American Media Pundits Argue Over Israel and Theocracy

New York Times article suggesting Israel may be drifting toward theocracy strongly refuted in Tablet online magazine.

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Rabbi Shalom Cohen.
Rabbi Shalom Cohen.Credit: Kobi Har Zvi, B'hadarei Haredim website

A New York Times opinion piece that suggested Israel may be drifting towards theocracy was strongly refuted by an article in Tablet online magazine on Saturday.

Written by Abbas Milani, head of the Iranian studies program at Stanford University, and Israel Waismel-Manor, a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa and visiting associate professor of political science at Stanford, the New York Times article suggested that Israel and Iran may be trading places.

Iran, the writers said, is shifting "away from theocracy and confrontation, and toward moderation and pragmatism," while "secular democrats in Israel have been losing ground to religious and right-wing extremists who feel comfortable openly attacking the United States, Israel’s strongest ally."

In fact, they added, "Israel’s secular democrats are growing increasingly worried that Israel’s future may bear an uncomfortable resemblance to Iran’s recent past."

Responding in Tablet, Freelance writer Yair Rosenberg took issue with the statement that "the Orthodox parties aspire to transform Israel into a theocracy."

"Not all Orthodox Jews are the same, not all Orthodox parties are the same, and not all Orthodox Jews seeks to turn Israel into a theocracy," Rosenberg wrote. "In fact, many of them vigorously oppose such a move. The authors conveniently combine the ultra-Orthodox parties (currently in opposition) and the Modern Orthodox—or religious Zionist—Jewish Home party (currently in the coalition).

"How inconvenient, then, that Jewish Home and its leader Naftali Bennett have been working assiduously to weaken the country’s chief rabbinate, and to break the political stranglehold of the ultra-Orthodox over Israel’s religious life."

Rosenberg concluded that "the idea that the ultra-Orthodox parties would suddenly join forces with their religious Zionist counterparts to impose Jewish law isn’t just risible – it’s exactly the opposite of what has actually been happening."

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