A man named Benjamin Kerstein posted a remarkable screed in The Algemeiner, entitled “Moshe Feiglin, the Most Dangerous Man in Israel”.
The first time someone sent me a link to this article, I got a few paragraphs in, and then closed it, because it was so patently a hit piece. The next time, I just ignored it. But by now, enough people have sent me this thing that I thought it would be worth going through it, paragraph by paragraph, and showing how… I’m not even sure what the correct word to use is here. Silly? Dishonest? Neurotic? Pathetic? It runs 36 paragraphs, and with the exception of a handful that I had nothing to say about, here’s my detailed rebuttal to Kerstein’s screed.
First paragraph: “Moshe Feiglin, who was last seen on a quixotic quest to remove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the leadership of the Likud party”. That’s false. It was actually quite successful so long as Netanyahu didn’t panic and cheat. Feiglin received 3% in his primary challenge against Netanyahu. Then 12%. Then 24%. I’m sure you can figure out what would have happened next. Netanyahu surely did.
Third paragraph: “Zehut’s libertarianism is a conscious and deliberate falsehood”. That’s a lie. And just in case, let me be more thorough: “racist” – a lie, “theocratic” – a lie, “totalitarian” – a lie.
Fourth paragraph: “Feiglin and Zehut, surprisingly, are fairly open about their real beliefs”. I object to the “fairly”. It’s hard to imagine how we could be more open about them.
Fifth paragraph: I’d have to copy the whole thing. Basically, Kerstein asserts that any reference whatsoever to God in a political context is necessarily theocratic. In other words, only a purely secular state can be said to be other than racist, theocratic, and totalitarian. This theme repeats itself throughout the piece.
Seventh paragraph: “This, it must be noted, is extremely close to, and possibly inspired by, the ideology of Christian Dominionism”. Only in the mind of the author. It is neither close to nor inspired by Christian any-ism.
Eighth paragraph: “In effect, the party asserts that liberal democracy is un-Jewish”. A wild jump based on nothing but the author’s already established believe that only a purely secular state with no real connection to Judaism can possibly be democratic.
Ninth paragraph: He cites the section in the ZEHUT platform on a parallel system of rabbinic civil law. He misquotes the platform as follows: “In this spirit, Zehut will act to define Jewish civil law as the parallel civil law recognized in Israel”. In Hebrew, that would be:
זהות תפעל… על מנת להגדיר את המשפט העברי כמשפט הממלכתי המקביל המוכר במדינת ישראל.
The actual passage reads as follows:
זהות תפעל בהשראת עמדה זו, אם כי ללא ההכפפה של מערכת אחת לשנייה, אל מנת להגדיר את המשפט העברי כמשפט ממלכתי מקביל מוכר במדינת ישראל.
This is page 119. And translated, it reads: “ZEHUT will act inspired by this position, although without the subordination of one system to another, in order to define Jewish law as a recognized parallel state legal system in the State of Israel.”
A parallel system. Not the parallel system. That makes a world of difference. Today, mediation is a parallel system. This would be another one. But it’s one that the author clearly abominates as not being sufficiently secular. In other words, even if two parties to a civil action wish to have their dispute resolved according to Jewish civil law, Benjamin Kerstein knows better than they do what’s good for them, and will ensure that they are not allowed to do so. Naughty primitives.
Tenth paragraph: “Shockingly, this even extends to the military realm, even if it means outright insubordination”. Kerstein, for obvious reasons, chooses to connect ZEHUT’s position on rabbinic civil law to military law, despite the fact that the platform makes abundantly clear that it is, indeed, referring solely to civil law. “An order requiring violation of the Sabbath for no operational reason will be considered a patently illegal order that justifies refusal of that order.” He quotes this as an example, but it’s not even remotely connected. In fact, it refers to the current situation, and nothing else. Here’s the full passage for you as it appears on page 107 of the platform (my translation):
“As was determined rightly thanks to David Ben Gurion and Rabbi Shlomo Goren at the time the IDF was established, the food served in the IDF would be kosher only, Sabbath observance in the IDF would be state mandated and obligatory wherever it comes to operations, and an order requiring the violation of the Sabbath for no operational reason would be considered a patently illegal order, justifying disobedience to the law.”
Kerstein translates “would be considered” as “will be considered”, and takes the situation as it has existed for 70 years as a new situation to be instituted under ZEHUT. This gaffe alone demonstrates the poor quality of Kerstein’s article, but I did say I’d cover the whole thing, and cover it I shall.
