Lou Sandler

Israeli ‘Cantons’ or Political (Ethnic) Enclaves? A Destructive Cop Out

In the May 23 edition of Haaretz, Carlo Strenger argues that Israel should consider breaking itself into ‘Cantons’ in order to ‘salvage its democracy.’

In doing so, he risks giving false credibility to deliberately constructed and intensive internecine differences by the Israeli hard Right done only for electoral gain using Israeli on Arab and, even more dramatically, Israeli on Israeli/Jew on Jew discrimination, bias, threat and intolerance all combined with a fundamental indifference to Israel’s real future.

To make his point that this has become ‘irreparable’ thereby warranting the internal splitting up of the State of Israel, into ‘Cantons,’ Mr. Strenger makes reference to positions articulated by Netanyahu’s currently spawned Ministerial group.

For instance, the new Deputy Defense Minister wants apartheid style segregated buses (which was absolutely not supported by the IDF, by the way). Netanyahu agreed initially then halted the plan when even he recognized that he had misjudged the backlash.

The Deputy Foreign Minister want her ambassadors to tell other countries that God gave Israel to the Jewish people and further discussions must accept that at baseline. This is despite the reality that the Old Testament is neither an historical, demographic or cartographic guide of any kind not to mention that such direct communication by the sitting Israeli government would only further diminish and demean Israel’s geopolitical and global credibility.

The new Culture Minister has stated that she won’t ‘allow art that harm’s Israel’ and will ‘censor something’ as she sees fit. Are the Libertarians and others out there comfortable with such an outrageous pronouncement? Will Israel’s Culture Minister also sanction ‘book burning,’ as she deems it appropriate?

The new Justice Minister is preparing at attempt to undermine the entire legal system and independent Israeli judiciary using a propaganda driven statement of ‘returning governance to the people.’ Those on the ‘Right,’ on the ‘Left’ or wherever should be terrified of the very implications of such intent.

And Netanyahu, who has kept the Communications Ministry under his primary control, has continued to take active steps to directly interfere with and undermine Israel’s free press, both print and televised.

But rather than speak towards challenging such gross social, political and amoral political conduct; conduct which is continuing to damage Israel internally and globally, Mr. Strenger figures that it only strengthens his recommendations for Israeli ‘Cantons’ as a way to stop the ‘irreparable damage (to) Israel’s democracy’ currently well underway.

Strenger then assures the reader that he fully respects to include his willingness to ‘safeguard’ such destructive political statements by their government presenters since, he is certain, that those same Ministers and Netanyahu will similarly ‘respect his freedom of thought and expression.’

This odd interpretation is offered by Strenger even while the Justice Minister works to eviscerate Israel’s independent judiciary authority and Netanyahu intimidates and diminishes Israel’s free press every day.

If there could be a case study on the degree to which the Israeli opposition has been emasculated, has presented itself poorly and remained destabilized while being driven by cognitive dissonance, this article should be among the first read.

Just one of many points overlooked by Strenger is that these same Ministers are perfectly satisfied to take Israel down to their amoral level; even lower as needed for a power driven and a self-aggrandizing agenda which has little to do with Israel’s current reality.

It is the still increasingly amoral Israeli hard Right who poses far more of a threat to Israel’s currently stability and future viability than the PA, Hamas, and likely, Iran all combined. Strenger’s recommendations represent nothing but an internal political surrender which would make Israel even more fragile and accessible to its enemies.

I also can’t imagine the Israeli hard Right and its bizarre new coalition being even remotely interested for several key reasons the least of which being that it would greatly reduce their overriding authority and power.

That the current Israeli government and coalition will likely be very short lived will only be to Israel’s benefit so long as a real and coherent opposition is, this time, properly prepared

The reality is that Strenger’s observation that ‘differences in core values…among Israel’s Jews…have become so vast as to make it nearly impossible to live in the same polity’ has been an exponentially, cynically and deliberately surged electoral strategy particularly worked by the secular members of the amoral Israeli hard Right.

It needs to be directly opposed and dramatically reigned rather than given still more credibility.

Rather than the civilized sounding ‘Cantons,’ what this author is actually advocating for would be little more than political/ethnic enclaves. Looking at even recent geopolitical world history, such structures have not typically worked out very well.

Mr. Strenger, in his argument, points out that the Hasidic Belz community threatened last year to leave Israel if its young people were to be required to serve in the IDF.

Rather than granting them a ‘Canton,’ however, my suggestion is that the Belz community be told to make a decision to either join Israel or act on their threat and leave.

One positive side effect would be that it could help to strengthen the Israeli economy.

Then when the Hasidic Belz community arrives elsewhere, they’ll instantly discover that they will have to get real jobs, stop having babies they can’t feed and will not be able to gather in the dimes of other citizens and their new government in order to remain eternal students.

As a relevant aside; Strenger also appears to justify another of his ‘Cantons’ to include Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi group based on the virulent homophobia of Bennett and other members of his organization. But it is almost as certain that gay men and women are included in his membership even as they stay deep in the closet. To provide Habayit Hayehudi their own ‘Canton’ because Bennett is a homophobe is absurd.

The author’s constructed Israeli Cantons cannot be designed based on the biases and ignorance of selected groups – the deliberate and cynical electoral politics by the amoral Israeli hard Right – since even the attempt would instantly destroy Israel by further dividing and grossly weakening its entire military, social and political infrastructure while creating still more internal competition. It would likely then get worse even more quickly, still.

Perhaps each ‘Canton’ would start to require internal Visas when those of another ‘Canton’ wish to enter and/or travel through. Perhaps each ‘Canton’ would require ‘loyalty’ oaths to their respective agendas and belief structures before allowing other Israelis to ‘emigrate’ into their ‘Canton.’

The author’s Cantons are not only a cop out but clearly one not thought out all the way through.

Rather than taking on the challenge of a real political opposition, of challenging the gross irresponsibility and political amorality shown by Netanyahu and his core group, of doing the hard political organizing needed to stop Israel’s own self destruction at the hands of its own government; Mr. Strenger apparently prefers to give further false credibility to what would amount to warring Jewish groups based on discrimination, bias, self-aggrandizing political priorities, ‘liberal’ v. ‘conservative;’ secular v. religious and the deliberate undermining of what has made, and what has strengthened, the State of Israel.

Much more work definitely needs to be done; ‘Cantons’ should not even be considered. Israel’s Founders; and the so many who have defended and bled for Israel are turning in their proverbial graves.

About the Author
I was born in Baltimore, MD and have since had a wide range of experiences including a year plus in Israel. I've been a progressive organizer, writer/media spokesperson, coordinator and freelance. I am a PhD level Clinical Behavioral Analyst specializing in severe behavioral need in children (and adults) and their families. I write through no ‘agenda or special interest’ other than being a passionate supporter of Israel and Israel's future.