A Jew among enemies
by Jonathan Rosenblum
November 27, 2003
With the finish line in sight, and victory almost assured in his quest for a coveted seat on the Supreme Court, Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein has stumbled badly by charging that his critics in the press are motivated by his yarmulke.
That charge was a tactical mistake on many levels. On a personal level, he made himself vulnerable to being called a crybaby lacking the requisite emotional toughness for public life, an opening quickly seized upon by critics like Tel Aviv District Court judge Sarah Sirota.
More important, Rubinstein detracted from the important charges he made about the unhealthy symbiosis between certain journalists and newspapers and law enforcement officials, who work hand in hand according to the principle: Give me information, and I’ll write positively about you. By raising the issue of religious persecution, he allowed his critics to avoid the main thrust of his attack and focus their return fire on what was essentially a side issue. And again they were quick to exploit the opportunity, following the approach described by Rubinstein in his speech: If you can’t deal with the facts, attack the one who said them.
Finally, Rubinstein undercut his own charge of religious bias by the very strength of his other charges against Ha’aretz. Ha’aretz clearly had plenty of reasons for going after him without regard to the yarmulke on his head, and if he had done the paper’s bidding, his yarmulke would have been irrelevant.
Ha’aretz was outraged by his determination to ferret out the source of the leak from the state prosecutor’s office to Ha’aretz reporter Baruch Kra concerning the Cyril Kern loan to prime minister Ariel Sharon. And Rubinstein’s call for the dismissal of Commander Moshe Mizrahi, a fertile source of leaks, also enraged Ha’aretz to judge from the paper’s highly tendentious news coverage of the Attorney-General’s report on Mizrahi.
It is by no means clear that Rubinstein’s claim of religious bias has any more basis that a similar charge by Avraham Burg a few years ago that he would never be selected to lead Labor on account of his bottle-cap sized yarmulke. While Rubinstein is both more observant and learned than Burg, it would be hard to point to a single issue during his tenure where his religiosity could be said to have influenced his decision.
No attorney general would have prosecuted Rabbi Ovadia Yosef for incitement, unless he was interested in triggering a social conflagration. And it is doubtful that a non-religious attorney-general would have been given mussar to Rabbi Yosef to such a degree. True, Rubinstein quotes fluently and frequently from Jewish sources, but so does Justice Mishael Cheshin.
Until now, Rubinstein has been something of the Michael Howard of Israeli public life. Howard, of course, is the Jewish immigrant recently selected to head Britain’s Conservative Party.
Melanie Phillips, a Daily Telegraph columnist, who writes, "I no longer feel comfortable in my own country because of the hatred that has welled up toward Israel and Jews," recently undertook to explain how Howard could have been chosen. Her conclusion: the British distinguish between Good Jews and Bad Jews. The latter include anyone who says that Israel is defending itself against those who seek its destruction or who point out that Jew-hatred is once again respectable.
The only thing that troubles the British more than an individual Jew is the collective Jew, according to Phillips. Had Howard responded to any of the anti-Semitic insinuations directed his way, he would have identified himself with the collective Jew, and engendered more of the anti-Semitism of which he complained.
What Philips writes about the collective Jew in England could be said about the collective religious Jew in Israel. And the question is whether Rubinstein by charging his opponents with anti-religious prejudice has not fatally identified himself with the collective religious Jew, and thereby rendered himself unfit for the Supreme Court.
Related Topics: Israeli Society, World Jewry
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