Zehut, the Politics of Identity
This article was originally posted by Sheila Stokes-Begley on The Zelman Partisans
When many people go to Israel, the want to see the historical sights. I do as well, especially military museums. There will most likely be a column on that. A lot of people want to eat the fabulous food. Yes, me too. They want to shop, I’m SO there, especially when you talk about Yafo. They want to swim, did that. But what I really, really, really, really wanted to do, was interview Moshe Feiglin. At which most tourist are probably saying “Excuse me?”. But that was one of my very highest hopes for this trip. And I was successful. I first learned about the former MK (Member of Knesset) when in response to something I had written my wonderfully kind team mate Y.B. sent me a portion of a Torah Thought from Mr. Feiglin. I loved it! I asked for more info and Y.B. told me who had written it and who he was. I did online research and signed up for the Manhigut Yehudit newsletter and was soon getting my own copies of Torah Thoughts included with each newsletter which I very much looked forward to receiving. Each newsletter included Torah and politics. Does it get any better? Well, also a Dry Bones Cartoon. That’s pretty good too. Last year I got to interview Mr. Feiglin by phone, and it was a great interview. This year it was in person. I feel very blessed. So why my fascination? My respect first blossomed when he was writing articles calling for the Israeli government to make it easier for everyday Israelis to get weapons permits. Gun Control? Or Citizen Control? With all that has been going on in Israel, I had a lot of questions for Mr. Feiglin. Especially since he along with the support of a lot of everyday people have founded a new political party. Zehut, which means “Identity”. Zehut is unusual in that they also allow people from places other than Israel to join. And with that I tell you I am a proud card carrying member. Well, I will be when my card gets here, but I am. My first question was why form Zehut? Was it in response to the betrayal of leadership in politics? They campaign on one platform and then when elected turn and go another direction? Feiglin: The average Israeli feels disenfranchised from their Jewish identity and the concept of a Jewish state. (I believe he said in a recent poll that 80% of Israelis identify as Jewish first, and as an Israeli second). The disenfranchisement started with the Oslo accords and now takes the form of things like a Judge appointed to the High Court who refused to sing HaTikvah, the Israeli national anthem after being sworn in. It shows in an army which is now refusing to allow soldiers to grow beards, “too much Jewish”. And very sadly when a Yad Vashem guide pointed out that the murder of Gil-Ad Shaer,16, Eyal Yifrah, 19, and Naftali Fraenkel,16 had occurred in Gush Etzion because they were Jewish. (That would seem evident to me, but I guess political correctness can run amuk anywhere). Israel is a Jewish democratic state, but 10% controls the power and it is eroding Jewish values. I have a few questions about everyday Israelis being allowed to carry weapons. Why are there areas where people are not allowed to have carry permits? A buddy moved from Jerusalem where he could carry, to Tel Aviv and now he can’t. He’s no less qualified in Tel Aviv. Yafo which suffered a terrorist attack is certainly within walking distance of Tel Aviv, I’ve done so! Why aren’t the military allowed to carry off duty, and why after people are out of the military can they not automatically be allowed to carry a weapon? As it turns out, the answer to all these questions are the same. Mr. Feiglin is very good at seeing the big picture and summing it up. Feiglin: Because the concept of freedom is wrong. It should be the concept that the right of self- defense is G-d given! In Israel they believe that the right is given by the state. And if the state can give you the right to self defense, they can take that right away. In America they had the right concept, although they are losing the mindset. They believed anyone should be allowed to own guns unless they showed they were not to be trusted with them. (I pointed out that the UN does not believe self defense is a human right at all. Considering how anti-Israel the UN is, that is really not a good combination). Zehut believes in planting in the Israeli mind the concept of true freedom. That everyone is responsible to defend their life, that of their family and the nation. Of course, there are those who oppose this. When I was in the Knesset I fought for more people to be allowed to carry. There were 150,000 people licensed to carry. But the Knesset wants to decrease that till terrorism decreases. You have the state as “Big Brother”. What about the shooting in Hevron? (Sheila’s article on this incident) WHY is this soldier being prosecuted? Didn’t the fact that the video came from B’Tselem raise suspicions? This produced a wealth of information. This is so much more to this than a simple case of Katie Couric media malfeasance. I really think you should go read Moshe’s whole article on this topic, but here is what we covered. Feiglin: This is a war of Israelis and Jews. It’s the soul of the Israeli, for what comes first, a concept of citizen or Jewish state. It’s been going on a long time. For the Israeli (in this comparison, sounds to me like your typical “enlightened” leftist who doesn’t have good sense