Israel to fund Jews-only booze cruises to wreck inter-racial love

Israel to fund Jews-only booze cruises to wreck inter-racial love
Comment: The Israeli government's crusade against mixed couples is a bigoted and futile policy, writes David Sheen.
7 min read
17 Jul, 2018
Birthright sponsors free 'heritage' trips to Israel for adults of Jewish heritage aged 18-32 [Getty]
Israel is an odd country.

It's a country where the leader of the LGBT caucus in parliament votes down pro-LGBT legislation during LGBT Pride Week.

It's a country where the government's most vocal advocate of freedom of religion makes a public show of support for the fanatical religious movement trying to turn Israel into a theocracy.

It's a country where the woman ranked most liberal of all Israeli legislators for four years running wants to insert the Israeli government into the bedrooms of its citizens, and into the boudoirs of foreign Jews.

Israel is a strange country in which all of these are all the same person; ruling Likud party MP Sharren Haskel, the youngest member of the Israeli parliament. And now Haskel's latest pet cause is encouraging young Jews to procreate with other Jews - local, foreign, whatever - just not with non-Jews.

It is fitting that Haskel first entered the Knesset in 2015 to take the seat of fellow Likud legislator Danny Danon, upon Danon's promotion to Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. In 2011, Danon commandeered a Knesset committee to incite against mixed-race relationships, claiming that they were not consensual, and that Palestinians were whisking away hundreds of Jewish-Israeli women against their will.

Police officials in attendance corrected Danon, noting that they did not have evidence of even a single instance of this kind of inter-racial "kidnapping".

But Danon was never alone in the crusade against mixed couples. The Israeli government has long attempted to prevent romantic relationships between Jews and non-Jews. Religious groups receive state funding to patrol the so-called "mixed cities" - the few remaining areas of the country where Jews and Palestinians still live next to one another - in an effort to discourage mixed-race relationships.

The Israeli government has long attempted to prevent romantic relationships between Jews and non-Jews

When mixed Jewish-Palestinian couples decide to spend their lives together against all odds, Lehava, an anti-miscegenation street gang, brings hundreds of protesters out in full force to chant "Death to the Arabs!" outside the wedding hall.

When a small number of Jewish and Palestinian families send their children to study together at one of the rare schools that instruct in both Hebrew and Arabic, Lehava goons torch it and leave graffiti at the scene reading "No miscegenation".

The head of the Lehava gang used to receive financial support directly from the Netanyahu government. Since that funding channel was exposed, Lehava's leader now turns for money to the Falic family - the largest funders of Netanyahu's own election campaigns.

Read more: Vigilante violence reminds us how little #BlackLivesMatter in Israel

Earlier this year, two young Israelis were convicted of lynching an African refugee in public, pulverizing his face to the point he was unrecognisable, even to his own brother. The killers allegedly attacked because the non-Jewish black man had dared to briefly stop to speak to a group of Jewish-Israeli female teenagers.

In the United States and elsewhere in the West, where opposition to so-called "mixed marriage" is rightly considered to be bigoted, proponents of racial purity must be more careful, and couch their anachronistic ideas in more neutral language.

They fear that without romantic partners from a similar background, Jews will be less likely to express blind support for the Israeli state

The free Birthright trips to Israel that the Netanyahu government funds for foreign Jews don't explicitly state that their objective is to encourage breeding. But the unsubtle efforts to spur on sex between programme participants has been repeatedly noted, scoffed at and slammed.

Now Haskel is upping the ante, arranging tours to Israel for young Jews from abroad which would dispense with Birthright's educational function and focus only on fraternising. Her plan: Fly in foreign Jews on Tu B'Av - the Hebrew calendar's equivalent of Valentine's Day - for the sole purpose of partying, and hopefully, hooking up.

"Over the course of the events, young Jewish-Israelis and Jews that live in the diaspora will get to know one another, and that is likely to lead to couples forming," reported top circulation news outlet Israel Hayom.

