Israel's Rightist, Religious Camps Mired in Identity Crisis

The right-wing and the religious camps are making a racket in Israeli politics. These are allegedly the factions that are getting stronger in Israeli society, but they are actually two groups in a deep identity crisis.

Do you hear the noise all around? Two major, important political camps are making a racket. The religious camp is becoming more extreme and ultra-Orthodox. The right-wing camp is becoming more extreme and nationalistic, actually prefascist. The two camps are not only similar in their way of thinking. They are also similar in their vacuous emptiness. These are allegedly the factions that are getting stronger in Israeli society. They are actually two groups in a deep identity crisis.

Raise your voice since the arguments are weak, goes the saying - attributed, according to legend, to Benny Marshak of the pre-state Palmach underground (or perhaps it was Moshe Sneh of the pre-state Haganah underground) and the expression hasn't had such resonance in quite some time.

Emptiness has taken hold of the religious world. It has been decades since a major Torah figure or pillar of halakha (Jewish religious law) has arisen there, to say nothing of a moral paragon. Nothing but parched and withered ground. Running rampant and becoming more extreme is their pathetic substitute. Recent religious controversies over issues such as women singing in public, separation of men and women on bus lines and the so-called Jewish Taliban women of the Lev Tahor ultra-Orthodox sect reflect insecurity and a lack of direction. If the religious camp had direction, it would not need such dangerous pranks.

If they had confidence in their path, they wouldn't have required all of their grotesque defense mechanisms, on buses, cellphones or the street. If they were convinced of the justice of their cause, they would not have needed all of their tall, ridiculous defensive partitions and walls that they are erecting now for themselves, as protection against the temptations of secularism.

This camp would not really want to live in a country governed by Jewish religious law, in which all of its inhabitants are within the religious tent. They are well aware that such a state would not stand a chance. They need modern secular culture as a target. They also need the technology, the army, economic prosperity, along with medicine and the social welfare system. They even need democracy.

Without them, they have no life. Therefore the wild campaign they are waging now is based on the assumption that secular Israel will continue to supply their needs, so they in turn can continue to run wild and seek in vain to find their way again. They also know secular Israel is apathetic and easily frightened, and that it will continue to tolerate their caprices without a protest or murmur.

The right-wing camp is no less vacuous or directionless. This increasingly strong faction is also beset with a deep identity crisis. It knows that its dream of a Greater Land of Israel is done for, and it is now living by the sword and on borrowed time. Its leadership has long ago retreated, at least rhetorically. This camp now defines itself solely through hatred of the other - the leftist, the Arab, the foreigner, the democrat, the enlightened citizen, the advocate of human rights, justice and peace. Even this right-wing camp has no interest in living in some kind of Albania of the past, despite the Albanian-style laws that it is recklessly legislating now. When all that is left of this ideology is hatred and fearmongering, however, there is no alternative but to fan those sentiments in order to continue to exist.

Try asking Likud MKs Danny Danon, Yariv Levin or Zeev Elkin where they are headed and what kind of Israel they hope for. Ask them what will be here in another 20 years if we continue down their path. What would happen if they got their way, right down to the last whim? The settlements would be built. Nonprofit organizations would be shut down. The Arabs would be subjugated. Racist legislation would be passed. Antidemocratic directives would be adopted, along with a host of prohibitions and crackdowns.

Do they really believe such a state could survive? It's highly doubtful. Just like the religious faction, the nationalists are making a racket now because, in their heart of hearts, they know that the other, contemporary, non-messianic, democratic, progressive camp will continue to carry them on their shoulders obediently, blindly and apathetically. The nationalists know their camp is devoid of content. It is hardly producing anything other than the hate it is spreading. Most of the task of society-building - science, art, law, part of the economy and, for the time being, the army - is on the shoulders of those others, thanks to whom the right wing can continue to run wild without hindrance.

If that is so, listen to the racket now. It is threatening and frightening but it is a reflection of empty vacuousness.

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