Otzma Yehudit – Not Racist

Since the deal between Bayit Yehudi and Otzma Yehudit – at the behest of Netanyahu – which gives Otzma a realistic chance of being in the Knesset, everyone is rushing to be the first and loudest to declare the party racist. They are also eager to dredge up the memory of the party’s mentor, the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, to speak ill of the dead, and remind everyone that he was the most racist of any racist who’s ever lived.

Close to home (well, former home), famous Holocaust researcher, Deborah Lipstadt, quit Young Israel of Toco Hill in Atlanta in protest over the National Council of Young Israel’s tolerance of the deal.

Among the many, and increasing, ironies of the brouhaha is that the only way the platform of Otzma Yehudit, or even Rabbi Kahane can be declared racist is if one believes in UN Resolution 3379 declaring “…Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”. Many critics heard in the news today – including Israelis – absolutely believe this, but others – including Lipstadt, I believe, would disagree with the UN resolution.

I really want to say, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”  To start with, the Jewish people are incredibly racially diverse. Racism requires that one think one race superior to another, and there is no such thing in Judaism.  We have black Ethiopians, Persians, Middle Easterners, North Africans, white South Africans, and converts from all over the globe including African Americans. While the Israeli government, and individual Israelis, have often been actually racist against Jews from some of these groups, that was not the position of Rabbi Kahane, nor Otzma Yehudit. Otzma Yehudit supports bringing all these people to Israel and helping those that are here.

Kahane in his own words on the subject of race, in English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-u9y1Z2JEA

Otzma Yehudit’s platform (translated here to English) is Zionist and based on reality, not race. Zionism declares that the Land of Israel is the homeland of the Jews – as does the Torah and even the Quran (5:20-21). If the State of Israel is “Jewish”, which it was long before the recent “Nation-State” law – see the Declaration of Independence and “Basic Law: The Knesset”, it logically follows that Jews have a right to the land, which everyone else does not. But what is a Jew? While most Jews are Jews because of their parents, one cannot convert to a race, while one can convert to Judaism. We have, thank G-d, many converts who live here in Israel. Arabs and former Muslims who have converted to Judaism – and they do exist – have just as much right to the Land of Israel as any of us.

On the flip side, it has now become “enlightened” to believe in a two-state solution. We’re told that is the “moral” answer to our “immorality”, “apartheid” and “racism”. But what that actually means is:

  1. Palestinians are a race. They are not based on a religion, since they would tell you that Christians are Palestinians, so what else could they be?
  2. Because they are a race, they deserve a state without anyone of another race – Jew-free.
  3. This is somehow NOT racist.

I believe Orwell would be proud.

The real question in Israeli politics is not about racism. The fact is that every Jewish party agrees that Israel wants the least number of Arabs as possible. This is because of the large number that threaten our existence. Don’t forget that the 2005 expulsion of Jews from Gaza was called “The Disengagement” for a reason.  The various parties all have different means of achieving that end and different attitudes toward the existing Arab citizens. None of this really has anything to do with pre-1967 territory vs. post-1967. It has to do with:

  • Limiting the need for military operations which endanger soldiers’ lives.
  • Limiting the number of enemies with access to commit terror attacks or harm us.
  • Preventing enemies from having positions where they are privy to sensitive information in the Knesset and using it to aid our enemies, a la Azmi Bishara and Haneen Zoabi (although they did not have sensitive positions)
  • Preventing a future non-Jewish majority from simply voting all the Jews out.

Here is the breakdown of parties:

  • Meretz (left): Pro-two states.
    • This makes Israel smaller, so it contains fewer Arabs.
    • From their website: [Amos] Oz also told the gathering that if a two-state solution will not be implemented, “there will not be a bi-national state here but an Arab state.”
  • Blue & White list (center-left): Also two states.
    • Also, make Israel smaller, so it contains fewer Arabs.
    • “…to ‘separate from the Palestinians'” – MK Ofer Shelah quoted here in Times of Israel
  • Yisrael Beiteinu (right): Two states, but apply sovereignty (or annex) to parts of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and give away Arab-populated parts of 1948 Israel (the Triangle area).
    • Keeps Jewish-inhabited Israel the same size, but with many fewer Arab citizens than now.
    • “…Arab-Israelis in the ‘Triangle’ and Wadi Ara region which is adjacent to the Palestinian Authority. They would be able to become citizens of a Palestinian state..” – Their website
  • New Right: Apply sovereignty to (or annex) Area C, but give the existing Arabs there citizenship, or a right to get citizenship. Leave Areas A & B as-is.
    • Largely status quo land size-wise, but makes it much easier for Jews living in Judea and Samaria. Tens of thousands of more Arab citizens.
  • Otzma Yehudit (right): Apply sovereignty to all of Areas A, B & C. No new Arab citizens and remove citizens who have called for and promote the destruction of Israel. Ideally, remove, or at least encourage to leave, Arab non-citizens. Encourage Arab citizens to voluntarily leave.
    • Much easier for Jews living in Judea and Samaria. No new Arab citizens. Fewer problematic citizens.
  • Zehut (Libertarian/right): Apply sovereignty to all of Areas A, B & C. No new Arab citizens. Leave everything else alone.
    • Much easier for Jews living in Judea and Samaria. No new Arab citizens.

It is important to realize that no one really believes there is a difference between “Green Line”, pre-1967 Israel and the “West Bank” territories. Not Arabs and not Jews. Either you believe Tzfat, Tel Aviv, Jericho, Ramallah and Jerusalem belong to the Jewish people, and therefore the State of Israel, or you believe we stole them.

There is also no difference between Arab citizens; those living in Jerusalem with blue identity cards, but historically refused to accept citizenship; and those living in Judea and Samaria without citizenship. They are mostly Muslim, speak the same language and are culturally indistinguishable. They view themselves as one Palestinian people. The only thing that determines their status is what side of a ceasefire line they happened to be on when the fighting ended in 1949. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority and head of the PLO terrorist group was born in Tzfat. If he had still been there, he’d probably be in Knesset calling for the destruction of Israel from within.

The Torah itself provides a mechanism for loyal non-Jews to live in the land of Israel called a ger toshav. We do have loyal minorities, like most Druze, who are happy to have Jews live here and be the majority. No one wants them to leave. Many of them do not consider themselves Arab, nor Muslim, and therefore don’t view themselves as part of a “Palestinian people”. Otzma Yehudit members have been adamant in saying this is not whom they’re talking about. They are talking about enemies who proudly proclaim that and are represented by Knesset parties which do the same.

I’m not saying to vote for the Otzma/Bayit Yehudi list. There are many aspects to choosing a party to vote for. But – assuming you believe Israel should exist in the first place – it’s not crazy and it’s not racist.

About the Author
Reuven (sometimes Bobby) came from a mixed Jewish-Christian background. He became ba'al teshuva (Jewishly observant) in his 20s with the intention of making aliyah, which didn't happen until his 40s. His daughter, Shani, also blogs and serves in the IDF as a medic. She was a lone soldier until her parents made aliyah in 2017.
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