A Jewish people with 'this face' is 'not my Jewish people'

Author of IDF ethics code slams religious nationalist, Haredi camps as ‘mutations’

Speaking after far-right, ultra-Orthodox election successes, Asa Kasher says they represent a ‘malignant’ transition from historic image of Jewish people; Facebook removes his post

Asa Kasher attends a conference at the Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, June 11, 2017. (Flash90)
Asa Kasher attends a conference at the Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, June 11, 2017. (Flash90)

A prominent Israeli philosopher who helped write the IDF’s Code of Ethics denounced the country’s ultra-Orthodox and national religious camps as “mutations” in a fiery Facebook post Thursday that led to significant pushback from right-wing lawmakers and pundits.

Kasher’s post, since removed, came in response to Tuesday’s election results, which saw the ultra-Orthodox parties and the far-right Religious Zionism faction make significant gains, positioning them for prominent roles in Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu’s next government. His bloc of ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties, led by the Likud, took 64 seats in the national vote.

Kasher wrote that “the image of the Jewish people — familiar to us from our childhood, from the education we received, from the life we ​​knew, from the stories we heard, is not the current image. Before us are two mutations of the Jewish people.

“The ultra-Orthodox mutation is a transition from the exiled way of life of the minority that has lived its own life, maintained its way of life and doesn’t provoke foreign rulers, to the new way of life of the minority that lives at the expense of others, an economic parasite, a draft dodger, absolves itself of civilian responsibility and has no real respect for the democratic regime and its principles,” said Kasher, who is a professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University and a recipient of the Israel Prize.

“The nationalist mutation is a transition from the religious way of life where there is adherence to the principles of justice and fairness, honesty and compassion; [a life] that reveres God but with humane conduct, to an unruly, wicked way of life that [primarily] sanctifies the land and controls its inhabitants with violence, using methods that have no justice, no compassion, no morals and, has more than anything else, a idol-like worship of the land, the nation and its corrupt leadership.”

A Jewish people with “this face” is “not my Jewish people,” wrote Kasher, and “not the Jewish people among which I wish to be counted as a son.”

“I remain a person of Jewish origin. I will always be so. My origin and my identity are the healthy Judaism that preceded these morbid, malignant, rude and repulsive mutations,” he continued.

Head of the Religious Zionist party Bezalel Smotrich at the party’s campaign headquarters after election day, November 1, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

He then went on to reject “invalid” calls for unity with the two camps he views as “mutations.”

“The differences between me and the people of the mutations are not marginal and should not be ignored for the sake of a higher goal,” he argued. “There is no true unity and there never will be.”

Several hours after it was published, Facebook removed Kasher’s post for violating its rules of conduct.

The philosopher subsequently wrote that it was part of an effort to silence him.

Pressed Friday on the Kan public broadcaster to defend his harsh rhetoric, Kasher insisted that he did not use “mutation” as a curse word, rather as a word that connotes a “significant change that took place over the transfer from generation to generation.”

Religious Zionism chairman Bezalel Smotrich responded to Kasher’s remarks, saying they saddened him in addition to being “irresponsible and insanely dangerous.”

“People like Asa Kasher, whose wisdom and integrity and morality I wanted to appreciate, are now revealed as lacking national responsibility, personal integrity and minimal morality. Above all, they are complete fools,” he said.

Addressing his “brothers on the left,” Smotrich said his camp was “given a mandate to promote what we believe is right and good for the State of Israel. We are definitely going to fulfill this mandate…but you also know that your intimidation is baseless. No one is going to destroy democracy, turn us into Iran, harm someone’s individual rights or force them to change their lifestyle.”

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