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On our way to a theocracy? Photo: Gil Yohanan
On our way to a theocracy? Photo: Gil Yohanan
 
 

En route to theocracy?

Op-ed: Israeli democracy’s demise may be closer than we think as Shas power grows

Assaf Wohl
Published: 09.21.10, 11:10 / Israel Opinion

The people of Israel are apparently unaware of what lies in store. Time after time, they receive reminders and warnings, yet they keep on dozing off comfortably. And I’m not referring to the Iranian threat here; the Iranians are treating us decently while openly declaring their intentions, so we can prepare accordingly.

 

I’m referring to the dramatic change in the ideological balance of power within the State of Israel, a country that is turning from a democracy into a theocracy. Sounds groundless? Keep this article tucked away and read it 10 years from now. I’d be happy to eat my hat.

Religion vs. State
Yishai to block online services on Shabbat / Nitzan Sadan
Interior minister prioritizes keeping Sabbath above needs of secular public by blocking payment services at gov.il portal
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Israel’s political-religious map shows new trends. The national-religious public has disintegrated and its effect on developments is minor. The Ashkenazi haredi public clings to the old ideology, seeking maximal state funds and minimal interference in national affairs. Against this backdrop, we would do well to pay attention to what goes on within the Shas movement.

 

At this time, the Shas movement is in the process of completing its build-up and acquisition of political clout. Now it no longer makes do with activity that aims to benefit its constituency. While Ashkenazi haredi parties mostly care about budgets, IDF service exemptions, and other communal bonuses and maintain a low profile on matters that to not pertain to their internal affairs, Shas aims much higher.

 

Beyond the standard declarations about the “gay disease,” for example, Shas is also involved in more global affairs. “We must bomb thousands of homes in Gaza; ruin Gaza,” a Shas minister said during Operation Cast Lead. He based his stance on the “Torah view.” Meanwhile, Eli Yishai forced Israelis to adopt Standard Time in the midst of summer. He also called for the dismissal of a news anchor because of a critical comment made on Twitter.

 

Eli Yishai also happens to be our deputy prime minister. His party currently occupies a rather promising position ahead of a leap to the Prime Minister’s Office.

 

Growing religious fundamentalism

Now, Eli Yishai is about to paralyze the Interior Ministry’s website on Shabbat, preventing payments from being made through the site on that day. This seemingly minor issue is of great concern to me.

 

First, I should note that I do not make payments through the website on Shabbat. Yet I’m also aware that it’s none of my business what my neighbor does in his own home. After all, this is not a situation where service providers are forced to work on Shabbat. Hence, I cannot find a logical explanation for preventing an act that only involves computers and seculars. After all, nobody makes payments on this website using giant public screens. So what’s the problem?

 

It appears that similarly to other places worldwide, we are witnessing growing religious fundamentalism. These developments show that we are close to embarking on the process currently taking shape in Turkey: A religious takeover of democratic state institutions.

 

Most Shas supporters don’t care about the fact that democratic state institutions protect them from a party whose existence depends on exploiting them. Most of these Shas fans would not be able to last in the corrupt Shas state for even 15 minutes. After all, their movement’s role is to keep them as ignorant and poor as possible, so that they continue to support it. For the time being, they consume their hatred for state institutions (such as the High Court of Justice) and needlessly provoke the secular public.

 

We may be enjoying the final years of Israeli democracy. I’m skeptical whether 10 years from now, such articles would even be allowed. Eli Yishai is growing stronger, while the fans of democracy are growing weaker. You may say that I’m getting carried away, and that no such things are possible among the Jews. Maybe I’m paranoid. Yet history teaches us that being Jewish doesn’t mean we won’t be crucified.

 

 

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