The postman knocks twice: Facts, bias, unity

In effect, Labor Zionism died a natural death with statehood for a number of reasons.

DEGEL HATORAH and Agudat Yisrael councils 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Moshe Goldstein)
DEGEL HATORAH and Agudat Yisrael councils 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Moshe Goldstein)
A good friend in Toronto wrote a polite but challenging response to my column “How galling it must be for PM Netanyahu,” (July 10). Since I feel that his letter quite likely reflects the thinking of many, here it is: “I note from your writings that you are a product of your Labor Zionist and Labor governments affiliations. There is a left-wing bias that you of course are accustomed to. My own political origins are similar in that I belonged to Habonim… “I don’t think that Israel can afford the luxury of partisan politics in these times. With the serious threats against the country it would be appropriate to form a coalition of all parties who would abide by the present leadership in security matters and present a united front to the world. I do not wish to sound alarmist but from my perspective and under these conditions the country must have one voice.” End of letter.
A word about what helped form me: I am a product of a religious Zionist youth group affiliated with Hakibbutz Hadati (Orthodox Zionist Kibbutzim). The prophets, particularly Isaiah, informed my social view more than the early Labor Zionist thinkers.
In effect, Labor Zionism died a natural death with statehood for a number of reasons. For the sake of brevity, let’s boil it down to this: It died in the process of keeping the new state afloat under a war situation on all fronts while under the crush of a massive immigration. Mapai (Ben-Gurion’s labor party) had three main thrusts: security first, mass immigration and social justice as envisioned by the prophets of Israel.
If that is my bias, I confess to it gladly. But that is really the stated bias of most Zionist parties in Israel. What divides them is the question of how to achieve these goals, while ensuring they do enough for their followers so that they can be reelected. Day-today politics is not that transparent: try to follow the interplay of egos, money, power, jealousy, personal betrayal and ideological treachery. Not to mention corruption.
So, my friend, except for the Provisional (first) Government in 1948-49, only once – in 1967 – did we have a (last-minute) unity government.
THERE HAS never been Jewish unity. From the story of Korah rebelling against Moses’s leadership, right through history – whether in the name of God or for the prestige of man – there have been rifts and splits and divisions.
My Toronto friend, whose sincere love of Israel and concern for its future, facing potential warfare on two fronts, are anchored in his faith in Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership. The prime minister’s rhetorical ability; his open door both in Washington and Moscow; and his signal leadership against Iranian atomic and missile programs are indeed convincing. I have expressed my regard for this more than once, and my column referred to above opens with exactly that.
In the background of my friend’s sensing a bias on my part probably lies a desire not to see the ugly legal entanglements and political machinations which surround Netanyahu. The legal processes cannot be halted because of the motivation to keep a specific citizen in power. The principle is equality before the law.
What people abroad think – and many in Israel – who do not follow the legalities carefully, is that – like it or not – the prime minister is under investigation for possible serious infractions of law. His wife is on trial. Another senior minister seems to be on the cusp of indictment. Another few members of the cabinet and the Knesset are under investigation, and the possibility of more key members of the Likud representation coming to police attention is hinted at by usually reliable news sources.
About this Knesset it may be said, without hyperbole, and with a bow to Churchill: Never in the field of Jewish resurgence have so many been investigated for so much transgression.
It is with such people that Netanyahu keeps company. And he never takes responsibility for the fact that all of this is happening on his watch.
And look at his coalition. Fascism is defined as holding nation or race above the individual, and the ultimate centralization of power in the hands of a dictatorial regime. The following parties by their actions hold Jews above the other citizens of this country: Likud, Kulanu, Bayit Yehudi (“Jewish Home”), United Torah Judaism, Degel Hatorah, Shas and Yisrael Beytenu (“Israel Is Our Home”).
THE HEADS of the Bayit Yehudi and Kulanu parties, Naftali Bennett and Moshe Kahlon – once the Jewish Nation-State Law was passed – tried to shake the mud off their trousers (the realization that they have hit the Druze hardest and the Arabic-speakers just as hard) – by uttering the weak cry, “we acted too hastily!” Do you ministers of state read what you enact? And if you do, are you incapable of foreseeing what would be the result? Do you know how easy it would have been to add a short clause reiterating the values of previous legislation on the equality of all citizens and the official status of the Arabic language? Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) openly declares that the new law was intended to tie the hands of the ultimate protector of democracy in Israel, the Supreme Court. A position that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of Bayit Yehudi, known for her astute cleverness, finally blew open rather uncleverly when she threatened the Supreme Court with an “earthquake” if it dare overrule the Nation-State Law.
Of course in her party there are two members – one a minister, and the other very clever – who do believe Arabs are inferior. They are specialists in using chunks of the national budget to bolster settlement needs while totally ignoring the weak and poor within the cities and towns of pre-1967 Israel.
And if Bayit Yehudi is known for exploiting budgets for its own perceived interests, it still has much to learn from the anti-Zionist “United” Torah Judaism, which has raised the ante every time there is a coalition crisis. Without its six votes the Nation-State Law would not have passed.
Imagine, a party that voted for Israel being the state of the Jewish people, but keeps its young people from serving in the Israel Defense Forces. “Pay us to maintain yeshiva students, pay yeshivot to keep operating, and we will defend Israel without learning and psalms.” (Oh yes, I read that Deputy Minister Ya’acov Litzman is also under investigation.) Did the Degel Hatorah faction not realize that by voting for the law, they stated that the blue and white Star of David flag is the flag of Israel? That flag was so opposed by the faction’s founder Rabbi Eliezer Shach that he founded Degel Hatorah, which means the flag of Torah. Holy hypocrisy of people who do not even sing “Hatikvah” but made it our national anthem! WELL, MY dear Toronto friend, all these are facts. Not bias – facts.
And just to make things clear, I do believe that the settlement blocs should be defended, connected and retained. They are also facts.
Given all those facts, who is biased? There is too much rot in our political system. If we do not clear it out soon, which limb will die of gangrene poisoning? The platform for unity must be first and foremost clean government. For this government, and for these parties, beginning from the top down, the time has come for them to go.
Israel will not remain leaderless, and interests will help bring forth a new leader with a clean cabinet who will be able to keep the doors of Washington and Moscow open – and less opportunistic.
And you, Irving, and I will remain staunch friends because we both ultimately want the same for Israel and the Jewish people.
The writer has been an observer of Israel politics since he began as a reporter for The Jerusalem Post in 1953. He has served as World Chairman of Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal as well as in important roles in the public service and at the Hebrew University.