Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Meaningless Call to End the Violence

It’s almost as though they had read my suggestions on the subject of ending violent protests and have deliberately done the opposite. I cannot remember how many times I have written about it and listed some specific steps I believe should be taken by rabbinic leaders like those who head the Edah Hacharedis.

The latest ‘effort’ in this regard was a letter to be published by them to avoid the violence in their protests. Here is their statement on the issue from an article in Ha’aretz:

"in protests for the dignity of heavens, and against those seeking to overrun the fortifications of religious wisdom, one must still conduct himself by Torah law and spirit, not to carry out acts of violence like stoning, burning and spitting or to cause any damage to any property." From now on, the rabbis command, the protests will only be held inside the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods rather than by the parking garage itself. They also declared they were banning children and unmarried men from participating in the protests.

That’s swell!

Now the violence will be perpetrated only by married men and will be contained to Charedi neighborhoods.

The head of the Edah, Rabbi Tuvia Weiss, thinks he can fool us with such statements. He probably thinks that now that his organization has made this statement – it provides them with ‘deniability’. If there is violence, he can say, ‘Shucks!’ ‘ We told them not to do that!’ And in any case it wasn’t ‘us’ …the young people involved were "marginalized kids, not really our boys.

The defenders of the rioters who have been saying that they don’t support the protesters’ violence but empathize with their goals - and understand the ‘pain’ of increased Chilul Shabbos think they can point to this new letter and say, “See… we told you that the violence is not supported by the Edah leadership!”

The problem is that the Edah does support violence. Why did it take them so long to come up with this edict? Was there only violence in the last event? There has always been violence in their demonstrations. They support it. They worship it. They see it as the only means available to them to get their way.

The problem with Rabbi Weiss and his army is that they only eschew violence when it backfires. They are afraid their own protesters will get hurt - as one of them recently did. “Innocent bystanders? Phttt! What innocent by-standers! Elderly residents being harmed by the fumes of burning garbage dumpsters? Phttt! They’ll be fine! The main thing is getting our way!”

I have always said that an important component in stopping the violence would be for leaders like Rabbi Weiss to support the pursuit, arrest; trial and conviction of those guilty of breaking the law – especially when it is with reckless disregard for human life and property.

So what is Rabbi Weiss doing? Exactly the opposite:

Rabbi Weiss himself was seen visiting ultra-Orthodox detainees who have remained in custody at the Russian Compound police station since last Saturday, amid hopes that the new measures taken by the rabbis will convince the court to release them in the coming days.

What did these ‘detainees’ do? In a response to the latest event – about whether or not an attack by these protestors against an Arab cab driver was done specifically because the driver was an Arab - here is a brief description of their activities:

"The protesters pelted the cab with stones and broke its windows, but the same happened to many other cars that drove on the same street." They confirmed that there were no police inside the neighborhood at the time, which is consistent with a new policy. "Once trash cans begin to burn and things heat up, we move out to the perimeter of the neighborhood and stop all vehicles from entering..."

A lot of people have been saying that mainstream Charedim are as opposed to the violence as I am.


One would hope that they would be as appalled as I am and express that publicly. I have said in the past that only a condemnation without any ‘buts’ that would ameliorate the violence - would have even the remotest chance of success.

Here is what Rabbi Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judasim (UTJ) said at a Knesset meeting:

I completely oppose those violent protests, but you're pushing even the more moderate public toward anti-police sentiments. How many times have you consulted ultra-Orthodox representatives? (emphasis mine)

Right! Had there been consultations with the Edah as there were in the past under Mayor Lapoliansky the whole thing could have been avoided! Just as it was during the ‘gay pride’ protests. Remember how ‘peaceful’ those were? There was only one stabbing of a gay person by a Charedi protestor as I recall!

And then there is this:

Chief UTJ whip MK Menachem Eliezer Moses petitioned the minister, inquiring about what he said was excessive violence used by police against the protesters. "The police has been using tear gas and shock grenades. It didn't prevent an incident in which a yeshiva student was run over by a car and dragged several meters, and on another occasion a police car ran over a protester."

The perspective is always that the police are guilty and the protestors are innocent! I am not saying that in doing their jobs there was no over-reaction nor violent push-back on the part of the police. Perhaps there was. But compared to the violence of the protestors it was small potatoes. So who gets the criticism? The police who were sent there to preserve law and order!

If this is their idea of how to stop the violence, then they are really clueless – like a fox!