columnIsrael at War

Asa Kasher’s unkosher disloyalty

While the Israeli military is conducting a valiant effort to destroy Hamas and rescue the hostages, the “purity of arms” author might have exercised discretion before voicing his extremist positions.

Prof. Asa Kasher, Jan. 10, 2023. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90.
Prof. Asa Kasher, Jan. 10, 2023. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Photo by Ariel Jerozolomski.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, former adviser at the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is an award-winning columnist and senior contributing editor at JNS, as well as co-host, with Amb. Mark Regev, of "Israel Undiplomatic" on JNS-TV. She writes and lectures on Israeli politics and culture, and on U.S.-Israel relations. Originally from New York City, she moved to Israel in 1977 and is based in Tel Aviv.

Professor Asa Kasher is a disgrace to his already dubious claim to fame as the lead author of the Israel Defense Forces’ code of ethics, officially titled “The Spirit of the IDF.”

Though it was his “contribution to philosophy” that earned him, in 2000, the illustrious Israel Prize, he is best known for heading the committee that crafted the oxymoronic “purity of arms” doctrine. Never mind that it was updated without his input a few years after the military first distributed it to all units in December 1994; the document is indelibly marked with Kasher’s name.

And so it should be since he’s the one behind the underlying principles that endanger troops on the battlefield. Why this is considered a “moral” pursuit, rather than the opposite, is a question with a political answer.

While Kasher might scoff at such a suggestion, his activism gives up the jig. Take his remarks at a rally late last month in Modi’in, for instance.

Opening his speech by pointing to a soldier from that city killed in combat in Rafah, he proceeded to assert that this young man and others like him have fallen “in vain.” Their deaths, he said, were due to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ambition to remain in power.

Nor was Netanyahu his only target. No, he went down memory lane by more than a century to blacken the reputation of Jewish national hero Joseph Trumpeldor.

Whether fact or urban legend, Trumpledor’s last words—as he succumbed to wounds sustained while defending Tel Hai in 1920—were: “It’s good to die for our homeland [country].”

Calling the statement “stupid,” Kasher announced: “It’s bad to die for our country.”

To make matters worse, he went on to invoke David Ben-Gurion for his pernicious purposes. Borrowing from Ben-Gurion’s pronouncement at the outbreak of World War II—that “we must help the British fight the war as if there were no ‘White Paper,’ and fight against the ‘White Paper’ as if there were no war”—Kasher said that the protesters must “fight the government as if there’s no Hamas, and fight Hamas as if there’s no government.”

Only a philosophy professor could be that convoluted and keep a straight face. After all, it’s the political echelon that makes the decisions for the army to execute.

Kasher’s solution to the epistemological puzzle was unoriginal: to hold early elections. Yes, he explained, it is imperative to “disinfect” the “morally filthy” government by replacing it with uncontaminated “normal and moral” representatives.

The hyperbole was not only typical; it was a reminder of why Israelis rejected the left at the ballot box on Nov. 1, 2022.

In an interview with Kan News radio less than two weeks after the coalition was formed, Kasher—a prominent figure in the “anybody but Bibi” camp—let loose on the plan to reform the judiciary. You know, a part of the platform that voters supported.

“We were born into a state that wanted to be democratic; for decades, we were a democratic country,” he said. “And now they want to turn us into a different sort of a country, which will cease being democratic.”

The new government, he averred, “will continue to call itself democratic, in the way that communist regimes called themselves ‘popular’ democracies.” Perhaps inadvertently, he revealed that it’s really the country for which he has disdain.

“[O]ur culture is one of lies and pretense [in which people say] whatever they want with no relation to facts. … We won’t be a democracy. We’ll be something else—the kind [of entity] that there’s no moral justification to honor.”

Israel’s “predatory” parliamentary majority of “bullies,” Kasher bemoaned, could cancel freedom of speech, employment and romantic preferences. Apparently, he forgot that Amir Ohana, an openly gay, married father of twins, had just been appointed Knesset speaker by those very “bullies.”

Asked about an op-ed he penned, in which he decried that the Jewish people had undergone two “mutations,” one haredi and the other nationalist, Kasher answered in the affirmative, with one qualification: that he hadn’t been alluding to bacteria and viruses, but rather to a “significant change transferred from generation to generation.”

Once he got the COVID-19 metaphor out of the way, he reiterated his aversion to nationalists and haredim, whose “dictatorial regime will bring about the country’s moral collapse.”

In the wake of the Oct. 7 massacre, while the IDF is conducting a valiant effort to destroy Hamas and rescue the hostages, someone as respected as Kasher might have exercised a modicum of discretion before voicing his extremist positions.

Clearly, however, bashing Bibi and demonizing Israeli culture is higher on his list of priorities than defeating the Jewish state’s genuinely genocidal enemies.

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