"We'll return to the glory days," Haskel told the pro-Netanyahu paper. "Young [Jewish] men and women from all over the world will arrive and form relationships with local young men and women, in order to prevent miscegenation and strengthen the connection to Judaism."

Outside of Israel, public figures like Haskel who champion individual liberty in the economic domain often also profess a laissez-faire policy in the sexual realm. Objectivists may take issue with government regulations in the financial sphere, but they also oppose any state role in the affairs of the heart. This is not the case in Israel, however - and certainly not with Haskel.

"My views are extreme right-wing in anything to do with our economy," Haskel told the far-right Jewish Press earlier this year. "I'm libertarian in that I don't want the government telling me how to live my life and run my business. But I'm not an extreme libertarian. I also have some conservative views. I am an economic libertarian, but on civic issues I would want the government to bring Zionistic and patriotic values to my country."

Apparently, these patriotic values include spending state money to try to determine the dating habits of young Jews, near and far, to decide what they do with their genitals.

Admittedly, Haskel's free market principles might alienate many Israelis who want a nanny state to serve them in return, after years of mandatory military service in which they first served the state. If Haskel's economic concepts ever catch on in Israel, it will be because of American far-right funders of the Jewish Statesmanship Center, who groomed her for political power.

But Haskel's decision to attend Donald Trump's inauguration only increased her standing in the country. And her distaste for miscegenation puts her squarely in the Israeli mainstream. Just last month, we were reminded that adamant opposition to mixed marriage is not relegated to the right-wing; rather, it spans much of the Israeli political spectrum.

On the day he was appointed chair of the Jewish Agency - a powerful role sometimes referred to as "prime minister of the Jewish people" - the Knesset's Leader of the Opposition, Isaac Herzog, told Israeli TV that mixed-race families were "an actual plague" for which he hoped to find "a solution".

Haskel's plan is to fly in foreign Jews on Tu B'Av - the Hebrew calendar's equivalent of Valentine's Day - for the sole purpose of partying, and hopefully, hooking up

So-called liberal Jews like Haskel and Herzog ostensibly oppose miscegenation because they fear that without romantic partners from a similar background, Jews will be less likely to express blind support for the Israeli state and its territorial claims. The anti-miscegenation camp fears that if Jewish families include non-Jews, they may prize the human race over any particular subspecies of it, even their own.

Award-winning American Jewish author Michael Chabon slayed that dragon two months ago in his speech to the graduating class of Jerusalem's Hebrew Union:

"Were you to ask me if I hope my children marry in [to other Jews], I would say: Yes. I want them to marry into the tribe that prizes learning, inquiry, scepticism, openness to new ideas. I want my children to marry into the tribe that enshrines equality before the law, and freedom of conscience, and human rights. I want them to marry into the tribe that sees nations and borders as antiquated canards, and ethnicity as a construct, prone - as all constructs - to endless reconfiguration," said Chabon.

"I still believe, even today, that this is the world's most populous tribe. There will be plenty of potential partners for my children to choose among. A fair number of those potential partners are even likely to be Jews," he remarked.

Thankfully, Chabon's words are still true: American Jews - a small minority in the US - are mostly liberal. And unlike the hypocrites who claim that name in Israel, they are just as likely to marry non-Jews as Jews.

Perhaps it's not American Jews who need a Birthright trip, but rather Israeli Jews like Haskel and Herzog who need an "Earthright" trip: one that teaches them how humans can be at home anywhere on earth, not only in Israel-Palestine; and how their lives are enriched, not impoverished, when they forge close connections with their non-Jewish neighbours, as equals.

But if they still can't keep away from the futile fight against inter-racial love, then let them at least have the decency to do it on their own dimes - not with my taxes.

David Sheen is an independent journalist originally from Toronto, Canada and now based in Dimona, Israel. 

Follow him on Twitter: @davidsheen

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.