Rabbi Tamar Elad-Applebaum exposes the growing crises spreading throughout Israel. Extreme religious groups are growing in number and influence (“Israeli rabbi sees pressing need for pluralism,” Jan. 6).
Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister of Israel, is head of the Yisrael Beiteinu movement that advocates removing as many Israeli Arab citizens as possible. In his speech before the United Nations, he offered to swap a piece of Israel’s land occupied predominately by Arab citizens to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for the Palestinians recognizing the settlements beyond the 1967 line as part of the State of Israel. Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu tried to distance himself from the foreign minister, claiming he was speaking as a private citizen. Imagine any Secretary of State making a proposal before the UN without the president’s approval. The Foreign Minister is also supporting legislation making its way through the Knesset that is discriminating against its Arab citizens.
The Minister of Internal affairs, Eli Yishai, represents the Shas party. He believes Israel should be ruled by Halacha. The chief Rabbi of Safed gave a religious proclamation declaring Jews should not rent or sell to non-Jews. Many Rabbis signed on to the declaration. Some, under pressure from the government and American Jews, withdrew their signatures.
There is no doubt that the popularity of religious extremism or passivity towards their influence in government is growing. American Jews can no longer claim that Israel is a growing Jewish democracy. Some agree with the extremists, especially when it comes to forcing Arab citizens out of the country. For those who see this trend to extremism as a threat to pluralism, it is time to stop burying your head in the sand and speak out before it is too late.