Article Library / 2016

2016 Annual Assessment

Since the last election (16 months or so), Jewish Home Party Ministers Bennett and Shaked together with Ze’ev Elkin from Likud have implemented new initiatives and programs designed to strengthen the Jewish nationalist character of the Israeli society. Bennett has enacted changes in two main areas. The first is “Israeli-Jewish Culture.” Here Bennett built upon a long-standing tendency, especially in the general state schools, to provide some Jewish identity education. He expanded the Israeli-Jewish Culture program to include all grades from first through ninth. The introduction to the curriculum includes the following:
“The curriculum in Israeli-Jewish Culture aims to strengthen and deepen the Jewish-Zionist-Israeli identity of the pupils in the general state education system, their sense of belonging, responsibility, and commitment to their people, their heritage and their culture.”12 Consistent with Bennett’s ideology of integral nationalism, this sentence stresses the commitment and responsibility that individuals have to the Jewish people and its culture.

The other field in which Bennett advanced a more nationalist agenda is that of civics education. Here, Bennett and the bureaucrats under him reshaped the civics curriculum and textbook to give them a more nationalist and collectivist orientation,13 and to minimize the more individualist and liberal construction of citizenship with its emphasis upon human and civil rights.

The Justice Ministry under Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home Party is also advancing legislation of a similarly nationalist character. She is advancing the new NGO law which requires that NGOs that receive more than half their funding from foreign sources to disclose so in all their public communications. In the vast majority of cases this law would affect NGOs that advocate for civil rights, especially for the Palestinian population, and oppose the Israeli occupation of Judea and Samaria. Minister Shaked has also gone on record that the Supreme Court in implementing its doctrine of judicial review has arrogated to itself undue powers. Accordingly, she has tabled legislation that anchors the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review in law and provides a mechanism whereby a special majority in the Knesset can override the Court’s decision to cancel a law. One of the commonplaces of religious and rightwing political discourse in Israel is that the Court, in its zeal to protect minorities and the rights of the Palestinians, works against the well-being of the Jewish people and the Jewish majority.

In addition to being Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett is also Minister of Diaspora Affairs. The ministry has recently announced the funding of programs promoting Jewish identity and support for Israel on American college campuses. The Ministry awarded the funding to two Orthodox groups and to the Hillel Foundation.14