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The Cross of Bethlehem II

Knesset’s Train of Racism



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On August 25, 2010, was published that Maj. Gen. (res. ) Yair Naveh, CEO of the CityPass Consortium running Jerusalem's light rail system, proposed allocating sex-segregated cars for ultra-Orthodox (Haredim) passengers. It is worth noting that Israel’s public transport doesn’t take proper care of disabled passengers and that all over the world, Ultra-Orthodox Jews ride regular public transportation. Yet, CityPass wouldn’t be an exception. Egged – Israel’s largest bus company, which is state subsidized – provides segregated mehadrin (a special category of kosher) lines for Haredim passengers at a reduced fees. The Train of Racism is more than a train; its first and last stops are at the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset.

How can this be possible in a state that defines itself as democratic? First, it is worth noting that countries like the USSR and North Korea were self-defined as democratic; the Knesset word on this has little weight. Especially so since Israel is not sovereign; its sovereignty was conditioned by the UN on Israel’s honoring Human Rights and the foundation of a Palestinian state. Israel failed in both. Its recent definition as a terror state by the same international body is a natural result of these breaches. Second, these actions by CityPass and Egged are legal under the Israeli law.

The last fact is almost unimaginable. Yet, it’s true. I explained this in The Cross of Bethlehem; simply it’s the result of Israel lacking a constitution protecting basic human rights. If they were People of God, then that wouldn’t be a problem; but those who reject God can show only hatred toward others. Overwhelming racism is the result.

The Israeli society lacks a basic social contract between its members. That means anything can happen, any law can be legislated, no matter how racist it is. Once equality is not assured through such a contract, it cannot become a basic rule of society. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Knesset.

On February 10, 2009, the 18th Knesset was elected. Twelve parties made it through the threshold. Looking at their identities reveals a picture of racism and discrimination at the very heart of the state’s legislative body. It is difficult to classify Israeli parties as belonging to the left or the right of the political spectrum. Only in Israel a racist party can be defined as a leftist one: Meretz is just another Zionist stronghold. Moreover, despite its definition as leftist, most of its voters are Jewish, Ashkenazim and from Gush Dan (Tel Aviv metropolitan area). Hadash is also defined as Socialist – but this party serves mainly Palestinian voters. Non-Socialist Palestinians would vote for Balad and the more centrist and Muslim oriented United Arab List. Regardless their ideologies, these parties are within what most Israelis would define as “left.”

Is the right less racist? The Jewish religious parties are always classified as “right-wing.” Expectedly, they also are separated into ethnic groups. United Torah Judaism is a Haredi party serving Ashkenazi Haredim. Shas is its Sephardic counterweight. Still in the Jewish religious right are the National Union and the Jewish Home, both count for most of the settlers and nationalist religious votes, and are the result of the unholy alliance described in Netanyahu's Mule. Yisrael Beiteinu is the less religious party in this group; most of its voters are Russian immigrants from the 1990s.

Does the center provide a relief from ethnic-religious votes? Not even them. Three parties occupy this niche: Labor, Kadima and the Likud. Despite their self-definitions, their ideologies greatly overlap and belong to the center of the Israeli political map. The Likud has its base on Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews since at least 1977, while the Labor has strong roots among Ashkenazi Jews. Is Kadima any different? Created from a mishmash of Likud and Labor members in late 2005 it’s still too early to say; odds are against such a speculation.

For as long as the legislative body keeps being defined on religious and ethnic lines and for as long as a social contract securing human rights is not signed by the Israeli citizens, the Train of Terror and Racism will depart and arrive at the Knesset with every elections. CityPass and Egged, Likud and Labor, it doesn’t matter where you look: the Mark of the Beast is there.

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