Death of Shulamit Aloni seen as death of Israeli Left
1st, Magnes Zionist on death of the ‘true Jew'; 2nd, hostile obit on an anti-Jew, from Jewish Press; 3rd, NY Times rounds up opinions; 4th, Haaretz provides a sober obituary.
By Jerry Haber, Magnes Zionist
January 24, 2014
Today I woke up to the news that Shulamit Aloni had passed away.
Aloni was of a generation that was brought up with the notion that to be a Jew was to be a moral human being. Judaism was encapsulated for her in the ethical humanism of the prophets, in the social justice of the Hebrews. She truly felt that the Bible preached this justice not only to Jews but to all people. “Man is beloved for he is born in the image of God,” and that image is one of justice and mercy. She was a Zionist, to be sure, and she loved the Jewish people. But because she loved them, she chastised and castigated them when they failed to live up to their own standards. She realized, of course, that much of Biblical morality was unacceptable, but she felt, as do I, that there were fundamentals of Biblical morality that can and should be extended beyond what the Bible intended. She occasionally called upon the rabbinic interpretation, but she was of a generation that lived and breathed the Bible, whole sections of which she knew by heart. She was able to pass that on to her own children, but her generation was not as fortunate.
Aloni lived long enough to see the creation of the amoral Jew as an ideal, the proud Jewish nationalist who saw morality as a luxury that a besieged people like the Jews could little afford. She cried out repeatedly against this trend. Like many of her generation, she saw the rise of religious fundamentalism and ultra-nationalism as a threat to what had been the redeeming features of a society that she felt had much to repent for. She did not go into politics to make money and taste the high life, as so many of the Israel’s recent leaders have done. Not a suggestion of corruption was ever associated with her.
Where is the Judaism of my youth? Not an hour, not a day, not a minute goes by without the cold-hearted trampling of human rights in Israel. Land is stolen, refugees are round up and thrown into prison, and all in the name of what? Jewish survival?
Hello, are there any Jews left?
Well, yes there is the surviving remnant, and the list is not short. They are the human rights activists harassed on the West Bank, the citizenship teachers hauled up before committees after rightwing students complain that they are being political, the defenders of Africa refugees rights, the educators of Jewish values. Real Jewish values. The children of Aloni.
We are left orphaned by the passing of a hero of Israel. May the memory of this tzadeket/righteous person be for a blessing.
By Yori Yanover, Jewish Press
January 24, 2014
The woman whose name was synonymous with leftist animosity towards Jewish tradition in Israel and Jewish life east of the 1967 border has left us at the age of 86. Shulamit Aloni, who was first elected to the Knesset in 1965 as part of the Labor party, and was soon edged out by another strong willed woman, Golda Meir. A few years later, Aloni established the Ratz (later Meretz) party and in 1992 received 10 Knesset seats, enough to make her a viable partner in Yitzhak Rabin’s government. In her powerful role as Education Minister, Aloni set out to decimate religious and nationalist education—until she was finally blocked by the Haredi coalition partners. As part of the Oslo government, she set out to dismantle the Zionist endeavor in the “disputed territories.” Aloni was also active in the area of consumer rights, but every aspect of her efforts in that area, too, included a tinge of her anti-Jewish ideology.
Shulamit Aloni as Education Minister in Yitzhak Rabin’s government
By Jodi Rudoren, NY Times
January 24, 2014
Shulamit Aloni, a longtime left-wing Israeli minister and Parliament member who was an early champion of civil liberties, challenger of religious hegemony and outspoken opponent of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, died Friday at her home in Kfar Shmaryahu, a Tel Aviv suburb. She was 86.
One of her sons, Nimrod, said she had not been seriously ill, “just very old.”
Mrs. Aloni, an elected lawmaker for 28 years, was the author of six books, including one of Israel’s earliest texts on civics. She was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize in 2000 “for her struggle to right injustices and for raising the standard of equality.”
In 2008, at age 80, she published “Israel: Democracy or Ethnocracy?” a harsh assessment of her homeland. She wrote on the cover, “The state is returning to the ghetto, to Orthodox Judaism, and the rule of the fundamentalist rabbinate is becoming more profound.”
Reuven Rivlin, a Parliament member from the conservative Likud Party, described Mrs. Aloni on Friday as “the last politician in her generation who said what she thought.” But her outspokenness also made for problems.
In 1992, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin rebuked her for questioning the biblical version of Creation and speaking in the same breath of the Hebrew matriarch Rachel and the prostitute Rahav. The next year, after Mrs. Aloni’s challenging of religious political leaders provoked a coalition crisis, Rabin demoted her from education minister to minister of communications and science and technology.
After Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Muslims at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994, she was among the first to call for the expulsion of hundreds of Jewish settlers from the West Bank city of Hebron. She also said that high school trips to Holocaust sites were turning Israeli youths into xenophobes, and she incited outrage by holding official meetings abroad in nonkosher restaurants.
Former political allies and opponents alike lauded her on Friday as a boundary-breaking pioneer for peace, “a moral compass,” “a special breed,” “an inspiration for all women” and a “pillar of fire.”
“It was impossible not to admire such a combative woman who fought for what she believed in and was prepared to pay the price,” said Geula Cohen, who founded a right-wing faction and frequently faced off with her in Parliament.
