Moshe Feiglin: Ominous Oddball, or Just Thinking Out of the Box?

Avi Shilon
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Avi Shilon

Earlier this month, according to a report by Jonathan Lis (Haaretz, April 11), Likud MK Moshe Feiglin proposed holding a one-day conference at the Knesset on human organ harvesting in China. The reasoning of the new Knesset member, who is known for his attempt to take over Likud and distort its image, brought to mind the approach of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, at least in one context. Like the founder of the Revisionist movement – the precursor of today’s Likud, who aspired to having the Jewish identity of he state based on the social, moral and universal values in Jewish scripture – Feiglin said the Knesset of a Jewish state must not ignore serial harm to human rights, as humans were created “in God’s image.”

A number of MKs known for their concern for minorities were asked to relate to Feiglin’s initiative, Lis reported in his story. Most of them hesitated to answer or evaded the question in embarrassment, apparently not because of concern about offending the Chinese or condoning organ harvesting, but rather because what MK – certainly from the left but also from the center – wants to be associated with Feiglin?

Since we consume most of our information about public figures from the media, I too related to Feiglin dismissively or with trepidation. A look at his Internet platform has shown that he is indeed radical: As though decades hadn’t elapsed since Israel’s leaders called the Palestinians “the Arabs of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip,” Feiglin does not recognize them as a people. His loyalty is to God alone, and he relates skeptically to the state and its institutions.

And yet, he is the most interesting right-winger today. The uniqueness of his views lies in his insistence on combining the greater Land of Israel with extreme individual liberty and on combining clear preference for the Jewish people with liberal democracy.

Here is a small sampling of his recent positions: At the time of a deep cut in the defense budget because of the Arab spring, there is no longer any concern about a war with Arab armies. He is against appropriating the Holocaust for foreign policy needs. He is against the biometric data base, in the name of the freedom of the individual and for the same reason he is for the legalization of marijuana.

Feiglin is outside the camp but in fact he is nourished by a number of basic streams in Zionism. The individual freedom he supports derives from the belief that the human being is subordinate only to God, while the individual freedom Meretz talks about puts the individual in the center and not God. But since Feiglin’s God does not require enforcement of the rules of rabbinical law, the result is an agreement between him and those who propound separation of religion and the state.

In the context of foreign relations and the conflict, Feiglin is not prepared to give up a single speck of land in the territories. In return for annexing Judea and Samaria – the West Bank – he would grant the Palestinians the status of permanent residents who will, he says, enjoy all human rights and most civil rights, apart from voting for the Knesset. It isn’t clear how and by what right he will require them to give up their national aspirations. However, the question is whether practically speaking his view is more extreme than that of a government which refuses to compromise with the Palestinians and pushes for this solution without actually saying so – and without thinking about its implications.

Feiglin is just a paradigm. He of course is not a clone of Jabotinsky. His interpretation of Jewish morality is faulty, or too personal. However, in many senses he is more enlightened than some of the members of Habayit Hayehudi and is certainly a deeper thinker than some of the Likud blowhards, with their racist and superficial outlooks, or than the politicians who are whizzes at writing Facebook statuses of the sort with which everyone can agree.

What, then, is the reason for the shunning of Feiglin and the labeling of him as a deviant oddball? Apparently this derives from the fact that in our political discourse, slogans afford a person legitimacy, even if as a foe. Try presenting a complex worldview – and you will immediately become weird and ominous.

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