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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 2/27/16

Holy Water

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Message Uri Avnery
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In the last few months Netanyahu has appointed new people to several of the most important government functions. The police chief is the least of them. One is the Attorney General (called "Legal Adviser to the government"), the most important government official, with vast powers. Another is the new chief of the Shin Bet. Unlike any of their predecessors, they all wear kippot.

To explain the significance of this, one has to understand the Jewish religion. It is quite unlike, say, the Christian religion, and far closer to Islam. All talk about "Judeo-Christian" tradition is based on ignorance.

THE HEBREW word for religion is "dat." Like the Arab equivalent "din," it basically means "law." Judaism is a set of commandments (613 in the Bible alone) imposed by God. In return, God has "chosen" us as "His" people and "given" us the Holy Land. One cannot be a Jew without belonging to the Jewish people, which owns the Holy Land forever.

For 2,000 years and more, Jews were dispersed throughout the world. Their attachment to the Holy Land was purely spiritual. The Jewish people was a religious concept.

Then came Zionism. It was invented at the end of the 19th century. Almost all its creators were devoutly atheist. They did not believe in a God who had "exiled" the Jews.

When I was young, nobody in this country spoke about a "Jewish State." We spoke about a "Hebrew State." An extreme fringe group (nicknamed "Canaanites") even asserted that we are a new Hebrew Nation which has nothing to do with Judaism. Most of my generation thought along the same lines, though not quite with these words.

I am often asked why a determined militarist like David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, exempted religious pupils from military duty. My explanation is quite simple: like most of us, he believed that the Jewish religion in this country was dying out. Zionism had supplanted it. The new Hebrew pioneer did not need all that religious nonsense.

Then came the war of 1967, the "miraculous" victory, the conquest of all the country up to the Jordan River, with all its holy places. Far from dying, the Jewish religion suddenly sprang to new life. Now it is expanding rapidly, kippot can be seen everywhere. Especially among the settlers.

This rejuvenated religion is closely connected with an extreme right-wing, ultra-nationalist, Arab-hating ideology. This is the wave on which Netanyahu, a non-religious, non-kosher-eating super-nationalist opportunist, is riding now. Practically every day -- literally -- new nationalist-religious laws and bills pop up.

One bill says that in case of doubt, judges must "consult" Jewish law (the "Halacha"). This ancient law, some of it 2,500 years old, treats women as inferior and condemns gays to stoning. It has nothing to do with modern life. Another bill allows the Knesset majority to eject from Parliament elected members who do not recognize the state as "Jewish and democratic" (which may sound like an oxymoron). School textbooks in secular schools are given a religious overtone (but are not yet burnt). Independent-minded teachers are dismissed. The Minister of Education wears, of course, a kippah. Six members of the prestigious Council for Higher Education have resigned because of the government's effort to stuff that august body with nationalist and religious agitators.

Where is the so-called "left" in all this? One may well ask. They are invisible. Except for a few remnants, as well as the beleaguered Arab faction, they keep quiet, in the belief that they must move to the right (also called "center") to keep their heads above the holy water.

I shall not be surprised if one evening I turn on the TV and -- lo and behold -- there is Binyamin Netanyahu's head adorned with a nice, neat kippah.

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)

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