As the world’s attention is on Israel, it’s worth revisiting the question: what really happened in the Middle East? Why is it so dysfunctional? What prevents people of all religions from living in peace? The highlights of The Terrorism Awareness Project’s presentation are worth reviewing.
* Â Click on the above link for a full presentation, well worth it!
Don’t miss the entire animated presentation atÂ The Terrorism Awareness Project.
Telling Lies about Israel
So you want to boycott Israel?
The silent exodus of Jewish refugees from Muslim lands
Here is the trailer for the superb filmmaker Pierre Rehov‘s Silent Exodus. Silent Exodus was selected at the International Human Rights Film Festival of Paris in 2004 and presented at the UN Geneva Human Rights Annual Convention that same year.
Here is a summary of the film:
In 1948 nearly one million Jews lived in Arab lands. But In barely twenty years, they have become forgotten fugitives, expelled from their native lands, forgotten by history and where the victims themselves have hidden their fate under a cloak of silence.A people whom legend have always associated with “wandering” many of these Jews from Arab lands had lived there for thousands of years and accepted their fate, through good times and bad times.
But 1948, the beginning of their exodus, also saw the birth of the State of Israel.
And, while the Arab armies were preparing to invade the young refugee-country, the survivors of the Shoah were piling up in rickety boats. Meanwhile a few hundred thousand Arabs from Palestine were getting ready to flee their homes, convinced that they would return as winners and conquerors.
Soon – by a terrible twist of fate they, as well, began to fill up refugee camps and passed on their refugee status to new generations.
The Jews, however, did not receive refugee status.
They had just rediscovered the land of their birthright.
And if they came from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq or from Yemen, if they had lost everything, even their relatives and their cemeteries, they were ready to rebuild their lives in the West and for many – in Israel – and try to forget their past.
Without ever asking for compensation or the right of return, or even wishing that their story be told…
And here also is an illuminating article on the subject by Magdi Cristiano Allam, “The Arabs Without the Jews: Roots of a Tragedy” (translated from Italian by Lyn and Lawrence Julius):
Israel is the keeper of a mutilated Arab identity, the repository for the guilty consciences of the Arab peoples, the living witness to a true history of the Arab countries, continuously denied, falsified and ignored.Seeing Pierre Rehov’s documentary film ‘The Silent Exodus’ about the expulsion and flight of a million Sephardi Jews helped me gain a better understanding of the tragedy of a community that was integral and fundamental to Arab society. Above all it has revealed to me the very essence of the catastrophe that befell it, a catastrophe which the mythical Arab nation has never once called into question. In a flash of insight I could see that the tragedy of the Jews and the catastrophe of the Arabs are two facets of the same coin. By expelling the Jews who were settled on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean centuries before they were arabised and islamised, the Arabs have in fact begun the lethal process of mutilating their own identity and despoiling their own history. By losing their Jews the Arabs have lost their roots and have ended up by losing themselves.
As has often happened in history, the Jews were the first victims of hatred and intolerance. All the “others” had their turn soon enough, specifically the Christians and other religious minorities, heretical and secular Muslims and finally, those Muslims who do not fit exactly into the ideological framework of the extreme nationalists and Islamists. There has not been a single instance in this murky period of our history when the Arab states have been ready to condemn the steady exodus of Christians, ethnic-religious minorities, enlightened and ordinary Muslims, while Muslims plain and simple have become the primary victims of Islamic terror.
Underlying the Arab ‘malaise’ is an identity crisis that neither Nasserist nor Ba’athist pan-Arabism, nor the Islamism of the Saudi Wahabis, the Muslim Brotherhood, Khomeini and Bin Laden has been able to solve. It’s a contagious identity crisis, spreading to and taking hold of the Arab and Muslim communities in the West.
I remember that around the mid-1970s the Arab exam in civic education taken in both state and public schools in Egypt defined Arab identity thus: “the Arabs are a nation united by race, blood, history, geography, religion and destiny.” This was a falsification of an historical truth based on ethno-religious pluralism, an ideological deception aimed at erasing all differences and promoting the theory of one race overlapping with a phantom Arab nation in thrall to unchallengeable leaders. It was directly inspired by Nazi and fascist theories of racial purity and supremacy which appealed to the leadership and ideologues of pan-Arabism and Islamism. It is no wonder that in this context Manichean Israel is perceived as a foreign body to be rejected, a cancer produced by American imperialism to divide and subjugate the Arab world.
