Why did Israel Depart from Secularism? Is There Any Lesson for India?

Why did Israel Depart from Secularism? Is There Any Lesson for India?

Whenever any notion of a civilized system becomes the hostage of politically correct narratives, the system is bound to rebel in one way or the other. What happened on July 19th, 2019 in Israel is the living testimony of that fact. Israel on this day departed away from secular character of the State and declared herself as a Jewish State by introducing certain significant changes in her Constitution. This defining moment in the history of Israel brings joy and sense of self determination among people of Jewish community, however, it met with condemnations from left-leaning circles and Islamist lobbies, some even gone to the extent of calling it, “Apartheid”. But what sense does these condemnations really make, when they have willingly ignored to understand the challenges that Jewish community is facing every next day in the name of religious and racial hatred from Islamic Arab world and now in Europe as well. There is no denial in the fact that what all Jews have witnessed through the pages of history is a pain of unimaginable magnitude. However they still somehow managed to fight against all odds. Practically speaking their existential preferences have now been reduced into two options, either to take some concrete steps to protect their dignified survival or else go die unnoticed like Pagans / Parsis / Yezidis / Hindus of Pakistan, Bangladesh etc. Infact, the harsh reality is that in recent years migration of Jews from all across the globe (particularly from Europe) to Israel witnessed an unprecedented rise due to targeted attacks against them. Unlike Hindus, who are miserably ignorant about protecting their civilizational ethos and for sure will become more vulnerable in the upcoming days, Jews have fortunately smelled this existential threat much earlier than anyone else. The demand of revoking secular character of Israel is not some out of the blue phenomenon, the underlying spirit behind this quest is aptly reflected in the national policies of Israel, since after her establishment. Infact, call for making Israel a national homeland for Jews has already been answered, way before in 1948, when “Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948” incorporates this very objective as an essential condition for the establishment of modern Israel. The principle was given legal effect in the “Law of Return”, which was passed by the Knesset on 5 July 1950, that categorically declares,”Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh (immigrant). This was further broadened in 1970 to include non-Jews with a Jewish grandparent, and their spouses. The new legislative move of bringing Nation State Law has only fortified that position further. So those who are reading this Nation State Law as some unprecedented move are in grave error of judgment. Israel is one among the few countries in the Middle-East that firmly upholds the torch of democratic principles in letter and spirit. But still the shameless way in which Israel was demonised by left leaning circles and Islamist lobbies for bringing new Nation State Bill is truly appalling. And comparing it with prepositions like “Apartheid” is a stupidity of beyond any imagination. What Israel did on July 19, 2019 is a milestone rebellion against established mainstream narrative of secularism which unfortunately has now become the political pamper-pad of left leaning circles and Islamist lobbies with no locus whatsoever. Those who are aware of the history of Israel they know it for sure that Israel has always been a hybrid between a democracy and a Jewish ethnic state. Her tussle as a nation to safeguard the interests of Jewsih community within the bounds of democratic setup has always remain a prime key concern. Moreover, her departure from secular character also holds a deep psychological and social backdrop behind it. So it would be unjust to reach any conclusion without looking into the factors that are responsible for this rebellious move.

Rising anti Semitism in Europe

The gravity of anti-semitism (attitude of hostility towards Jews based on their identity) in Europe could be understood from the statement of Natan Sharansky, former Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, who was incharge of monitoring immigration of Jews from Europe to Israel (from June 2009 to August 2018), that this century could be the last century for Jews in Europe. In the last 5 years there has been a 20% rise in cases of anti semitism. According to European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), some 90 percent of European Jews believe anti-Semitism has grown stronger. A 2017 report by the University of Oslo Center for Research on Extremism tentatively suggests that “individuals of Muslim background stand out among perpetrators of anti semitic violence in Western Europe. France and Germany are the most affected regions in Europe where Jews have witnessed maximum cases of hate crimes and coincidentally they are the same places which accommodates the largest immigration of muslims. Now there can be many other stats that could further fortify this reality but here the issue is not simply about immigration of Jews because some scholars are relating it with some old Jewish prophecy, where jews were ordained to return to their holy land (Israel). The main point of contention here is, the kind of experience and memories European Jews are taking away with them while leaving to Israel, experiences of targeted attacks and humiliation, certainly going to impact the internal social and political scenario of Israel. And it would not be an exaggeration if, new Nation State Law is a reflection of culmination of those shared experiences.

