Labor leader Avi Gabbay lashed out at religious-Zionist rabbis on Tuesday, saying they remain silent in the face of government corruption and incitement simply because the government is right wing.
“Even when the prime minister and ministers incite against half the Jewish people and call them names like ‘traitors’ and ‘enemies,’ they are silent,” said Gabbay, who was speaking at the 15th annual Jerusalem Conference, sponsored by the religious Besheva media group.
“When the government repeatedly passes laws meant to preserve the coalition – it’s good to preserve a coalition, but not at the price of division, destroying democracy, harming the lifestyle of millions of Israelis – they still remain silent,” he continued. “When public figures from ‘the correct political side’ are suspected of serious offenses – personal corruption, hedonism, accepting favors and corrupting the ethics of public service – they’re still silent. For God’s sake, when will they stop being silent? When did they give up on the Jewish people?”
Gabbay also referred to comments by rabbis of the more stringent wing of religious Zionism, often referred to by the Hebrew acronym Hardal, against the conscription of women and the LGBT community.
“In recent years, at every point of contention in Israeli society, the Hardal rabbis are in the spotlight,” he said. “And unfortunately they are prominent mainly when they are divisive, extreme, exclusionary and bent on incitement. When the head of a pre-military religious academy alleges that the army drafts girls and turns them into non-Jews, they [other Hardal rabbis] remain silent; when the same rabbi humiliates the LGBT community – yes, it’s time to acknowledge reality. You have LGBT people in your communities, too, and they are just as good as anyone else. At a time when women – your girls – occupy the benches of study halls, a rabbi who educates thousands of students talks about the ‘spiritual and intellectual inferiority of women,’ then, too, they remain silent.
“I know that my criticism is harsh,” he continued. “But I also know that there are many people in this auditorium, and many others who are listening to us now, who agree with this criticism. These are the moderate voices within your camp, but they are almost unheard. I am using this platform to tell you, the moderate voices, that with your silence you are validating these serious things. And that’s what broadens the rift in the Jewish people.”