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Economist Debates: Is Israel Succumbing To Jewish Fundamentalism?

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Israelis protest against gender segregation and violence towards women by ultra Orthodox Jewish extremists on Dec. 27, 2011 in Beit Shemesh, Israel. The protest comes following a series of incidents that have seen women being forced to sit at the back of segregated buses, being forced to walk only on certain sides of the road and the harrassment of schoolgirls due to their choice of attire. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
Israelis protest against gender segregation and violence towards women by ultra Orthodox Jewish extremists on Dec. 27, 2011 in Beit Shemesh, Israel. The protest comes following a series of incidents that have seen women being forced to sit at the back of segregated buses, being forced to walk only on certain sides of the road and the harrassment of schoolgirls due to their choice of attire. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Jewish fundamentalists come in two colours: the black-clad haredim or ultra-Orthodox, and the blue-jeaned settlers, also Orthodox but more modern in their lifestyle. Both groups are growing, the haredim meteorically, inside Israel and in Jewish communities abroad. Both are strongly represented in Binyamin Netanyahu's governing coalition.To what extent do they set policy or powerfully influence it? Do they strive for the same policy goals?

Have they hijacked the Jewish state, with its rapidly dwindling secular majority? Is democracy possible in a Jewish state with a strong ultra-Orthodox component? Is peace with the Palestinians possible in a Jewish state with a strong settler component that opposes the two-state solution? Do either or both of these fundamentalisms truly represent the fundamentals of the Jewish faith? These are several of the key questions that will be covered in the debate.

Defending the proposition is Avraham Burg, founder and chairman of Molad and chairman of Mifalot. Contesting the motion is Daniel Gordis, Senior vice-president and Koret Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Centre in Jerusalem. The debate will be moderated by David Landau, Israel correspondent, The Economist.

Read the whole story at The Economist