Shulamit S. Magnus
Jewish historian

About Unity


“It [Oct. 7, 2023] did not happen because we were not united. It happened because we went from appointing qualified people to appointing a mob with connections.” So, Alon Ron, in a Facebook post.


And now, that mob and its various leaders are trying to sell us “unity,” seeking to exploit the war and our fears to silence any notion of good, clean government pursuing worthy goals and to advance their agenda, which remains, as it has been throughout this disaster, their own survival on the day after. Always, they keep their eye on the prize, hoping to divert our gaze and cloud our vision.

Netanyahu did not form a “unity” war government under Lapid’s immediate invitation, because that deal was that Lapid– and Gantz, and Liberman, and Michaeli—the entire Oppostion, not including the Arab parties– would join, and Smotrich and Ben Gvir would be sacked. Way more seats would join the government than would be lost, creating a solid, overwhelming, consensus government in a time of society-rattling trauma and war.

Speaking of unity.

But that would have meant that Netanyahu would be without a government when the war ended and that was, oh, no, no.

So it took weeks when, supposedly, the need for a unity cabinet– or even, a unity government, as Lapid proposed– was urgent! immediate!–

until Gantz gave Netanyahu a better Netanyahu-deal. He and co. would join a security cabinet and the corrupt, reeking government of Netanyahu, Smotrich, Ben Gvir, Levin, Rotman, Struck, and the rest of their racist, theocratic cohorts, and the haredi parties– would jog along.

Deftly maneuvered by Finance Minister, Smotrich, that bunch has now given itself a massive payoff in coalition funds while destroyed kibbutzim and towns lie in smoked ruins, hundreds of thousands of people can’t live within miles of either the Gaza or Lebanese border and are left to fend for themselves; while farmers are frantic to harvest or plant crops and continue to operate their chicken and cow sheds with no workers, and the residents of bomb-wracked Sderot have to pay for their own hotels if they want to evacuate.

And the same for the bomb-wracked residents of Ashkelon, who are getting rocketed way more than Sderot, many of whom lack even bomb shelters in their old, obsolete, buildings, never mind, secure rooms inside their apartments, when they have, essentially, no time to run when the siren goes off. This, after years of municipal governments in both places pleading for the needed funds to afford their citizens basic protection.

But no.

Way more important to keep the coalition partners happy– and above all, in a secure with-Netanyahu– and Smotrich– place for the election to come on the day after.

So, haredi schools that teach ignorance and dependence and exploitation of the rest of society, get hefty additional billions, aside from what was already in the corrupt budget this lot passed, which, among other priorities, created multiple, do nothing ministries so that cronies have cushy jobs and assorted patronage goodies to distribute, and the latter have their own network of cronies, while the whole notion of “the public good,” of honest, government, is buried under mountains of sludge. Protected by the call for “unity.”

Is this even fiscally sound, when the immediate and secondary costs of the war to the economy are astronomical?

Is it– moral?

Is it worthy of the horrific sacrifices that good, honest, Israel-loving citizens are paying in the deaths and grievous injury of loved ones?

Is it worthy of the traumatized survivors of the Oct. 7 invasion and massacres, of the 1,200+ people gang-raped, mutilated, and murdered horrifically that day; of the soldiers killed defending this place and of their devastated families; of the traumatized, returned hostages, and of the hostages still in Hamas captivity; of the miluimnikim, the reserve soldiers and  their families, who have soldiered on for months now, jobs and careers and normal family life and needs put on hold?

That the members of this government have no shame and that no decent behavior is to be expected of them, is obvious.

But shall the rest of us accept to be played by the “unity” scam they peddle in order to manipulate us into silence and acquiescence while they proceed on political steroids to advance their agenda, its particulars, and the large goal, which is their continued rule on the day after?

Unity, solidarity, yes– for our defenders. For the victims and survivors of Oct. 7. For the hostages and their families. For the tens of thousands of selfless volunteers doing innumerable acts of goodness, support, love, and giving. For the medical teams fighting to save and heal the wounded, physically and mentally. For the entertainers donating their time to give soldiers and internal refugee children and families respite and joy. For the free press we still have, no thanks to this coalition, so that there is any hope of getting some honest takes amid the relentless spins and lies.

For all that, absolutely, yes, unity.

But to the self-serving cynics, from the leader at their top on down, who seek endlessly to play us, no, we have your number, and no, as the wonderful song goes, you will not vanquish us.

Can we make this distinction and have worthy, clear-headed unity, and not the kind the Louis Vuitton opium sellers are pushing?

You bet we can. And must.

About the Author
Shulamit S. Magnus Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and History at Oberlin College. She is the author of four published books and numerous articles on Jewish modernity and the history of Jewish women, and winner of a National Jewish Book award and other prizes. Her new book is the first history of agunot and iggun from medieval times to the present, across the Jewish map. It also presents analysis and critique of current policy on Jewish marital capitivity and proposals to end this abuse. Entitled, "Thinking Outside the Chains About Jewish Marital Captivity," it is forthcoming from NYU Press. She is a founder of women's group prayer at the Kotel and first-named plaintiff on a case before the Supreme Court of Israel asking enforcement of Jewish women's already-recognized right to read Torah at the Kotel. Her opinions have been published in the Forward, Tablet, EJewish Philanthropy, Moment, the Times of Israel, and the Jerusalem Post.