A reactionary response to Trans-generational trauma

After Hindus, Jewish community is the second most affected community that has witnessed barbarism and butchery on an enormous scale in the name of religious and racial hatred which therefore bound to inculcate Trans-generational trauma among people of jewish community. In cases of Trans-generational Trauma, the traumatic event does not need to be individually experienced; the lasting effects can still remain and impact descendants from external factors like it can be a shared response to societal trauma. Now culminating effect of past experience of persecution and holocoust and the recent immigration of Jews from Europe in the wake of hate crimes will definitely resonate into an explosion of emotions and grief, beyond any shadow of doubt. This unresolved grief often times accompanies a reactionary response which can be passed from one generation to the next. And the most possible way in which we can see the reflection of its outcome in a democratic society is through unfoldings of political and social discourses in a given society, where people hardly missed a chance to assert their identity both socially and politically. So it will not be wrong to say that consciously or subconsciously psyche of Jewish community is not immuned from this traumatic effect. And reflection of this is evidently visible in the State policies of Israel ever since her establishment and the move of bringing new Nation State Law is nothing but a further add-up to the routine of this reflection.

Hatred of Islamists against Jew

The hatred of Islamists against Jews has quite a history. The Quran itself makes 43 specific references to “Bani Isrāʾīl” (meaning the Children of Israel). These references in the Quran are interpreted in different ways. Some scholars (like Frederick M. Schweitzer and Marvin Perry) read these references as “mostly negative” in construct, while others (like Tahir Abbas) dilute the construct of these references into sub-categorisations of General and Specific, where former incorporates favourable tones for addressing Jews while the latter contains harsh criticism. But that’s not end of story, during the time of Prophet Muhammad, three local Jewish tribes, namely the Banu Nadir, the Banu Qurayza, and the Banu Qaynuqa, who were in some sort of peace agreement with Prophet Muhammad were butchered and publicly humiliated. Although both sides give their justifications to interpret that massacre but it was happened during the tenure of Prophet Muhammad is an undeniable fact, therefore for a radical Isalmist it is like a cake walk to draw justifications to promote hatred against Jews based on that history. And even if we ignore that past for a moment the kind of hatred today muslims are busy in preaching against Jews can’t be ignored. The most glaring reference in this regard came into the picture when in May 2006 study of Saudi Arabia’s revised schoolbook curriculum discovered that the eighth grade books included the following statements:

“They (Jews) are the people of the Sabbath, whose young people God turned into apes, and whose old people God turned into swine to punish them. As cited in Ibn Abbas: The apes are Jews, the keepers of the Sabbath; while the swine are the Christian infidels of the communion of Jesus.            ”

“Some of the people of the Sabbath were punished by being turned into apes and swine. Some of them were made to worship the devil, and not God, through consecration, sacrifice, prayer, appeals for help, and other types of worship. Some of the Jews worship the devil. Likewise, some members of this nation worship the devil, and not God.”

So now it takes no genius to understand the level of hatred that preaches against Jews in Islamic world, when cradle home of Islamic values itself openly caught poisoning the minds of small school going kids. Forget about the mentioning of Isalmic terrorist organisations like Hamas and Hezbollah who openly swear to annihilate Jews from the face of the earth.

Deteriorating status of communities who are globally less in number (Global minorities)

After witnessing the horrors committed against Yezidis and Kurds in recent conflict in Syria by Islamists the sense of alienation and concerns among communities who are globally less in number is bound to inculcate and Jewish community is no exception. This fear conscience certainly triggered a self-defense mechanism in the psyche of any such community to remain concerned about their dignified survival and security. Although there is no denial in the fact that geo political standing of Jewish community and its influence on western world is much stronger than any other minority community, but the pros and cons of this factor cannot be completely brushed aside. And this trigger phenomenon is nowadays common all across the globe, where in one way or the other communities who are globally in minority started reacting in self defense, though out of proportion in some cases but those calls are purely reactionary beyond any shadow of doubt. This could also be understood in the light of recent Rohingya conflict, where Buddhists of Myanmar reacted against the terror of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), though way out of proportion, but to say that those attacks were dominated by that same fear conscience is not a wrong conclusion. So it would be suffice to say that this state of affairs has now crossed the line of phobia and become an actual perceivable threat, which is also reasonable to a certain extent.

Hostile Islamic neighbors, UN bias and victimhood drama of Palestine

Following the announcement of an independent Israel, five Arab Islamic nations—Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon—immediately attacked the region in what became known as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War but still somehow Israel able to emerged victorious by giving the taste of humiliating defeat to her Islamic neighbors. Since then animosity never actually ended neither the sense of threat on Israeli side. Moreover the way in which one sided resolutions in United Nations passed against Israel in recent years are way out of proportion and equally triggering the sentiments of Jewish people. In 2018, the U.N. General Assembly passed 21 resolutions condemning Israel, and a mere six for the rest of the world, according to U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based NGO that monitors the international body. Israel, a democracy, was condemned seven times more than the brutal North Korean dictatorship, which still runs gulags and was the subject of a mere 3 resolutions. Indeed, just on Nov. 15, 2018 the General Assembly adopted nine resolutions against Israel – all while ignoring human rights situations in China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Turkey and Pakistan, for example. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) documented in a Nov. 9, 2018 Jerusalem Post Op-Ed, the U.N. has created an “institutional infrastructure” for the sole purpose of attacking the Jewish state. Most infamously, on Nov. 10, 1975 the U.N. General Assembly passed Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism – the belief in Jewish self-determination – with racism. Although the resolution was, with considerable U.S. effort, repealed in 1991, the international body had also voted to create the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), which works feverishly to delegitimize Israel. Moreover, miseries of this biasness does not end there, on Dec. 6, 2018 the United Nations General Assembly failed to pass a resolution condemning Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip. Hamas’s charter approvingly cites Adolf Hitler and calls for Israel’s destruction and the genocide of Jews.

