Religious Zionism: Neither Zionist nor Religious

Denouncing a peace seeker as a traitor is just the latest example of faux-religious messianics hitching a ride on Judaism.

A screenshot of Naftali Bennett's video welcoming Yinon Magal to Habayit Hayehudi.
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Yinon Magal, a newly minted Habayit Hayehudi MK, has asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to launch a treason investigation into former Foreign Ministry director general Alon Liel.

According to Magal, Liel worked to have parliaments in Europe recognize a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, in some cases noting specifically that the capital of that state was East Jerusalem. In his letter, Magal cited Article 97b of the Penal Code, which states: “A person who, with intent that any area be withdrawn from the sovereignty of the State or placed under the sovereignty of a foreign state, commits an act calculated to bring this about is liable to life imprisonment or the death penalty.”

But what is the two-state solution if not an Israeli state alongside a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders whose capital is, perhaps, East Jerusalem?

Magal does not hide his hate for the “extreme left,” and it comes as no surprise that he would seek any loophole in the law to trap those he considers a “devouring infection in the brain.” But the two-state solution is not unique to the extreme left (in fact, a good deal of the extreme left does not support it and prefers a binational state). Rather, it is supported by most Israelis, including Likud members and even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who declared in his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech: “If we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state.” Does Magal believe the prime minister should also be tried for treason?

Luckily for Liel, Magal made clear in his letter that he does not mean for the former Foreign Ministry director to suffer the maximum penalty. But it is important to draw a line between this treason accusation, which is grounded in Israeli law, and the treason accusation against Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the period leading to his 1995 assassination. The accusation against Rabin was grounded in Jewish religious law (halakha), and he was given the maximum penalty: death.

Once again, an individual seeking peace – i.e., dividing the land – stands accused of being a traitor. The difference this time is that the accusation hangs on Israeli law, not halakhic law.

That shift from halakha to Israeli law in dealing with Israeli traitors shows an interesting historic movement that has been transcurring under the radar. Israelis have been busy pinpointing the damage religion is doing to the state and highlighting the messianic religious forces hitching a ride on Israeliness, all in pursuit of a halakhic state spread all over Greater Israel. In so doing, they missed the opposite movement: of pseudo-Israeli messianic forces, hitching a ride on religion in pursuit of a state of the Jewish race, occupying the whole territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

Habayit Hayehudi has long been serving as a platform for Jewish nationalists of the Magal genre – secular, Ashkenazi Israelis from "good families" who have donned a religious mantle (Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett’s small, symbolic skullcap; the ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn women’s fashion of Ayelet Shaked). They have adopted a godless version of Jewish religious terminology.

For them, the laws of conversion are a perfect alibi, concealing the crime: the race laws of the nation-state.

The hybrid that is religious Zionism is actually neither Zionist (as Magal declared, “I am first of all a Jew"), nor religious (Magal has admitted to not recalling the Torah portion of the week). Yet it is managing to seduce Zionists and religious Jews, while pushing both Judaism and Zionism down the steep slope of Jewish race doctrine.