Sunday, August 02, 2009

Of Blood Libels, Protestors, and Leadership

Once again the Charedi magazine – Mishpacha - has weighed in on the troubling issues of the day. One of those issues is the case of the Meah Shearim mother who allegedly starved her child.

They got a hold of the hospital medical records and say those records raise more questions than they provide answers. This gives no victory to either side of the argument. Indeed as they go through what happened to this child it shows a very complex series of events that led to the current crisis.

It’s true that the medical records are complex. But it is also clear that the suspicions by the medical staff were well founded and not sourced at all in any Charedi bias. I therefore disagree with the idea that it raises more questions than it answers. That’s because of the highlighted Mishpacha interview of Dr. Yair Birnbaum. Dr. Birnbaum is the Frum deputy director of Hadassah Ein Kerem, where the child was hospitalized at the time of his mother’s arrest.

Suspicions that the hospital participated in some sort of conspiracy to starve the child and then blame the mother in order to cover up a misdiagnosis - should be completely laid to rest. It is fairly obvious that the hospital staff consistently acted entirely in the child’s best interests.

They reported the mother to the authorities when they concluded that harm to the child was very likely caused by her own hand. Much of the misdiagnosis and failed treatment was based on the mother’s own word. That resulted in inserting a feeding tube which had proved useless in treating the ‘mystery’ disorder – as the child continued to fail to thrive.

Dr. Birnbaum stated that the instruction to insert a feeding tube was given after the mother reported vomiting and stomachaches as soon as he even began to eat. He is now certain that she lied.

That certainty probably came when they caught her removing feeding tubes via a hidden camera. They removed the mother completely from the child’s care - removed the feeding tube and started feeding him by mouth. He started recovering almost immediately and gained enough weight to be released from the hospital this weekend.

The evidence seems to show that the mother is indeed guilty of starving her child. Whether she is suffering from the rare psychological disease of Munchhausen's by Proxy - or is some diabolical psychopath is for the courts to determine and immaterial as far as I am concerned. I believe that she is a danger to the child either way. That said - I think she ought to have her day in court. Let her hire the best attorneys available. Let all the facts come out there.

Unfortunately the wild animals of Meah Shearim do not want to be confused with facts, they have been distributing pamphlets that accuse the hospital of a blood libel against a loving mother. So far protesters in Meah Sheraim have turned Jerusalem into a battle field. Its streets look like the ruins of war.

Jerusalem was ablaze with burning dumpsters during the nine days. And who was responsible for this? Not the ancient Babylonians. Not the ancient Romans. But people wearing Kaoptes and black felt hats; Shtreimals and Gartels; Men with long beards and long Peyos. People who are extremely careful with all the minutia of ritual law.

It is well past time to recognize that these people are not just some group of young renegades – hoodlums with time on their hands. To be sure it included them. But it was not only them. This is an organized bunch of people who are supported at least quietly by their leaders.

I say this knowing full well that those leaders have said they oppose the violence. I don’t believe them. At least I don't believe they oppose it enough to make them stop. Not when one of the protest leaders, Shmuel Pappenheim, says things like ‘we are sending in our own army’ – when speaking of his protesters.

And it isn’t only about this Meah Shearim mother that they are protesting. Let us not forget the violent protests against that municipal parking lot opening up on Shabbos.

How violent? Violent enough on have 15 protesters arrested in the latest one. Violent enough to have a police officer bitten by a protester. 6 weeks in a row of protests like this. The Edah keeps calling for peaceful protests. But there is nothing peaceful about them. The Edah doesn’t care as they continue calling fore these protests week after week.

Add all this up and I cannot understand why other more mainstream Charedi leaders do not completely condemn them. Not just their acts. Not just the protesters. But their sympathizers and their leaders.

I’ve called for a boycott of the Edah Hechsher. I now call upon the masses of Charedim who I know sympathize with my views here to petition their Gedolim – both here and in Israel - to somehow let them know how devastated they are by what these Meah Shearim people are doing to Yiddsihkeit. They must publicly ostracize them – all of them. Mainstream Charedi leaders must let them know that they will no longer be considered a part of Klal Yisroel – any more than Neturei Karta members who embrace Ahmadinejad are.

They will very likely ignore it. But it is high time they paid a price for it.