Is there any lesson for India?

Like Jews, Hindus (who are the major repositories of Indian civilization) also stands globally in minority and shares the same concern as far as existential challenges to their civilization are concerned. Both communities have gone through holocoust of unimaginable magnitude, both are victims of Islamic terrorism, both shared similar challenges of security threats- surrounded by hostile Islamic neighbours. But challenges for Hindus have gone far beyond this. Unlike Jews, who have very strong grip in western academia and politics, Hindus have faced blatant academic and political misrepresentation in terms of of their cultural and religious values on global platforms. Apart from this, due to hostile foreign invasions and one sided domination of left-leaning lobbies in writing Indian History their value system has been successfully demonised to the extent that now even initiating a discourse about protecting those civilizational values will brand any concerned individual with tag of certain ideological inclinations in no time. This could also be understood in the light of the fact that ever since the advent of Islamic invaders in India around 200 million Hindus lost their lives and yet Hindus are struggling in establishing a global narrative (like anti-semitism) which could possibly tell the world that it was not only Jews who had gone through butchery and barbarism in the name of religion but Hindus had also witnessed persecution of far more larger magnitude than any ther currently existing religious community in the world. Moreover Hindus were not only robbed with their lives but their economic and literature wealth was also plundered beyond any imagination. So the challenges which Hindus are facing from civilization point of view is far more serious and alarming, infact a crudely honest analysis on this count suggests that India has already been late in rebelling against this bogus doctrine of secularism because the very basis on which it uploads its sancity is flawed, especially when it comes to face hostile competing ideologies (Islam and Christianity) who have well documented history of dividing the whole humanity into the camps of believers and nonbelievers. Moreover, our locus to challenge this established mainstream narrative of secularism is much stronger than Israel because first, Indian civilization has no past history of invading lands and unleashing terror on other communities in the name of religion. Second, we have much more comprehensive doctrines in our value system (like Vasudhev Kutumbakam) than some borrowed western concept of secularism, borne out of Church-State conflict. Third, the way in which term secularism inserted in our constitution is flawed both in terms of legal and historical construct. Fourth, the moral compulsion of upholding the torch of this borrowed western concept doesn’t hold much weightage on us because before 1976 it doesn’t even exist in the Constitution of India but yet we were surviving with the same compassion and love for humanity.

A beginning of a new challenge, conclusion still lies ahead

As mentioned earlier, Israel has always been a hybrid between a democracy and a Jewish ethnic state. And her undying quest for protecting the interest of Jews and their civilizational values within a democratic setup has a long backup of precedents. By bringing this new Nation State Law Israel has dared to set up a new precedent of an ethnic State that questions the well established narrative of secularism but at the same time stood firm to uphold the liberal democratic values of a civilized system. This new journey of Israel as fulfleged Jewish ethnic State however also brings serious challenges to Israeli polity in terms of ensuring dignified and discrimination free survival to non jewish communities in Israel. Because the moment Israel fails to ensure safeguards to them, she too falls in the same category of her Islamic neighbours who are being accused of becoming dictatorial regimes that muzzle down democratic voices and freedom. Moreover, the internal politics of Israel is also not in good shape the Nation-State Law passed in the Knesset by a vote of 62 to 55 in 120-seated Parliament which has therefore contrasted upon the deep polarization in Israeli politics and society within over the future forecast of the direction in which the country is heading towards. So, indeed it would be an endurance test for Israeli polity to put things in correct perspective and prove that it is possible for them to remain both a “Jewish state” that protects and celebrates Jewish identity, and a liberal democracy that protects the rights of all minorities, including non-Jews also. So in a nutshell the conclusion is still lies ahead, only time will tell the fate of this rebellious move. But if Israel will be able to succeed in achieving those objectives then it will become a rebellious milestone in the political history of the world, which not only destroys the binary sceptics of majority communities but also provide a solution for all those communities who are globally less in number to think on their own instead of buying ideas from some politically correct lobbies to proclaim them civilized.

Featured Image: The Times of Israel

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Avinash Vasishth

Legal Associate at Srijan Foundation