Just Above Sunset
September 11, 2005 - God, Allah, and Israeli Politics

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God, Allah, and Israeli Politics

Sylvain Ubersfeld

Tel-Aviv - September 6, 2005


No one would have ever believed that Israel would pullout of Gaza!


Besides political or security excuses used by both parties to delay this incredible move until the end, the monitoring of the daily events both on the visual media and on YNET (a remarkable electronic newspaper nearly as good as Just Above Sunset!) was indeed a very exciting experience.  At one point, some of us really believed that civil war in Israel would possibly take place, especially in the light of right-wingers blocking roads and generally making a nuisance of themselves in the name of God, and the settlements in Gaza built on grounds "given to the Jews directly by Ha Shem" (one of the names of God in Judaism).  With the Palestinian side and other Arab countries basing their approach on rules and "sura" coming from the Holy Koran (the Moslem equivalent of Jewish or Christian scriptures) we are not far from a religious conflict !


For the outsider, I realize how difficult it can be to understand the insides of Israeli politics and Judaism as a cultural and religious way of life and thought.  It took me quite a while to understand that the key issue in this country is the involvement of religious leaders in all the aspect of public and political life.  Far from me the thought of comparing a more democratic country like Israel with some of the Arab dictatorship, however it has been proven time and again that Religion and Politics cannot mix without leaving deep scares in the heart of the population.  Unfortunately the situation in Israel is simply that!


No Israeli government was ever able to govern without the support of religious parties or fractions that are bringing God and the prophets into the picture to justify their position and acceptance, in return for supporting the elected government.  The result of course is now obvious: Soldiers started refusing orders in the name of God, some deranged young soldier assaulted a bus carrying civilians and shot dead five Arabs (he was considered a hero by the extreme-right) before being killed by the angry mob, and the Israeli security forces had to mobilize more than 30,000 officers and police representatives to complete the pull out from Gaza of about 8,000 Israeli Settlers, some of them convinced that their right to be there was in fact coming directly from Biblical times.


In 1905, France decided to separate the powers of the Church from the powers of the State.  Set aside the French revolution of 1789 - this was possibly the best move which was ever taken by politicians in order to maintain any kind of stability and ensure freedom of all.  From traveling extensively in the Middle-East for the last twenty years, I found out that wherever the religion had such an important and official place, stability of the countries was at stake.  Numerous coups, erratic and dangerous politics, deprivation of liberty, fanaticism have been common ordeals in many countries submitted to excessive religious pressure or governed by the Islamic Legal system known as "shariah."


Israel is of course and luckily far from this; however, the difficult unfolding of the pullout plan clearly demonstrated the risks that a government is taking when allowing matters of the soul and of the faith to be mixed with secular life and political issues.


The Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox population do bear a responsibility in the pull out incidents.  Religion is a matter of faith and personal beliefs, sort of saying "gut feeling."  No country should be governed on the basis of religious beliefs, and rabbis should stick to their field of competence instead of trying to convert the entire population into believing in the arrival of Machiach (the Messiah) who, should he come indeed, would be totally incompetent to solve the very urgent issues the Israeli government is facing: the rest of the Palestine-Israel "differences," poverty, educational issues, stopping the rip-off of foreign tourists, or cleaning–up Tel Aviv beaches for instance …


Recent decisions by prime minister Ariel Sharon to continue building on the West Bank and other worrying threats from the part of the Hamas (a terror organization aiming at destroying Israel, in the name of Islam) lead me to believe that the story of the "armed brothers" ( see previous issue ) is far from being over and that in addition to pulling out of Gaza, the Israeli government must take more drastic decisions, possibly including setting up a new form of government - fully secular that is - as it is know in history that war of religions are probably the worst.


Too many times have religious beliefs been the excuse for senseless killing, maiming and hatred.  God, if He ever exists certainly does not approve of all these sufferings imposed upon others in His name but without His backing.  Let God rest wherever He is, or is not.  Let's hope that one day the Israeli government will see the light and will agree to separate the powers.  In my mother tongue (French) there is an old saying which I will pass on to you: Chacun a sa place et les vaches seront bien gardees (each one in its own place and cows will be well guarded!)  If we want progress and peace in Israel Rabbis must go back teaching the Torah to the faithful and politicians must take care of issues without requiring or accepting religious support in any way.


We all know that in Israel everything has a price, especially when help comes up from extremists who have as much hatred for Arabs, and from some of the Arabs have for Jews.


It is a price that personally I am not willing to pay.



Copyright 2005 – Sylvain Ubersfeld




Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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