Israel’s exceptionalism – not so exceptional


Haviv Rettig-Gur does a superb job here of dismantling — for Phil Weiss’ benefit — Shlomo Sands’ specious claims about marriage discrimination in Israel.

Haviv makes a point that should be self-evident, but which I’d never realized: The essential liberalness of Israeli society, and how it accommodated Ottoman-era confessionalist traditions, is precisely what led Israel to break ground in the West in recognizing gay relationships:

In having the most medieval marriage law in the West, Israel’s judiciary has created the most post-modern. Gays who cohabitate owe each other alimony when they break apart. Indeed, Israeli judges in recent years have begun to scale back this process out of fear that they were judicially “marrying” people who only wanted to live together.

But Phil asks a fair question, referring to Haviv’s point that Israel is far from exceptional in wrapping ethnicity into its constitution:

But do those places not let you marry people of other ethnic backgrounds?

The answer is yes, and the coincidence is that the Associated Press just ran a story on how Israelis and Lebanese share a tradition of taking their vows to Cypus in order to circumvent confessionalist strictures.

Not only that, but in this neighborhood, the AP reports, Israel and Lebanon actually are progressive for recognizing the Cyprus marriages:

In the Middle East, civil marriage doesn’t exist and no religious authority will perform an interfaith wedding. Lebanon and Israel are different in that they recognize civil marriages as long as they’re performed abroad, and the closest venue abroad is Cyprus, 240 kilometres from Lebanon and 370 kilometres from Israel.

This story, by the way, is why AP (my former employer) remains essential: No one does across the border, collaborative stories better (see the pile of co-bylines at the end.) I remember the thrill of AP, about 1993, introducing IM technology into its content management system; and then, of instantly conversing with staffers in Beirut that until then had been little more than bylines to me.




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