A district attorney in a Middle Eastern country last week indicted a citizen for writing a letter to a public servant accusing him of being a quisling. The remarkable thing about the episode is that it did not take place in Syria or in Egypt. It took place in the only democracy in the Middle East.
Last Thursday, the Jerusalem District Attorney's office indicted Nadia Matar, head of the right-wing, largely religious women's movement Women in Green for the crime of "insulting a public servant."
The "insult" came in the form of a faxed letter to Yonatan Bassi, the head of the government's withdrawal authority, last September, in which she referred to him as "a modern version of the Judenrat." The Judenrat, of course, were the Jewish officials in the Nazi ghettos who were forced by the Gestapo to carry out eviction orders of their fellow Jews to death camps.
It was certainly not nice, and indeed not historically truthful for Matar to have used this analogy. The Jews of Gaza and northern Samaria are indeed set to be expelled from their homes and communities for no reason other than the fact that they are Jews. But they are not being sent to death camps. So to use the analogy of the Judenrat is both nasty and wrong.
As the analogy does not stand up to scrutiny, it would have been easy enough for government spokesmen to refute her charge or ignore it as unworthy of a response. No one would have thought any worse of the government if it had taken either of these reasonable courses of action. But rather than do this, the police opened a criminal investigation against Matar and now the District Attorney has decided to indict her for the specious criminal charge of "insulting a public official."
Why would the state prosecutors do this? What are they trying to accomplish by criminalizing Matar?
The weekend papers provided an explanation of the reasoning behind the move. In Haaretz's Friday editorial the rationale for the Left's support of Sharon's plan was laid bare: "The disengagement of Israeli policy from its religious fuel is the real disengagement currently on the agenda. On the day after the disengagement, religious Zionism's status will be different," the paper explained. It then concluded: "The real question is not how many mortar shells will fall, or who will guard the Philadelphi route, or whether the Palestinians will dance on the roofs of Ganei Tal. The real question is who sets the national agenda."
Doron Rosenblum, one of the paper's chief columnists, spelled the message out even more bluntly on Sunday, fulminating, "There is an enemy on the Right. Anyone who behaves like an enemy, walks like an enemy and makes the sounds of an enemy – at least let him not complain about being treated like an enemy. And don't forget: Let the IDF win."
To Rosenblum and Haaretz's editorialists must be added Dan Margalit, the senior commentator at Ma'ariv. In his Friday column, Margalit argued in favor of placing quotas on the number of religious Jews allowed to serve as officers in the IDF. Referring to religious Jews serving in the IDF as "the dear brothers," Margalit invoked the Latin expression for quotas for Jews restricting their right to study in European and American universities in the early 20th century – the infamous numerus clausus. He warned religious Israelis that if they refuse to carry out the expulsion of Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria, "the reaction to their action is liable to be a "numerus clausus," this time in Hebrew, Jews against Jews. Hair-raising, but there is no choice."
WHAT WE see here unfolding is a situation where the anti-religious Left, the primary supporters of Ariel Sharon's policy to forcibly expel 10,000 Jews from their homes and communities, has given the policy its support – through its members' legal authority and public platforms – not because they see any security benefit arising from the move. In fact, they support the plan despite its security dangers because they see it as a culminating battle in their cultural war against religious Zionism.
Saying so much in an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post this past March, former Haaretz and Globes editor Mati Golan wrote, "Religion and democracy simply do not go together. Democracy requires an open mind, freedom of choice, the ability to criticize. Religion on the other hand is based on virtually blind obedience to its priests. What some in the religious settler population want is to eat their democratic cake and, as believers, have their anti-democratic one too."
The inanity of this view is matched only by its basic misunderstanding of both Jewish tradition and democracy. Anyone vaguely familiar with the former would know that blind obedience is the last thing Jewish faith endorses. As well, the basic values of democracy demand respect for all views in a society, even those that Golan and his colleagues reject.
There are multiple and weighty arguments against the withdrawal and expulsion plan. Some of them relate to the moral issue of expelling Jews from their homes and making areas of the Land of Israel – or any land for that matter – off-limits to all Jews. The main group of opponents to the withdrawal and expulsion plan who base their arguments against it on the plan's moral dimension are religious Jews, in Israel and abroad.
Aside from the moral questions, all Israelis who don't have a death wish are concerned with the security implications of handing land and strategic positions over to a junta of terrorists who have repeatedly stated their intention to use that land and those positions to advance their terror war against the State of Israel. Yet, to date, due to the negligence of the media and the courts, no government official – from the prime minister on down – has been called on to answer how Israel will be militarily better off without Gaza and northern Samaria. Indeed, no government spokesman from Sharon on down has been able to coherently explain how Israel will defend itself when Gaza and northern Samaria are under Hamas and Fatah control.
The security consequences of the plan have been systematically ignored while the full brunt of media scrutiny has been placed on its religious opponents. They are reviled as zealots, criminals and extremists. Rabbis are threatened with firings and the closing of their yeshivot if they do not toe the government line. Gaza residents are accused of being money-grubbing and wasteful of government resources for forcing the IDF to expel them rather than leaving their homes quietly and meekly. Religious Jews are being intimidated with threats to keep them out of the army or prevent their promotion in the ranks, simply because it will be necessary to prevent what Margalit refers to as "difficulties with future operations."
There are ample reasons to be concerned about and, indeed, oppose a plan that involves no security opportunities – only expanding threats – for Israel. But at the end of the day what is even more debilitating are the plan's implications for the future of Israel as a democracy.
When the loudest voices favoring it are those espousing hatred and exclusion of religious Zionists, or what Haaretz refers to as "a Trojan horse that has infiltrated Zionism in order to destroy it from within," it becomes absolutely clear that for the plan's strongest advocates, capitulation to terror is a means of carrying out their culture war against religious Jews.
And just as security can be readily sacrificed, democracy and the rule of law become mere Pascal lambs on the altar of cultural supremacy – ignored, reviled and happily trounced on the path to victory in the culture war these priests of enli
ghtenment instigated against their brethren years and years ago.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.