Thursday, July 12, 2007

False Outrage and Misdirection

Let's be upfront about this- hitting people is wrong. Bitch-slapping people is also wrong. Amnon de Hartog's conduct toward MK Yaakov Cohen was totally inappropriate and should be criticized.

By the same token, the vilification of this guy by the Haredi sector seems to have been going on for a long time, and the conversation instigated by MK Cohen was also totally out of line. It is immaterial if he called de Hartog a Nazi or merely "a German"- it shows poor impulse control and an inability to keep personal attacks out of policy debates.

Enter Tali Farkash, writing for Ynet:

My ears are still ringing from the slap given to MK Ya'acov Cohen Tuesday, in the name of every haredi, wherever he may be. A slap against his views, values and faith, which go against the worldview of Muhammad Ali’s heir at the Justice Ministry.

Actually, if anyone brought faith and views into the discussion, it was Cohen, who provoked the discussion by claiming de Hartog was "destroying the Torah world," which is particularly rich since de Hartog graduated from a yeshiva and has approved funds to go to Religious Zionist schools.

In a chilling timing, this whole incident took place only 15 days before Tisha B’Av, which marks the destruction of the Temple, the source for all the troubles that have been haunting us for the last 2000 years.

Yeah, that's right, having the Temple would solve all our problems. Nothing gets rid of factional infighting like smearing heifer blood on an altar. Even the Reform believe that one.

The exchange of words between the two appears to me to have been delusional, aggressive and out of order. But, like I teach my little son, even when you’re very angry you do not hit someone else. Unfortunately, what is clear and obvious to a five-year-old is not clear to the attorney appointed by the State on enforcing law and order, who allows himself to hand out slaps to public officials when the debate heats up.

When do you teach him about ad hominem attacks? Late 60s? Is that another feature of the curriculum haredi schools opt out of?

It is ironic that a lawyer who presumes to understand what good education is gives an “example” and makes it clear to all those who may have had a doubt about what kind of education he got and what it’s worth. Amnon De Hartog, the representative of integrity, truth and justice aims to “shape things up” among the haredim and cut funding to their entire education system. The man doesn’t approve of the fact that at some of the boys’ education institutions, the curriculum will not include the exact components of the digestive system, while I still find it hard to digest his own behavior.
Witty curriculum/personal behavior puns! I love it. Let me try: How about-MK Cohen doesn't like that the state has standards about getting funding, which is fitting, since he ignores standards of appropriate speech! Ok, I admit this particular bit of wordsmitthery is trickier than it looks. Point to you, random Haredi-apologist. I'd doff my hat, but it's not tznius. Also, it might accidentally touch you during your period of uncleanliness, and then I think I have to purify it by fire or something.

Back to Tisha B’Av. I know that comparing between then and now is extremely trite, but it appears that history continues to repeat itself after all.

Yeah, Jews still like to argue after 2,000 years. Who'd have thunk?

The hatred of ‘the Other’ fills us like poison, and destroys each good place with pure evil. The Temple, the source of all good, the core of the Jewish people, was not destroyed because the worshippers chose Roman and Assyrian paganism over God. It was destroyed because we as a people ruined ourselves.

Actually, I'm pretty sure it was destroyed because the Jews kept defying regional superpowers and were vastly outnumbered and outgunned. But your explanation's good, too.

That same hatred has already destroyed us once, but we fail to learn the lesson, and wait for everything to crumble down once again.

Just once? Come on, now. There have been at LEAST two Temples. Add all the other major expulsions and assorted disasters, I'm sure you can get at least into double-digits. I bet some of them even happened in vague proximity to Tisha B'Av! Double Kabbalah-gematria-nuttiness word score!

With his haredi outfit and Yiddish accent, MK Cohen represents exactly what every Israeli hates, even without ever exchanging one word with him. There is no end to stereotypes.

Stereotypes are indeed a problem, and should be confronted. One way to do this is through education. I wonder how haredi educational systems address "the other?" Be it other Jews, or dare I say it, Gentiles? What stereotypes was MK Cohen operating on when he accused a kippa sruga government employee of wanting to continue Hitler's work? Sorry Tali, you can attack de Hartog for losing his cool and resorting to violence, but claiming he was bigoted against Cohen because of his accent? Not buying it. Just a hunch, but I don't think the Yiddish pronunciation is what pushed him over the edge, it was the words themselves.

