UPDATE: Jacobin Magazine just published my essay, For the Israeli Right, the New Government Represents a Return to Its Fascist Roots. I also did interviews about the new Israeli government for the ArabTalk podcast, Paul DiRienzo and Scott Harris’ Between the Lines approximately 1:09 in the recording (WPKN-Bridgeport). An appearance on Robert Scheer’s podcast and interview with Muslim TV Network, later this week.
הידעתם? חבר הכנסת העתידי מטעם הימין החדש, עמיחי שיקלי, התנגד לאימוג׳י של דגל הגאווה כי ״הוא דגל של דת-אומה פרוגרסיבית״ שהיא אנטי ציונית 🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/E5WrRwdmRN
— אורי קול (@orikol) February 19, 2019
As if Diaspora Jewry hasn’t been assaulted enough by the new Israeli fascist government, the incoming minister for diaspora affairs insulted some of the central concerns of Diaspora Jewry.
To begin with, he changed the name of his new ministry to: the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs and the Struggle Against Antisemitism [sic]. Why? Because the new hot-button issue among the Israel Lobby and its promoters is anti-Semitism. One of its key tools for policing “anti-Israel” speech is the IHRA “definition” of anti-Semitism. Clearly, Chikli believes he’s going to ride this issue all the way up the ranks of Likud party politics.
Chikli earned his political wings by abandoning the previous center-right government because he declared it was cozying up to the interests of the “Arab” parties. His betrayal helped topple that government. His two ministerial posts are a reward from Bibi Netanyahu.
He has apparently earned this particular job due to his father’s credentials as a Conservative rabbi in Mexico. The younger Chikli is also a member of an Israeli kibbutz founded by the Conservative movement, and attended Camp Ramah (as I did as a youth). Yet he has said publicly, no doubt in order to stay in the good graces of the Haredi members of the new ruling coalition, that he is not a Conservative Jew (chas v’chalilah!).
As far as Chikli is concerned, BDS is a big bad bogeyman which will eat your Jewish children:
“Don’t try to deny your identity and ethnic origin. Don’t think that joining anti-Israel movements will help you with anything. In the end, the folks from the BDS movement will attack you and your children because it’s not Israel that they hate, they hate Judaism.”
He harbors false views on Jewish assimilation, claiming that it leads inexorably to self-hatred and the rise of anti-Semitic movements:
“There are a lot of Jews in the US who attend public schools and who marry non-Jews…. this means ‘the ceremony is over.’
“The Reform movement has identified itself with the radical left’s false accusations that the settlers are violent, so they have earned the criticism against them, and I cannot identify with them,” he told the Jerusalem Post, also last year. “They are going back to their roots in Germany of anti-Zionism and anti-nationalism. It’s a tragedy that they are going there.”
In fact, studies show that mixed marriages do not lead to the children of such marriages losing their parent’s connection to Judaism. In fact, often the opposite is the case.
This is clearly not the brightest bulb in the pack. And yet this is what the new Israeli government offers its Diaspora allies: an empty-headed schmegegge who disdains every value they hold dear. Should anyone tell our communal leaders not to fear, because Chikli will play virtually no role in implementing policy, and hence pose no threat–that’s hardly reassuring. One also wonders who among these leaders would have any interest in meeting him should he visit the US. Any self-respecting person would run for the hills before doing that. But then again, when it comes to Israel our leaders have long last their self-respect.
Among his more controversial statements is a post he published (and subsequently deleted) on his Facebook account in June 2022, in which he ranted:
Lately, I’ve seen another sign among [Facebook] emojis: the [rainbow] flag of the gay community. I thought that this might be a temporary thing, but it seems it is here to stay. Among all the nations and communities in the world, this flag in particular earned a special place. At first glance, it would seem to be completely insignificant. All told, just another transitory sign on Facebook. However, I think there is a fascinating statement here.
The LGBTQ flag has for some time been not only the flag of the gay community. It has become the flag of a new religion of a new nation: the national religion of Progressivism with millions of faithful, the majority youths from western nations. If one would conduct a poll on US campuses of American students asking whether they identified more with the flag of the US or the “Progressive” flag, I’m not certain the majority would choose the US flag.
