Magazine article The Spectator

Too Kosher for Comfort

Magazine article The Spectator

Too Kosher for Comfort

Article excerpt

THE beaming faces of Ehud Barak and Leah Rabin, the wife of the murdered premier Yitzhak, as they embraced each other after Bibi Netanyahu was dumped by the Israeli electorate aroused the same sense of triumph and relief as did the photo of the solitary soldier praying at the Western Wall after the Six Day War. Then the prayer of thanksgiving was for Israel's miraculous victory against the Arab enemy without. Now, the celebration was for the victory against the enemy within.

Ehud Barak renamed the Labour party `One Israel', using a similar ploy to that of Tony Blair. The doublethink of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four has moved from the Soviet bloc to the West: just as the People's Democratic Republic meant a monolithic totalitarian dictatorship, New Labour signifies `no-longer-labour' and `One Israel' the hidden acknowledgment that Israel was at war with herself and that only Barak could unite a divided and polarised Jewish state.

The Israelis who crossed party lines to vote for Barak were endorsing land for peace, but more - they were demanding a radical change in the government of the Jewish state. My co-religionists may recoil in disgust at this pronouncement, but the truth is that those Israelis who place their rabbis' rulings over the judgments of the Israeli Supreme Court are as great a danger to Israel's ultimate security as Hamas is.

I am a rabbi trained in cynicism - the consequence of the conflict of an eternal faith with the reality of a history of persecution. So I remain convinced that the final desire of Arab governments remains the disappearance of Israel, seen by them as a Western imposition within their sacred Dar. Yet Israel has the military might and the USA to prevent this longterm objective from being realised. By first allowing autonomy and then statehood for the Palestinians, Israel will have removed from her side the thorn which her Arab neighbours hoped would cause her slowly to bleed to death.

No peace agreement with her Arab neighbours can achieve a Jewish state at peace with herself. To secure a united front in 1947 against the forces of seven Arab nations, Ben Gurion offered the Orthodox political status by giving them the right to determine Jewish identity, the administration of marriage and divorce and even burial. In so doing he injected a worm into the belly of the Jewish democracy which would eat its guts out.

Jesus said, `Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's.' Jewish law says, `The law of the land is the law.' Both dicta demand obedience to the secular authorities. Two hundred thousand members of the Orthodox parties demonstrated against the Israeli Supreme Court which was considering removing benefits they enjoyed due to their political power. They complained that the President of the Court would not meet them to hear their grievances. When he said, `As a judge the only place I can listen to them is in court,' they could not understand. When reminded of the rabbinic ruling `The law of the land is the law,' they protested that this applied only outside the Jewish state.

But in Israel almost a quarter of the new Knesset are required to put 'Jewish' law above Israeli law. True, many supporters of Shas, the largest Orthodox contingent, do so not out of religious but economic considerations. …

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