On Wednesday, the Israeli-Arab-Muslim TV host Lucy Aharish (the first to host a Hebrew-speaking show) and Israeli-Jewish actor Tzahi Halevy (known from Netflix TV series Fauda), got married.
Their ceremony was what could only be considered unofficial in Israel, at the beach in Hadera. This is because Israeli law does not permit interfaith marriage. The option left to such couples is to conduct an unofficial ceremony in Israel, but do the actual official marriage in another country, where this then gets retroactively recognized by the state. Aharish and Halevy have held the relationship under the radar for some three years, to avoid the backlash – which surely came. Various politicians from the right condemned and bemoaned the marriage. Minister of Interior Arye Deri said:
“pain of assimilation worldwide is consuming the Jewish people. It’s their own private affair. But, as a Jew, I have to tell you that I’m against such things because we must preserve the Jewish people. (Their) children will grow up, go to school and later want to get married, and then they’ll face difficult problems. If she [Aharish] desires Judaism, then there’s the process of conversion”.
Likud Lawmaker Oren Hazan was more vitriolic on Facebook and Twitter:
“I don’t blame Lucy Aharish for seducing the soul of a Jewish man in order to hurt our state and prevent more Jewish offspring from continuing the Jewish lineage. On the contrary, she’s welcomed to convert to Judaism. I do blame Tsahi the IslamLevi, who took (TV show) Fauda one step too far. Bro, snap out of it. Lucy, it’s not personal, but know that Tsahi is my brother and the people of Israel are my people. No more assimilation.”
Although Aharish defines herself as most Israelis would want it – “Arab-Israeli” – she comes from a Palestinian society, where even those who are Israeli citizens like her, define themselves as Palestinians by a ratio of 2 out of 3. Aharish and Halvy seemed to have been aware of this paradigm – “We are signing a peace accord”, the couple joked in their wedding invitation. Aharish has in the past made clear that her identity was first and foremost ‘Israeli’ – and that nationalist affiliation was for her even higher in rank than being a woman. In 2015 she told the Times of Israel:
“Today, when people ask me ‘What are you?’ I say that I’m an Israeli. I’m not ashamed of my Israeliness. Then I’m a woman, and then I’m an Arab Muslim. That’s the order: Israeli, woman, Arab Muslim.”
Aharish also performed nationalist rituals for Israel, as when she lit a torch at the Independence Day ceremony on Mount Herzl in 2015, for her work as a “trailblazing Muslim journalist.”
On the face of it, you can hardly get more “assimilated” than Lucy Aharish, in the Israeli-national sense. She is placed right where many Zionists want ‘Arabs’ placed: Proud to be ‘Israeli’ (although no such nationality exists ), accepting of the discrimination they suffer (which Lucy Aharish is aware of), and dismissive of the Palestinian connection altogether in their self-definition.
But this is of course not enough to avert the “plague”, because when all is said and done, Lucy Aharish is not Jewish, hence she does not belong to the master-race.
The Zionist left was nonetheless quick to condemn the outrageously racist remarks mentioned above. This is not surprizing, because Aharish represents the ‘good Arab’.
Labor lawmaker Stav Shafir from the Zionist Union wrote on social media:
“I’ll say this gently: The brave and good-hearted Lucy Aharish understands what being a Jew means better than the person who tweeted that sickening and racist post I’m forced to share here—in the hopes everyone sees who we’re dealing with and what filth Netanyahu has brought into our homes”.
Alas, Shafir’s statement portrays precisely the ‘liberal-Zionist’ hypocrisy – Lucy Aharish is kosher, by some kind of a ‘Jewish’ standard, which is actually more Zionist than it is Jewish. Why did Shafir use that language? She was actually echoing a statement by her party leader Avi Gabbay, who said last year that “the left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish”, and Gabbay was echoing Netanyahu. Thus the hypocrisy circle is completed – the Zionist left chides the Zionist right while pandering to it.
Oren Hazan, completely aware of this hypocrisy, used it in defense of his own earlier statements:
“Your reactions, which try to turn assimilation into the right and heroic thing to do, explain what Prime Minister Netanyahu and Zionist Union chairman [Avi] Gabbay when they said: ‘The left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish'”.
Indeed, the Zionist left and center has been very involved in such racist condemnation of mixing with “Arabs”. Former left leader Isaac Herzog had warned the Zionist Union about being perceived as “Arab lovers”, and just a few months ago, when entering his new role as head of Jewish Agency, he decried intermarriage, especially in USA, as a “plague”.
In the Zionist ‘liberal center’, we have lawmaker Yair Lapid, who in the wake of a so-called “mixed marriage” in 2014 (so-called because both partners were Muslim – the woman had simply converted from Judaism), said: “It would bother me if my son married a non-Jew… It would bother me greatly.”
So now, Labor lawmaker Shelly Yachimovitch, who happened to “agree with everything” Yair Lapid said when he was making the above comment, takes her turn to condemn the racist statements from the right, using the Harry Potter metaphor: “There’s nothing new under the sun. The Death Eaters, as you may remember, believed only pure-bloods were allowed to exist, and anyone who married a Muggle was considered a blood traitor. And I’m sorry for using too subtle a metaphor,” she wrote.
Yair Lapid also chimed in against the Aharish-Halevy marriage yesterday, saying that intermarriage is problematic because “we haven’t recovered from the Holocaust yet.” Speaking on Army Radio, Lapid declared that he has “a problem with intermarriage” and prefers “that the Jewish people grow and not shrink. Now there are fewer Jews than there were before the Holocaust and we’re trying to grow.” Lapid’s ‘liberal’ condemnation of the statements from the right were not about their actual morally revolting character, but rather about their timing:
“Let’s say someone doesn’t like this, they couldn’t wait a week? On the couple’s happy day they had to say that?”
Center-leftist Zionist Union lawmaker Yoel Hasson added to the condemnation of the right:
“The racist, benighted and embarrassing face we cannot look at anymore. Just imagine what would happen if the Likud Party got 30 seats and more again.”
But that racist, benighted and embarrassing face is not just of the right. It is very much the face of Zionism, right left and center. The condemnations from the left are like half a face condemning the other half for looking ugly.
Zionism is about a Jewish racial-nationalist exclusivity. It may be that the Zionist left has more liberal make-up on, but it’s the same face. And it’s a huge problem.
These so-called ‘mixed marriages’ are extremely rare anyway. Data from 2015 shows that out of some 58,000 registered marriages, only 23 were between ‘Arabs and Jews’. That’s less than one out of two-thousand (less than 0.05%), in a state where the Israeli-Palestinian citizenry is about 20%. We’re obviously hearing the noise about this one because the two are celebrities. In general, there’s just a roaring silence about this cultural Apartheid, which is deeply societally engrained. Of course, this is more than just about assimilation and Jews vis-à-vis non-Jews. When we are speaking of ‘Jews and Arabs’ we’re actually speaking of the colonialist context of Jewish State and Palestinians. So this is not just about religion. It is about hegemony, it is about racial dominance and purity, and that’s a very Zionist matter. Zionists cannot throw stones in this glasshouse.
After all that said, best wishes to the newlyweds.
H/t David Sheen