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Moshe Feiglin is the former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and the head of Zehut, an Israeli political party formed in 2015. Zehut advocates the return of Israel to the Jewish people and leading the State of Israel through authentic Jewish values. Feiglin was interviewed by Vox Day on January 24, 2017.
VOX DAY: There are a lot of political parties in Israel. Why was another one necessary? What does Zehut offer the Israeli voter that Likud and Labor do not?
MOSHE FEIGLIN: Both sides, Likud and Labor, do not focus on the basic Jewish concept, which is liberty. The basic message of Judaism is liberty. As we know, the Founding Fathers of the United States based their deepest concepts on the Bible and the Jewish prophets. This message is very much needed in Israel. It is needed for Israel to become, not just another state, but a real Jewish state that brings to the world those old/new concepts. Otherwise, Israel will lose its identity and the meaning for its existence, and it will also start to lose its legitimacy. I believe the international community is actually waiting, longing, for some kind of a serious message that will come out from this wonderful, unusual experience where the oldest nation in the world is coming back to its homeland. The entire world is supposed to benefit from this, to achieve something from this beyond just another state in the world that is modern and democratic. Humanity is waiting for something deeper than that from us.
VD: You’re often described as being liberty-minded, even as a libertarian. What does that mean in a historically socialist state such as Israel?
MF: That’s exactly the point! The social concepts that were the basic roadmap of Israel’s founders in 1948, in the three first decades of Israel, those concepts are not Jewish concepts. With all due respect to the kibbutz and all the socialists’ ideas, these are not Jewish ideas. The basic Jewish ideas are freedom and liberty. There is also the frame of the Jewish values of mercy, and taking care of each other, and responsibility to society, but these should not be state regulations. They should be more of a national culture that has to be developed in the community. We know that in states that are more free and more capitalist, the situation of the poor is much better than in socialist states. So, there is no contradiction between freedom and humanity.
VD: What is the most serious challenge facing Israel today, and what is your plan for addressing that challenge?
MF: I think the most serious and important challenge, the crucial challenge, I would say, is to connect between Jewish identity and Israeli identity. Despite being very strong today, Israel must meet that important challenge or risk losing its legitimacy and ability to continue. The challenge is to create a modern state in a modern world, very technological, very democratic, and very open-minded on one hand, and very connected to Jewish identity and Jewish culture on the other hand. And I think the only way to do it is to take the state out of the picture as much as we can. The state should be as small as can be and leave an open space without interfering with the synergy between the population, the interaction between religious and non-religious, the synergy between Jews who came from the East and Jews who came from the West. Something big is going on, through which the whole world will enjoy the cultural and spiritual fruits. We have much more to give the world than just technology and medicine. This will only happen if the state will stop interfering, if the gun of the State will be taken off the middle of the table and Israelis will be free to develop their culture with free interactions with each other. And, of course, it also goes to the economy. Israel can be very successful, the richest country in the world, in my opinion, but the involvement of the government in the economy is still one of the worst in the OECD. We’re very far away from a free economy. There are so many regulations. The size of the government is enormous.
VD: You talked about the division between Israeli identity and Jewish identity, and the need to bring those two concepts together? Do you see any potential problem in the way Jews are perceived to be pro-immigration and anti-identity in the West while being anti-immigration and pro-identity in Israel?
MF: Look, Israel is probably the most open state to immigration to ever exist, maybe even more than America. I think Israel is the only state in the history in the world that sends its troops to Africa to bring black people to be its citizens instead of being its slaves. I’m speaking of the Jews from Ethiopia. We’re definitely not racist and we’re definitely a great example of a state that has opened its doors to immigration in a very successful way. However, this is a Jewish state and we have to maintain its identity, not lose it. Therefore, being that Israel is based on the Jewish identity – it’s a Jewish state, it’s not a state of all its citizens – we have to be very careful when we’re dealing with those questions of immigration.
VD: What would a long-term peace in the Middle East look like? Is there any possibility for genuine peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, or is this a situation more akin to the Cold War, which only time can resolve in its own fashion.
