I am posting this letter by Rabbi Dow Marmur, the emeritus Rabbi at Holy Blossom Synagogue in Toronto and a past President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Rabbi Marmur resides in Jerusalem and writes regularly to a select group of his friends.
This piece is incisive and insightful about the Israeli Prime Minister and what may have been behind both the Nation-State Law and the Surrogacy Law that passed the Knesset this week. It is worth reading and sharing with people whom you think will care.
There’s no date for the next general election in Israel but the prime minister is already campaigning at full speed. Three most current instances come to mind,
- He has promoted legislation, just passed, that will prove that he and his party are the only authentic custodians of the Zionist idea. All who oppose him are extreme leftist post-Zionists bent on self-destruction. There’s reason to fear that many Israelis will believe him.
That’s behind the new law that proclaims the obvious in a new and ominous context that Israel is a Jewish state. It promotes Jewish settlements everywhere where, at best, Israel’s two million Arab citizens may be tolerated. (The original draft wanted explicitly to segregate them). Arabic will no longer be one of Israel’s two official languages beside Hebrew but only a preferred one. It has thus been de facto downgraded. No wonder Arab leaders in Israel invoke the apartheid accusation.
All this will please right-wing voters and force their opponents to “prove” that they, too, are good Jews and Zionists, something that hitherto the Israeli public may have taken for granted.
Even members of Netanyahu’s own Likud Party have expressed discomfort, among them President Reuven Rivlin and Member of Knesset Binyamin Begin, the son of the late prime minister. They’re liberal nationalists and they seem to sense what many of us have come to fear: the “democratic” in the notion of Israel as a Jewish democratic state is being ominously eroded.
- Another instance of pre-election manipulation: Prime Minister Netanyahu withdrew his support for gay couples to have children through surrogacy. Only single women who cannot bear children would be allowed to “carry out a surrogacy procedure in Israel.” This should show that you don’t have to vote for one of the Orthodox political parties: Likud will deliver the anti-gay goods.
- And then there’s the visit by Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary who has managed to thwart democracy in his country and thus endeared himself to his Israeli counterpart: Netanyahu thanked Orban for defending Israel in Europe.
Some Israelis made a feeble attempt to stage a protest when Orban visited Yad Vashem but that wouldn’t have marred the joy for the guest when visiting the memorial to the Jewish victims.
The affection for this anti-Semite is consistent with the tacit support that Netanyahu has given to the current government in Poland which, according to the views of respected experts, amounts to a form of Holocaust denial.
Part of Netanyahu’s self-image as presented to Israelis is that he’s not only a brilliant leader of his country but also a player on the world stage. His dealings with Hungary and Poland are part of the effort to join forces with “trusted” members of the European Union. For similar reasons, Israel’s prime minister is also said to have told his party faithful that it was he who got Trump to take action against Iran. He wouldn’t be the first Jew in history with Messianic ambitions.
Mrs. Netanyahu has been quoted recently to say that had her husband been an American he would have been president of the United States. After Trump, anything is possible.
Jerusalem 20.7.18 Dow Marmur