Saturday, December 28

Religious Intolerance in Jerusalem

An ultra-Orthodox Jew spitting

A disturbing phenomenon is occurring in Jerusalem, which should ring alarm bells in the minds of all who value democracy and freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion.
An ugly trend is raising its head in Jerusalem - a city holy to the three monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The sooner the cancer of intolerance is nipped in the bud the better.
It is become fashionable in Jerusalem amongst various fanatic ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects to spit on priests, monks and nuns of the various Christian denominations, who have been part of Jerusalem's community for centuries. The Christian and Muslim communities have every right to live in Jerusalem no less than the Jewish community.
This awful phenomenon was aired on Israel Arutz 2 Channel this Friday night.(I apologize that it is not in English but the clip will illustrate my point) It left me with a sense of disgust and shame! Apart from that, Price-Tag - a horrible mutant of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community of fanatics whose origins are in the hills of the Occupied West Bank, many of whom are descendents of religious illegal settler fanatics.

The slogan on the church wall says "Death to Christians" Price Tag

The Israeli Government, which is representative of the fanatic settler movement and its entrails have not come out strongly enough in its condemnation of the hooliganism of Price-Tag and its Allies - the kippa-cladded, long ear-lock (payot), fringed (tzitzit) young hooligans, who carry out this thuggish behaviour against non-Jews in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. They desecrate Christian Holy Sites as well as vandalizing their cemeteries. All this seems to be done with the stamp of kashrut by their fanatic rabbis who teach them "Jewish values". This loutish behavior is nothing more than religious hooliganism of the worst kind. The reason - “we are doing to the goyim (non-Jews) what they have been doing to the Jews!” It is unacceptable and the perpetrators of these loutish deeds must be arrested and held accountable. Unfortunately, these deeds are overlooked by the police who seem to be caught off guard.These deeds are also overlooked by the Orthodox Establishment.
The slogans of hate graffiti on the walls of churches and monasteries, as well as cars is on the increase. Signs of apathy by many Israelis only encourage this cancer to proliferate even further. Why have there been no arrests? This kind of behavior is no less contemptible than the desecration of synagogues and mosques.
Hate of non-Jews is on the rise and, as a secular Israeli Jew, I hang my head in shame! Ultra- Orthodox intolerance for other faiths is not limited to that sect alone. Establishment Orthodoxy is hardly any less to blame. Their hegemony over the Jewish faith is absolute and this plays its part in every day life in Israel. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel is also no paragon of virtue. It has played its part to estrange many Jews from the fold including Yours Truly. Pluralism in Judaism is condemned by the ruling Orthodox Jewish Establishment. It has its tentacles in all the ruling governments since Israel's establishment. This includes zero tolerance and non-recognition of Reform (Progressive) and Conservative Judaism, which they see as a threat to their system of corruption, bribery and total monopoly on Halacha (Jewish Law). It makes me want to puke, and I am sure there are many Israelis who feel the same way - possibly the impotent silent majority. Non-orthodox Jewish rabbis cannot marry couples, who do not wish to be married by Orthodox Rabbis. The Orthodox Establishment also creates difficulties for Jews and non-Jews to marry. There is no civil marriage in Israel. If there is no civil marriage – only religious marriage then there is no religious freedom. Those Jews, who were converted to Judaism by Reform or Conservative rabbis, are not recognized as Jews by the ruling Orthodox Jewish Establishment and have to marry overseas in a civil marriage ceremony. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts completely and this is true of the ruling Orthodox Jewish Establishment as embodied by its Chief Rabbinate that has deviated from Jewish values only to be replaced by corruption, bribery and “jobs for pals” in order to increase their power in religious Jewish matters pertaining to marriage, divorce, archaic Sabbath laws and burials where the disgusting practices reach their zenith. It is all money, money and more money as well as stakes that has nothing to do with Judaism.
It is little wonder that groups like Price-Tag ( Tag Machir) and their fanatic, self- righteous allies are on the increase, spitting on Christian members of the clergy, vandalizing non-Jewish property, including cemeteries and getting away with it. If this would occur in Jewish cemeteries and synagogues, the heavy hand of the police would soon be felt.
This hate of the non-Jew is on the rise in Jerusalem. It does not bode well for Israel's already battered world image. Is this freedom of religion when Price-Tag and their illegal settler-oriented supporters are given almost free reign on vandalizing Arab and non-Jewish property with impunity? Are we becoming a nation of self-righteous religious bigots with zero tolerance for those who are different?

