Regev Responds

Threefold deception - let's break it down

Mazal Tov from the Consul General of Israel in New York

The New York Times reports that Consul General Dayan wrote: "it is no secret many members of the American Jewish community disagree with existing Israeli legislation on civil status issues... Ultimately the Israeli Knesset — elected democratically by the Israeli citizens — legislates.

Three weddings at Temple Emanu-El, credit: Nomi EllensonThree weddings at Temple Emanu-El, credit: Nomi Ellenson

This week we are celebrating Hanukkah, which more than any other holiday, symbolizes the struggle for religious freedom. However, while Hanukah symbolizes the struggle for religious freedom for Jews from external persecution, the current struggle is for religious freedom for from other Jews, a fundamentalist religious minority who abuse the democratic process to impose their will and religious interpretations on The Israeli public. As an important commentator noted in the past: While the democratic discourse usually deals with protecting the minority against the tyranny of the majority, in Israel the situation is the opposite. The democratic discourse deals with the protection of the majority against the tyranny of the minority. The vote in the Knesset this week about the "convenience store law" is but the latest example of this obscene phenomenon. Legislation extorted by the ultra-Orthodox parties was intended to allow Shas leader Rabbi Deri to force local authorities to close small businesses on Shabbat in local municipalities. This contradicts both the Supreme Court ruling and the clear desire of the majority of the public, including the voters for the civil Government Coalition parties. But these are of no interest to the government: Not the principles of democracy and freedom of religion, nor the will of the public, nor the will of their constituents. The only thing that matters are the dictates of the ultra-Orthodox parties, which threaten to overthrow the government. We have noted this in the past and have shown that, contrary to the presumptuous claims of Israel's political leadership that it faithfully represents the will of the people, whereas the Supreme Court is detached from them and must be put in its place, the public believes the exact opposite. It has no faith in the Government, in the Knesset, nor in the rabbinate. The public's trust lies with the Supreme Court.

It's interesting to consider the Israeli Consul General's reaction to the important event of last week's public weddings at Emanu-El Synagogue (with 1,500 people in attendance) in cooperation with Reform and Conservative rabbis and communities, and IRAC. I spoke at the event, describing how Israeli couples are forced to travel abroad to realize the basic human right of establishing a family.

The Israeli consul's typical and arrogant reaction is interesting: "the best friends of Dani Dayan and his supporters are Reform and Conservative rabbis, including the heads of the two non-Orthodox streams." It would seem that "his sympathy for pluralism and freedom of religion is true," as one of the senior leaders described it. But the bottom line is that neither values nor truth are the politicians' primary concerns, but political survival.

Incidentally, their narrow-minded view of Judaism also plays a role in this equation, as can be seen from another arrogant statement made by Dayan a few months ago: "We need support and assistance from the community, but American Jewry needs help in strengthening the preservation of Jewish identity and preventing assimilation." His remarks are of course related to the disgraceful policy of the Israeli government, led by Minister Naftali Bennett, who decided to invest tens of millions of dollars a year of Israeli taxpayers' money to "save the next generation of Diaspora Jewry."

The NYT reports that Dayan wrote: "it is no secret many members of the American Jewish community disagree with existing Israeli legislation on civil status issues. Israelis pay serious attention to the positions of our brethren across the Atlantic, and ultimately the Israeli Knesset — elected democratically by the Israeli citizens — legislates. I wish a heartfelt Mazel Tov to the couples married today in New York."

The deception in Dayan's response is threefold:

The deception in Dayan's response is threefold:

  1. Not only does the American Jewish community disagree with Israel's policies on freedom of religion and equality, but so too does the majority of the Israeli public, including voters for the civil parties in the government coalition.
  2. It is not clear whom he is referring to when he says that Israelis are paying close attention to the positions of American Jewry. Indeed, Israelis are interested not only in the positions of American Jewry, but also want to see the leadership of the American Jewish community more involved in the struggle to realize religious freedom in Israel.
  3. Dayan emphasizes that no matter what the public thinks and what American Jewry thinks, the bottom line is what the Knesset legislates. He manipulates the words "democratically elected by the Israeli public" in order to create the impression that Knesset votes, such as those held this week regarding Shabbat, faithfully reflect the will of the citizenry. He knows very well that the truth is the opposite. There is no connection between the will of the electorate and the votes of its representatives, especially on religion and state matters. Israel's politicians are manipulated by remote control by the demands of the ultra-Orthodox political leadership, which constantly threatens to overthrow the government. This is not a celebration of democracy; it undermines the legitimacy of government institutions, as is so clearly illustrated by the Israeli Democracy Index published this week.

Past experience shows that there is a point where political blackmail and corruption tend to boomerang. We would not be surprised if the political pendulum swings back in the not too distant future. The public in Israel and in the Diaspora must prepare for this so that when it comes, they can truly realize their hopes.

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