The Israeli orthodox religious parties are shaken by Supreme Court ruling on law of return.
The Israeli Supreme Court ruling on the application of the Law of Return threatens ultimate dilution of the political power of Israel’s Orthodox religious parties, and thus has the potential to shake up the upcoming election’s dynamics.
In a groundbreaking eight-to-one decision, the Israeli Supreme Court recently ruled that the Law of Return, which grants citizenship to any Jewish person who comes to Israel, applies to anyone who converted to Judaism while in Israel through a non-orthodox conversion.
This ruling has created a great deal of political turmoil and anger among Zionist-religious parties and the State chief rabbinate.
In a political system like the one in Israel, where small political parties are crucial to any coalition government and are often the determining factor as to who becomes prime minister, this distress is problematic.
In the Israeli Knesset, the religious parties wield a great deal of power and quite often act as kingmakers, giving their votes to one of the two larger parties and thus sealing the fate of Israeli politics one way or another.
Upsetting the status quo on religious matters before a general election is bad for politics.
Three judicial matters have been in Israeli headlines recently, all of them very serious in nature and all likely to serve Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming Israeli elections.
The first is the indicted prime minister’s court hearing in early February regarding his ongoing corruption case.
The second is that the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that the territories Israel occupied in 1967 are within its jurisdiction, meaning that many Israelis may well be the subject of war-crimes investigations.
The third is an Israeli court ruling from January 2021 banning the 2003 film “Jenin, Jenin,” made by Palestinian actor and director Mohammad Bakri. The film documents the atrocities committed by IDF forces in the Jenin refugee camp in the spring of 2002.
All three are likely to raise serious concerns among the highest echelons of the Israeli government.
Luckily, the Israeli Supreme Court is not an elected body and doesn’t need to worry about coalition issues, and so, its justices are free to make rulings as they see fit.
What brought the court to this particular ruling, however, was a lack of ability on the part of the legislature and the State institutions to rule on this very sensitive issue.
In Israel, Orthodox Judaism has a monopoly over all of a person’s life-cycle issues: birth, marriage, divorce and death. It also governs everything that has to do with determining the validity or purity of one’s Jewishness.
The chief rabbinate of the State — not to be confused with the non-Zionist rabbinical institutions that do not recognize the State-appointed rabbinical authorities — has a monopoly on all conversions as well. It refuses to recognize conversions made by non-Orthodox rabbis.
This is true inside Israel. Outside of Israel, though, Orthodox Judaism is not the majority, and has no control over the life of Jewish people. In the United States, for example, the largest Jewish community is that of Reformed Judaism, which only barely resembles Orthodox Judaism.
The State of Israel is obliged to support Reform and Conservative communities, as they comprise the majority of Jews outside of Israel and are also deeply Zionist.
If the State of Israel denied the validity of their Jewishness or the legitimacy of their rabbinical institutions, it would be a serious slap in the face to millions of Jewish people around the world, particularly in the United States.
These non-Orthodox communities are the very Jewish communities that contribute to Israel financially and make up the foot soldiers for Israel in the halls of power in Washington.
However, they do not vote in the Israeli elections and do not possess the ability to determine who will be prime minister in Israel. The Orthodox religious parties in Israel are relatively small and do not represent large communities, yet they possess the ability to do just that.
It is for this reason that Israeli politicians have done everything in their power to avoid dealing with the issue of who qualifies as a Jew under the Law of Return.
Zionists claim that all Jews are descendants of an ancient tribe that lived in parts of historic Palestine several thousand years ago.
This, Zionists claim, gives all Jewish people the right to “return” to Palestine and reside there as citizens of the State of Israel, a state that has occupied Palestine and imposed an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people since 1948.
The Law of Return was passed in 1950. The Jewish Agency, whose mission is to “ensure that every Jewish person feels an unbreakable bond to one another and to Israel,” says the following about the law.
This law also stands in contrast to Israeli laws that make it impossible for Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and their land and receive their property, both private and public, and that deny them citizenship in their own homeland.
The Law of Return is one of the first laws passed by the Israeli Knesset that clearly define Israel as an Apartheid State, a state where there is one set of laws that affords privileges to Jews, even if they do not live there, and a different set of laws that denies Palestinians their rights to the land.
Where the law gets into trouble is when attempting to answer the question “Who is a Jew?” This is a question that Zionists have no idea how to answer and so they have been trying to avoid it, but it keeps returning to haunt them.
According to Judaism itself, a Jewish person is someone who accepts the Almighty and follows the Torah, which was given to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. One can be born Jewish and one can also convert to Judaism.
The religious authorities in the State of Israel view all non-Orthodox streams of Judaism as not Jewish and do not recognize their conversions.
However, for the purposes of the Law of Return, the State recognizes any conversions undergone outside of Israel as long as they were carried out by recognized Jewish authorities, even non-Orthodox ones.
In 2005, several cases of converts who converted to Judaism in Israel but with non-Orthodox institutions (the minority in Israel) were brought before the Supreme Court. The Court ruled that the matter needed to be decided by the legislature.
Since then, cases were brought in front of the court several times, and each time the State requested more time so that the Knesset could resolve this issue of non-Orthodox conversion that took place in Israel.
The Knesset, however, was not able to do so, and the Court made its ruling: since the Law of Return does not discriminate between Orthodox and non-Orthodox conversions when Jews come to settle in Israel, there should be no such discrimination when the conversion takes place in Israel.
The Orthodox conversion process is far more difficult and takes longer than the non-Orthodox conversion and much of the criticism directed at this ruling has to do with the concern that African asylum seekers who have lived in Israel for decades may take advantage of it.
There is an entire movement within Israel that wants to see Africans who live and work in Israel (in some cases for decades) deported and that movement fears that Africans may utilize the less stringent non-Orthodox conversion in order to establish themselves as Jews and therefore deserving of the benefits of the Right of Return, namely lawful citizenship.
This ruling by the Supreme Court is a serious slap in the face of the State Rabbinate, which until now had the monopoly on conversions.
Right-wing religious politicians like Naftali Bennett, who is eyeing the prime minister’s seat, and Bezalel Smotrich — who are both inherently chauvinistic and racist and represent the religious-Zionist political parties — immediately expressed their displeasure with the Supreme Court’s intervention in this issue.
The religious right in Israel has been at odds with the Supreme Court for years, as it is considered to be too liberal for their taste. Mixing politics and religion creates a toxic reaction, and Israel is no exception.
Zionism and its distortion of what it means to be Jewish have created a deeply racist, chauvinistic state. The sooner the Zionist regime is removed and Palestine is free, the better it will be for everyone involved.
MintPress / ABC Flash Point Religious News 2021.