In Favor of Perplexity and in Favor of Whitewashing

Conservatism for the Undecided, the Skeptics, and the Unbelievers

Thursday | 03.12.20 | 19:00

Lecture |

Assaf Sagiv

Is there a conservative camp in Israeli politics? Contrary to the widespread impression, this is not a trivial question and the answer to it is far from being a resounding yes. The routine labeling of broad swaths of the Israeli right as conservative derives from the appropriation of this label by Orthodox circles and by radicals of the nationalist-populist variety and from the almost habitual identification of conservatism with extreme anti-progressive views. However, as we shall see, both the enthusiastic defenders of conservatism on the right and its most virulent detractors on the left tend to adopt a partial and distorted view of this political form, under the influence of the relatively new and highly problematic American model, and ignore the skeptical and pragmatic elements that British and European conservatives infused it with.

These elements will be the focus of the lecture in which I will try to extract an outline of a conservative worldview from various historical and cultural contexts and to clarify the fundamental senses in which it differs from the dogmatic ideologies that today call themselves conservative. I will also attempt to trace several of its manifestations in the halakhic discourse and Jewish political thought. And finally, I will try to show why a democratic society as complex and multicultural as Israel may find in political conservatism—and not in disputed liberal prescriptions—the greatly needed remedy for the ills of zealotry and divisiveness that are tormenting it.



Assaf Sagiv, Shalem College, and the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute


Dr. Pini Ifergan, Bar-Ilan University and the Spinoza Center at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

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