Eleventh paragraph: “this is clearly a case of creeping theocracy, a theocracy through the back door, similar to how political Islam has taken hold of Turkey and Iran, and very nearly did so in Egypt”. It’s probably rubbing it in to mention that this is arrant nonsense, because nothing that is being suggested regarding the IDF in this passage is new.
Twelfth paragraph: “Feiglin and Zehut’s ideology also contains a strong racial element, extending even to other Jews”. Racialist. Indeed? “It goes so far as to demand an amendment to the Law of Return that will exclude anyone of Jewish ancestry who fails to meet halachic requirements and, oddly for a libertarian party, grants the Chief Rabbinate the right to decide such questions of status, which amounts to official religious coercion.” Where to start? First, the proposed amendment to the Law of Return simply removes the clause permitting grandchildren of Jews who are not themselves Jewish to claim automatic Israeli citizenship. But it sounds so much spicier the way Kerstein puts it, doesn’t it?
Thirteenth paragraph: “Feiglin’s paranoia on this issue…” Kerstein quotes the platform’s statement that intermarriage is bad, and presents a danger to Jewish continuity. It’s understandable that someone who sees only pure secularism as worthy of respect would see this as “racialist”.
Fifteenth paragraph: “The motivation behind all of this, one regrets to say, is quite obvious: a profound racial and sexual paranoia. A fear, in effect, of miscegenation, of racial pollution.” Again, concern about intermarriage seems outrageous and virtually nazi-like to Kerstein. I’ll leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions. Suffice it to say that we have as many people in ZEHUT who identify as secular as we do people who identify as religious, and for some reason, they don’t seem to share Kerstein’s ultra-secularist ideology.
Eighteenth paragraph: “Having dismantled the Lands Authority, says Zehut, “it will be necessary to ensure that hostile elements will not be able to purchase land in the State of Israel.” Feiglin lacks the courage to come out and name these “hostile elements,” but it is obvious who he is talking about — Israeli Arabs.” In fact, it’s obvious that the platform is not speaking about Israeli Arabs. Why do I say it’s obvious? Because the platform literally lists the criteria for this on page 177 (again, my translation):
Prohibition of the Sale of Lands to Hostile Elements
After the Israeli Lands Authority is dismantled and state lands are transferred to private hands, there will be a need to ensure that hostile elements will not be able to acquire land in the State of Israel.
ZEHUT will pass a law that prevents the sale or rental of land in Israel to hostile elements. For this purpose, clear and comprehensive criteria will be defined according to which “who is a hostile element” will be determined as part of the language of the law.
* Hostile states and hostile orgainzations will be considered hostile elements.
* Citizens of hostile states and members of hostile organizations will be considered hostile elements as well.
* Companies, organizations, and corporations controlled by hostile elements will be considered hostile elements as well.
* A list of enemy nations will be compiled by the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry.
* A list of hostile organizations will be compiled by the Interior Ministry and the Defense Ministry, together with clear critiera for defining an organization as a hostile organization.
* These two lists will be brought to the government for ratification, and will be updated from time to time in accordance with the situation.
Kerstein desperately wants to find racism in the platform, to the extent that he ignores what the platform actually says and pretends it implies something else.
Nineteenth paragraph: “In effect, then, Feiglin proposes a two-tiered system: liberty for the Jews, discrimination for the Arabs. And this discrimination will be codified, as “Zehut will pass a law that prevents the sale or lease of land in Israel to hostile elements.” That this comes perilously close to de jure apartheid ought to be obvious.” Actually, that Kerstein is demonstrating either incompetence or dishonesty (or as is more likely, both) ought to be obvious.
Twentieth paragraph: “That Feiglin and Zehut are shameless liars…” this seems particularly ironic, immediately following Kerstein’s big lie, but be that as it may. “Put simply, Zehut’s policy is to annex the West Bank — and possibly Gaza as well — divest themselves of as many Palestinians as possible, and place the rest under an apartheid system.” I presume Kerstein uses the term “divest” in order to bring “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” (BDS) to mind, but in any case, it’s silly. It’s a fact that vast numbers of Arabs in the territories want to emigrate. They pay bribes to the PA for this purpose. Anyone who knows any Arabs in the territories knows that those who can leave, do leave. Most of them simply can’t afford it. Providing an emigration basket, parallel to the Absorption Ministry’s immigration basket, helps everyone. Making it possible for Arabs to sell their property without the PA murdering them is simple humanitarianism. Granting Arabs significant financial assistence ensures that (a) they go to the top of the list in most developed countries, who want productive citizens who won’t be on the dole, and (b) that they do well wherever they settle. The Arabs of the territories are by and large vastly better educated than the Arabs of surrounding Arab countries, and this entire plan is of benefit to everyone, and of detriment only to those who are dedicated to perpetuating the conflict.
