What would you call a country that banned the political party of perhaps its most fervent patriot, ever? This is a nation that also not only did not prohibit the political parties of its sworn enemies, but actually voted them into the government.
One possibility is meshugana. Another is suicidal. Happily, this is no longer the case in Israel, with the arrival of Bibi Netanyahu, once again, as prime minister, and his new Likud government. But it did occur. All too recently. Hopefully, “never again.”
What are the facts here? Who is who? The banned political entity is of course that of Rabbi Meir Kahane and his Kach Party. What did he do that would justify such treatment? Yes, he wanted to restrict the Israeli vote to its Jewish citizens. But if this country is to be, and to remain, a Jewish state, how else can this be guaranteed? He wanted to annex Gaza and Judea and Samaria (often mislabeled as the “West Bank”). Why? In his estimation, those lands constituted an integral and very justified part of the country. He didn’t much like Jews being persecuted in Brooklyn, and started the Jewish Defense League, to protect the innocent, there. He didn’t at all appreciate Arabs murdering Jews in Israel, either, and acted accordingly to the best of his not inconsiderable ability.
It cannot be denied that it is hateful to hate one’s enemies. But this is entirely justified, at least on a self and group preservation basis. Well, maybe, it is preferable to “not get mad, just get even” in a more cold-blooded manner, but that was not Rabbi Kahane’s style. What are you going to do, sue him for being hateful? No, get used to it. Stop butchering Jews, and the hate will disappear. It is clear that Meir Kahane knew who, precisely who, were the enemies of Jews everywhere, and particularly those in Israel.
Ok, ok, he was a patriot, but maybe not Israel’s greatest patriot. It cannot be denied that Kahane had flaws, which we are not mentioning. However, it is literally insane to forbid Kahane-like-parties from politics while the Joint List (whose members would like to see Israel destroyed) is allowed to run, let alone join a government coalition. It is absurd to forbid his party but not those with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood (such as Mansour Abbas), and at the same time it is ludicrous to criticize Itamar Ben Gvir while coincidentally condoning having the Joint List in your government coalition (as the Jewish left did and continues to do).
And which are the political parties that were not only not officially banned from participation in the Israeli political process, but actually, shamefully, became part of the government? They were as follows: Hadash, Balad, Ra’am and Ta’al; together they formed the Joint List. And what did they stand for? Let me just say that they were not exactly in favor of Israel as a Jewish state.
Happily, this period of Israeli madness now seems to have passed, with the reintroduction of the Netanyahu government. This craziness has passed, on the part of the Israeli electorate. But it seems to have been transferred to Jews in the West. This foolishness is doing quite well, thank you very much, in Western Jewish communities. Mainstream Jewish leaders are absolutely livid at the prospect of Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich not only being part of the Knesset, but actually becoming ministers in the new government. For example, here is what Joshua Leifer had to say about Ben-Gvir in the New York Times: “Israel’s New Kingmaker Is a Dangerous Extremist, and He’s Here to Stay.” Here is the assessment of Britain’s Jewish News of Itamar Ben-Gvir and Betzalel Smotrich: “They hate Arabs, LGBT people, and even some Jews. They are heading for power in Israel. Where is the outrage?” And according to the Anti-Defamation League: “… including far right in next government will hurt country globally.”
How can we account for this stark diversity of opinion?
The most obvious explanation is that the Jews in Israel have been subjected to knifings, shootings, bombings on the part of the Arabs on an almost daily basis, plus the usual antisemitism, while in sharp contrast, happily for the most part (there are exceptions), Western Jews have only experienced the latter. Well, at least no Palestinian rockets have landed in Brooklyn.
Another is that the Diaspora Jews have an implicit suicide wish. Virtually all of them in the U.S. vote for the Democratic Party, which opposed the movement of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and against the party responsible for the Abraham Accords. They simply do not appreciate the role of Israel as an insurance policy, if things go badly.
Another explanation is that the Likud is the party of free enterprise. Capitalism booster Milton Friedman said it best when he wrote: “Jews owe an enormous debt to free enterprise and competitive capitalism (but) have been consistently opposed to capitalism and have done much on an ideological level to undermine it.”
Here is another possible account. According to Jon Loew, founder of the Jewish self-defense organization legion: “The Jews had a major trauma where six million were slaughtered, many in front of surviving Jews. The Jews who went to Israel had therapy in confidence-building incidents. There were wars. At that point, you either fight or die. When you win, you realize you are strong enough. You are not a guest in this world. You are an equal. Conflict after conflict has rehabilitated Jews in Israel. What about the Jews outside of Israel who were traumatized and have been in hiding in the Diaspora, trying to assimilate? Assimilation has eroded a sense of Jewish identity and maybe lulled them into a false sense of security.”
Whatever the explanation, it is impossible to ignore the gigantic chasm between the recent majority of the Israeli electorate and all too many Jews not only in the west, but in Israel itself.