The historical truth is that the Middle Eastern peoples, in spite of their arabisation and islamisation from the 7th century onward, continued to maintain a specific identity reflecting their indigenous and millenarian ethnic roots – cultural, linguistic, religious and national. The Berbers, for example, who constitute half the population of Morocco and a third of that of Algeria, have nothing or very little in common with the Bedouin tribes at the heart of Saudi or Jordanian society. When in 1979 Egypt was sidelined from the Arab League for signing a peace treaty with Israel President Sadat restored its Pharaonic Egyptian identity which he proudly contrasted with its Arabness. Here was an isolated but significant attempt to recapture an indigenous identity – advertising historical honesty and political liberation while saying ‘enough is enough’ to rampant lies and demagogy. Before the screening of the ‘Silent Exodus’ in the Congress Hall in Milan, a gentleman in his Seventies came up to me and said, in perfect Egyptian dialect: “I am a Jew from Alexandria. I have recently been in Tunisia and Algeria. I have to say that people there are not like us, they don’t have the sense of irony that distinguishes us Egyptians.” I smiled and replied that indeed, the Egyptians have a reputation as jokers. They are capable of laughing at anything, including themselves.
What struck me was the “us” – “us Egyptians”: even if we were both Italian citizens, he a Jew and I a Muslim. It reminded me that just after the 1967 defeat, I discovered by complete accident that the girl I was in love with – we both were 15 – was Jewish. For me she was a girl like any other. But for the police who submitted me to intensive interrogation she was a ‘spy for Israel’ and I was her accomplice.
In fact ‘the Silent Exodus’ testifies that anti-Semitism and the pogroms against the Jews of the Middle East preceded the birth of the state of Israel and the advent of ideological pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism. It infers that hatred and violence against the Jews could originate in an ideological interpretation of the Koran and the life of the prophet Muhammed taken out of context.
It would be a mistake to generalise and not to take into account that for long periods coexistence was possible between the Muslims, Christians and Jews of the Middle East, at a time when in Europe the Catholic Inquisition was repressing the Jews and when the Nazi Holocaust was trying to exterminate them. In the same way, one cannot ignore Israel’s responsibility together with Arab leaders in the emergence of the drama of millions of Palestinian refugees and the unresolved question of a Palestinian state.
The fact remains that of the million Jews who at the end of 1945 were an integral part of the Arab population, only 5,000 remain. These Arab Jews, expelled or who fled at a moment’s notice, have become an integral part of the Israeli population. They continue to represent a human injustice and an historical tragedy. Above all, they are indicative of an Arab civil and identity catastrophe. That is why to recognise the wrongs committed towards the Arab Jews – as the maverick Libyan leader colonel Gaddafi has recently done – by objectively rediscovering their past and millenarian roots, by finding again their tolerant and plural history and by totally and sincerely reconciling themselves with themselves, the Arabs could free themselves from the ideological obscurantism which has relegated them to the most basic level of human development and has changed the region into the most problematic and confict-ridden on earth.
The myth of al-Aqsa
Holiness of Jerusalem to Islam has always been politically motivated
When the Prophet Mohammad established Islam, he introduced a minimum of innovations. He employed the hallowed personages, historic legends and sacred sites of Judaism and Christianity, and even paganism, by Islamizing them. Thus, according to Islam, Abraham was the first Muslim and Jesus and St. John (the sons of Miriam, sister of Moses and Aron) were prophets and guardians of the second heaven. Many Biblical legends (“asatir al-awwalin”,) which were familiar to the pagan Arabs before the dawn of Islam, underwent an Islamic conversion, and the Koran as well as the Hadith (the Islamic oral tradition), are replete with them.
