Opinion |

Smotrich Was Rejected by British Jewry, but What About MK Simcha Rothman?

Zehava Galon
MK Simcha Rothman at the Knesset in December
MK Simcha Rothman at the Knesset in DecemberCredit: דני שם טוב / דוברו
Zehava Galon

The oldest organization of British Jewry, The Board of Deputies of British Jews, sounded a wake-up call that should arouse Israelis from their deep slumber. When Bezalel “Arabs are Israeli citizens, for now at least” Smotrich landed in Great Britain, the organization published a statement of unprecedented harshness: “We reject his abominable views … We call on all members of the British Jewish community to show him the door. Get back on the plane, Bezalel, and be remembered as a disgrace forever.”

Smotrich, who heads the Religious Zionism Knesset faction, has a long history of expressing hatred and racism towards Arabs. Starting with the refusal to place his wife in the same hospital room as Arab mothers who had just given birth, followed by threats of extermination against Palestinians who refuse to surrender to Israeli rule, and up to the recent tirade against Arab MKs that “You are here by mistake – because [Israel’s first Prime Minister David] Ben-Gurion didn’t finish the job and throw you out in 1948.”

His faction colleagues are competing with him successfully. Itamar Ben-Gvir was convicted of eight offenses and first became famous when he brandished a Cadillac emblem that had been stolen from Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s car and declared: “We got to his car, and we’ll get to him too.” Shortly afterwards assassin Yigal Amir really did get to Rabin.

A less prominent member of this heartwarming faction is Avi Maoz, the representative of Noam, a party that is shocked by the fact that women have rights and whose opinions of gays are about equally progressive. Another member, less famous but no less dangerous, is MK Simcha Rothman, who saves his racist opinions for the Knesset committees, and less so for the media outlets. The coalition recently announced it would support one of his draft bills, in the context of a deal with the opposition that agreed in return to support the amended Citizenship and Entry Into Israel Law being advanced by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.

After Meretz and the United Arab List announced that they won’t support the citizenship law – which denies Arab citizens the right, that Jews do enjoy, to have their non-Israeli spouse be given residency status – the rest of the coalition agreed to support Rothman’s proposal.

Rothman's bill draft is more stringent than Shaked’s and sets an annual quota for family reunification, clarifying that “The fact that the family member of the person requesting the permit … is his partner, and that the couple have children together, will not in itself constitute a special humanitarian reason.”

And so, without any reaction from the media, proposed laws – the meaning of which are population transfer and apartheid – are being passed, because Arab citizens are subject to restrictions that do not apply to Jews, turning the former into second-class citizens. And not only did Rothman’s proposal fail to arouse public shock, but Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid said of it: “I’m not willing to have a Kahanist and anti-Zionist party be a signatory to such an important law.”

Important? A law designed to make it clear that there is a community of natives here who will always be inferior to Jews in terms of their rights?

In contrast to the bill, which was met with media silence, Ben-Gvir got 100 hours of media exposure in 2021. It turns out, however, that what is acceptable to the Israeli public is not acceptable to British Jews. Even the conservative organization under discussion considers what Smotrich represents an abomination, and British Jews are unwilling to be contaminated by it. It’s a shame that in the “coalition of change” this gang is considered a respectable partner for advancing racist legislation. How will we bear this disgrace?

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