Untold wrath was poured on MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) and his wife last week by the liberal-left minority (the majority, polls will soon show, support them), for their call to separate Jewish and Arab mothers in hospital maternity wards. In this case the anger was justified. Not because it was racism, because this country has more racism than it has water. But because this time, the racism, Smotrich-style, was plain, unadulterated racism, free of the regular excuses of security or Jewish law. Racism, pure and simple.
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After all, generally our anti-Arab racism is disguised by various security pretexts, by saying, “It’s not that we’re racists, but we have to put them in cages, because they have knives and forks.” Nor do any of the halakhic reasons – which ostensibly forbid Jews from living, eating, conversing or playing soccer together with or in proximity to mustached, keffiyeh-wearing non-Jews – apply.
And this pure and holy Jewish racism, which has spread throughout our land like rolls after Pesach, supremely manifested itself in the words of Mrs. Smotrich, who announced that she wouldn’t want unclean hands touching her infant, lest they contaminate and defile the holy Jewish moment of her children’s births.
During our 2,000 years of exile, did not an infinite number of non-Jewish hands touch Jewish infants and help bring them into the world? And what happened? Perhaps a bowl was broken here and there, but the Jewish people pretty much survived, no? And in any case, there is no such halakhic prohibition. On the contrary, Jewish law allows Jewish women not just to touch a non-Jew’s hand, but even to sleep with him. After all, if halakha determines that a Jew is one who is born to a Jewish mother, it is essentially recognizing that a Jewish woman may sleep with a non-Jew, isn’t it?
So we, who see ourselves as enlightened, vehemently object to segregation between Jews and Arabs on maternity wards. And that’s all well and good. But how many of you live in a neighborhood, let alone a building, with Arab neighbors? How many Arab children were in your children’s class? And all that isn’t segregation? It is absolutely segregation, ongoing, deep, constant, Zionist, substantial. Not for two days in a maternity ward, but lasting years, often a lifetime, in all realms.
Not only that, but large sections, if not the majority, of the “enlightened camp,” support a more far-reaching diplomatic segregation between us and the Palestinians – total separation, not just with a curtain or screen, but with a fence and a wall – just like the segregated rooms in the maternity wards that the Smotriches are demanding.
Segregation is what Ehud Barak, the last “leftist” leader to reach national leadership, suggested as the recipe for peace with the Palestinians, and you voted for him. Segregation is what opposition leader Isaac Herzog is suggesting today as his bold peace plan, and you think that he will be the one to redeem us from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, incidentally, also supports segregation, through “two states for two peoples,” a path to the peace he doesn’t want. Segregation is also what future leader – if there is such a thing – Yair Lapid suggests as a daring alternative to all the other separation plans.
So why is it that when Smotrich proposes some small-scale segregation it’s benighted racism, but when you support large-scale segregation, it’s the epitome of enlightenment?
No. Benighted racism is not just two marginal Smotriches. It’s all of us.