A hatred that cuts one way
by Jonathan Rosenblum
January 3, 2003
If there is one clear lesson to be learned from the years since Oslo, it is the power of propaganda and systematic delegitimization to stir the cauldrons of hatred to the boiling point and beyond. Palestinian school books in which Israel nowhere appears and the Palestinian claim to the entirety of the Land is repeatedly drubbed in, Palestinian TV and radio glorifying suicide bombers as martyrs and portraying them enjoying an idyllic afterlife, and summer camps appropriately dubbed ``Camp Hatred," specializing in teaching eight-year-olds how to kill Jews, have proven a lethal combination.
The signal Palestinian ``achievement" in the nearly decade since Oslo has been to whip the Palestinian population into a frenzy of hatred rarely seen in the annals of history. An entire Palestinian population has made the killing of Jews its sole objective no matter what the cost in Palestinian lives or economic immiseration.
Only a fool would equate the systematic delegitimization of Jews and Israel by the organs of the Palestinian Authority with that suffered by chareidi Jews in Israel today. No Jew entering any Palestinian town today would have much hope of escaping with his life if his identity were revealed. There is no parallel within Israeli society – not for Arabs and certainly not for chareidi Jews.
At the same time, expressions of contempt bordering on hatred for chareidim are not even considered a social faux pas in today’s Israel. Penelope Wyatt of the Spectator reported not so long ago of being told by a liberal English lord, ``Thank G-d, we can once say what we want about the Jews." In better Israeli society, the same is true of chareidim – anything and everything may be said without any loss of face. Prominent journalists fantasize about tying the beards of all the rabbis from the religious parties together and setting them on fire; professors call for stringing up chareidim on electrical pylons; the epitome of the ``beautiful souls" speculates about the imperative to mow down chareidim in Meah Shearim; and the father of the leading youth icon urges his readers to throw the first stone in an anti-chareidi intifada.
Israeli drama denies to chareidim even the most elemental humanity. One play concludes with chareidim setting fire to the non-kosher butcher shop of elderly Holocaust survivors, incinerating the proprietors; in another the chorus of chevra kadisha members celebrate the perpetual war with the Arabs as good for business; and in yet another, a fanatic chareidi group seizes control of the government by assassinating the prime minister, as a prelude to launching a nuclear war.
Just as in Southern society the dehumanization of blacks was reinforced by the terms of everyday speech and an elaborate social code, so it is with the ``blacks" of Israeli society. Just as in the South in which Trent Lott grew up contempt for blacks was so universal that it could be assumed even where not explicitly stated, so it is with chareidim in many segments of Israeli society.
Nowhere is the depth of hatred of chareidim more evident than in the political sphere. Meretz first rose to prominence on promises to ``stop the black hordes," and it has had many imitators since then. The sure fire response of floundering politicians and parties is to run against the chareidim. When Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s popularity began to plummet, his predictable response was the declaration of a ``secular revolution."
The fastest rising party in Israel today is Shinui. Current polls show Shinui winning as many as 15 seats in the next Knesset (up from six today). Yet Shinui, under party leader Tommy Lapid, has been a one-issue party, and that issue is opposition to chareidim and everything religious. In Shinui propaganda, the chareidim are the scapegoats for all that ails Israeli society. There is no budgetary shortfall, no unmet societal need that cannot be explained by chareidi swindling from the public purse.
On the Shinui website, Lapid rants against hechesherim as a tax imposed on consumers. The same claim features prominently on the websites of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. Lapid is not a stupid man, and his primary support comes from the upper middle classes and on university campuses (``Mazal in Dimona is not our concern," says Lapid), yet he is not embarrassed to make the most foolish claims to a presumably sophisticated audience. (In point of fact, kashrut supervision is viewed by companies as an advertising expenses. Companies seek kashrut supervision to increase sales, which lowers per unit costs and the price paid by consumers.)
The vitriol directed at chareidim, like that aimed at Jews by the Palestinian media, has an impact at the popular level. It is not harmless venting of anger. Recently someone called my office badly shaken by a recent experience. He had taken his two sons, ages 8 and 10 bicycling in a valley situated between the Hebrew University and one of Jerusalem’s older, more genteel neighborhoods. There they encountered a gathering of Scout troops.
When the first Scout troop spotted two boys with peyos and their fathers, the young troop members immediately rushed to throw stones and taunt the bicycle riders. ``You eat kosher; we eat chazir; you sit at home on Shabbos; we shop in the mall; you don’t watch TV; we go to the movies," the Scouts (members of the leading youth movement) chanted. ``You should watch TV on Shabbos, eating sausages," the young boys were told.
The father told me, ``I grew up in Liverpool. That is a tough city. Then I moved to Manchester -- also a tough city. I’ve been taunted by anti-Semites all my life. But this was the worst, I have ever been subjected to." What most upset him was that when he tried to speak to the troop leaders that rather than restraining their young charges, they laughed and egged them on. Nor was the encounter with the first troop an isolated event. Throughout the forest, a similar scene was reprised with every troop they encountered.
Thinking about the phenomenon under consideration: the casual manner in which ``enlightened" Israelis express their visceral contempt for chareidim, I asked myself whether there is an opposite phenomenon in chareidi society. Surveys show that secular Israelis feel that they are objects of chareidi contempt, though the same surveys show that chareidim do not admit to the feelings attributed to them. A letter writer to a secular newspaper asks, ``Why should I go on supporting hordes of children who will shout, ``Ocher Yisroel," at my son if he ventures into a chareidi neighborhood?"
It is true that elements of the chareidi press do engage in shallow stereotypes of secular Jews, and it is also true that there is much work to be done before the injunction ``Let the Name of Heaven become beloved through you," becomes the central thrust of our education, as HaRav Shalom Yoseph Elyashiv has said it should be.
Yet I do not detect any of hatred of non-religious Jews in chareidi society. More importantly, occasional hateful expressions enjoy no social sanction and the utterer can expect to be sharply criticized for them. The reason for this is the stress placed on ahavas Yisroel and the unshakeable belief in the bond between all those who stood together at Sinai.
Broad sectors of secular Israeli society have no sense of bonds joining all Jews together and no feeling that at some level we constitute one people. The basis of the connection – the Revelation at Sinai – has ceased to resonate in their consciousness. Meretz, for instance, was not ashamed to use a x-mas tree in its campaign literature to Russian-speaking voters.
Where all sense of Jewish peoplehood and connection to Jewish history has been lost so too their will be no bridle on expressions of hatred for other Jews.
Related Topics: Chareidim and Their Critics, Israeli Society
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