It turns out that even the French republic could learn a thing or two from Israeli progressivism when it comes to the separation of religion and state. “The proposed law fosters the view that freedom of religion should not be something that adversely affects quality of life,” says the explanatory note for the bill to regulate when mosques’ loudspeakers may call the faithful to prayer. The so-called Muezzin Bill passed in a preliminary vote Wednesday.
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“This is first and foremost a piece of social legislation,” explained MK Moti Yogev of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party. As part of Benjamin Netanyahu’s never-ending fight for human rights, the prime minister, a supporter of the bill, declared: “Israeli citizens – Jews, Muslims and Christians alike – have the right to sleep peacefully.” So let it be said forevermore: the right to life, liberty and a good night’s sleep.
The bill was brought up for approval after long delays caused by opposition from the ultra-Orthodox parties. But if you were feeling cheered by this show of solidarity among Israel’s religious faithful, and consoling yourself with the thought that at least one part of society hadn’t been tainted with the virus of racism and Jewish nationalism, you were sorely mistaken.
The ultra-Orthodox were only worried that the bill might affect their ability to announce the start of Shabbat with a loud siren. When a formula was cooked up for the bill only to apply from 11 P.M. to 6 A.M. – so that only Muslims would be screwed – these righteous Jews withdrew their opposition.
This bill must not be considered objective. There is nothing objective about it. Its supporters can say “social,” “environmental” and “quality of life” all they want, but it’s all lies.
Certainly in a country that had a clear separation of religion and state, and a history and culture of keeping the public space free of religious symbols, such legislation that would apply to all religions equally could be discussed. Certainly in a time when tension between Jews and Muslims was minimal, there could be a discussion on a change of norms.
But in the Israel of 2017? Who are we kidding? This bill is clearly an organized hate crime. So it’s no surprise that we heard calls of Allahu Akbar in the Knesset as a response. Israel is stirring up such a large minority against it. The Jewish nationalists’ thuggish behavior toward this minority is an invitation to revolt. It could turn doves into hawks.
The late historian David Bankier has described how Nazi propaganda deliberately fostered a sense of collective guilt among the Germans. Starting in 1942, the Nazis provided hints about what was happening to the Jews so that the Germans would feel they had crossed the bounds of morality along with their leaders.
“On the Jewish question in particular we have taken a position from which there is no going back,” Goebbels wrote in his diary in 1943. “This is good. A movement and a nation that have burned their bridges fight with greater determination than those that can retreat.”
This is not by any means meant to imply a comparison between the Nazis’ crimes and the Muezzin Bill. There are plenty of crimes to go around. The intention is to illuminate the effects on a society in a country that commits collective crimes.
Since the last election, there has been a sense of accelerating moral deterioration in Israel, as if the reins have been totally loosened. Everything is out in the open.
We are racists and we’re not about to apologize for that. We steal land and then demand that it be legal. We shoot and kill enemies when they’re lying wounded on the ground. We want apartheid and we want it now. Instead of acting in accordance with the law, we want to adapt the law to suit our behavior.
Bankier writes that when the Nazis saw that defeat was on the horizon, they insisted in the press and in speeches that Hitler never forced himself on the people, and that he continually enjoyed consensus support. They also pointed out that many people got rich thanks to him.
Perhaps a similar mechanism is at work here: Israel understands that it’s headed down a dead-end path and is trying to close the ranks by highlighting how the entire nation is responsible for the occupation and its consequences. Any sense of shame falls by the wayside and is replaced by a push for legislation that seeks to pull everyone into the circle of responsibility and guilt.
We are burning our bridges one after another. Is retreat still possible?