Islamization was practiced on places as well as persons: Mecca and the holy stone – al-Ka’bah – were holy sites of the pre-Islamic pagan Arabs. The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and the Great Mosque of Istanbul were erected on the sites of Christian-Byzantine churches – two of the better known examples of how Islam treats sanctuaries of other faiths.
Jerusalem, too, underwent the process of Islamization: at first Muhammad attempted to convince the Jews near Medina to join his young community, and, by way of persuasion, established the direction of prayer (kiblah) to be to the north, towards Jerusalem, in keeping with Jewish practice; but after he failed in this attempt he turned against the Jews, killed many of them, and directed the kiblah southward, towards Mecca.
Muhammad’s abandonment of Jerusalem explains the fact that this city is not mentioned even once in the Koran. After Palestine was occupied by the Muslims, its capital was Ramlah, 30 miles to the west of Jerusalem, signifying that Jerusalem meant nothing to them.
Islam rediscovered Jerusalem 50 years after Mohammad’s death. In 682 CE, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr rebelled against the Islamic rulers in Damascus, conquered Mecca and prevented pilgrims from reaching Mecca for the Hajj. Abd al-Malik, the Umayyad Calif, needed an alternative site for the pilgrimage and settled on Jerusalem which was then under his control. In order to justify this choice, a verse from the Koran was chosen (17,1 = sura 17, verse,) which states (translation by Majid Fakhri):
“Glory to Him who caused His servant to travel by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We have blessed, in order to show him some of Our Signs, He is indeed the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. ”
The meaning ascribed to this verse is that “the furthest mosque” (al-masgid al-aqsa) is in Jerusalem and that Mohammad was conveyed there one night (although at that time the journey took three days by camel,) on the back of al-Buraq, a magical horse with the head of a woman, wings of an eagle, the tail of a peacock, and hoofs reaching to the horizon. He tethered the horse to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount and from there ascended to the seventh heaven together with the angel Gabriel. On his way he met the prophets of other religions who are the guardians of heaven.
Thus Islam tries to gain legitimacy over other, older religions, by creating a scene in which the former prophets agree to Mohammad’s mastery, thus making him Khatam al-Anbiya (“the Seal of the Prophets”.)
Not surprisingly, this miraculous account contradicts a number of the tenets of Islam: How can a living man of flesh and blood ascend to heaven? How can a mythical creature carry a mortal to a real destination? Questions such as these have caused orthodox Muslim thinkers to conclude that the nocturnal journey was a dream of Mohammad’s. The journey and the ascent serves Islam to “go one better” than the Bible: Moses “only” went up to Mount Sinai, in the middle of nowhere, and drew close to heaven, whereas Mohammad went all the way up to Allah, and from Jerusalem itself.
What are the difficulties with the belief that the al-Aqsa mosque described in Islamic tradition is located in Jerusalem? For one, the people of Mecca, who knew Muhammad well, did not believe this story. Only Abu Bakr, (later the first Calif,) believed him and thus was called al-Siddiq (“the believer”.)
The second difficulty is that Islamic tradition tells us that al-Aqsa mosque is near Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula. This was unequivocally stated in “Kitab al-Maghazi,” a book by the Muslim historian and geographer al-Waqidi. According to al-Waqidi, there were two “masjeds” (places of prayer) in al-Gi’irranah, a village between Mecca and Ta’if – one was “the closer mosque” (al-masjid al-adna) and the other was “the further mosque” (al-masjid al-aqsa,) and Muhammad would pray there when he went out of town.
This description by al-Waqidi which is supported by a chain of authorities (isnad) was not “convenient” for the Islamic propaganda of the 7th Century. In order to establish a basis for the awareness of the “holiness” of Jerusalem in Islam, the Califs of the Ummayad dynasty invented many “traditions” upholding the value of Jerusalem, which would justify pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the faithful Muslims. Thus was al-Masjid al-Aqsa “transported” to Jerusalem. It should be noted that Saladin also adopted the myth of al-Aqsa and those “traditions” in order to recruit and inflame the Muslim warriors against the Crusaders in the 12th Century.
Must Judaism defer to Islamic myths?
Another aim of the Islamization of Jerusalem was to undermine the legitimacy of the older religions, Judaism and Christianity, which consider Jerusalem to be a holy city. Islam is presented as the only legitimate religion, destined to replace the other two, because they had changed and distorted the Word of God, each in its turn.
Though Judaism and Christianity can exist side by side in Jerusalem, Islam regards both of them as betrayals of Allah and his teachings, and has always done, and will continue to do, all in its power to expel both of them from this city. It is interesting to note that this expulsion is retroactive: The Islamic broadcasters of the Palestinian radio stations consistently make it a point to claim that the Jews never had a temple on the Temple Mount and certainly not two temples. (Where, then, according to them, did Jesus preach?)
Yasser Arafat, himself a secular person (ask Hamas!), did exactly what the Califs of the Umayyad dynasty did 1300 years ago: He marshaled the holiness of Jerusalem to serve his political ends. He must not have given control of Jerusalem over to the Jews since according to Islam they are impure and the wrath of Allah is upon them. Moreover, the Jews are the sons of monkeys and pigs. The Jews are those who distorted the holy writings which were revealed to them and denied God’s signs. Since they violated the covenant with their God, He cursed them and they are forever the inheritors of hell. So how could Arafat hand over Jerusalem to the Jews?
The Palestinian media these days are full of messages of Jihad, calling to broaden the national-political war between Israel and the Palestinians into a religious-Islamic war between Jews and Muslims. For them, Christianity is no better than Judaism, since both “forfeited” their right to rule over Jerusalem. Only Islam – Din al-Haqq (“the Religion of Truth”) – has this right, and forever.
Since the holiness of Jerusalem to Islam has always been, and still is, no more than a politically motivated holiness, any Muslim leader or ruler would be putting his political head on the block should he give it up. Must Judaism and Christianity defer to myths related in Islamic texts or envisioned in Mohammad’s dreams, long after Jerusalem was established as the ancient, true center of these two religions, which preceded Islam? Should Israel give up on its capital just because some Muslims decided to recycle the political problems of the Umayyads 1250 years after the curtain came down on their role in history?
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University’s eptartment of Arabic
The Arabs of Palestine
This is a report from October 1961
Not only makes this Â interesting reading, but as a historical account between then and today it seems little has changed…
Martha Gellhorn reports how the Arab refugees and the Arab Israelis live, and what they say about themselves, their past and their future.
Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald recalls an apposite quote by A. Carlebach and its use by the deceased and egregious Christian dhimmi and Islamic apologist Edward Said:
The relentless Jihad against Israel — against, rather, any Infidel sovereign state within the Dar al-Islam — always included imposition of the Shari’a as part of its intended goal. Imposition of the Shari’a was, in fact, demanded as early as 1920 by a group of Arab notables in the former Ottoman territories that were quite properly assigned to Mandatory Palestine (i.e. all of Western Palestine, while Eastern Palestine went to form part of the Emirate of Transjordan).
Nor was there any doubt that the attempt to keep Jews out of the area was a Jihad directed at Infidels throughout the Mandatory period; curiously, it was some British officers, rather than the Palestinian Jews, who recognized the Islamic grounds for opposition to the Jews and the restoration of a Jewish Commonwealth. It is also true that a few Israelis, early in the history of the state, had the wit to recognize the problem. One of these was Dr. A. Carlebach, whose analysis published in Ma’ariv (Oct. 7, 1955) would have been lost to history, one suspects, but for the fact that it is reprinted, amusingly and quite uncomprehendingly, in Edward Said’s preposterous “The Question of Palestine.”
Fortunately for us, Said often provided quotes from various European and Zionist sources that are so deadly, so convincing, particularly in the light of all we have learned about Islam over the past few years, that as works of propaganda they no longer serve their purpose. Here is what Said quoted from Carlebach, and what Said obviously thought it was self-evidently absurd, but we read it now with quite a different frame of mind:
These Arab Islamic countries do not suffer from poverty, or disease, or illiteracy, or exploitation; they only suffer from the worst of all plagues: Islam. Wherever Islamic psychology rules, there is the inevitable rule of despotism and criminal aggression. The danger lies in Islamic psychology, which cannot integrate itself into the world of efficiency and progress, that lives in a world of illusion, perturbed by attacks of inferiority complexes and megalomania, lost in dreams of the holy sword. The danger stems from the totalitarian conception of the world, the passion for murder deeply rooted in their blood, from the lack of logic, the easily inflamed brains, the boasting, and above all: the blasphemous disregard for all that is sacred to the civilized world…their reactions — to anything — have nothing to do with good sense. They are all emotion, unbalanced, instantaneous, senseless. It is always the lunatic that speaks from their throat. You can talk ‘business’ with everyone, and even with the devil. But not with Allah…This is what every grain in this country shouts. There were many great cultures here, and invaders of all kinds. All of them — even the Crusaders — left signs of culture and blossoming. But on the path of Islam, even the tries have died.
We pile sin upon crime when we distort the picture and reduce the discussion to a conflict of border between Israel and her neighbors. First of all, it is not the truth. The heart of the conflict is not the question of the borders; it is the question of Muslim psychology…..Moreover, to present the problem as a conflict between two similar parts is to provide the Arabs with the weapon of a claim that is not theirs. If the discussion with them is truly a political one, then it can be seen from both sides. Then we appear as those who came to a country that was entirely Arab, and we conquered and implanted ourselves as an alien body among them, and we loaded them with refugees and constitute a military danger for them, etc. etc. …one can justify this or that side–and such a presentation, sophisticated and political, of the problem is understandable for European minds–at our expense. The Arabs raise claims that make sense to the Western understanding of simple legal dispute But in reality, who knows better than us that such is not the source of their hostile stand? All those political and social concepts are never theirs. Occupation by force of arms, in their own eyes, in the eyes of Islam, is not all associated with injustice. To the contrary, it constitutes a certificate and demonstration of authentic ownership. The sorrow for the refugees, for the expropriated borders, has no room in their thinking Allah expelled, Allah will care. Never has a Muslim politician been moved by such things (unless, indeed, the catastrophe endangered his personal status). If there were no refugees and no conquest, they would oppose us just the same.
Now when Said put this into his little work of propaganda back in 1979, the invented “Palestinian people” and their “legitimate rights” were in full swing. In 1979, the front of dhimmis, those islamochristians such as Hanan Ashrawi, were already in evidence — on campuses, before church groups, disguising the nature of the Jihad against Israel which cannot be assuaged, cannot be sated, and is not a matter of borders.
But something has changed: other Muslim attacks, in America, in Russia, in Europe, and other Muslim cries against Infidels, and other Muslim behavior, including the demand that European peoples yield to Muslim demands, have caused many, and should cause many more, to read the words written above with a new understanding and a new appreciation.
Hoist by his own petard was Edward Said — he bothered to quote just a bit too much. Nowadays we do not scorn those he assumed we would scorn, but see the truth of their remarks, and the scorn of the good and intelligent reader is reserved for Said’s own text. Quite something.
A hostile takeover of Zionism?
Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has come a long way.
No longer are they the inward-looking anti-Zionists who only cared that the government provide them with money for their separate schools, welfare and exemptions from military service. These days, many of the Haredim â€“ the word means “those who tremble” in awe of God” â€“ have joined with right-wing religious Zionists to become a powerful political force.
They now are equipped to redefine the country’s politics and to set a new agenda.
Two decades ago, they were confined mostly to a few neighbourhoods in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Today, they have spread throughout the country, in substantial numbers in several major communities, as well as building completely new towns only for their followers.
One Haredi leader who almost won Jerusalem’s mayoralty race last fall, boasts that, within 20 years, the ultra-Orthodox will control the municipal government of every city in the country. And why not? Of the Jewish Israeli children entering primary school for the first time this month, more than 25 per cent are Haredi, and that proportion will keep growing. There are between 600,000 and 700,000 Haredim in Israel, and they average 8.8 children a family.
A decade ago, there were almost no Haredim in the West Bank settlements. Today, the two largest settlements are entirely ultra-Orthodox, and the Haredim are about a third of the almost 300,000 settlers.
Now that they have tightened the rules on who can be a Jew and have forced the public bus company to provide gender-segregated buses in many communities, a discouraged secular community is starting to emigrate.
