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A Stain on the Knesset

Haaretz Editorial
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Religious Zionism's Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich celebrate after the release of exit polls, Tuesday.
Religious Zionism's Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich celebrate after the release of exit polls, Tuesday.Credit: Rami Shllush
Haaretz Editorial

A benighted party composed of racists and homophobes was elected this week to the Knesset. One should not make light of this worrisome development. Twenty-six years ago, the Knesset adopted an amendment to the Basic Law defining its function. The amendment stipulated that a party with a racist platform could not participate in elections. Twenty-three years after the disqualification of Meir Kahane’s Kach party as a contender, the disciples and upholders of the path of the racist from Brooklyn have returned to our legislative assembly in much greater force than Kahane’s one-person presence in that body.

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The representatives of Religious Zionism, a party made up of three movements competing with each other in their degree of ultra-nationalism, racism, homophobia and benighted religious fundamentalism, and swear allegiance, serving as legislators in Israel’s parliament. There is even a likely possibility that its representatives will serve in a right-wing government. Israel will then have cabinet members who are avowed racists, proudly and openly touting their racism.

The public’s attitude to Kahanist racist parties since the days of their founding father. Kahane was ostracized by most of the parties in the Knesset, including Likud. The party of Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Avi Maoz and Orit Struck is now being embraced by Likud. Religious Zionism has been accepted as a legitimate party on Israel’s political map, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu encouraging right-wing voters to vote for it. The party is an important candidate for joining his government, assuming he forms one. In doing so, Netanyahu contributed to the legitimization of this abomination more than any other politician, and he bears the blame for disseminating and bolstering Jewish supremacy. Menachem Begin is probably turning over in his grave.

We cannot let this pass. No country in Western Europe would dare add to its cabinet racists and homophobes such as the ones in Religious Zionism. It simply would not pass. What would not pass in Western Europe should not come to pass in Israel.

The ball is now in the hands of the members of the 24th Knesset and the media. One cannot whitewash this party, and one must not collaborate with it. This is an illegitimate faction which casts a dark shadow over Israel, its voters and its representatives.