about how this will play out) it’s the citizen, not Jewish state or identity. It was certainly evident when the Eichmann trial took place in Israel in 1961. A Jewish writer Hannah Arendt wrote a book, “Eichmann In Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,”with basically the premise that Eichmann was just there, wrong place, wrong time. Can’t blame him, can’t blame anyone but Hitler. Anyone would have acted the same. Apparently some Israeli “intellectuals” felt the need to agree. This kind of thinking is evident in the IDF today. The former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon recently said that “If someone rises to kill you, kill him first” is not the IDF’s strategy. The Deputy Chief of Staff equated those who subscribe to that value with Nazis. He would rather lose soldiers who protect citizens than kill terrorists. There is no difference in the value of the life of a person just out doing their shopping and the terrorist that comes to kill them. Certainly had nothing to do with ideology, right? But yet today some Arabs want to kill any Jew, soldier, civilian, man, woman, child or baby, it doesn’t matter. It IS the ideology. When Arafat was sick in Ramallah I had a sign on my car that said Hurry up and kill him before he dies. For someone who had that much blood on his hands to die in his own time is immoral. For terrorists to go to trial is immoral. A healthy Jewish response is you kill the attackers. You kill the terrorists who have declared their own war on Jews. After the soldier killed the terrorist, the stabbings stopped. He did more than all the speeches. What about the Temple Mount, Har HaBayit? Why are the Israeli police so quick to remove Jews? One young boy was even recently removed not for saying anything but because he had tears in his eyes. And for those that wonder, yes I did express my opinion of Moshe Dayan’s decision. Feiglin: It has to do with losing identity. We must let Jews have their identity on the Temple Mount. There are those replacing Jewish identity, and they fear what Israel will become with it’s Jewish identity. Arabs do not really have an identity so much as filled with hatred. It’s in their textbooks, their schools, mosques, social media and how they are raised. If Israel disappeared from the map, there would be no more “Palestinian”. Their reason for being would be gone. The first Zionists were colonialists from Europe, and they just wanted to be one big happy family. They didn’t understand the Arab mindset. Most Israelis are Jews first, Israeli second but they are being led by a minority that doesn’t have that mindset. What about the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) or as I call it (BS) movement? Has it had an effect? Is it just plain anti-Semitism in increments? Feiglin: BDS is about the delegitimizing of Israel. When did the holocaust start? (He did ask me this, and I thought for a second and answered “the night Hitler was conceived”) That was the correct answer. When Hitler spoke again and again against the Jews it had it’s effect. In 1939 or 1940 when Jews ran to their neighbors to hide, they were killed. It was about eliminating the right of Jews to exist. Israel has to attack Iran, there is a real danger of Jewish history being written in Jerusalem. Not Warsaw. It’s needed to make a moral point. There is a correlation between the speeches made in Iran 12 ½ years ago by Ahmadinejad and the delegitimization of Israel, and it’s growing. My last question to him “We’ve had a possible Kenyan as a president, at least someone not really raised as an American, I think we should try having an Israeli for a President, would you run?” Feiglin: I’ve been asked about the current election. My answer is it doesn’t matter which one wins. If Israel will do what is best for Israel, then all will be better. I started this interview by telling him that I felt like I cared more about Israeli lives than some Israeli politicians did. After talking to him, I am quite certain that is not how it is when it comes to Mr. Feiglin. He has a very sound political platform based on a Jewish identity in THE Jewish state, living by Jewish laws and principles. Laws that will protect the innocent, laws that will allow every citizen living their daily lives be it in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, Judea and Samaria to know their lives are worth defending and giving them the means to do so. It will allow the IDF to return to being the fine army it was meant to be and not a social experiment. Zehut is a party based on knowing who we are, and what we are, and where we belong. And embracing it! Honestly, I think there is a lesson in this for Americans as well. Because I’m very, very tired of having values that the majority of U.S. believe in being derided and told “that’s not who we are”. Yeah, it is. And as the politicians and their compatriots in the media crank up to hype another round of gun control tripe, we would do well to remember it. It makes me think so much of “You can live by G-d’s law or die by man’s. I want to thank three wonderful people, Aryeh Sonnenberg who is the international director of Zehut and so warmly welcomed me when I joined. He put me in touch with Shmuel Sackett (who I got to talk with on the phone, really) who set the meeting up with Moshe. Shmuel also writes excellent articles. And I very much want to thank Moshe Feiglin for giving me an hour of his very valuable limited time.