An important insight into Israeli society.
When ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters recently clashed with Israeli government officials over gender segregation in public places, many of the demonstrators played on a link between Israel and Nazism by dressing up as Nazi concentration camp inmates.
Such clashes have become more frequent in recent years, as ultra-Orthodox Jews, who make up 10 per cent of the country’s population, are said to be growing increasingly aggressive in their attempts to impose their conservative ways on others. So is the religious divide in Israel growing? And is there a link between the Holocaust and the existence of the state of Israel?
Earlier last year, before the recent demonstrations, Talk to Al Jazeera met Yehuda Bauer, a prominent Holocaust scholar at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who says that the foundation of the state of Israel and its link to the Holocaust is weak. In fact, he says, the Holocaust almost prevented the establishment of the state by destroying much of the population the Zionist movement had expected to move to Israel.
On the question of how to achieve peace with the Palestinians as Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, stands firm on his demand that the Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state, Bauer says: “I think that is proof of his [Netanyahu's] internal insecurity. If you are secure in your Jewish identity you do not need Abu Mazen or Saeb Erekat to tell you that you are a Jew. Do they need me to fortify their belief that they are Palestinian?”
Bauer believes Palestinians and all other minorities living on Israeli soil should be given equal rights to Israelis, because a national state “should grant absolutely equal rights, not just formal rights, to the minorities that are within it”.
On this episode of Talk to Al Jazeera, Yehuda Bauer talks to Teymoor Nabili about being a historian in a region where there are as many versions of history as there are people telling them, Jewish identity and extremism and navigating between conservative Jews and Palestinians.
“There is a certain closeness in attitudes, in outlooks, in social psychology …. We are cousins. Cousins very often quarrel in a very unpleasant way, but I think that we could arrive at an arrangement where live and let live could become a viable option – it is not now, obviously, but it could become that. There is a danger of a violent Jewish radical, genocidal nationalism with a minority of Israeli Jews. There is such a minority, it’s very dangerous, I think we have to exert great pressure on these people to limit that, and finally to conquer it. This group of radical Jewish nationalists, genocidal radical Jewish nationalists, are a mirror image of radical Islam that wants to annihilate all the Jews in the world. But on both sides there is a danger. Here it is a minority, but that could change ….”