Netanyahu plays the religion card

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Netanyahu campaign poster from 2009


Netanyahu campaign poster from 2009

Netanyahu campaign poster from 2009

Netanyahu campaign poster from 2009

One of the few bright spots in the current Israeli government has been its readiness to cut back on special privileges for the country’s growing Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population. Most importantly, this has involved ending the exemption from compulsory military service for all eligible Haredi men.

Now in pursuit of another term in office, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is backtracking. Calling for new elections next year, he’s dumped his centrist finance and justice ministers, both of whom strongly supported ending Haredi privileges. In a press conference yesterday, he declared that he is opposed to subjecting Haredi students who refuse military service to imprisonment, as other draft dodgers are. He is widely reported to be making overtures to bring Haredi political parties into the government.

These moves cast light on Netanyahu’s widely reviled proposal to pass a new “Basic Law” declaring Israel to be “the Nation-State of the Jewish People.” As if the law’s emphasis on Israel’s Jewish character at the expense of equality for all its citizens weren’t enough, it also makes Jewish law – which is what the Orthodox rabbinate says it is – “a source of inspiration” for the government.

So here’s what Netanyahu has on offer as he runs for reelection: a failed peace process, a stuttering economy, and a retreat from the principle of equality under the law. That’s what’s known in Yiddish as shonda fur die goyim — a disgrace in the eyes of the world.

  • Israel’s a Jewish state. Get over it. The Haredi are offered certain dispensations as are Mennonites in the United States.

    The author is poisonous.

  • Mennonites do not receive government subsidies for their schools.

  • Fourth Valley

    Two very different situations.

    Mennonites are one of many groups allowed draft exemption in the U.S. for religious reasons. Israel only exempts Haredi, Druze, and women for religious reasons. The U.S. will allow any religious person who’s religion forbids war to opt out. I can avoid military service in the U.S. since my faith proclaims war a Satanic Institute, yet I could not avoid military service in Israel.

    Mennonites also distance themselves from politics, whereas Haredi aggressively lobby politically.

    If all religious groups were offered an opportunity to exempt out of service in Israel, then it would be comparable.

  • James Keegan

    How far we’ve come from “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

  • Larry

    Israel is a democratic state first and foremost. It is not a theocratic state. It does not

    Your statement is very similar in character to the nabobs who claim America is a Christian nation. They make such claims in order to pretend that all other religions are beneath consideration under the law. You make the same claim for Israel as a Jewish state. It smells of the same brand of dominionist bullcrap. Religion of the majority as an excuse to attack civil liberties of others.

    The Haredi ask for a lot more than certain dispensations like the Mennonites in the US. You are really distorting the facts here.

    The Haredi are the strongest supporters of the settlements in the West Bank yet they provide nothing towards their defense. The settlements are a major obstacle for peace. Haredi ask for a privilege, but endanger the rest of the nation and demand that everyone else lays down their lives for it. The Haredi also make constant demands on civil authority as well such as demanding street closings, gender segregated public transportation and constantly attack religious rights of other faiths and sects.

    Mennonites essentially want to be left alone. Haredi want to barge their way into everyone’s life.

    American Evangelical Christian support for Israel’s far right wing is toxic, backhanded and entirely transitory in nature.

  • So what? You would be hard put to find an affluent country where primary and secondary schooling are treated as professional services purchased on the open market. They could be treated that way, but they are not. Schooling is not a public good in the sense that the military or the road network is. It can and does thrive in an open market. Provision of schooling through tax funds is an address to the distributional consequences of market distribution of educational services. There is no need to do this by erecting public agencies with effective local monopolies, but that is how it’s done in the United States.

    While we are at it, people who do not have at a given time school age children pay their property taxes like everyone else. Very few parents have tax bills (when apportioned according to the distribution of public expenditure) so high that the portion attributable to the school district equals or exceeds the district’s expenditure on their children. Nearly everyone who has children in school is receiving a subvention from the broader population.

    Rapacious union officials and teacher training faculty talking book and innumerate blowhards like the late Robert Hughes (to take one example) fancy that someone receiving a voucher for a private school is ‘subsidized’ and someone enrolled in a state-run school is not. If you fancy what the teacher-training faculty and the unions are peddling in those Democratic Party vote farms is ‘non-sectarian’, I have a bridge for sale.

  • No, Druze serve in the military. Arabs and Christians are dispensed, though some volunteer.

    What of it? This amounts to a niggling complaint that the precise dispensations are decided by parliament and specified in statute rather than user-defined and instituted by judicial decree (noting here that it was only in 1970 that the federal appellate courts in the U.S. seized from the legislature discretion in this matter and extended dispensations to atheists contrary to legislative intent).

  • Larry

    1. Your view of public education is disgusting. Schooling is a public good in a democratic nation because an informed, educated populous is one which understands who and what they are voting for. Education is public because our nation feels a duty to educate the widest possible swath of the population, not just those of means. Privatizing has never worked effectively as a method of delivering public services at highest quality to the public. It usually serves to line pockets of political cronies.

    2. Your rant probably belonged on a different article/board. This article has nothing to do with a word you just said. 🙂

  • Larry

    What of it? You completely misrepresented the political role of the Haredi and their demands on civil Israeli society. You continue to make misrepresentations of facts when contrasting with the US. Israel’s legal system is a mix of common law/civil code as opposed to the pure common law system in the US. Israel will give far less leeway to judicial review as a matter of course.

  • What ‘prejudices’ their ‘rights’?

  • Jack

    News flash: Israeli prime minister declares that Israel is “the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

    In other news, yesterday, the sun rose in the east and set in the west.

    In addition, Canadian Prime Minister Harper declared that Canada is “the-nation state of the Canadian people.”

    And finally, the Pope in Rome declared that the Vatican is the world headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Breaking news: The Saudi Arabian oil minister confirmed that there is indeed oil in Saudi Arabia.

  • Jack

    Nebbish alert — Nebbish alert — Nebbish alert — Nebbish alert

    Thank God American Jewish liberals don’t run Israel — or there wouldn’t be an Israel.

    Good grief.

  • Jack

    Larry, you’re correct about the Haredi, and I’ve said so previously, but this is nothing new, has been going on for decades, and is not about to get measurably worse as Silk implies. It is not an ideal situation, but it’s hardly the end of the world or anything that disgraces Israel.

    Silk trying to tell Netanyahu how to navigate is like some old Catskill comedian deciding he’s going to teach the IDF how to fight, just because he once punched some Italian guy 50 years ago outside of Katz’s Deli.

    It is almost comical.

  • The Great God Pan

    Keep pandering to the Haredim, who reproduce at an astonishing rate and refuse to get jobs. Good idea.

  • Schooling is a public good

    Larry, ‘public good’ is a distinct concept in economics as a category of market failure. No, primary and secondary schooling do not fall under the rubric of ‘public good’. The service itself can be pitched to exclusively to paying beneficiaries and consumers are rival to each other.

  • Xnihilo

    “A disgrace in the eyes of the world” is not the best translation of this little piece of supremacist in-group complaining. It’s more like “even the subhuman goyim can see how bad this is. So cut it out.”

  • Larry

    You posted to the wrong article. It is rude to continue with a diversionary discussion any further. 🙂

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  • The author of the piece brought up the question of school finance. Take your stupid complaint to him.

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