Assessing Lisa Liel’s Response to Benjamin Kerstein’s Essay about ‘Zehut’

Since the word “screed” has become so popular in discussions of essays about the upcoming Israeli elections, this essay can be described as a response to the screed by Lisa Liel which attacked Benjamin Kerstein’s composition and argued in favor of the Zehut Party!

First of all, Definitions (from Merriam-Webster online):

Screed has 3 meanings in Merriam-Webster relating to compositions:
1. a lengthy discourse
2. an informal piece of writing (such as a personal letter)
3. a ranting piece of writing

Rant, as a verb (of which ranting is a participle) has 3 meanings in Merriam-Webster:
1. to talk in a noisy, excited, or declamatory manner
2. to scold vehemently
3. to utter in a bombastic declamatory fashion

Therefore, both Lisa Liel’s essay supporting Zehut, and Benjamin Kerstein’s essay exposing certain aspects of Zehut, are legitimately “screeds” – as they are both pieces of writing which scold vehemently. They may scold different things, but they certainly scold vehemently.

If some Zehut supporters have called Kerstein’s composition, “rubbish” because of its inaccuracies, which they don’t view as being as minor as they appear, then it is certainly appropriate to call Liel’s composition “rubbish” for running off in many directions which avoid actual response to the basic complaints against Moshe Feiglin and Zehut!

Liel’s title “The true danger comes from lies” is certainly correct (though that is NOT the only danger), but it applies to her and Zehut’s misrepresentations as well!

On a relatively minor issue: Liel even admits that what she calls ‘Kerstein’s misquotes’ “stem from the English translation of the previous edition of the ZEHUT platform which appears on the ZEHUT International website” – which leads to the question of why Liel thinks that something on the ZEHUT International website doesn’t represent Zehut’s outlook!

My views on the Zehut Party and Moshe Feiglin, and the basic complaints against them (based upon years of examining their statements and actions), can be found in my previous Blog Post on that topic, and now I will relate to Lisa Liel’s essay, which, in truth, requires little response, since it doesn’t truly respond to the basic complaints against Moshe Feiglin and Zehut. Nevertheless, I’ll run through some things quickly, though I DO mean quickly, so I won’t delve too deeply – just comment “on the fly” about things that it sure seems that Liel has simply “gotten wrong”.

Liel begins with a picayune argument as to whether Moshe Feiglin’s attempts to gain power in the Likud were “quixotic” or not, and then she concludes that paragraph hinting that Netanyahu used his power within the party to make it difficult for Feiglin to succeed! What a surprise for that to happen in politics! Ask Gidon Saar and Moshe Kachlon about it! But for Moshe Feiglin who repeatedly proclaimed that the ONLY way to get his policies implemented was through a large party (and the Likud was the only appropriate large party), his “taking his marbles and running away” exit from the Likud, just because the fight had become “dirty”, sure seems like hypocrisy to me (but that is also a side issue)!

Liel then begins a name-calling type of game with the “Third Paragraph”. Really! Calling claims against your party (which are supported by some clear evidence) “lies” is just sooo convincing!

Then Liel goes on to argue about some more terms, in a picayune fashion. Though I don’t think anyone truly cares about the term “theocratic” (they are simply concerned that Feiglin may be planning to introduce religious coercion, through the “back door”, on topics he feels particularly strongly about), it WAS totally unnecessary for Kerstein to mention it – he simply opened himself up to a fight about that term instead of Liel having to deal with the real issues!

Then some more disputing of terms like “Christian Dominionism,” –  which, depending upon how you define it, COULD have things in common with Feiglin’s statements – so we waste some more space on that, and on the Jewishness of liberal democracy (which many Zehut supporters have told me IS un-Jewish, so Kerstein’s claim is not the “wild jump” that Liel wants it to be)!

Then Liel goes on to “misquotes” which however “stem from the English translation of the previous edition of the ZEHUT platform which appears on the ZEHUT International website” as we have noted above!

On and on, capitalizing on Kerstein’s admittedly poor choice of words in many cases, Liel continues to be combative, but does nothing to dispel the clear indications that the basic complaints are very likely to be true!

In her paragraphs about the “Eighteenth Paragraph”, at least Liel translates the Zehut platform correctly, in my opinion, but the term “hostile elements” is still vague enough that Kerstein’s concerns about it may even be too limited – it could easily include lots of Jews who don’t think as Feiglin does, as well as Arabs!

Then arguments about who is the bigger liar and who is laboring “under a demographic fantasy,” along with other demographic claims, which may have some basis, but are not as verified as Liel claims.

Liel also has a dispute about how bloody the removal of the Palestinian Authority could be, somehow assuming that the “rising unrest in the territories” would help ISRAEL in the end!

Then Liel has the temerity to compare the first Lebanon War – which, you may have noticed, occurred in LEBANON – to the situation in Judea and Samaria, a totally unwarranted comparison in my opinion!

Next Liel continues into arguments about “ethnic cleansing” instead of relating to the unethical nature of refusing citizenship to people (who have the Halachic status of “Ger Toshav”, for those of you interested in the Halachic [Jewish Law] aspects of this, as noted in my previous Blog Post, linked to above) whose living area you are annexing.

It just goes on and on, and in her comments on “the Thirty-fourth paragraph”, Liel states that ‘in a Jewish Press interview in 2013, Feiglin spoke well of Rav Meir Kahane, and said, “But I can definitely say that the slogan ‘Kahane tzadak — Kahane was right’ has proven itself many times.” Does anyone seriously dispute this?’

Leil is totally disconnected from the Israeli political discourse if she doesn’t know that most people very seriously dispute the statement that ‘Kahane was right’.

Specifically, Kahane’s statements of support for Jews who attacked innocent Arabs (which I personally heard at least once, and I heard several reports of other such incidents) – though he appears never to have made a statement inciting violence against Arabs before it happened – render him beyond the pale to all moral people (including Halachic Jews, of course).

Therefore, I certainly feel that what Liel says about Kerstein’s opinion (with appropriate emendations) is applicable to her pronouncements, “[She]’s entitled to h[er] opinion, but it’s a pretty sad opinion”!

About the Author
Catriel Lev, an "unconformist" halachic Jew/poet/philosopher defying standard categorization, born in Baltimore. MD (USA), living in Bet Shemesh, Israel, tries to view the issues without any “normative” biases (of any particular political/philosophical faction). His views are his own, and do not obligate anyone else, and may often be found on his personal blog.
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