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Saturday, December 21

Israel's Democracy is being Compromised

There are signs that Israel's democracy is not as healthy as it seems. The lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is an indication that nothing will be achieved despite the pressure of the US and the EU. On the Israeli side remains a hard-core right-wing illegal settlement group who have more influence on Israeli Government policy than befits their numbers.

The Bayit Hayehudi Party under right winger Naftali Bennet has replaced the ultra-Orthodox religious parties in the coalition. He is a warmonger with right-wing, religious Zionist overtones that is hawkish and against giving up occupied territory for peace. Israel and the Palestinians have much to gain if the peace process moves forward. The EU have pledged a large amount of aid if both parties to the conflict get their act together and move towards peace. At present nothing is being achieved. Israel is not prepared to freeze illegal settlements in the occupied territories which is one of the conditions for making progress. Why? Netanyahu is afraid to upset the vitriolic settler apple-cart as his Likud Party moves more from right to extreme right.

This is illustrated in a number of ways. The illegal settlers, who are a vociferous minority, have more influence on government policy than they deserve. They have never had it so good since Netanyahu's coalition has great sympathy for them. They get taxpayer's money allotted to the illegal settlement enterprise at the expense of other projects that are more urgent. Housing in the territories are cheaper beyond the green-line, while within the green-line, young couples are unable to get inexpensive housing. The settler movement is having their hey-day under the present government.

Who are the illegal settlers? Most of them are religious, right-wing Zionists, who claim that their right to "Judea and Samaria" is not debatable. "Judea and Samaria" is their name for the occupied West Bank and this adds to its legitimacy for settlement in their eyes. The Tanach is their eternal contract or claim to these lands.

Those, who disagree and do not accept their claims, are considered self-hating Jews or even anti-Semites. They are ostracized by an ever increasing religious, extremist right-wing Orthodox Jewish population. These people relish their sanctimoniousness as they tolerate close to zero opposition. It is obvious that this vociferous group of religious fanatics and their offspring - the violent Hilltop Youth and Price Tag have been nurtured by previous right wing Government Coalitions. The vandalism that these extremist movements have caused against mosques, churches and private property in places like Abu Ghosh have gone unpunished. Nobody has been arrested and now it is business as usual.

Israel is peace posturing, but there is no substance. Israel knows that settlements will not be frozen so that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian will just not occur. The minority settler movements are laying the grounds for further violence against the Palestinians as well as enhancing Israel's poor image as an occupier even further. By their actions, they are also eroding Israel's democracy turning it into an exclusive democracy for Jewish citizens only. We may not have reached that stage yet, but we are are going down that road at a more rapid pace than meets the eye.

The second part of this article, while not connected with the first part, also illustrates some evidence of Israel's democratic erosion. I have a gut feeling that many readers will be asking "What is the writer doing in Israel? Why does he not pack up and leave?". My answer is simple. If I did not care and become indifferent to what is happening in Israel this means that I would not be true to myself. Our Jewish history should make us more sensitive to the suffering of others as our people had been refugees from the Nazi Holocaust and we despised the countries who were insensitive to the plight of Jews who sought refuge. There were countries that forbade Jews from seeking a new home there.

As a Jew, we must never forget our historical suffering. If we do forget and treat refugees and call them "infiltrators", which has negative connotations, we lose our humanity. Is this the reason why I should leave Israel because I disagree with the way it treats foreign workers as well as refugees? Perhaps this is what the right-wing Zionists want. They want more homogenuous thinking when it comes to the stranger who is viewed as a danger to Israel's Jewish identity ( quote the Biblical passage we were strangers in a strange land). The reason why I remain is because I care for Israel. I do not care for those who have lost their Jewish soul and have become racists and intolerant to those who are different. If this is the new Israel that is obssesive about Judaism and its preservation by having stringent laws enforced by the Migration Police then we have lost our soul.

