Anti-law Makes Farce of Haredi Draft

For the next four years, the conscription anti-law grants a complete exemption from military service to everyone defined as 'Haredi.'

There are times when the sheer scope of a lie bursts all boundaries. A good example is the anti-law popularly known as the Law for Equality of the Burden, with the “burden” referring to military service.

In the dictatorship of the bottom line that rules in Israel, you always begin with the practical. Not for nothing were euphoric ultra-Orthodox Knesset members caught on tape trying to restrain themselves until the anti-law passes. For the next four years, this anti-law grants a complete exemption from military service to everyone defined as “Haredi.” They will be not conscripted, but exempted – all the women, and all the men. No longer will the exemption require some action, such as “Torah study.” Instead, it will be granted by virtue of an arbitrary definition: Women defined as “religious” and men defined as “Haredi” are exempt.

The effrontery is so absolute that the truth has been concealed: Anyone who actually wants equality in conscription doesn’t need to do anything, since existing law fulfills that goal perfectly. The moment the High Court of Justice overturned the previous law authorizing Haredi draft deferments, known as the Tal Law, what remained was the law stating that every 18-year-old will be drafted in accordance with the army’s needs. The ones who should have been trying to change the law were the Haredi MKs. Instead, those who took the votes of “my brothers, the slaves” and promised “equality” are the ones replacing the existing egalitarian draft law with a discriminatory one.

Yet that is the least of the anti-law’s problems. The basis for the legitimacy of any law is that it has an equitable foundation. “Complete equality of social and political rights ... irrespective of religion, race or sex,” the Declaration of Independence proclaims. Could one conceive of a law mandating that only brunettes must stop at red lights? Or one mandating that income tax be paid only by women taller than 5’6”? Of course not.

But the Netanyahu-Lapid-Bennett regime doesn’t understand this. Categories upon categories – that’s how the new anti-law was built. A woman defined as “nonreligious” will serve in the army for two years or more, but one defined as “religious” is exempt. And the role of the regime’s police is to catch those who try to “infiltrate” into a category to which they don’t belong. There’s one law for those defined as “religious Zionists,” and another for those defined as “Haredim.” And for those miserable folks defined as “nonreligious”? A law demanding that they serve for the sake of those above them.

The 12th-century philosopher and poet Rabbi Yehuda Halevy wrote that nature is hierarchical, with each level created to serve the levels above it: inanimate; vegetable; animal; speaking animal, i.e. non-Jew; and above them all, the only one who is fully human – the Jew. And even among Jews, there are levels based on gender and Torah study. This theory, on which first graders who are identified as “Jews” and attend religious or Haredi schools are currently educated, has been turned by the anti-law into the foundation of what was once a state.

The anti-law ostensibly calls for some Haredim to be drafted in the future, maybe in another four years. But in practice, this is a farce: “conscription” for a salary of thousands of shekels a month at age 24, when they’re already married with children, “conscription” into army units that – for the sake of the Jews on the highest level of the scale – have been completely cleansed of any inferior female presence.

And even this atrocity will be required only of a quota of 3,200 people defined as “Haredim” every year. Thus, out of all the approximately 150,000 Haredim, men and women, about 2 percent will, perhaps, be drafted. In contrast, all the secular men and women who serve their Jewish masters will be drafted. Yet even this isn’t the main problem.

Is it conceivable that there should be a tax quota for Ramat Gan, and if the city doesn’t meet it, all the residents of Ramat Gan will be personally and arbitrarily punished? Of course not. Conscription quotas are what the czars imposed on Jews living in the ghettos of the Pale of Settlement. And then, as now, they filled those quotas by kidnapping poor people who weren’t studying.

In a state, there are no such things as quotas and categories. When there are quotas and categories, there is no state.

Aside from the cynicism, what warps everything here is the regime’s “Jewish state” project. Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, who is hosting a conference on the Temple in the Knesset today and whose disciples have carried out an ideological takeover of the Likud party, brandishes the following banner: “From a state of the Jews to a Jewish state.” That has since also become Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s banner. He’s aiming his weapons not against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but against Israel’s own citizens. He’s threatening to turn Israel into a collection of “categories” – not a state.

The anti-law to promote inequality hasn’t yet passed. The Knesset can still stop it. So can the High Court of Justice. But if the “Judaization” isn’t stopped, nothing will be left of Israel.

Nir Keidar