Fight Israel's Settlers, Not Its ultra-Orthodox Community

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Children at the Evyatar outpost today.
Children at the Evyatar outpost today.Credit: Hadas Parush
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The first edict imposed by the new finance minister, Avigdor Lieberman, the god of the liberals and hero of the left, is directed against the poorest Jewish population in Israel. All in all, it’s logical, to take from the poor before any other group. All in all, it’s logical that Lieberman is legitimate and even appreciated by the camp that fights undaunted against corruption. The 400 million shekels ($122 million) that will be saved as a result of halting daycare subsidies to ultra-Orthodox Jews couldn’t be taken from any other group. There just isn’t anywhere to take it from except the poor.

But the truth is that behind this decision lies only hatred, revenge and populism. It has nothing to do with encouraging the Haredim to find jobs, bear the burden equally or the state of the economy.

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There’s nothing easier than pouncing on the Haredim, even more so after the coronavirus crisis. There’s also nothing easier than exacting vengeance against their political wheeler-dealers for their loyalty to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lieberman, who has so far contributed nothing to Israel in all his many roles, except his rudeness, outright racism and the malodorous, rotten environment in which he acted, knows this full well: Strike the ultra-Orthodox and win sympathy and forgiveness for everything. Sending them in wheelbarrows to the garbage dump is a popular move in broad circles in Israel.

If Lieberman would talk this way about the LGBTQ community, the Mizrahim or even the Arabs, he would have already paid for it, and rightly so. If a Western European leader would dare talk this way about Jews, he would already be put on trial. But excoriating the Haredim is allowed; in fact, it’s a secular commandment. You don’t need any political courage to take them on. The fight against them is a fight of cowards, who don’t dare struggle over issues that require courage. It chalks up lots of points among the many who detest the ultra-Orthodox. There’s nothing to lose.

Not that they don’t deserve harsh criticism, not that it’s justified to subsidize one group at the expense of another. But if we’re already entering the problematic area of examining the values of various sectors of society, the amount the state invests in them and what it receives in exchange – along with the question of equality of rights and obligations – then, here too, the Haredim ought not be the first target of the reform.

Far ahead of them is a group that’s stronger and wealthier than they are; a group that does much more damage to the state and is much more strongly attached to its teats, to use language usually reserved only for Haredim; a group whose political power is immeasurably greater and whom almost no one dares oppose, certainly not the way they oppose the Haredim.

That group is the settlers. Let’s see the assailants of the Haredim express themselves this way against the settlers when they rail about equal sharing of the burden and funding. True, some of the settlers serve in the army and even in elite units, if that is such an important measure to someone or of something. But half of the army is busy guarding them, their stolen lands and their illegal homes. That same half is also preoccupied with endless acts of vengeance intended only to satisfy their insatiable taste for revenge. If they didn’t serve in the army, like the Haredim, but neither did they preoccupy the army with their whims, the state would come out ahead economically, politically and security-wise.

The matter of entering the employment market is also misleading. It’s true that the settlers work more than the ultra-Orthodox do, but what kind of work exactly? This group has the highest percentage of government and public employees in Israel. According to the annual statistical report for 2019, the settlers are far below the national average in all productive branches of the economy.

In contrast, in areas dependent on the public purse – security, education and health and welfare services – their numbers are almost double the national average. Endless jobs, real and fabricated, essential and unnecessary, reeking with the stench of the settlement enterprise and its methods. But nobody will take this on. If they do, there could be a price to pay.

And, so, man the barricades together with “Che” Lieberman, for war against the Haredim, for the sake of justice and equality in Israel.

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