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Tablet calling Israel "A Liberal’s Paradise" (!)

This is one of the most bizarre pieces I’ve seen this year. It comes from Tablet’s blog editor, Marc Tracy:

Israel, A Liberal’s Paradise

Are you a liberal upset over Tuesday’s results? Then have we got a country for you!

Starting next week, non-Jewish or -affiliated same-sex couples will be able to enter into civil unions. The bill’s sponsor wants to extend the law to all Israelis, including Jews; incredibly, the sponsor is none other than Yisrael Beiteinu MK David Rotem, notorious for sponsoring the heinous conversion bill. Even a blind squirrel catches an occasional nut, eh?

On top of that, an Israeli Health Ministry committee has made a new recommendation concerning medicinal marijuana. Not that it should be legalized—it already is legalized, natch—but that the country’s universal health care should pay for it.

And on the social front, two Israeli women became the first same-sex duo to compete together in a version of Dancing With The Stars. The “star” in this case was sportscaster Gili Shem Tov, a sportscaster who did the cha-cha. Shem Tov, a lesbian, said “it felt natural.” (Oh, and to answer your next question: They take turns leading.)

Even as a joke, this is taking it a bit far. Recent Hasbara efforts to portray Tel Aviv as a sort of fun & arts capitol have apparently got Mr. Tracy a bit confused. Or it’s the medical pot.

Leaving aside the Palestinians – as Jewish-American writers love doing – we are still talking about one of the most conservative democracies you could find. Even for Jews. Do we really need to remind that we must go through religious marriages in Israel, or they wouldn’t be recognized by the state? Or that It must be an orthodox marriages? Divorces are even worse, especially for women, who must obtain their husband consent to “release” them.

And no, Israel won’t have Gay marriage. The civil unions bill Mr. Tracy is praising is actually an attempt to bypass the fact that increasing numbers of Israelis can’t marry at all – since they are not recognized as Jews. So a new category of “marriage without marriage” was invented for them. Does that sound like a liberal’s Paradise?

And how about the fact that a woman holding a Torah book near the Wall stands the risk of being arrested? One of the only places in the world in which a Jew can be arrested for practicing his faith is, in fact, Jerusalem.

Israel is not very big on privacy issues as well. Our government is about to be the first in the West to collect fingerprints from all its citizens. And let the security services free access to the database.

As for gay rights, yes, there has been some improvement recently, but hate crimes are still taking place, and more often than people think. Last year two gay teens were shot to death in a Tel Aviv community center. The Shooter was never caught. But hell, we have lesbians on TV, so I guess things are great after all.

As an Israeli, I find these talks about “liberal Israel” a bit offensive. Like the rest of the American praises for Israeli democracy, there is something very hollow and dishonest about them. Introducing the Israeli version of liberalism in the US would make most Jews here go mad. But as long as it’s in Israel, everything is ok – over there, Jews can support politics and values they would never accept at home.

It all comes down to the fact that some people here just don’t see Israel as a real place, with real problems. I’m not even saying it’s such a terrible country (as long as you are a Jew), and I wouldn’t have gone into some of the issues I mentioned here, which are of little interest for readers outside Israel, if it wasn’t for the Tablet piece. As a whole, I like life in Tel Aviv. But let’s not fool ourselves: Israel is not a liberal society, and right now, it’s actually headed in the opposite direction.

And there is the occupation, of course.

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    1. Oh Noam. I know that from Tel Aviv it seems as if the measures Israel is forced to take for security reasons seem ludicrous. Life is good! The beaches, bars and cafes are full! It’s impossible to find an affordable apartment at a stylish address! But don’t be mistaken. Israel is in a state of war. And when a state is under threat, even a vibrant democratic state, measures have to be taken to secure the safety of its citizens. Do I agree with all the measures? No. Does our weird conflation of Nationalism and religion work smoothly? Nope again. But it’s naive to think that the security measures Israel has had to institute are beyond the pale of international behavior. Read your history books and see what the US did to its citizens in the wake of Pearl Harbor, what Canada did to its citizens during the October crisis, what every other country in the world is allowed to do when it reasonably feels it is under attack or threat of attack.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Israel

      Just a reminder to the unitiated out there, when reference is made to “the occupaton”, this is referring to what the Israeli Left considers the “occupation” that began in 1967, and not the “occupaton” that the Arabs recognize, which began in 1948. The Arabs do not distinguish between them, that is the reason the Palestinians insist on implementing the so-called “right of return” of the 1948 refugees to within Israel. The Israeli Left, of course, hopes somehow that the Arabs will forget that occupation that began in 1948, but they won’t–they are a people with a long memory. There is an article in the New York Times about the Cathedral in the city of Cordoba in Spain. At the time of the reconquista, more than 500 years ago, the Christians converted the mosque that the Muslims built into a church. Muslim groups are now demanding the right to pray there. So if they have not forgotten Muslim Andalus (Spain) which they lost over 5 centuries ago, they are not going to forget the occupation that began in 1948 here in Israel. “Eliminating” the 1967 occupation will do nothing to bring peace closer, in fact, it was inflame the situation because if Israel gives up its settlements in its Biblical heartland, the Arabs would interpret this as an eventually willingness to give up even Tel Aviv.

      Reply to Comment
    3. CK: now I know why we have to marry the orthodox way: because we are at war!

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ben Israel:
      Everything you write is incorrect and misleading.
      The 67 occupation is considered occupation by the state of Israel (which has never annexed most of these territories and controls them by a military administration), by the entire world, by the UN, and by the ICJ. The 67 borders are recognized by all the world (with the exception of several muslim and arab states) and by the UN. Those states – those Arab states – that still have not recognized the state of Israel have expressed a willingness to recognize it in the 67 borders time and again throughout the years, and in 2002 this was adopted as a formal initiative of the Arab League, however Israel constantly refuses to even negotiate this offer.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Norm Cone

      Eran :
      Everything you write is incorrect and misleading.
      There has never been a “67 border”, just 1949
      cease fire line. Jordan occupied 67 not just
      Judea and Samaria, but East Jerusalem too and
      ignored the fact, that the entire world (minus
      Great Britain and Pakistan) never recognized the Jordan rule in East Jerusalem. Neither Hezbollah nor Hamas and Libya ever expressed a willingness to recognize Israel even in the 49
      cease fire lines, “the Auschwitz borders” as
      the late Abba Eban called them.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ben Israel

      NO ONE in the world views the ’49 cease fire line as an international border. It is not mentioned anywhere in UN Security Council Resolution 242 (neither are the Palestinians).
      I repeat, the Palestinians do NOT recognize Israel as having sovereignity within the ’49 cease fire lines by way of their insistence on the “right of return” which means they do not recognize Israel as having the right to determine influx of people within its territory.

      Reply to Comment
    7. “One of the only places in the world in which a Jew can be arrested for practicing his faith is, in fact, Jerusalem.”
      You’re, of course, referring to the fact that Jews are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, right?

      Reply to Comment

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