A reflection and a prediction

By Dow Marmur

Jerusalem (March 4, 2016) – The Reflection: As those in power in Israel today are ostensibly trying to make the state more “Jewish,” they’re, in fact, often abusing Judaism and tampering with its fundamental affirmation that all humans are equal because we’re all created in the image of God. Three examples:

1. A majority in the Knesset may disenfranchise three of its Arab members who paid a condolence call to the family of a Palestinian terrorist killed in action. The other ten members of the United Arab List are protesting in solidarity. Perhaps they fear that the hidden agenda is to have an “Arab-free” parliament, even though about 20% of Israel’s citizens are Arabs.

Egypt’s parliament has just done something similar by expelling as punishment a member who dined with Israel’s ambassador. This should be small consolation for Israelis and an embarrassment for the Knesset. The relationship between Israel and Egypt may be better than ever, but Egyptian so-called democracy is hardly a worthy model.

2. Both the minister of defense and the chief of police – two very powerful men in the land – have made statements to the effect that the Arabs are fundamentally different: whereas Jews celebrate life, they celebrate death as manifest in their glorification of martyrdom. The shocking implication seems to be that we’re the children of light and they’re the children of darkness.

A way to moderate, some say humanize, the government would be to replace Bennett’s party with Herzog’s Zionist Union.

3. Israel’s ministry of education is recommending a book for primary schools that depicts Arabs (and secular Jews) in a negative light. Israelis often point to the hostile ways in which they and their country is portrayed in the Palestinian school system. It seems that those currently in charge of Israeli education are about to turn indignation into emulation.

The Prediction: Much of this may change by the summer – for the better. This according to Dan Bielski, a news editor with Israel Radio. In a talk he gave in Jerusalem earlier this week I heard him speak about the difficulties that Naftali Bennett’s ultra-nationalist and ostensibly religious Habayit Hayehudi – the settlers’ party – is causing Prime Minister Netanyahu and indeed the country as a whole. Bennett is the minister of education and his party that champions xenophobic Judaism (see above).

A way to moderate, some say humanize, the government would be to replace Bennett’s party with Herzog’s Zionist Union. Despite the latter’s insistence to the contrary, Bielski predicts that that’s what’s likely to happen in the next few months. Even if some members of the Zionist Union leave as a result – together with some members of Netanyahu’s Likud who may join Bennett – Netanyahu would still have a more comfortable coalition majority than he has now and thus be able to stay in power which, according to Bielski, is his main objective. But Netanyahu, says Bielski, also wants to leave a legacy that, despite his many years as prime minister, has so far eluded him.

Herzog in the government, probably filling the still vacant post as foreign minister, is also bound to improve the very difficult relationship with the United States which is said to go much deeper than the allegedly bad chemistry between Obama and Netanyahu. As things are at the moment, neither President Hillary Clinton nor (God beware) President Donald Trump would change things without some fundamental shift in Israeli policies. Not that either would abandon Israel – because of the benefits America derives from Israel – but neither would support Israel in the UN, EU and suchlike.

Rabbi Dow Marmur is Rabbi Emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. He lives in Jerusalem.

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