for the past seven years and is the author of a number of leading reports on the subject.

Related:
The consequences of a culture of lies
Conviction rate for Palestinians in Israel’s military courts: 99.74%
Testimonies: Eyes on Israeli military courts

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Open Mic: Israel has failed to outlaw torture http://972mag.com/open-mic-israel-has-failed-to-outlaw-torture/99175/ http://972mag.com/open-mic-israel-has-failed-to-outlaw-torture/99175/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 12:15:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99175 Israel Social TV gave a microphone and a camera to Dr. Ishai Menuchin, executive director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCABI), and asked him to speak about Israel’s obligations under international treaties, its failure to outlaw torture, and its abysmal record of investigating allegations of torture by state agents.

Related articles:
Legal experts cannot erase Israel’s history of torture
What the bones remember: Israeli doctors talk torture
Knesset extends legislation that facilitates torture

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Why religious Jews are divided over the Temple Mount http://972mag.com/why-religious-jews-are-divided-over-the-temple-mount/99090/ http://972mag.com/why-religious-jews-are-divided-over-the-temple-mount/99090/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 18:34:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99090 As tensions between Jews and Muslims come to a head in Jerusalem, it is worth remembering that one of Israel’s most prominent rabbis strictly forbade Jews from visiting Judaism’s holiest site in the wake of the Six-Day War.

By Nissim Leon

Recent news reflects a surge in conflict between Muslims and Jews in Israel surrounding the question of control of the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram Al-Sharif (the “Noble Sanctuary”). Against this background, some of the country’s leading Mizrahi-Sephardic rabbis are voicing a strident position forbidding Jews from visiting the site. Thus, alongside the Jewish-Muslim conflict in this regard, there is also an internal debate going on within religious Jewish society in Israel. On one side are mainly ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) rabbis calling, in the name of Jewish law, for Jews to be prevented from visiting the Temple Mount. On the other side are mainly Religious-Zionist rabbis and activists demanding, in the name of Jewish sovereignty, recognition of their civic and religious right to visit and pray on the Temple Mount.

Palestinian youth hold a Palestinian flag outside the Aqsa Mosque in the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound, East Jerusalem. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian youth hold a Palestinian flag outside the Aqsa Mosque in the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound, East Jerusalem. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The position of religiously-observant and traditional Sephardic Jews is based on a clear and unequivocal ruling by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (1920-2013), the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel and one of the most prominent 20th century scholars of Jewish law, as well as the spiritual leader of the Mizrahi religious political party Shas. Behind recent headlines lies an ongoing ideological conflict between him and the more outspoken nationalist approaches among some (primarily Ashkenazi) Religious-Zionist circles in Israel.

During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel seized control of East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. Thus the site returned to Jewish hands for the first time since the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 C.E. The latter event marked the beginning of a long exile of Jews which, in the eyes of many secular and religious Jews alike, ended with the establishment of the State of Israel.

Many Israelis perceived the conquest of the Temple Mount as the climax of the Six-Day War and one of the defining moments of modern Jewish sovereignty. Some even interpreted this outcome as an overt sign of divine intervention, which was preceded by a period of tremendous anxiety and dark predictions in Israel. Similar nationalist and religious sentiments pervaded the central stream of the ultra-Orthodox public in Israel, affiliated with the veteran Agudat Israel party.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, Gen. Rehavam Ze’evi (right) and Gen. Uzi Narkiss walk through the Old City of Jerusalem on June 7, 1967, during the Six Day War. (Photo by GPO/Ilan Bruner)

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, Gen. Rehavam Ze’evi (right) and Gen. Uzi Narkiss walk through the Old City of Jerusalem on June 7, 1967, during the Six Day War. (Photo by GPO/Ilan Bruner)

The results of the war raised some concerns amongst the Israeli leadership. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, and others viewed Israeli control of the Temple Mount as a possible recipe for political and religious entanglement. The main concern was that Jewish control of the site would turn the Arab-Israeli conflict from a national clash into a religious one. No more would the State of Israel be the enemy of Arab states; now, the Jewish State would be the enemy of the Muslim world. Surprisingly enough, the political leadership’s reluctance was joined by a conservative coalition of Haredi and Religious-Zionist rabbis who issued an explicit blanket prohibition against Jews ascending the Temple Mount. Their reasoning was not political but rather halakhic (pertaining to Jewish law). Their official stance had been debated in meetings of the Chief Rabbinate, and summaries of these discussions were published by the religious and general press. Against the background of a clear legal decision, there emerged the famous dissenting view of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who was serving at the time as a judge on the Supreme Religious Court in Jerusalem.

In a lengthy legal treatise that appeared four months after the war, and occupied half an issue of the Haredi-Mizrahi Kol Sinai newspaper, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef set forth the prohibition on Jews entering the Temple Mount precinct. Inter alia, he wrote:

It is forbidden to enter the Temple area at this time… because we are all [considered] ritually impure as a result of contact with the dead [for which there is no possibility of purification in our time]… since the holiness of the Temple [site] derives from the Divine Presence, which never leaves there… Therefore one who enters the Temple area at this time is guilty of a transgression whose sin is [spiritual] excision, and this should be publicized in order to remove a [possible] stumbling-block from the path of our people.

