Palestinians, the secular and women all face a harsher environment as theocratic tendencies are entrenched, writes Jonathan Cook.
In which country did a senior, state-salaried cleric urge his followers last month to become “warriors,” emulating a group of young men who had murdered a woman of another faith?
The cleric did so with impunity. In fact, he was only echoing other highly placed colleagues who have endorsed a book – again without penalty – urging their disciples to murder babies belonging to other religions.
Where can the head of the clergy call black people “monkeys” and urge the expulsion of other religious communities?
Where does a clerical elite wield so much power that they alone decide who can marry or get divorced – and are backed by a law that can jail someone who tries to wed without their approval? They can even shut down the national railway system without notice.
Where are these holy men so feared that women are scrubbed from billboards, college campuses introduce gender segregation to appease them, and women find themselves literally pushed to the back of the bus?
Is the country Saudi Arabia? Or Myanmar? Or perhaps, Iran?
No. It is Israel, the world’s only self-declared Jewish state.
There is barely a politician in Washington seeking election who has not at some point declared an “unbreakable bond” between the United States and Israel, or claimed the two uphold “shared values.” Few, it seems, have any idea what values Israel really represents.
There are many grounds for criticizing Israel, including its brutal oppression of Palestinians under occupation and its system of institutionalized segregation and discrimination against the fifth of its population who are not Jewish – its Palestinian minority.
But largely ignored by critics have been Israel’s increasing theocratic tendencies.
This hasn’t simply proved regressive for Israel’s Jewish population, especially women, as the rabbis exert ever…