These are the Six Commandments of the Progressive religion:
- There is only one truth and that is there is no truth.
- The Other is me, even if he kills me.
- Donald Trump is an enemy of humanity, only second to Zionism
- Zionism is the enemy of humanity and the Palestinians are the most unfortunate victims in the entire universe
- Infinite tolerance and acceptance of all who think like me, including ISIS
- Zero tolerance for the westerners who don’t think like me
Among the major leaders of the new religion are:
Gay Pride parade
Linda Sarsour the Great
Local leaders in the Holy Land [MKs of the Zionist left]:
— בר שם-אור Bar Shem-Ur (@Bar_ShemUr) January 6, 2023
In a subsequent interview with an Israeli reporter, Chikli contradicted himself when he claimed the statement above was not directed against the LGBTQ movement. He also added a spurious claim that the Black Lives Matter, BDS, and LGBTQ movements constitute a progressive conspiracy infiltrating Israel itself.:
Chikli: Wait, this wasn’t directed against the [LTBTQ] community, it was against the progressive movement. On a personal level, I live in an environment with more than its share of such couples, some of whom are friends, very good friends. We lit the 7th candle [of Hanukah] with neighbors who were mom and mom.
But concerning the ideology of the progressive movement, that’s different. This is essentially the US, and a sort of package deal. There are sevreral movements working together: you have what’s called “BLM.” You have the subject of BDS. And they are all together with LGBTQ. They work as a network.
Interviewer: But how does this relate to Israel?
C: It is related because it radiates [to Israel].
I: You mean you’re opposed to Gay Pride Parades like in Jerusalem?
C: If we separate them into concrete examples…I wrote about the Jerusalem parade. Take the parade in Beersheva. Then take the Tel Aviv parade. In Jerusalem they parade with signs, talk about the rights of the community, and that’s the end of it. In Tel Aviv, in particular with fringe events associated with the main one, there are many things with are, in my eyes, perverted and crude: nakedness, exhibitionism. Something quite vulgar. People partying. It’s their absolute right,
I: But don’t we support this? Hasn’t Netanyahu himself supported it?
C: These parades I would never support. I’m very much in favor of intimacy. But I don’t like this [the exhibitionism of the Tel Aviv parade]. And I think it’s my right to say I don’t like it.
I: But can you understand that some see the this [the parade] as a symbol of freedom, and that they’re not naked but in bathing suits?
C: I don’t see flaunting nudity on stage as freedom. C’mon, let’s stop with this. We know what it really is: flaunting sex, exhibitionism on stage…what I think is the opposite of what should be.
You’re trying to minimize things by saying, oh they’re wearing bathing suits, I’m not saying to them “don’t do this.” It their right to do it. I’m saying I don’t appreciate events like this.
To the point, if my son were to tell me he has an ‘inverted inclination’ [refers to a discredited psychiatric theory claiming homosexuality was a reversal of gender traits], that would be, as I said to you earlier, a non-issue.
I: But the very fact that you’re using such a term [“inverted inclination”]…
C: OK, it is a terminology, but it’s my terminology. It’s my right to use such terminology. But I will say this next: if I were to see him [my son] dressed like that on some stage I would be embarrassed.
I: Really? That much?
C: Yes, really. I expect of him…that he’s a big boy and he can do what he wants, right? But I wouldn’t be happy. I assume you wouldn’t be happy either to see your daughter like that.
I: You are now the minister of social equality. If groups connected the Tel Aviv Gay Pride parade sought funding from you would you agree or not?
C: From the beginning, this isn’t the type of activity that is funded. We’ve done some study on that subject. What we fund are things that are more appropriate in my opinion.
The leadership of Diaspora Jewish communities must speak up against the outrage Chiklis represents to their interests. They must warn Netanyahu directly that this appointment is an insult and will not be tolerated. Instead of coddling Israel and approaching it as a supplicant, these leaders must speak as an independent voice that owes nothing to an Israel that has diverged from values overwhelmingly embraced here in the Diaspora.
I will be asking leaders of the most important Israel Lobby groups in the US, including the Reform and Conservative movements, what is their response (if any) to Chiklis’ appointment. I will update any statements they offer.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.