At the center of Ovadia’s justification for prohibiting the entry of Jews to the Temple Mount stands the principle of the place’s inherent sanctity. But among some extremist Religious-Zionist circles this very sanctity is the source of the desire to draw close to the Temple Mount. In Ovadia’s view, the sanctity of the Temple continues even after its destruction, and since Jews today cannot follow the biblically-prescribed purification rituals required in order to approach the Temple, they are all considered ritually impure. Since the boundaries of the site of the ancient temple are not sufficiently clear, anyone who goes to any part of the modern-day Temple Mount is punishable by death at the hands of heaven, for having transgressed the laws of ritual purity and impurity governing the site of the Temple.

Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef (Wkimeida Commons CC BY SA 3.0)

Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef (Wkimeida Commons CC BY SA 3.0)

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s strident warning and prohibition against Jews visiting are anchored not only in his detailed halakhic justifications, but also in the style of his article and presentation of the halakhic ruling itself.

Haredi society attaches great importance to the written word, and the manner of its presentation is no less important. In other words, the editing or literary form of the halakhic opinion or ruling can serve as a body of interpretation even for seemingly cold and objective legal arguments.

A review of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s ruling concerning Jews visiting the Temple Mount cannot but take note of the thin, dry and condensed language crammed with references to religious legal works. This legalistic presentation aided Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in his attempt to temper the great swell of religious sentiment and enthusiasm that came in the wake of the military victory. In the spirit of the period in which it was written, one might have expected him to include a brief narrative introduction bridging his ruling and the pathos of the nationalistic, religious sentiment that the Temple Mount conquest aroused among Jews, both religious and secular. It was an event widely perceived as nothing short of miraculous – and yet Rabbi Ovadia provided no such introduction to his article. The effect of his ruling was to transform the question of visiting the Temple Mount from a matter of national import, relating to what even then was perceived as a formative religious event, to a somewhat dry legal discussion treated just like any ordinary question of religious practice.

The ruling concerning the Temple Mount, which Rabbi Ovadia Yosef never retracted, understood the historic event from a broader perspective of the new reality and its halakhic significance. However, the wording, the presentation, the language – all of these played up to the reactionary ultra-Orthodox position of leading Rashei Yeshiva (heads of religious academies) in Haredi society at the time, who sought to lower the level of nationalistic enthusiasm that was manifesting itself in their communities. In their view, while the events of the war might indeed be important and can even be viewed as miraculous, the conquering of the Temple Mount was not the long-awaited Final Redemption. This was yet another war in Israel, with results that were certainly evidence of divine aid, but which had not changed the essentially “transient” situation of the Jews who were still considered “in exile” – even in the Holy Land, among other Jews.

Right-wing activist Yehuda Glick holding a book depicting the Jewish Temple while standing in front of the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, May 21, 2009. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Right-wing activist Yehuda Glick holding a book depicting the Jewish Temple while standing in front of the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, May 21, 2009. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The question of the Temple Mount, and later Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s ruling permitting the relinquishing of territory for peace, are both decisions of far-reaching public significance. In both instances Rabbi Ovadia Yosef gave a detailed ruling, citing considerations and justifications – not merely a concise ruling relying on obedience to the halakhic authority. On one hand, by issuing his ruling, he (along with his followers) adopted an independent halakhic and national position that was not isolationist, as opposed to the one adopted by the Haredi stream. On the other hand, it was specifically through involvement in political questions that he engaged directly in sharp polemic with more overtly nationalist and extremist religious trends within Religious-Zionist society at the time.

The vehement position adopted by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef with regard to the Temple Mount exposed the ideological conflict, which would deepen over time, between Sephardic religious Jewry and extremist groups within Religious-Zionist society. He expressed misgivings regarding the ideological and political aspirations of these groups to lead the Zionist enterprise. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s approach, like that of classic ultra-Orthodox Judaism, seems to prefer the secular Zionist control of the political framework of the Jewish State to control by Religious-Zionists – not only because of the political competition that they represent, but also as a matter of principle. While secular Zionism is widely perceived in the Haredi worldview as the result of a lack of proper Jewish education, and secular Jews might still be shown the way back to tradition, Religious-Zionism is perceived as a sort of half-breed, a distortion that cannot be repaired. Indeed, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and his followers expressed misgivings concerning Religious-Zionist ideology – although not rabbinic figures within it – on many occasions and in many sermons.

The rulings of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and the ideological position underlying them, have become a central halakhic approach among leaders of mainstream Sephardic Haredi Jews in Israel. His followers who continue his legacy are generally understood to maintain a similar position – specifically his family members, such as Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, member of the Shas Council of Torah Sages, Rabbi David Yosef, as well as prominent Sephardic halakhic authorities such as former Chief Rabbis Amar and Bakshi-Doron. This same stance is taken by the Sephardic Haredi rabbis as another way of distancing themselves as much as possible from Religious-Zionist society. As noted, this aim is not altogether separate from their ideological stance. However, we must also take into consideration the bitter political struggle over the past two years in Israel between the Haredi political parties, which – to their great chagrin – find themselves in the opposition, and the representatives of the Religious-Zionist Jewish Home party, who hold key positions in the current Israeli government. The ultra-Orthodox parties view the Religious-Zionist representatives as having conspired with Yair Lapid’s secular Yesh Atid party, which demanded a government devoid of Haredi parties. Thus, the internal Jewish schism is defined not only by ideological gaps, but also by difficult contemporary political struggles.

Nissim Leon teaches sociology and anthropology at Bar-Ilan University. This article was first published in Hebrew on Haokets.

Related:
Why the status quo on the Temple Mount isn’t sustainable
The fraud that is the Temple Mount movement
How Likud became the Almighty’s contractor at the Temple Mount

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