A Commentary about the Inextricable Link between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, a Follow Up to Tuesday’s Opinion Piece and the Opinion of Hen Mazzig
In June, he said he wanted to “restore our judges as of old,” “restore” Torah law to the Jewish state and for the country to be governed “as it was governed in the days of King David and King Solomon – by Torah law.”
The general perception is that it is ultra-Orthodox (haredi) lawmakers who are more stringent on matters of religion and state issues and more willing to wield their political power on such issues.
So why is it that the most prominent politician speaking about a halachic state, a state of Jewish law, is actually from the religious-Zionist community and not the ultra-Orthodox?
“The haredi belief is that we are still in exile,” said Avrimi Kroizer, a haredi political strategist and former adviser to former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat. “On the ideological level, they do not believe that it is the path of God to bring the redemption through a secular state.
“Any participation and recognition in the haredi world with the state and with its institutions is a post-facto, flawed recognition with no ideological basis,” said Kroizer.
Eli Paley, chairman of the Haredi Institute for Public Affairs and publisher of Mishpacha Magazine, puts it even more starkly.
“The haredi community is dedicated to Jewish law but doesn’t see a state, in its modern concept, as the right vehicle for promoting Jewish law,” he said.
“Jewish law is something the ultra-Orthodox want to implement in their daily lives, but it is not relevant to how a state should function.”
In short, the haredi community does not view the State of Israel differently from any other country where Jews might live, be in the US, Australia or anywhere in between, and see no religious significance in it or its establishment.
Therefore there is no grand vision of running the country in accordance with Jewish law.
The ultra-Orthodox parties do intervene on matters pertaining to the so-called status quo on religion and state, arrangements involving Jewish personal status issues such as marriage, Shabbat, independent education systems and kashrut.
But these issues were part of a set of guarantees made by David Ben-Gurion to the ultra-Orthodox community in pre-state Mandatory Palestine over such matters, and the haredi parties state, frequently, that they simply seek to preserve these arrangements.
THAT IS NOT the case when it comes to the religious-Zionist community, and specifically the hardline wing of the sector.
Rabbi Ronen Lubich, president of the religious-Zionist activist organization, points out that the founding principles of the religious-Zionist movement hold the State of Israel as something holy, the “foundation of the throne of God in the world,” as Rabbi A.Y. Kook, the founding father of religious-Zionism, expressed it.
“The State of Israel isn’t just an ordinary state for Jews or a refuge to protect them from antisemitism for religious-Zionism, it is meant to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” said Lubich.
Indeed, the religious-Zionist movement refers to Israel as the first sprouting of the redemption, an idea which anathema to the ultra-Orthodox community.
The rabbi also observed that in the early years of the state senior religious-Zionist rabbis such as Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neriah, a student of Kook, and former Chief Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog openly talked of the application of Jewish law in the state because of the belief that the Jewish people needed to be redeemed not only physically through the establishment of a state but spiritually too.
These and other rabbis eventually stopped discussion such ideas in the 1950s when it became clear that they could not be implemented and would also frighten the secular public.
But in recent years, the hardline wing of the religious-Zionist community has grown in numbers and influence, and now leads the traditional religious-Zionist parties, as well as many yeshivas and educational institutions in the sector.
Bayit Yehudi leader Rabbi Rafi Peretz, for example, is a student of Rabbi Tzvi Tau, president of the Har Hamor yeshiva in Jerusalem and one of the most senior and influential leaders of the hardline community, while Smotrich too belongs to this wing of the religious-Zionist movement.
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Like most places, America has always had potent strains of anti-Semitism — crude and polished, K.K.K. and country club. But unlike many places, we have always had important strains of philo-Semitism as well; there is a long American tradition, with both Protestant and Enlightenment roots, of really liking Judaism and the Jews.
And so the story of the Jews in post-World War II America is the story, not just of anti-Semitism’s marginalization, but of philo-Semitism’s triumph. Jewish Americans weren’t just integrated, like other ethnic and religious groups. They also attracted a particular sympathy and admiration, rooted in Holocaust remembrance, affection for Israel, and a distinctive pride in the scope of their success.
For American philo-Semites, the Jewish experience wasn’t just one minority experience among many, but a signal and elevated case. The outsize success of Jewish intellectuals and scientists and artists and businessmen and activists was an especially good thing, a unique proof of American exceptionalism — because ours was the one country where a people so long persecuted could not only survive but triumph. And attacks on Jewish success and influence, like attacks on the state of Israel, were treated as particularly dangerous, particularly un-American, because they threatened to undo this great achievement, and return the Jews to their historic state of constant threat and peril
This history supplies one way to understand the stakes in the controversy over Ilhan Omar, the Muslim congresswoman who keeps using anti-Semitic clichés in her criticisms of the American-Israeli relationship. The part of the American left that’s defending her, or at least mitigating her offense and accusing her conservative critics of bad faith, doesn’t see itself as defending Jew-hatred, and since many of those defenders are Jewish — including the arguable front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders — it’s reasonable to take them at their word.
But the defend-Omar project is a project that seeks to push us away from the age of philo-Semitism, the age in which both American Jews and the American-Israel relationship were considered special cases among the range of minority groups and foreign policy partnerships.
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