מוטי שקלאר
Moti Shklar
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir sign their agreement to form a new political alliance earlier this month

Itamar Ben-Gvir is neither religious nor a Zionist

Opinion: Religious Zionists believe one can fight for Jews' rights to the land while recognizing modern social and universal processes, and comprehend that Jewish faith aspires to high morals and humane behavior

Moti Shklar |
Published: 02.20.21, 23:11
Many in Israel's religious Zionist community population have found themselves ashamed, perplexed and helpless in the face of the foul union of MK Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, an acolyte of racist Meir Kahane.
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  • Smotrich's Tkuma (Revival) Party and Ben-Gvir's Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) were urged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to join forces ahead of the March 23 elections in order to give him a better shot of forming a right-wing, religious coalition.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    סמוטריץ' ובן גביר חתמו על הסכם לריצה משותפת בבחירות
    סמוטריץ' ובן גביר חתמו על הסכם לריצה משותפת בבחירות
    Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir sign their agreement to form a new political alliance earlier this month
    The community's embarrassment was compounded by the fact that that alliance chose to name itself the Religious Zionist Party.
    Ben-Gvir's Otzma Yehudit faction is an extremist nationalist party that all but hates all Arabs. It is the party that calls for the expulsion of Palestinians from the country. His alliance with the extremist Lehava movement, which opposes the marriage of Jews and Arabs, is repugnant.
    Israelis, but most of all those who identify as religious Zionists, should be concerned over the political union of the extreme-right parties and the voter surplus agreement signed with Netanyahu's Likud.
    Religious Zionism is a revolutionary movement that has given spiritual substance to the State of Israel. Unlike the Haredi world, which rejects renewal, it is present where traditional meets modern and is not afraid of change.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    A  protest by the Lehava movement against the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem in 2015, during which a teenager was murdered by a Haredi extremist
    A  protest by the Lehava movement against the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem in 2015, during which a teenager was murdered by a Haredi extremist
    A protest by the Lehava movement against the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem in 2015, during which a teenager was murdered by a Haredi extremist
    (Photo: Getty Images)
    Religious Zionists believe one can fight for Jews' rights to their land while recognizing social and universal processes that allow an alliance with the Arabs in their midst.
    They understand that one can insist on Israel's identity as a Jewish state but still comprehend that the Jewish faith aspires to high morals and humane behavior, offering love for all of God's creatures.
    Itamar Ben-Gvir and his political party stand in direct contradiction to those beliefs.
    The religious Zionist movement is responsible for many innovations in Jewish life since the establishment of the state. It has brought back the philosophical study of the scriptures, thus strengthening the bond of Jews to the land according to the spirit of our biblical prophets.
    You need not be a bleeding-heart liberal to object to Ben-Gvir's spiritual father, the racist Meir Kahane and his outlawed Kach party. Religious Zionist thinkers through the ages have written the exact opposite positions.
    Ben-Gvir is not part of religious Zionism.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    Itamar Ben-Gvir, second right, attends a 2015 wedding where the murder of a Palestinian family by Israeli terrorists is celebrated
    Itamar Ben-Gvir, second right, attends a 2015 wedding where the murder of a Palestinian family by Israeli terrorists is celebrated
    Itamar Ben-Gvir, second right, attends a 2015 wedding where the murder of a Palestinian family by Israeli terrorists is celebrated
    Ben-Gvir espouses identity politics and shuns parts of society as religious Zionists have never done. The latter's political tradition is one of dialogue and not exclusion.
    One might take solace in the knowledge that most people who identify as religious Zionists do not agree with Ben-Gvir and the dismal support for him in successive elections is proof of that.
    How sad it is that Bezalel Smotrich, who has demonstrated the values of many religious Zionists, agreed to such an alliance out for fear he too might not win enough support to get re-elected in March.
    If he does, it will not be with the religious Zionists behind him - for all he will have left of that tradition is the name of his party.

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