Yossi Sarid, who in 1996 successfully challenged Mrs. Aloni for leadership of the far-left Meretz Party, called her “a phenomenon” who feared “absolutely nothing.”
“How did we first become acquainted with civil rights? How did we first discover the occupation?” Mr. Sarid, now a political analyst, asked rhetorically Friday morning on Israel Radio. “She wanted to change the national and social agenda, and she did so, on her own, by virtue of her own capabilities, and attained great and unparalleled achievements.”
Although some sources say she was 85, her son Nimrod said she was 86 and was born in December 1927. Born Shulamit Adler in Tel Aviv to Polish immigrant parents, she fought in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.
She started her political career with the Labor-Alignment faction, then helped create the Citizens’ Rights Movement and, later, Meretz. She was married for 36 years to Reuven Aloni, who died in 1988. She is survived by their three sons, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Her death was a reminder of the decline of the left among Jews in Israel. Labor’s last prime minister was Ehud Barak in 2001, and Labor and Meretz combined hold 21 of Parliament’s 120 seats today. When Mrs. Aloni left elected office, they had 56.
“The pillar of fire has been extinguished,” the advocacy group Peace Now lamented in a statement.
Carol Sutherland contributed reporting.
Aloni, an Israel Prize laureate, was born in Tel Aviv and first elected to Knesset in 1965.
January 24, 2014
Shulamit Aloni, the former leader of Israel’s Meretz party and Israel Prize laureate who, throughout her life, fought for equality and civil rights, died on Friday morning at age 85.
The cause of death was not disclosed, but Aloni died at her Kfar Shmaryahu home surrounded by family. She will be laid to rest at 4 P.M. on Sunday in the central Israeli town’s cemetery, her family said in a statement.
Born in Tel Aviv in 1928, Aloni was a member of Hashomer Hatzair youth movement and later volunteered for the Palmach, an elite force of the Jewish underground military in pre-state Israel, fighting in the 1948 War of Independence.
Aloni was first elected to Knesset in 1965 on the ticket of Labor Alignment (Ma’arach), the predecessor of the Labor Party. On the eve of the 1974 election, Aloni defected from Labor and founded Ratz, the Movement for Civil Rights and Peace, which secured three seats in the eighth Knesset.
Aloni was appointed a minister without portfolio in Yitzhak Rabin’s first government in 1974, but resigned after the National Religious Party joined the coalition. In the 1984 election, Ratz won five parliamentary seats after Peace Now members Ran Cohen – and later Yossi Sarid – joined the party.
Aloni was among the founding members of Meretz during the 12th Knesset, when Ratz formed an alliance with Mapam and Shinui in 1991. The new party won 12 seats in the Knesset election a year later. Aloni, who led the party, joined Rabin’s coalition and was appointed minister of education and culture.
She served as education minister in Rabin’s cabinet between 1992-1993 and as science and arts minister between 1993-1996.
Aloni retired in 1996, after Sarid was elected Meretz chairman.
In 2000, she was awarded the Israel Prize for her lifetime achievements and contribution to Israeli society, despite protests from Israel’s religious establishment.
In awarding her the prize, the committee of judges praised her for being a voice for citizens, for “struggling to repair injustice and hoist the flag of equality between the different peoples and faiths in Israel.”
Aloni authored six books in her lifetime, including titles about children’s and women’s rights. In 2008, at age 80, she published “Democracy in Shackles” (Demokratia BeAzikim), about the state of Israel’s democracy. In it, she wrote, “The state is returning to the ghetto, to Orthodox Judaism, and the rule of the fundamentalist Rabbinate is only growing stronger.”
She lamented that the “blooming, free and enlightened Israel that prided itself on research and progress now bows before the rabbis, Haredim and settlers, who demand everything for themselves in the name of religion.”
Aloni was married for 36 years to Reuven Aloni, who helped found the Israel Lands Administration. He died in 1988. The couple lived in Kfar Shmaryahu, an upscale town not far from Tel Aviv, where they raised three children, Dror, Nimrod and Udi.
Politicians mourn ‘trailblazing’ Aloni
Ministers and MKs from across the political spectrum mourned Aloni’s death on Friday, praising her courage and no-nonsense approach to defending civil rights.
Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On called Aloni “trailblazing” and said she would continue to inspire all Israelis who care about civil rights and equality.
“She transformed Israel into a better place to live and never stopped fighting for the values she believed in and with which she will forever be associated: peace, absolute equality irrespective of religion, gender and race,” Gal-On said, adding that the Meretz party would continue to defend the rights Aloni fought for throughout her life.
Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog said that Aloni set an example for his generation. “Aloni instigated significant change in Israeli public discourse and broke down the walls that protected antiquated ways of thinking and outdated paradigms,” Herzog said. “For this, as a nation, we must respect her. She will be remembered as a courageous fighter for peace, coexistence and minority rights.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Aloni made great contributions to Israeli discourse about democracy and said that despite their fundamental differences of opinion, “I always respected her determination in standing up for her views and voicing her opinion loud and clear, as well as her great concern for Israel and its future.”
Ya’alon said that his debates with Aloni were always “challenging” and that he valued her modesty and integrity, and her “groundbreaking struggle for civil and women’s rights, which brought about positive changes in Israel’s image and character.”
Former Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin also recalled not seeing eye-to-eye with Aloni, but said he respected her as a woman who “wasn’t swayed by populism, but expressed her beliefs and views as they were.”