We should welcome the stranger in our midst even if he does not belong to the "Chosen People" Israel is NOT like other countries and the Jewish experience over generations should allow more sensitivity towards the stranger irrespective of race, color or creed.

In a previous article, I wrote about the problems of caregivers, who care for our aged with devotion. If a caregiver falls pregnant she has to make a choice either to remain a caregiver in which case her baby is deported to the country of origin of the mother and cannot be with its mother, or the mother and child are both deported. Is this the mercy shown to the stranger according to Shas Party Jewish morality and mercy.

Democracy is alive and kicking for Jews, but less so for non-Jews. Eventually democracy for all Israel's citizens will be compromised for all Israel's citizens whether they are Jews or not.

We witnessed the treatment of African refugees - those who fled their countries of origin where their lives are endangered and are incarcerated in deportation camps awaiting their deportation to a certain death in the Sudan.
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Wednesday, December 11

The Deal is Done

English: Ruhollah Khomeini فارسی: امام خمینی (...
English: Ruhollah Khomeini فارسی: امام خمینی (احتمالاً هنگام معرفی دولت موقت) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As was written in a previous post the P5 +1 signed an agreement with Iran. Many of us have no problems with that. Just before the deal was signed, Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, went into a tirade against Israel. His choice of language left us all in no doubt about his hate for Israel and his desire to see Israel "the Zionist Entity" wiped off the face of the earth. The agreement signed did not stipulate any constraint about threatening neighbor states with annihilation.

If we examine the agreement, we notice that it is concerned with the nuclear disarmament of Iran. It has nothing to do with Israel. If we look at it from a broader perspective, we see that the agreement has advantages for Israel and the surrounding Arab States. This does not mean that Iran can be trusted and that we should be aware of possible clandestine activity in Iran's nuclear programme. Iran must be closely monitored.

Netanyahu must cease his ranting and raving and concentrate on curbing his good life at the expense of tax-payers as well as freezing settlements.His constant attacking the P5+1 is not constructive.The deal is done and crying over spilt milk is never a solution. A solution is to adopt a different strategy of where to go from there. Netanyahu is unable to do that. He is an expert at digressing from essential matters that are important. There is nothing more important to Israel than freezing settlement activity and preventing the breakdown of peace negotiations between Israel and their Palestinian counterparts. Netanyahu is marking time with his constant harping on the nuclear disarmament agreement between Iran and the P5+1.
Nelson Mandela in his final years

Israel's only true friend is the US. The US is looking after Israel's interests and has always been at Israel's side in times of crisis. What is Bibi Netanyahu trying to achieve? The US  agreement with Iran needs time to assess. It is in Israel' s interests to be low key and get on with a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. Netanyahu must cease pandering to the whims of the vitriolic settlers and their right wing extremist allies in the government. A serious effort must be made on all sides to find a solution. Beating about the bush is no solution nor is Bibi-style Iranphobia.

Netanyahu has also played his part in allowing the Iran deal to become a hot potato. He is doing this by trying to distract the West from the urgency of solving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. In the long run this tactic will boomerang on Israel. At present there are many doubts of the viability of the two state solution. The peace talks must be intensified and the hope of an agreement must be realized.

Meanwhile, during Netanyahu's anti-Iranian posturings, Nelson Mandela, South Africa's greatest statesman and humanitarian, passed away, leaving a terrible void not only in South Africa but in the world. Many world leaders attended the funeral ceremony in Johannesburg, but Israel was conspicuous by its absence. A very low level Israeli delegation was sent to represent Israel.The reason was political and not the expense as the Netanyahu Government claimed.

Israel's low level representation was its loss and not its gain. Is it because those leaders present at the funeral are persona non grata in Netanyahu and his coalition partner's eyes? This could very well be the reason. Netanyahu could not afford to be seen with Iran's leaders, Palestinian leaders and a host of others who considered hostile. Even Israel's relationship with South Africa is problematic. This sleight by Netanyahu is his weakness and not his strength. He could have used this opportunity to improve relationships with South Africa and other states to Israel's advantage. Unfortunately another opportunity was missed because of narrow right wing coalition interests.

