“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles… guarantee freedom of religion…,”
Introduction, The Jewish Problem: To this point in our discussion the history of Jew and Judaism in dispersion has described a clear trajectory: antisemitism is a self-perpetuating and unalterable reality embedded in the fabric of Christo-Western society. Where in the past pogroms were limited to local or regional Jewish communities, in the 20th century, with advances in communication, computation and manufacturing the possibility of achieving a final solution to the West’s self-defined and eternal Jewish Problem became a global possibility. Ironically it was the emergence of the “liberal” nation-state, of distinct cultural entities called “nations” inhabiting those states; of Jews also defined as “nationality,” but a Nation Apart, dispersed and without its own territory that transformed religious anti-Judaism into political, and then racial antisemitism. From that point it was a short step to “eliminationist antisemitism” as the Final Solution to the West’s age-old “problem.”
1896 US election - Cleveland holds Uncle Sam back while Spain pays old Rothschild''s (far right) bonds with Cuban blood
A few educated and more assimilated Jews quickly realized that the “hep-hep” riots in Germany, the continuing pogroms of Russia; that even France, first to “emancipate” the Jews still regarded them unassimilable. Pinsker and Herzl reached the same conclusion, that so long as the Jews remained in Christian society they would remain at risk. Of course not even these Zionist prophets could have foreseen just how dangerous was the Diaspora to Jewish survival. Who could have imagined that “civilization” was even capable of solving its Jewish problem by attempting to exterminate each and every living Jew?
How understand that even today, the Holocaust a fresh and living memory, that Jews in the Diaspora and, yes in Israel are unwilling to accept that which Pinsker and Herzl saw clearly decades before the Final Solution?
“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles… guarantee freedom of religion… [my emphasis],” from Israel’s Declaration of Independence
The Israel Question: Why question Israel’s commitment and ability to fulfill its designated purpose as Zionist homeland and refuge to the Diaspora? The short answer is that Israel exceeded Herzl’s expectations for the state of the Jews, a “normal” state for a “normal” people. As in all societies identity and allegiance are typically first to ones own country, and Israelis are no exception. In practice this means that the more Israel matures and develops, the more laws enacted to regulate and protect its citizens, the more Diaspora Jewry are seen as “Not-Israelis,” the greater the distance between Israel and the Diaspora, each group increasingly alienated from the other.
Ironically, as Israel’s Yishuv leaders defined the new state in the early years as part of the West, so did the state became just another community within that which Zionism sought to escape. Israel today is the largest Jewish community in the Diaspora. And while it is possible to debate whether an alternative existed (or exists today, but this to be discussed in the future), whether her pre-statehood Zionist leadership might have been more aware of the irony and danger this orientation represented, the outcome today is that Israel is but one more Diaspora community, threatened both by the West upon which she is dependent, and the East that rejects her presence.
These factors suggest several areas of concern regarding Israel’s commitment/ability to fulfill the Zionist mission for which the Diaspora created her, her future acceptance as refuge under the Law of Return.
In 1950 David ben-Gurion, head of the pre-state Yishuv and first prime minister introduced legislation incorporating Israel-as-Zionist into the new state’s emerging legal system.Among the original Basic Laws was Israel’s declaration of commitment to its Zionist mission, the Law of Return (1950). Facing challenge by Orthodoxy to conform the Law to Halacha, in 1970 the Law was expanded to include the Grandparent clause.
But the challenge to the Law of Return, to Israel-as-Zionist, is not limited to Israel’s Orthodox community. In recent years it has also come under attack from secular quarters.
And as goes the Law of Return, so goes Israel-as-Zionist.
1935 chart from Nazi Germany used to explain the Nuremberg Laws. [The Law of Return, Israel’s commitment to the Diaspora in her Basic Laws, is a direct response to the Nuremberg Laws as represented by this chart.]
For a clear enlargement, ctrl + click Wikipedia
A less direct assault on Israel-as-Zionist is haredi legislation aimed at incorporating Halacha within Israeli civil law. This, as the effort to revise the Law of Return, is by definition as anti-Zionist as watering down or eliminating the Law of Return itself. What better way to accelerate alienation between Diaspora and state than by defining the majority of world Jewry as persona non grata? Should Israel hang out a sign, “non-Halachic Jews unwelcome,” even were a “Law of Return” retained by Israel, how many Jews defined as such under the Nuremberg Laws would turn to Israel comes the next Holocaust?
How many lives would Jewish anti-Jewish discrimination cost, discriminating based on degree of Jewishness? In time of desperation even hesitation would result in tragedy for our future threatened Diaspora.
A major source of rupture between state and Diaspora lies in a less expected place, government by coalition. Israel''s most recent election saw Kadima beat Likud by one vote, should have formed the government. But the religious parties felt they would gain more by supporting Likud, and so Likud formed the government. Government by coalition provides fringe parties such as the religious the ability to shape public policy far beyond their representation in the country. A few examples:
In 2007 Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of secular Kadima instructed Menachem Ben-Sasson, head of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to draft a constitution, a birthday present on Israel''s 60th Independence Day. Among the compromises proposed was a compromised Law of Return even shorn of the Grandparent Clause, a plum to the religious parties! And in 2010 yet another chairman of that committee, MK David Rotem of the secular Yisrael Beiteinu, introduced “compromise” legislation regarding "conversion" which would have eased the process for Russian Jews, and expanded further the authority of the chief rabbinate. Politics is, after all, horse trading. In its obligations twoards the Diaspora, as well as towards its own secular majority, government by coalition, its dependence on the religious swing vote, is at variance to the state''s Zionist obligations to our Diaspora.
There is another area of concern regarding Israel''s future availability as refuge, even its viability as a state. No, not the external threat of the Arabs; not even the internal and long-anticipated kulturkampf between radical orthodoxy and the state. Another more likely to occur threat is in demographics, the growth of Israel’s least economically productive Jewish population, the Haredim.
Haredim are greatly under-represented in the workplace so contribute little in taxes for state maintenance and services, such as the welfare payments they receive. The current controversy over the Tal Law underscores the avoidance by a large proportion of this group to even perform military service. One estimate holds that by the year 2030, the combined Haredi-Arabs population will represent the majority of Israel’s populace.
If current levels of avoidance of workplace and military continue then the relatively shrinking secular population will be forced to contribute taxes at ever increasing levels in order just to support state services; and increasingly longer service periods in the military contributing to fewer days in the civilian workforce and even greater loss in state revues through taxes.
If resentment among the secular majority regarding Haredi “privilege” exists today, that will only increase with the growing burden on the productive middle class. And that, predictably, will translate into yerida. And THAT will result in an ever-shrinking economy and military.
A joke current in Israel in 1960 was, “Will the last one to leave please turn off the lights!” A not inappropriate warning of a not-too-distant future if Israel continues along its present dysfunctional path. Israeli Zionism, indeed the very survival of the state, is dependent on insulating politics from the disproportionate influence that government by coalition provides fringe parties.
Next week, a closer look at “Who is a Jew” and Israel-Diaspora relations.
Recent writings in this Series: