by Roy Tov
Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
if thou refuse to let my people go, behold —Exodus 10:4
“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain asked God after killing his brother Abel. Probably this is the epitome of two Israeli popular practices: insolence and answering-with-a-question. During the night of February 5, many signs like the one in the picture were placed along the entrances to Jerusalem. The message on the sign goes one step further, asking in bad Hebrew, “Is Lapid a Brother?!” In one of the most spectacular shows of political subtlety, the sign speaks against the forming alliance between Naftali Bennett, leader of The Jewish Home and Yair Lapid, head of Yesh Atid, Israel’s second largest party. Together, they match the political strength that Netanyahu has. The three parties have enough votes to form a stable coalition. Thus, Netanyahu-Lapid-Bennettmay form the nucleus of Israeli leadership in the next few years. However, this is not a natural coalition between close friends; Bennett is furiously Religious-Zionist while Lapid is violently secular-humanist. The third side is not much friendlier towards the others, a prominent member of Netanyahu’s Likud recently said,“Lapid’s piss went up his head”. Yet, Israel being Israel, these are courting rituals. The amount of published insults is proportionate to the seriousness of the negotiations. The uglier the insults, the more worried those opposing this unholy alliance are.
Signalling the changing times, Prime Minister Netanyahu is a secondary player in this affair. Lapid became the second most powerful political figure in the country by fanatically preaching “Enrollment for All,” as his father Tommy did before him. His party is wildly anti-religious; it vilifies the exemption from military service given to yeshiva students while supporting specific exemptions to seculars. Bennett belongs to Religious-Zionism and was a prominent army officer. In recent days, it was published that both of them had reached an agreement on the enrollment of ultra-Orthodox Haredim, and thus can present a united front in the negotiation with Netanyahu; if this is true, reaching a coalitional agreement would be only a matter of Netanyahu offering the correct ministries and honors to his partners.
Those following this website know that on February 4, there was a historical encounter between rabbis of the Religious-Zionism and prominent Hasidic leaders (see IDF battles Jewish Orthodoxy). The Religious-Zionist participants were prominent rabbis who openly support Bennet. The topic was the creation of a joint religious front against secular-Zionists. There were signs that an agreement was possible; yet, considering the sides involved, it will take time. The last time these issues were seriously reviewed was in the 19th century, when Religious-Zionism was created. Thus, it is easy to understand the shock of the ultra-Orthodox, when they found that at the same time of this meeting, Bennett was closing the details of an alliance with their archenemy Lapid. Moreover, Bennett announced that he will meet Netanyahu next week, after the two hadn’t spoken with each other for five years after a widely publicized verbal fight between Bennettand Netanyahu’s wife. If this alliance is fruitful, then ultra-Orthodox parties will probably stay out of the coalition (until now this has rarely happened) and will face the recruitment of their young men. Bennett will become not only enter the category of “Am I my brother’s keeper?” but will also become a traitor. The answer of ultra-Orthodox leaders came fast.
Eli Yishai is the political leader of the Haredi Shas party and serves in the current coalition as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs. He is unlikely to keep any of these titles for much longer. Following the elections, his party has only 11 seats in the Knesset, one less than Bennett’s party. Shas is unlikely to form part of the next coalition; thus Yishai will lose his ministerial posts. Aryeh Deri, a historical leader of the party, returned to political life a few months ago and is likely to retake the party’s leadership. On February 8, under these tough circumstances, Yishai gave an astonishing interview to “Israel Today.” He wouldn’t have given it without the blessing and guidance of the party’s religious leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
The key statement in the event was his answer regarding what will happen if the new government decides to recruit Haredim; I tried to keep his peculiar style while translating. “There will be protest rallies of thousands and tens of thousands on the streets, thousands of yeshiva students will fill up the prisons, the military police will run amok in Bnei-Brak [trapping those refusing recruitment in a town populated by Haredim], there will be a civilian revolution and andralomusia [from Greek, androloimosso, used here in the sense of chaos]. The worst thing is that those [Haredim] who go to the army now, will stop immediately.” Yishai leads them, and he serves as senior government minister. He called for a revolution if his political goals are not achieved.
Is this legal?
Western readers seldom find this question asked in their isolated bastions of purified justice. In schools, it is avoided. Government officials avoid it as if it were a modern version of the Black Death. Is preaching revolution legal? Why do those self-defined “democratic” governments avoid the issue? If they say that it is legal, they open the gate to their dismissal by a popular revolution against their unending violence. If they claim it is illegal, they formally declare themselves as illegal. After all, the regimes in USA, France, and many other countries are the result of violent popular revolutions. A good and more formal treatise on the issue is “The Justification of Revolution” by CFJ Doebbler. One of his central claims is that revolution against oppression is justified; he writes,
Oppression is generally understood to be the subjugation of a person or persons to the will of another person or persons. The oppressor is relying on his acts being so ‘clearly inexorable and invincible’ that they do not give ‘rise to revolt but to submission’ (Weil 1951). In international affairs oppression inevitably involves a government. A government acts oppressively when it directly or indirectly prevents a person from exercising basic human rights.
Historically, there is no other option but recognizing the legitimacy of such a struggle; freedom is a God-given right, inalienable by any oligarchy or social group. In Israeli society, not only Haredim are oppressed by an unholy coalition between an economic oligarchy and self-serving technocrats; the conditions for a legitimate revolution are ripe. The subsequent question has a less clear answer: is a government minister allowed to declare a revolution of which he will be a prominent leader? Mr. Yishai, would you mind enlightening us on this?