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Why Israel imposes Sharia law

Most Americans would be shocked to hear Israel imposes Sharia. But it does, for some 60 years.

On Andrew Sullivan’s blog, a reader wondered about the contradiction of conservatives supporting, at the same time, two contradictory opinions: on the one hand, they blindly support Israel and its army, and on the other, they strongly oppose the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, even as the IDF has permitted openly gay soldiers to serve some two decades ago.

Well, actually, there seems to be a better question for neocons: how can you be so hysterical about the (non-existent) threat of Sharia in the US, to the point of supporting Oklahoma’s boneheaded amendment, and yet, at the same time, loudly support – in the case of Sarah Palin, even wear the flag of – one of the very few non-Muslim countries to impose Sharia? And yes, I am speaking of Israel.

Israeli family law is in the hands of the religious courts, and has been so since the creation of the country. Everyone has heard of the travesty that is the rabbinical court system, but few people realize that there is also a publicly-funded Sharia court system: some 19% of the population of Israel is Muslim, and naturally they are not expected to have rabbis marry and divorce them. There are eight Sharia courts in Israel: in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Nazareth, Acre, Taybeh, and Baka Al Garabiya.

Why does Israel maintain such courts? Because family law is mostly out of the reach of the civil courts. You can’t have a civil marriage in Israel. You can’t even have a civil divorce, even assuming you were married elsewhere. Why not? Because in a civil court, the government will have to acknowledge “miscegenation”, marriages between Jews and non-Jews. Most Jew are opposed to that, sometimes violently – the 50 rabbis who yesterday demanded that Jews will refrain from renting apartments to non-Jews based their demand, inter alia, on the fear of “miscegenation” – yet nobody wanted a Nuremberg-like laws. That would be hard to explain away. The result was the empowerment of the religious courts, who preceded Israel, by the young state. Since religious courts would not permit intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews, and would demand conversion, and since wishing to marry a Jew would automatically disqualify a gentile from conversion to Judaism, this seemed like a neat solution.

And so Israel adopted Sharia. Just don’t tell American conservatives. Neocons, of course, being acolytes of the Noble Lie school, probably know this already.

And lie about it.

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    1. Michael W.

      I think most people don’t care about the laws of allies when they don’t have anything to do with foreign policy.

      On another note, I’ve never seen a non-Jewish Israeli ever comment on these religious courts. I’ll appreciate if anyone can ask any about what they think of these courts and posts the reaction on this website.

      Reply to Comment
    2. I believe Hitchens mentioned the rabbinical courts in the past. It’ll take some digging, though.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Y.

      You’re not being so truthful here. The Ottoman family law was kept not because “Because in a civil court, the government will have to acknowledge “miscegenation”, marriages between Jews and non-Jews”, but because the religious parties insisted on it when the state was created**.

      Actually, the government does recognize marriages between Jews and non-Jews, provided they are done outside its jurisdiction. And most of the current coalition would love civil marriage – this would solve their Russian problem, and is part of the Lieberman platform. If Livni and the Left were ever willing to forgo their crazy foreign policies this could be fixed in a jiffy, but that’s not what you’re aiming at, is it?

      Most of the Left wants to blame the Ultra-Orthodox as a road to power (at which point they’ll give more to the Ultra-Orthodox. For peace, of course), while the far Left wants to use this to smear the entire country.

      ** While Mapai and the Left has near complete-control back then, they were split between the pro-Soviet faction (Mapam, Maki) and the rest, leaving Mapai short of a reliable majority. Between alliance with far left, the right (General, Liberals, Herut) or religious parties (NRPL, etc.), Mapai mostly picked the NRPL upto 1977. The price was leaving the “Status Quo” intact and keeping the proportional election method.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Y., I noted that you can get married elsewhere, but you can’t get divorced. Actually, over the years the government – and there was no difference on this issue between the different governments – pressed other countries to prevent them from providing this service. It used to be you could get married in the local consulates. You can’t anymore. It’s not an ultra-Orthodox issue – it’s a Zionist issue.

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    5. Ben Israel

      The use of the term “miscegenation” is a loaded term meant to imply that religious Jews are racists because they oppose Jews marrying non-Jews. As I understand it, the term actually means ‘inter-racial’ marriage.

      Since anyone of any race can convert to Judaism, it is clear that this term is totally irrelevant and is used here by the writer of the peace in order to create an unjustified negative reaction towards the religious community.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ben, may I suggest you try a lie-free diet for a couple of days? If someone wants to convert to Orthodox Judaism in order to marry someone, he is automatically disqualified. And those who do convert are often urged to marry other converts. A Jew who has sexual intercourse with a gentile commits a sin punishable by 40 lashes. Maimonides even wrote that if a Jew has intercourse with a gentile girl aged three years and a day, the child is to be executed.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Y.

