The effort made in the last couple of decades, especially after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, to bring Jews from all over the world and settle them in Israel is now taking a bizarre turn. The initial idea was to increase the population of Jews as the Israeli government fears population explosion from Palestinians. But now the hardline religious approach of the ultra-rightist forces is compelling many Jews living since the creation of the country to look elsewhere, writes Soroor Ahmed
Mark the irony: it is not the Palestinians who are alone fearing brutal crackdown after the advent of the new ultra-right government headed by old horse Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, but the secular as well as anti-Israel Jews who are being singled out, physically assaulted and haunted by the new establishment. Reports coming from “the Jewish homeland” suggest that some Israelis are even thinking in terms of moving out to any other country, especially of the West.
On December 29, 2022 Netanyahu became Prime Minister of the country for the sixth time since 1996. His Likud Party is supported by the extreme hawkish Religious Zionism, United Torah Judaism, Noam, Shaas and Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power). Except Likud, the rest of the parties are small and have limited influence, but combined together they have emerged quite stronger and have 64 Members of Knesset (Parliament) in the House of 120.
Within five days of taking charge, the new National Security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who belongs to Jewish Power party, visited Al-Aqsa Masjid on January 3, sparking off a fresh row and was followed by condemnation from the Muslim world. Netanyahu had to cancel his proposed visit to United Arab Emirates with whom Israel has developed a very good relationship.
If this is the situation Palestinians are confronting, many Jews too are facing uncertainty. It is none else but a former minister in the previous cabinet who reportedly expressed the willingness to migrate. What is more surprising is that the concerned politician in question is not a secular or non-practising Jew, but is a leader of the Right-to-Centre political party. Yet he is feeling insecure.
The taking over of power by Netanyahu was marked by a widespread protest by many Jews in Israel as a sense of insecurity has increased. Surveys say that a majority of Jews of Israel oppose Netanyahu joining hands with the fanatics.
There is a general belief in Israel that Netanyahu – though himself a rightist – is an opportunist politician and can take help of anyone to form government – be it secularists, ultra-rightists and even Arab MKs. After the 2021 election, Israel had two Left-to-Centre governments. One was led by Naftali Bennett and the other by Yair Lapid. An Arab party Raam was also in the coalition. But the experiment failed and the election was held once again on November 1, 2022.
ATTACK ON ANTI-ZIONIST JEWS
Two days before the oath-taking by Netanyahu, Israeli police on December 27 stormed into a synagogue and thrashed some anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews. It needs to be mentioned that many Orthodox Jews opposed the formation of Israel as they are of the view that it contradicts their faith, which says that it would be a Messiah who would bring all the Jews of the world to the Holy land.
Any such effort to create a Jewish state without the advent of Messiah, according to them, was against the basic tenet of Judaism. They were opposed to the struggle for the creation of Israel in the early 20th century and were of the view that the concept of a Jewish homeland was in fact a design of Christianised imperialist powers of Europe and the United States.
However, the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe between 1933 and 1945 weakened the anti-Zionist campaign of the Orthodox Jews, many of them living in the region ruled formerly by the Ottoman Empire in Asia and Africa. They are called Sephardic and were not against Muslims as they were thankful to them for giving them shelter when they were facing ethnic cleansing in Europe.
Actually, it is the European Jews, known as Ashkenazi, who were brought as refugees during the first half of the 20th century, especially at the height of World War-II and settled by the western imperialist powers who dominate Israel.
The new Israel is different from that in the initial decades after the establishment of the Jewish state on May 14, 1948. Efforts were then made to reduce the differences within the Jewish society and establish a powerful state. The secularists, the Orthodox, and the anti-Zionists all were brought together from different corners of the world and were amalgamated. Israel emerged as a powerful state working as a military base for the western powers. Now the identity of all those Jews is being questioned.
It would be interesting to remind that, like in India where the freedom movement under the Indian National Congress was largely secular in nature, the struggle for the creation of Israel was led by the Left-to-Centre activists, who later in 1960s formed the Labour Party. They remained in power from 1948 to 1977, when for the first time the rightist Likud Party, led by Menachem Begin, came to power. Today the Labour Party has completely been marginalised and has only seven members in Knesset (Parliament).
Even the father of Zionist movement in 19th century, Theodor Herzl, was a non-practising Jew. He underwent circumcision quite late in his life.
Twenty-first century Israel has travelled thousands of years back. Not to speak of Oslo Accord signed between the then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organisation leader, Yasser Arafat which called for the Two-State solution, today the Jews are being forced to prove their own identity.
These ultra-rightist smaller parties are imposing their diktats and are taking full advantage of a weak Netanyahu, who is facing various charges of corruption. This is causing a lot of concern in the Jewish circle in the West, especially the United States. The western Press, for instance the New York Times, is carrying big stories and articles on these latest developments. The rise of Jewish fanaticism is likely to jeopardise the Western design and may threaten the very objective of the creation of Israel. In the US and Europe, most Jews, though the supporters of Israel, are secular in their views and do not appreciate the rise of fundamentalist forces in the Holy Land.
The effort made in the last couple of decades, especially after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, to bring Jews from all over the world and settle them in the homeland is now taking a bizarre turn. The initial idea was to increase the population of Jews as the Israeli government fears population explosion from Palestinians. These new arrivals are settled in the Palestinian populated pockets and are thus pitted against the latter. The ultra-rightists are fully exploiting this situation for their own political end.
Now the hardline religious approach of the ultra-rightist forces is compelling many Jews living since the creation of the country to look elsewhere. The emergence of extremist Jewish parties, it is feared, may strengthen the cause of Hamas and general Arab population if Hamas enjoys the support of Iran. The recently concluded FIFA World Cup in Qatar made it amply clear how strong is the anti-Israel sentiment in Arab masses.