We ought to hang our heads in shame at the antics of the right wing Netanyahu Coalition. They bring no honor to Israel internationally. Does Israel forget that it is a member of the World Community? Are we withdrawing into ourselves, shedding tears over our self-righteousness, claiming that the world hates us?
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Saturday, December 7

The Passing of Nelson Mandela (Madiba) A Great South African and World Statesman

Robben Island South Africa
Robben Island South Africa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, Joh...
English: Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, Johannesburg at night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela (Photo credit: Festival Karsh Ottawa)
English: Nelson Mandela, former President of S...
English: Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Young Nelson Mandela. This photo date...
English: Young Nelson Mandela. This photo dates from 1937. South Africa protect the copyright of photographs for 50 years from their first publication. See . Since this image would have been PD in South Africa in 1996, when the URAA took effect, this image is PD in the U.S. Image source: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Pile of rocks started by Nelson Mande...
English: Pile of rocks started by Nelson Mandela and added to by former prisoners of Robben Island Prison, South Africa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gaute...
English: Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on 13 May 1998 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nelson Mandela
Cover of Nelson Mandela

We have lost a great South African leader and statesman, who with great personal sacrifices, found it incumbent upon himself to serve his people that had suffered the injustices of the evil apartheid regime. As a South African Israeli, who grew up in South Africa, vehemently opposed apartheid, and seen many of my parents' friends detained without trial, will never forget the courage of this great man who was and always will be a role model for many of us to follow. I wish to convey deepest heartfelt sympathies to the Mandela family. 

Nelson Mandela now belongs to the ages but the example of this great man must live on as we have much to learn from him in problem solving. Much is still wrong in Israel, where racism is still a scourge. Our attitudes to our fellow Palestinians and foreign workers has many flaws and needs to be addressed seriously rather than being evaded so that Israel could be an example to the world rather than the polecat of occupation that it is today with the government's pandering to the illegal settlers in occupied Palestinian lands.

We have no leaders in Israel with the vision and motivation of Nelson Mandela, who could end the painful conflict between Israel and Palestine.

My memories of the apartheid regime goes back a long way. My family in South Africa was opposed to apartheid and the values that our parents gave us were against race discrimination in all its forms. Those, who were in opposition to apartheid in the 1950s, 60's and 70's, were hounded. This was really a dark period in South Africa's history. The evil white National Party took power in 1948 and even before that, while not official, there was always discrimination towards the black people based only on the colour of their skins. This was really so abhorrent to my family and like most white people, Jews were scared to express opposition to this evil system that was taking over the institutions of South Africa. Those who opposed apartheid were Jews who were non religious or atheists.

Schools and universities were for whites only and the blacks had inferior education. Even political parties were declared white's only parties and blacks were not allowed to be part of the white political scene. Brutal and evil acts were declared by the white government such as the evil Immorality Act, Group Areas Act, impoverished homelands or Bantustans for the black population where"they could develop according to their own traditional customs and where they would have equal rights". It was a cruel divide and rule situation.

Nelson Mandela showed incredible leadership qualities during this period and was detained and imprisoned numerous times. The notorious Treason Trial from 1956 until 1961 in which many of my parents friends were placed on trial with Nelson Mandela only to be acquitted in 1961. This did not prevent the evil white government from hounding Nelson Mandela and his numerous supporters outstanding of whom were Oliver Tambo, Govan Mbeki (the father of Thabo Mbeki who was South Africa's president after Nelson Mandela in 1999), Walter Sisulu and a host of other names of people who had served sentences in Robben Island with Nelson Mandela.

I had already left South Africa in 1974 for Israel where I felt a certain déjà vu , especially during the right wing coalitions of the last decade.

We are all saddened by the death of this great human being whose feelings of forgiveness towards those who oppressed his people is a shining example of all that a leader of a country should be. He prevented a revolution and racial strife between whites and blacks in South Africa and succeeded in uniting a country torn by racial strife for generations. His spirit teaches us that no conflict lacks a solution that is peaceful and all embracing. It would be a great tribute to Nelson Mandela if we, in Israel and Palestine, can follow his shining and unique example of reconciliation as human beings making peace that is the interests of every human soul in the Middle East.

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