Worst of all is the fact that even after all the excuses people give themselves for hating haredim disappear, the hatred will remain. I find this truth the most hard to deal with.

Right back at you. What excuses are there for the Haredi population to "hate" de Hartog? Disagree with him, fine, but hate?
De Hartog’s slap took me back to the teary eyes of a colleague several years ago. After doing full army service, both he and his wife were working, paying taxes and being “productive citizens” according to every criterion. And still he experiences the hatred, the humiliating and degrading treatment, the arrogance towards the “primitive haredi” because of his dress and looks. He’s only one of many who go through this every day.

How much evil, prejudice and distortions can a public stand?

Don't know, how many pashkevilles does UTJ have lying around?

Look lady, this is a two-way-street. Yes, people should not hate or smear haredim, especially those working to counter negative stereotypes of them by being productive members of society (which obviously is already skewed to a non-Haredi POV, but there you go). But by the same token, you can't pretend that the Haredi public, particularly the politicians, don't have a fair degree of contempt for their non-religious-- or in this case, merely differently religious-- peers.

What MK Cohen said in rage was the essence of the Jewish experience in the world. It’s the spirit that’s important. The parent has the right to determine what his children learn in school. A parent who wants to leave the non-religious studies to the age of 20, as many in the religious public do, is entitled to do so. And no you, Amnon, or anyone else, are not allowed to slap him for this.

The parent ONLY has the right to determine what the child learns in school if THEY'RE the one paying for it. If the Haredim want to teach their children nothing but Jewish studies and thereby prevent them from higher education or employment, they're welcome to do so. The issue is that they are simultaneously demanding that the state subsidize them, and have used the lamentable weaknesses in the parliamentary system to blackmail the dominant coalitions to get their way since the state's founding. And on top of all of it, the Haredi leaders act as if this funding is somehow owed to them, irrespective of their behavior or attitudes towards the state. The Haredim see state funding of their institutions as an entitlement, and the reality is that it's really not. There are standards they need to follow in order to get funding, and if they are so ideologically opposed to them, they should put their money where their mouths are, and start supporting their schools themselves. No one's forcing them to ask the state for money. The issue of the spirit is not relevant here. This is about law and educational standards. Don't like it? Get out of the system and start a private school-- like in America.

The haredi public is very protective of his children, and for a good reason. He will fight for the principle of the spirit, as he did in Masada and in medieval Europe. If it wasn’t for them and their bravery, where would we be today?

Wait, today's Haredim, many of whom refuse service in the military, are the inheritors of Masada? Funny, that's not the first group I would have thought of...

The painful answer is that we would have been extinct, like the Moabites, the Canaanites and the ancient Egyptians. The inappropriate words were not said out of disrespect for the Holocaust, which I think also claimed the lives of many of Cohen’s family.

So, essentially, Cohen was justified in suggesting de Hartog was following in the Nazis' footsteps because in his eyes, it's true? Anyone who opposes Haredi schools (or demands they actually teach the state curriculum) is an enemy of Israel wanting to make the Jews extinct? Sorry, I can't respect that way of thinking. It's moronic, it's myopic, and entirely unjustified. Cohen's behavior, and Farkash's defense of it, are symptomatic of something far more disturbing than merely a heated argument or a slap to the face. They demonstrate that, at least among some segments of the Haredi public, anyone who thinks differently, anyone on the wrong side of the Haredi agenda, is apparently to be regarded as evil and on par with the Romans or Inquisition.

Forget the hype about Tisha B'Av and senseless hatred, we could go there but there's no need. Just this: if MK Cohen said what he said because he actually believes de Hartog's motivation in doing his job is to hurt Jews, then there's a much bigger problem going on here.

Edit: Shmarya fisked the same article. I really need to move quicker. And Harry over at Emes Ve-Emunah comes to some of the same conclusions as me, only, you know, without the bitter sniping.

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