Nehemia Shtrasler, a business and political columnist for the Haaretz newspaper, wrote this summer that the country is risking destruction. “We will survive the conflict with the Palestinians and even the nuclear threats from Iran,” he wrote. “But the increasing rupture between the secular and ultra-Orthodox communities in Israel will be the end of us.” Mr. Shtrasler said: “It’s a struggle between two contradictory worldviews that cannot exist side by side.
Will Israel adhere to its founding secular values or will it become a theocratic Jewish state?
Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu has been toiling for decades to make Israel a Halachic state (one that adheres to Jewish religious law). The former chief Sephardi rabbi (from 1983 to 1993) was one of five men who founded the Brit Hakanaim â€“ the Covenant of Zealots â€“ an underground organization of the early 1950s that attacked non-kosher butcher shops and torched cars that were driven on the Sabbath.
Rabbi Eliyahu was imprisoned for 10 months after an apparent plot to attack the Knesset was uncovered. He said at his trial that Israel was turning against God’s will when it proposed a law to draft women into the military. Their place is in the home, he insisted, and still insists.
He was the spiritual adviser to Meir Kahane, founder of the racist Kach Party that was banned from the Knesset, and later outlawed completely when one of its members murdered 29 Muslims at prayer in Hebron in 1994. He has long urged the release from prison of Yigal Amir, who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
Rabbi Eliyahu had his greatest impact as spiritual leader of Israel’s National Religious Party. He believed that the line separating the Orthodox from the Haredim was artificial and that many Haredim could be brought into the nationalist camp.
The rabbi has an exclusive view of who really is a Jew, having denounced Reform and Conservative synagogues as “reeking of hell.” And he has often said that democracy has no place in Judaism.
Rabbi Eliyahu and his followers have succeeded in tying the knot between Haredim and religious nationalists. There is even a new name for the new group, the Hardal, derived from Haredim and Mafdal (the acronym for the National Religious Party).
While the NRP has disappeared, the ideas and the name have grown. The powerful Shas Party, of Sephardi and Haredi disciples, is the best example.
Together, the Hardal are 20 per cent of the Jewish population, says Nachman Ben Yehuda, a sociologist at Hebrew University whose book on the Haredim, Theocratic Democracy , is to be published next year.
Such a merger is quite a feat, considering the anti-Zionist origins of the Haredim.
During the age of enlightenment in the 18th century, the first Haredi communities took shape, as an attempt to maintain distinctive Jewish communities when many Jews were being lured into liberal European culture. Haredi rabbis targeted, first, the Reform Jewish movement and, later, the Zionist movement, as abominations counter to God’s will.
They opposed the creation of Israel, arguing that using the holy Hebrew language for daily discourse and having “unbelievers” proclaim a “Jewish state” were sacrilegious. Some insisted that the Zionist project brought down the wrath of God in the form of the Holocaust.
For Israel’s first four decades, Haredi leaders continued to oppose it, even as many gravitated to the state.
“There still is a strong anti-Zionist aspect,” said Prof. Ben Yehuda, “but most Haredi leaders have been persuaded that if there must be a Jewish state, then it should be run properly, as a theocracy.”
In the Haredim, the religious Zionists have acquired potent allies. Their followers obey orders without question. “They fear excommunication,” explained Prof. Ben Yehuda. “They are largely unprepared for surviving outside their tight-knit communities.”
The two groups are united in wanting greater religiosity in Israel.
They seek strict adherence to Biblical rules governing the Sabbath, to Halachic rules concerning food, to age-old traditions of separating men from women, and to the strict observance of Orthodoxy in all aspects of people’s lives, from birth, through education, marriage and death to burial.
They also want their rules to be followed in deciding just who is a Jew and who therefore can enjoy the privileges of a Jewish state.
To obtain these goals they have influenced the platforms and growth of political parties, appointments to the rabbinical courts and government policy.
As a result, religious schools get a disproportionate share of the education budget, El Al planes don’t fly on the Sabbath and publicly run buses are segregated on a growing number of runs.
