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A Culture War Brews in Israel: Will It Bubble Over?

July 14, 2005 By:
Caroline B. Glick
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A district attorney in a Middle Eastern country last week indicted a citizen for writing a letter to a public servant accusing him of being a quisling. The remarkable thing about it is that it did not take place in Syria or in Egypt. It took place in the only democracy in the Middle East.

The Jerusalem District Attorney's office indicted Nadia Matar, head of the right-wing, largely religious women's movement "Women in Green" for the crime of "insulting a public servant."

The "insult" came in the form of a faxed letter last September to Yonatan Bassi, head of the government's withdrawal authority, in which she referred to him as "a modern version of the Judenrat."

It was certainly not nice, and indeed, not historically truthful for Matar to have used this analogy. The Jews of Gaza and northern Samaria are indeed set to be expelled from their homes for no reason other than the fact that they are Jews. But they are not being sent to death camps. So the analogy is both nasty and wrong.

It would have been easy enough for government spokespeople to refute her charge or ignore it as unworthy of a response. Instead, the police opened a criminal investigation, and now, the District Attorney has decided to indict Matar for the specious criminal charge of "insulting a public official."

What are state prosecutors trying to accomplish by criminalizing Matar?

The weekend papers provided an explanation of the reasoning behind the move. In Ha'aretz's July 8 editorial, the rationale for the left's support of Sharon's plan was laid bare: "The disengagement of Israeli policy from its religious fuel is the real disengagement currently on the agenda. On the day after the disengagement, religious Zionism's status will be different," the paper explained.

Doron Rosenblum, one of the paper's chief columnists, spelled the message out even more bluntly: "There is an enemy on the right. Anyone who behaves like an enemy, walks like an enemy and makes the sounds of an enemy - at least let him not complain about being treated like an enemy."

In his Friday column, Dan Margalit, the senior commentator at Ma'ariv, argued in favor of placing quotas on the number of religious Jews allowed to serve as officers in the Israel Defense Force.

What we see here unfolding is a situation where the anti-religious left, the primary supporters of Ariel Sharon's policy, has given the policy their support - through its members' legal authority and public platforms - not because they see any security benefit arising from the move. In fact, they support the plan despite its security dangers because they see it as a culminating battle in their cultural war against religious Zionism.

Aside from the moral question of expelling Jews, all Israelis who don't have a death wish are concerned with the security implications of handing land and strategic positions over to a junta of terrorists who have repeatedly stated their intention to use what they get to advance their terror war against the State of Israel.

Yet the security consequences of the plan have been systematically ignored, while the full brunt of Israeli media scrutiny has been placed on its religious opponents. They are reviled as zealots, criminals, extremists. Rabbis are threatened with firings and the closing of their yeshivot if they do not toe the line. Religious Jews are being intimidated with threats to keep them out of the army or prevent their promotion in the ranks.

There are ample reasons to be concerned about - and, indeed, oppose - a plan that involves expanding threats for Israel. But at the end of the day, what's more debilitating are implications for the future of Israel as a democracy.

When the loudest voices favoring it are those espousing hatred and exclusion of religious Zionists, it becomes absolutely clear that for the plan's strongest advocates, capitulation to terror is a means of carrying out their culture war against religious Jews.

Caroline B. Glick is a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

 

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