      Gurvitz, my problem is with you ascribing a defaming motivation to those that kept the law. Please show any evidence that their motivation was (an alleged) horror at a mixed marriage, rather than the well-known role of the religious in keeping the “Status Quo” and ergo the religious courts.

      You don’t like the Orthodox? Whatever. Keep the country out of it. This entire thread is a smear:

      Israel imposes Sharia law! [images of thieves having their hands cut, women stoned for being raped]
      Oh, wait, it’s just marriage laws! [Just like that other evil Sharia-state India. Except Israel does recognize intermarriage through convoluted ways]
      Oh, wait, it’s mostly lack of civil divorce, which is somehow responsible for preventing intermarriages [except intermarriages do have a civil divorce process[1], but since when did a smear have to make sense? ].


      Reply to Comment
    8. Ben Israel

      No, Yossi, I am not lying. However, you are distorting the truth. Anyone can convert to Judaism. Conversion solely motivated for the purpose of marriage if the person has no intention to observe Jewish law is problematic and there are Orthodox rabbis who will disqualify the convert, but there are others who will go ahead with the conversion, anyway.

      I personally know people born into religious families who were religious from birth who married converts.

      Have you heard of anyone being executed for the crimes you listed? There is also a death penalty for violation of the Sabbath, as indicated by Maimonides. Has anyone you know that has violated the Sabbath laws been arrested and sentenced to death for this? Can you provide any historical evidence that anyone was executed for this in the last few thousand years. Remember how, in the Talmud, it is reported that if a religous court sentenced anyone to death (and this would be for things like murder, not “ritual” violations) once in 70 years, it was calleed “the killer court”?

      Finally, I repeat your use of the term “miscegenation” is deliberately misleading and the examples you brought do not change this.

      I see that you are one of these “progressives” who has a lot of anger in him towards the religious community. Frankly, I agree that there is plenty of room for improvement in the religious community (I did not grow up in an Orthodox environment, I became observant at University) but I strongly urge you to avoid letting your emotions get the better of you when criticizing Judaism or the religious community.

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    9. HK

      Yossi, if you’ve got something against (Ultra) Orthodox Judaism then keep your criticism to that, but don’t lump everyone together.
      You know that there are other ways to convert in Judaism – Conservative, Reform. Maybe not in Israel, but in Judaism in general.
      And by the way, a girl who isn’t a virgin (even if it was with a Jew) loses half her dowry according to halakha. Who cares?
      And the power of Rabbinic courts pre-dates the state.

      Reply to Comment
    10. An interesting tidbit from history. Back in the Ottoman Empire, each faith had its own courts. An option for Jews and Christians, not available to Muslims, was to have the case heard in the Islamic court if they weren’t happy with the verdict in their own court. So you could shop for the verdict of your liking.

      At present, civil law is complicated enough without bringing in religious law. I can’t believe all the fuss over gay marriage. If two people want to get married, who but they should care? It seems clear to me why many religious laws are not obeyed – because they are meaningless in a modern secular world.

      I’m gonna miss Hitchens.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Alex

      I am shocked at the rubbish Mr Gurvitz writes.
      Like – converts who intend to ‘marry into’ orthodox Judaism are disqualified automatically.
      I my self have taken part in the conversion process of dozens of such converts. Yes, dozens.

      Or, sex with a gentile brings on a punishment of lashes – this ceased 2000 years ago!

      And Maimonides said sex with a gentile child will cause the execution of the child? I have gone through the whole of Maimonides’s YAD HAHAZAKAH and not found anything even slightly near such an atrocity. Please give reference!!

      Anyway, stop pumping antisemitic incitation.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Benny

      Yossi, I am very secular, but I think your dislike of your religious upbringing and of the Haredim is unfairly leading you to criticize and defame the entire State of Israel.

      The religious courts in civil matters predate the State of Israel. As with many things, Israel kept much of the British and Ottoman system. Each community was given general autonomy in civil/family matters. When Israel was born/reborn, it did not change this. This was done as much for the sensibilities of the Arabs as to the religious Jews. I know of no evidence, though I’d be open to seeing it, that fear ‘miscegenation’, which is a racial term,had anything to do with maintaining the Ottoman system whose basis was one of tolerance for different faith communities.

      Reply to Comment