Lance the Boil of Haredi Lawbreaking

by Maskil on July 7, 2009

JPost’s BlogCentral recently featured an excellent article by Prof. Gil Troy. In a nutshell, Prof. Troy called on the Modern Orthodox in the Diaspora and religious Zionists within Israel to cut off financial support for the Haredi communities and institutions (e.g. yeshivot) at the centre of this lawbreaking. He also called on them to confront and “out” those instigating and applauding the violence. I can’t put it any better than this:

UNFORTUNATELY, TOO many Orthodox Jews and religious Zionists are not just bystanders to Haredi and rabbinic extremism but enablers. Too many fear the extremists. This cowardice comes from a brand of religious one-upsmanship extremists the world over have mastered. People from the center, no matter how passionate or pure, end up having their credentials questioned by the ayatollahs in religion and the commissars in politics. Too many modern Orthodox Jews and religious Zionists act insecure when amid their more radical brethren.

Violent ultra-Orthodox criminality is really only the tip of a much larger iceberg in Israel. Perhaps by addressing the violence, however we can better understand and get to grips with the bigger issues.

The Haredi Strategy: A More “Exclusive” Judaism

Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) violence (and Haredi behaviour in general) has both a pull and push effect. It has a pull effect on those who currently define themselves as Orthodox, forcing them to take more and more extreme positions to excuse, justify and explain their inaction.

In the case of those who already have questions about Judaism and Jewish identity, there’s often a push effect, especially where those unfamiliar with the Jewish landscape identify extreme ultra-Orthodoxy as speaking on behalf of Judaism as a whole. The predictable reaction is “if this is Judaism, I want nothing to do with it”.

The combined pull/push effect leads to a steady shrinking of Judaism’s sphere of influence, and in the numbers of those who choose to identify as Jews; a quiet drift away. This tendency towards a smaller, more “exclusive” (in the true sense) Judaism is presumably one of the desired outcomes of the Haredi campaign against moderation.

For this reason, we should not leave tackling the problem of Haredi violence to the Modern Orthodox and National Religious. Not just because they’re shrinking from the challenge, but because this is an issue that affects the entire Jewish people, and the credibility of Judaism as a faith. So, here are a few things the rest of us can do:

NGOs

NGOs with an interest in the rule of law, separation between church and state and just plain good government could draw up a list of organisations and bodies (formal or informal) that are seen to be responsible for the violence. The list should be published or otherwise made available to potential donors, to ensure that funds are not inadvertently channelled to them.

Donors

Insist on an audit of all organisations and initiatives receiving financial support through your federation (or other chosen channel for Tzedakah) to ensure that none of them in any way instigate, participate in or even sympathise with those responsible for the violence. There are enough worthy causes out there.

Israeli Politicians

Refuse to participate in any coalition deal that includes the non or anti-Zionist Haredi parties. OK, I can dream, can’t I? The point is that no Israeli governing coalition that includes the Haredi parties can properly address this issue. (My suspicion is that the Haredi parties utilise the unspoken threat of violence and disorder to further their political aims.)

JAFI/MASA

Ensure that no official funding flows to those associated with the violence. Even more importantly, ensure that MASA participants from abroad are steered away from these suspect institutions and programs, e.g. yeshivot. While we’re on the subject, ensure that programs that are not part of the broad Zionist consensus are included in the schedule of approved study and volunteer options.

Law Enforcement

A democratic country such as Israel must permit its citizens to demonstrate peacefully. These incidents were never intended to be any such thing, however; they were always intended to be violent confrontations. For that reason, the forces of law and order in Israel should crack down harshly on the rioters (using every available method and tactic for riot control) to bring the outbreaks under control quickly. I suspect that 2 or 3 incidents at the most should be sufficient to make everyone see the light. Anyone responsible for inciting or instigating the violence should also face the wrath of the law.

(I’m guessing that, because the thugs choose to cloak themselves in the wholly inappropriate garb of the ghetto when rioting, they are accorded some measure of protection or leniency in these incidents. This needs to be replaced by a “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” attitude by law enforcement.)

An Existential Threat

Violent ultra-Orthodox criminality is already responsible for helping to contract the reach and weight of Israel’s very sovereignty as a nation-state. If the current trends within the Haredi world continue, this sector has the potential to become another existential threat to Israel. The use of the phrase “existential threat” has blunted its impact over time. So, just to be clear, I’m saying that they are potentially a threat to the very existence of Israel. I will justify that position in another blog post.

Related posts:

The real demographic threat?
Cowardice and bullying
Exorcising the Haredi Golem

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