I’ve had family in Israel since the early 1950s. Not as long as some folks, to be sure, but longer than a lot of the loony-tunes who moved to Israel from places like Brooklyn, planted their flags in remote outposts, and became the vanguard of the settler movement. Those folks, in league with Russian immigrants who bring with them their own prejudices and racism, have helped till the soil that has led to the newly passed Nation-State Law.
There are those who claim that this law changes nothing, that it just codifies what Israel has always been, declares Hebrew the official language of the Jewish State and Hatikva its national anthem. And I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.
Let’s be honest, for a change. Israel at this moment is a country run by extremists. And nothing good can ever come from that. It doesn’t in the Muslim world, the Christian world, or anywhere where those clinging to the extremes on any issue rule the day. Netanyahu is transparently corrupt, and would sell his soul–not to mention sell out his country–to strengthen his hold on power. Turning Judaism over to the lunatic rabbis of extreme orthodoxy, and their adherents. Check. Indulging the most retrograde impulses of Russian Israelis and the extremists among settlers. Check. Making clear to Arab Israelis, to conservative and reform Jewish Israelis, as well as to members of the LBGBTQ community, that none of them is valued, is equal. Check. Who is at the top of the pyramid? Those who live parasitically off the state in the Haredi community. Those who do the same in the Russian community. Those who declare that they are bestowed with the magical, God-given power to define what being a Jewish State means, even after it had been generously defined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
Israel’s Likud government might think it has achieved something meaningful with this Nation-State Law. What it has likely done is fired the first bullet at its own heart. And those who fought for the State since before its founding, and those who prayed for its reconstitution through the millennia, are weeping for its corroded soul. The worst wounds are self-inflicted. Israel is learning that. And it will continue to learn that. From its own Druze citizens, from its Arab citizens, from its non-Orthodox Jewish citizens, and from those of us in the diaspora who will not indulge the transparent corruption and hatred that undergird Netanyahu’s reign.