MF: You may be surprised, but I’m very optimistic. The reason for the conflict is that Israeli society did not make clear to itself what is our identity. I know for a fact, from talking to Arab members of the Knesset about the situation here in the Middle East that the reason why the Arabs do not accept the Israeli state is that they don’t see the new Israelis, the Zionists, those who are trying to create a new identity instead of the Jewish identity, they don’t see them as real Jews who belong to the region. Therefore they don’t accept them. I was talking to an Arab Knesset member once, and he told me, “with you, I will manage, because you belong here.” It’s not a territorial conflict, it’s a cultural conflict. I think that the wars we have around us, and against us, are a reflection of the identity war we have inside Israeli society. Once that inner war is settled, we’ll be able to make peace with our neighbors. It’s just like somebody who is fighting with himself all the time, he will also fight with his neighbors. It’s true for individuals and it’s true for nations. There was never a Palestinian nation, there was never a Palestinian state. That’s all one big lie. If, God forbid, Israel would disappear one day, immediately, the word “Palestinian” would disappear as well. When the Gaza Strip, or Judea-Samaria, or parts of the land of Israel were held by the Egyptian army, or by the Jordanian army, you never heard any voices calling for those pieces of land to be given back to the so-called Palestinians. They will always fight for a Palestinian state on the square inch where the Jew is standing. In order to solve the conflict, we need to start saying the truth. The truth is that the land of Israel is a Jewish land, it belongs to the Jews more than any piece of land on Earth belongs to any other nation, and they have more historical right to it than any other nation. We have to be ourselves. When we hide from our identity, we open the door to these demands and these wars.
VD: What should Israel’s position on Syria be? Was overturning the Assad government a legitimate and reasonable objective for the Obama administration? Should the West be involving itself in regime change in the Middle East?
MF: Israel is the strongest state in the region. When a humanitarian crisis, like what’s taken place in Syria, is happening right on our border, I don’t think Israel, as a Jewish state representing moral values, can stand aside and see vast massacres taking place. I don’t want our soldiers going in and getting involved with that war, of course. However, I think that a long time ago, Israel should have set up a safe zone, protected by the air force and artillery, where citizens running away from murderers, whether it is Assad, ISIS, DAESH, or whoever, can be safe. There should have been that kind of humanitarian involvement from Israel. Because Israel did not do that, we saw other forces come into the vaccuum, and they only escalated the violence.
VD: Is Iran a significant threat to Israel? Why should the various threats made by Iranian officials from time to time be taken any more seriously than, for example, Saddam Hussein’s threats preceding Desert Storm?
MF: I think that 70 years after the Holocaust, we should take very, very seriously every big state with a leader saying “I want to kill the Jews.” Today, the Jews are represented by the State of Israel. When you say you want to destroy Israel, you want to destroy the Jews. So we’re talking about a new Hitler. Was it good that the original Hitler was not taken seriously in the mid-1930s? So, yes. The answer is yes, the Iranian regime should be taken seriously. I think what Obama did was not any different than what Chamberlain did in the Munich agreement. The horrendous results of that are still ahead of us. I expected Netanyahu to deal with Iran exactly how Begin did with Iraq. Unfortunately, he did not have the courage to do so, and he got America involved. He transferred responsibility to the Americans, and that’s why we got this horrible agreement. And that’s why we are going to need to deal with the results of that later on.
VD: Jews are often, understandably, concerned about the Holocaust. But do you think there is a diminishing effect of appealing to the Holocaust, considering that it is beyond the living memory of most people today? How can anyone expect the Holocaust to make any difference to, say, the Chinese, who killed 50 million of their own people? Why would they care more about an order of magnitude fewer Jews being killed 70 years ago than they do about themselves?
MF: It’s a very important question. I agree with you 100 percent. When I’m talking about the Holocaust, I don’t think that it is something Israel needs to wave before the entire world, not at all. I don’t like that every VIP who comes to Israel is taken to Yad Vashem. Not at all! I’m not looking to embarrass anyone about the Holocaust and I don’t base Israel’s right to exist on the Holocaust. When I bring it up, I am saying that we, Israel, have to remember our own experience. When the head of a serious state, 60 million civilians, a member of the UN, with a serious army, talks about destroying Israel, we should believe him. I’m not turning to the Americans, or the Russians, or anyone else, to help me. I’m reminding myself that I should learn from my own experience. The right of Israel to exist is not Yad Vashem. The right of Israel to exist is not the recent past. The right to exist, and to flourish, is the message that the Jewish nation still needs to enlighten the entire world, and to help it flourish from Zion. This is our point. It is a positive point, not a negative one.