Twenty-first paragraph: “First, Feiglin and his party labor under a demographic fantasy.” No, we don’t.
Twenty-second paragraph: “the American-Israel Demographic Research Group, whose head Yoram Ettinger has spent much of the last decade low-balling Palestinian population numbers in the West Bank and Gaza. Its estimates, while convenient for those like Feiglin, are flatly contradicted by every other available source.” All of those sources Kerstein refers to use demographic data provided by the PA and Hamas. These numbers are inflated for propaganda purposes. They include people who have left or died, and they include people duplicated in multiple categories. I recommend that anyone interested in this subject look into it themselves. Don’t trust us. Don’t trust Kerstein. Do the research and see who is telling the truth.
Twenty-third paragraph: Referring to ZEHUT’s intent to take down the PA and restore the situation in the territories to the pre-Oslo situation, Kerstein writes, “One must assume, then, that it would involve a war, and likely a horrendous one”. It seems Kerstein is unaware of the rising unrest in the territories against their evil overlords in the PLO and Hamas.
Twenty-fourth paragraph: Referring to the plan to offer an honorable retreat to the terrorists, Kerstein writes, “Obviously, that fanatical terrorists would be willing to do this under any circumstances except total, crushing defeat is unthinkable.” I’m not sure how old Kerstein is, but judging by his photo, it doesn’t seem that he’s old enough to remember the First Lebanon War, where this offer was made and accepted.
Twenty-fifth paragraph: Referring to ZEHUT’s offer to help those Arabs who want to leave, Kerstein writes, “Why, if the demographics are so tilted in Israel’s favor, this would even be necessary, is a question left unanswered.” But it’s answered over and over again: Because it’s the right thing to do. Like everything else in the platform. Kerstein continues by saying that “over half of the Palestinian population of the West Bank would simply be ethnically cleansed, albeit in relatively benign fashion, if such a word can be used in this context”. But of course, that’s not true. Ethnic cleansing is what was done to the Jews of Gush Katif in 2005 with the support of people like Kerstein. Helping those who want to leave and granting those who don’t vastly greater civil rights than they have ever had in their lives is not ethnic cleansing. Not even ethnic rinsing.
Twenty-ninth paragraph: Referring to the option of citizenship for those Arabs who truly want to tie their fate to ours — and such do exist — Kerstein writes, “It would make the attainment of citizenship a) nearly impossible, and b) contingent on the consent of a government that has no interest whatsoever in consenting to it, i.e. a government that Feiglin hopes to run himself.” I believe there’s a saying about prophecy being given to fools and children these days.
Thirtieth paragraph: “a two-tiered legal system in Israel for Jews and non-Jews”, but no such thing is suggested anywhere in the platform.
Thirty-first paragraph: Kerstein repeats the apartheid accusation, and goes back to 2004 to find a quote from Feiglin that says, “Why should non-Jews have a say in the policy of a Jewish state? For two thousand years, Jews dreamed of a Jewish state, not a democratic state. Democracy should serve the values of the state, not destroy them.” At the same time, Feiglin has repeatedly asserted that citizens are citizens, no matter who they are.
Thirty-second paragraph: Kerstein repeats the racism accusations, and dips his feet in the 2004 New Yorker article yet again. Note that 2004 was the height of the Second Intifada, and emotions were peaking as well. In any case, Feiglin has said a lot of things in the past that he no longer thinks. People are allowed to change their minds, and the ZEHUT platform is a far better indicator of his views than a 15 year old interview.
Thirty-third paragraph: Kerstein tells us that Feiglin is a <gasp> Kahanist.
Thirty-fourth paragraph: Kerstein backs this up by showing 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?
Thirty-fifth paragraph: Kerstein says, “Feiglin proposes liberty for no one.” And “He and his party advocate theocracy for the Jews and apartheid for the Arabs.” And that “this would be a system in which the individual will be defined purely by their ethnic and religious designation.” And that “such a state would have to be totalitarian in order to institute and perpetuate itself.” And all because of “one man’s religious fanaticism, racism and megalomania.” I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether Kerstein has established any of that whatsoever.
Bottom line, this is a screed by a man who thinks that seeing Israel as the Jewish State, established in order for the Jewish People to pursue our unique destiny, is theocratic. That viewing intermarriage as a Very Bad Thing is racist. That providing financial assistence to people who desperately want to relocate is ethnic cleansing. He’s entitled to his opinion, but it’s a pretty sad opinion.
* Note: Kerstein has informed me that his misquotes stem from the English translation of the previous edition of the ZEHUT platform which appears on the ZEHUT International website.