David Duke & Intermarriage

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The Forward is reporting that David Duke gave another antisemitic speech at his favorite Ukrainian university last week.

“The Jewish extremists — the Zionists — they don’t want there to be academic freedom in this country, or political freedom in this country,” Duke said in a speech that was also broadcast on his personal Web site. “This university and your students and faculty are resisting this attack.”

Here’s hoping David Duke doesn’t read Haaretz. If he did, he might be forced to abandon his Protocols-type rambling and replace it with some truth, because he’d find a much more credible example of Jewish/Israeli suppression of freedoms: namely the freedom to marry. Haaretz recently reported that a group of intermarried couples is suing the State of Israel, asking to be compensated for expenses incurred during their international weddings.

There is no way for people of a different religion to marry legally in Israel, so couples who want to intermarry must go abroad. As was the case in this example cited by Haaretz:

Dimitri and Inessa Yakubovich met in early 2004. She was 25, he 24. Both of Inessa’s parents are Jewish. Dimitri has a Jewish father, meaning he is not Jewish according to halakha. They both served as drivers in the Israel Defense Forces. A short while after they first met, they began living together.

That summer they decided to get married. She had just received a NIS 9,000 grant from the army, which paid for their wedding in Sofia, Bulgaria. Since they traveled alone, rather than with a group, the wedding arrangements took a week, rather than the usual three days. They figure their expenses totaled $2,000…

“You feel like a second-class [citizen] who cannot marry in Israel and must go abroad,” says Dimitri. “I serve in the reserves like everyone else, and no one asks me if I’m half-Jewish. It shouldn’t be like this.”

Whatever your thoughts on intermarriage, it’s difficult to not call this religious discrimination. Which isn’t good because claims of discrimination against Israeli Arabs and the labeling of policies vis-a-vis Palestinians as apartheid have already placed the nature of Israeli democracy on the defensive.

Of course, these three elements are not all the same and should be judged on their own terms. But the conflicts between a “Jewish state” and “democracy” are not going to go away. Israeli society is only becoming increasingly diverse, ethnically and religiously. Is Israel prepared for this? Are we?

Posted on November 2, 2006

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