(Israel) Deputy Minister of “Jewish National Identity” (Theocratic and Anti-Jewish)

More on religion and state and the state of orthodox Judaism in Israel. From the religious Zionist Noam party, homophobe and misogynist Avi Maoz will be appointed deputy minister in the Office of the Prime Minister promoting “National-Jewish identity.” Under the potential control of the deputy minister include changes to who counts as a Jew for Israeli citizenship under the the Law of Return, the participation of Arab-Israeli teachers in public schools, the service of women in the IDF, egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, stricter national observance of Shabbat, the Orthodox rabbinate’s monopoly over religious life, injecting religious law into broader society, and promoting “family values.” You can read about him here and here raising the banner of “normative Judaism” against “post-modernism.”

According to the signed coalition agreement, the “Jewish National Authority” established inside the Prime Minister’s Office will be given a 150 million shekel ($44.1 million) budget and a 15-person staff. More significant is the control being granted over external educational programs with a 2 billion shekel ($588 million) budget.

About this you can read here.

Not only is [Maoz] being handed education programs focused on religion, the Bible, and Jewish culture and identity, Netanyahu also gave him authority over some 100 other subjects, including civics, art, history, army preparation, human rights, social studies, Jewish thought, computer science, technology, space, economics, Arabic, philosophy, psychology and gender equality. And that’s not all. Netanyahu pledged in the coalition agreement with Maoz that he would not only have to make do with the 15 employees under the Jewish identity authority, but that rather all the activities of the Education Ministry’s unit for external programs, including dozens of its employees and its budgets, will be handed over to him, along with a unit in the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for government collaboration with civil society groups. In other words, not only will Education Ministry employees be subordinate to Maoz, but so will several hundreds of people who work for businesses and nonprofits tasked with developing educational material and programming for schools. Maoz will also be able to give big financial incentives to schools that agree to use programming developed by his Jewish identity authority.”

The appointment of Maoz represents more than an insignificant government post with little actual authority. Symbolically, he represents a part of the face of a new government in the making that seeks to control “Jewish identity” in the State of Israel. Practically he is being allotted a major role in the inculcation of “Jewish values” in the Israeli educational system, while funneling millions of shekels towards ultra-rightwing Jewish non-profits. These governing authorities to be given to Maoz, and with him to Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich are unprecedented in scope and mark a significant inflection point in Jewish/Israeli society. Religious Zionism has turned into an uncivil mutation. Against the identity as constellated by most Jews in Israel and the diaspora, against a pluralist civil society in Israel including Arabs and Jews, the new religious government as it is taking shape in Israel is arguably theocratic and anti-Jewish.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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