Whoa there Sparky! No. He. Didn’t.
This is why I support Israel but oppose Zionism and the nationalistic, racist rhetoric coming from not only the far-right in Israel, but Israeli government officials. It’s just toxic.
Can you imagine White people condemning interracial marriage with African Americans, Asians etc? Actually, we don’t have to imagine it- it was the mainstream view up until about 1970 when the Supreme Court (in ’73) struck down the anti-miscigenation law in the landmark case, Loving v. Virginia. But because this involves Israel, and perhaps because it involves religion and in particular, Judaism, no one will probably call out this blatant racism. Of course, religions have a right to define their own terms but what makes this different is that Israel is supposedly a secular state which just so happens to appropriate certain rights and privileges based upon who is and isn’t deemed “Jewish” by the Israeli government.
peaking at a panel on conversion at the President’s Conference in Jerusalem, the justice minister rejected recent criticism from American rabbis over Israel’s conversion policy. “The problem in exile isn’t conversion, it’s assimilation,” Neeman said. “How many [new] Jews join the Diaspora Jewry by converting, and how many [Jews] assimilate? Let’s face the truth. What Hitler – may his name and memory be forgotten – didn’t manage to do is happening in the Diaspora with its horrific assimilation.”
Yishai also said that ten years ago, a study was published in the United States showing “the Jewish gene” was passed along the maternal line, affirming the ancient halakhic line of Jewishness passing along the maternal line. This remark was met with sneers from the audience.
I am not an expert on Judaism but I do know about the halakhic belief that being Jewish is matrilineal but I didn’t think it had anything to do with genetics. Wasn’t one of the primary sources of propaganda used by Hitler, that Jewish people were an inferior race of people, with distinct genetic characteristics? Isn’t the racial/cultural/linguistic aspect of those that live in the Middle East as much attributable to being part of/descended from the Semitic peoples in that region?
Also, the views expressed by the Justice Minister seem to be a big slap in the face of diaspora Jews, particularly in the United States, many of whom have married non-Jews and had children whom they then choose to consider Jewish. However, under Israel’s strict laws regarding who is Jewish and who is not, if the mother isn’t Jewish, the children, irrespective of religious preference and training, would also be deemed not Jewish.
Maybe I’m just a hippie. Or maybe because I’m an Episcopalian whose partner is Jewish, but I tend to think that “assimilation” doesn’t water down anyone’s culture, race or religion. It’s not just Judaism as defined by ultra-Orthodox Israelis that frowns upon assimilation, but also practitioners of Islam and some branches of Christianity. I think that “assimilation” (I hate that word) tends to promote understanding and tolerance among people, which is a good thing.