Tablet calling Israel “A Liberal’s Paradise” (!)

Posted: November 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: media, the US and us | Tags: , , , , | 18 Comments »

This is one of the most bizarre pieces I’ve seen this year. It comes from Tablet’s blog editor, Marc Tracy:

Israel, A Liberal’s Paradise

Are you a liberal upset over Tuesday’s results? Then have we got a country for you!

Starting next week, non-Jewish or -affiliated same-sex couples will be able to enter into civil unions. The bill’s sponsor wants to extend the law to all Israelis, including Jews; incredibly, the sponsor is none other than Yisrael Beiteinu MK David Rotem, notorious for sponsoring the heinous conversion bill. Even a blind squirrel catches an occasional nut, eh?

On top of that, an Israeli Health Ministry committee has made a new recommendation concerning medicinal marijuana. Not that it should be legalized—it already is legalized, natch—but that the country’s universal health care should pay for it.

And on the social front, two Israeli women became the first same-sex duo to compete together in a version of Dancing With The Stars. The “star” in this case was sportscaster Gili Shem Tov, a sportscaster who did the cha-cha. Shem Tov, a lesbian, said “it felt natural.” (Oh, and to answer your next question: They take turns leading.)

Even as a joke, this is taking it a bit far. Recent Hasbara efforts to portray Tel Aviv as a sort of fun & arts capitol have apparently got Mr. Tracy a bit confused. Or it’s the medical pot.

Leaving aside the Palestinians – as Jewish-American writers love doing – we are still talking about one of the most conservative democracies you could find. Even for Jews. Do we really need to remind that we must go through religious marriages in Israel, or they wouldn’t be recognized by the state? Or that It must be an orthodox marriages? Divorces are even worse, especially for women, who must obtain their husband consent to “release” them.

And no, Israel won’t have Gay marriage. The civil unions bill Mr. Tracy is praising is actually an attempt to bypass the fact that increasing numbers of Israelis can’t marry at all – since they are not recognized as Jews. So a new category of “marriage without marriage” was invented for them. Does that sound like a liberal’s Paradise?

And how about the fact that a woman holding a Torah book near the Wall stands the risk of being arrested? One of the only places in the world in which a Jew can be arrested for practicing his faith is, in fact, Jerusalem.

Israel is not very big on privacy issues as well. Our government is about to be the first in the West to collect fingerprints from all its citizens. And let the security services free access to the database.

As for gay rights, yes, there has been some improvement recently, but hate crimes are still taking place, and more often than people think. Last year two gay teens were shot to death in a Tel Aviv community center. The Shooter was never caught. But hell, we have lesbians on TV, so I guess things are great after all.

As an Israeli, I find these talks about “liberal Israel” a bit offensive. Like the rest of the American praises for Israeli democracy, there is something very hollow and dishonest about them. Introducing the Israeli version of liberalism in the US would make most Jews here go mad. But as long as it’s in Israel, everything is ok – over there, Jews can support politics and values they would never accept at home.

It all comes down to the fact that some people here just don’t see Israel as a real place, with real problems. I’m not even saying it’s such a terrible country (as long as you are a Jew), and I wouldn’t have gone into some of the issues I mentioned here, which are of little interest for readers outside Israel, if it wasn’t for the Tablet piece. As a whole, I like life in Tel Aviv. But let’s not fool ourselves: Israel is not a liberal society, and right now, it’s actually headed in the opposite direction.

And there is the occupation, of course.


Legal segregation: an update (and a good word for Ehud Barak!)

Posted: December 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Left | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

The threat of an amendment to the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom which I’ve been following here has been lifted for now. The amendment was supposed to make the “Citizenship Law” – which prohibits Palestinians married to Israelis from obtaining citizenship – a part of the Israeli constitution, thus making it impossible to challenge the law in court, as some NGOs are trying to do these days.

As I explained both here and here, the Citizenship Law severely hurts the Israeli Arab minority’s basic right to family life. MK David Rotem (Israel Beitenu), who initiated the amendment to the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom, declared Sunday that his goal is to limit the growth of the Arab minority “through the use of marriages for a Palestinian ‘return’ to Israel.”

On Sunday, Labor ministers prevented the coalition from backing this racist bill.

It should be noted that the Citizenship Law is still applied in Israel, but as a temporary order and not as a part of the “Basic Laws”, which are the closest thing Israel has for a constitution. The fate of the order lies now in the hands of the Supreme Court, which is expected to issue a new ruling on the matter in the next few months.

For now, Labor deserves a good word for the work they are doing against the current surge in anti-Arab legislation. I have been objecting – and I still am – to Ehud Barak’s decision to enter Netanyahu’s government, but one must admit that from time to time, he has been backing the right causes quite efficiently (and at the same time, some of Kadima’s members were actually backing MK Rotem’s amendment! Not to mention the fact that they initiated and supported the National Biometric Database legislation. Altogether, Kadima appears more and more like a dangerously cynical party).