DEMOCRACY IN QUESTION
Ironically, considering these religious leaders have made such use of the democratic process, they continue to say democracy is not consistent with Halacha.
“In many ways these guys are closer to Islamic fundamentalists than to anything else,” Prof. Ben Yehuda said.
They also do not shrink from violence.
Prof. Ben Yehuda’s research found that violence is the number-one criminal infraction among Haredim. He also found that most of that violence is for political purposes.
This past summer witnessed many vivid examples. Thousands of Haredim rioted on several successive Saturdays to protest the opening on the Sabbath of a privately owned parking garage near the Old City of Jerusalem; thousands more rioted when social-services personnel arrested a Haredi woman in Jerusalem who was starving her child.
This week, a young woman was beaten for not being dressed modestly enough in the central Israeli town of Beit Shemish. The town, where many Sephardi refugees settled in the 1950s, recently has had an influx of Haredim. Earlier this month, a man and woman were beaten by Haredi youth when the two sat next to each other on a bus bound for the town.
Violence has become so widespread that there are Haredi communities where the police won’t go. This summer, a police car was torched and several officers injured when attacked by a rock-throwing mob, when the police responded to a call for help.
It’s upsetting to many Israelis, such as the columnist Nehemia Shtrasler, but when Haredi neighbourhoods become no-go zones for authorities, and when people must think twice before opening a private business on the Sabbath, the violence is having its desired effect.
And, as the Haredi community expands and finds government funding harder to come by, growing numbers of Haredi women and men will be compelled to enter the work force. The impact of that, says Prof. Ben Yehuda, is that businesses and workplaces will be forced to comply with the religious demands of their new workers.
Already, he said, in high-tech workplaces, where many Haredim work, the offices are segregated and cafeteria food is kosher.
Even in the Israel Defence Forces, the Haredim are having an effect. An exclusive Haredi battalion has been created, to accommodate a growing number of ultra-Orthodox who want to serve.
In other battalions, religious Zionists have refused to ride in military vehicles driven by women. Their demands have reportedly been met.
With the demographic shift in favour of the Haredim only going up, those in the private sector, government and the military who decline to accommodate Haredi demands will become fewer and fewer.
And with growing numbers of Haredim in West Bank settlements, Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians takes on an increasingly religious fervour.
Prof. Ben Yehuda has no doubt that many of the country’s emigrants are leaving, in part, because of the rise of the Hardal. But it’s not the major reason, he says.
“However, as this place becomes more and more like Iran, the secular community will leave in droves.”
So, is Israel to be a Jewish state, or a state of the Jews?
“Jews come in many forms,” notes Prof. Ben Yehuda: “Reform, Conservative, traditional, secular, as well as Orthodox.”
Should one group get to determine what rules the country will follow?
Media’s “Hard-Line” on Israel’s Prime Minister
Characterized as “hard-line” …..Not characterized as “hard-line”
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called for immediate negotiations without preconditions and expressed acceptance of a Palestinian state that would not threaten Israel’s security, is nevertheless often pejoratively called “hard-line” (as is the government coalition he leads) by the mainstream American media, especially the Associated Press. Conversely, the term “hard-line” or “intransigent,” is rarely, if ever, applied to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who repeatedly refuses to enter peace talks with Israel despite compromises offered by Mr. Netanyahu.
For example, aÂ January 21 Associated Press report, by Mohammed Daraghmeh, said: “The hard-line prime minister who leads a coalition largely opposed to territorial compromise had long hesitated to accept the concept of Palestinian statehood, capitulating only in June under heavy US pressure.”
Conversely, aÂ January 22 AP report, by Dalia Nammari, while describing what amounts to an intransigent Mahmoud Abbas, failed to pejoratively characterize him as “hard-line” or “intransigent” or anything like that. The report said: “President Barack Obama’s Mideast envoy failed Friday to lure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas back to peace talks with Israel, as Abbas stuck to his insistence that an Israeli settlement freeze come first.”
The phenomenon of the use of “judgement terms” in Middle East reporting, such as the habitual characterization of Mr. Abbas and his Fatah party as “moderate,” is the subject of aÂ CAMERA Op-Ed in theÂ Christian Science Monitor.