Thursday, August 06, 2009

Defending the Frum and Blaming the Non Frum

One of the things that upsets me about the defenders of the Meah Shearim mother that allegedly starved her child is their approach to the problem. Their sense of guilt or innocence rarely if ever relies on evidence of a case. It is usually determined by whether the accused is Frum -religious - or not.

I think this is apparent not only here but in any case where the secular authorities accuse or arrest a religious individual for a crime. There are many religious Jews who immediately assume that an innocent party was accused and arrested by authorities with an anti religious agenda. The accused is almost always seen as an innocent victim falsely accused. The authorities are immediately vilified as Charedi bashers whose agenda is to single out Charedim for unfair prosecution and persecution.

There is no clearer example of this than the defenders of the Meah Shearim woman. As soon as she was arrested -the Meah Shearim crowd went to town and practically burned down the city of Jerusalem – or at least the Meah Shearim/Geula section. They immediately assumed that this was a government conspiracy to try and bring down an innocent Charedi woman.

This was followed up by some ‘fact finding’ which came up with scenarios that twisted the evidence into a conspiracy theory. The woman was always seen as completely blameless. Everyone else was a conspirator. The hospital staff, the Frum deputy head of the hospital, the police, the media - all conspired to blame an innocent woman for a crime and then punish her and her family for it – all because she was religious!

What is also true is that in the public debate there are many mainstream Charedim who tend to side with the protesters version of events – even while opposing their violent protests. Among the scenarios painted are:

The doctors were negligent. They did medical experiments on the child. There was a misdiagnosis whose treatment made the child sick - and a cover up when they realized it - throwing blame to the mother.

They considered every alternative scenario except the most obvious one, that the mother for some reason deliberately nearly starved her child to death. When the medical staff finally realized what was happening they called the authorities immediately. She was arrested and charged with a crime. Once the mother was out of the picture, they immediately started feeding the child whose health has since quickly been restored - taken from a state of starvation to a state of health.

Based on everything I’ve read this is the closest scenario to the truth. All the questions raised by her defenders do not persuade me that there was any foul play at all on the part of the medical staff. What it does persuade me of is the lengths they will go to twist the truth in favor of a Frum person and the lengths they go to villainize everyone else who is not Frum - in the process.

This is taking idea that being Dan L’Kaf Zechus – judging people favorably - to an absurd level. To always assume an accused Frum person is innocent and the non Frum accusers are always guilty of having an anti religious agenda - is not the idea behind being Dan L’Kaf Zechus. The idea is to give someone the benefit of the doubt when all things are equal. But when evidence points in the direction of guilt. Being Dan L’Kaf Zechus does not apply. What should apply is the search for Emes at that point.

This is exactly what happened in the Valis case. It is uncannily similar to this one. For those who do not recall, Valis was a young Charedi parent with an impeccable reputation who was accused and later convicted of killing his sickly infant in a moment of extreme frustration via a violent act.

Before his conviction the Charedi world was up in arms about this case. This young man was a highly valued member of his Charedi community. They believed he could not have possibly done what he was being accused of. And even though he confessed to the crime – his community was all over the police - claiming that the confession was coerced. This was obviously (to them) a case of Charedi bashing. They believed that this young man was not going to be given due process because he was Charedi.

He was eventually convicted of the crime and given a relatively light sentence of a few years in prison.

This was still not good enough for his defenders. The anti religious secular court obviously had an agenda with him too (all part of the government conspiracy against religious Jews) and convicted him on the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence – all because he was Charedi.

To some - Frum means innocent under virtually all circumstances.

The problem is that Emes trumps Frumkeit. Being Dan L’Kaf Zechus does not mean we ignore the truth. Unfortunately in certain circles they see only one truth. Their own.

But lately we haven’t much protest about the supposed injustice to Mr. Valis. Why? I’m not sure but I have just been told by a reliable very Charedi source that Rav Moshe Sternbuch has quietly supported the verdict. I don’t know if he has. But if so, I think people ought to be paying attention. He is not one to favor the Israeli police or court system. And he knows what being Dan L’Kf Zechus means.

So why wouldn’t he see what so many other saw in the Valis case… that the whole thing is a blood libel by an anti Frum government against a Frum Jew? Because he saw the truth and that trumped all the spinning in the name of being Dan L’Kaf Zechus.

When this woman has her day in court the facts are sure to come out - just as they did with Mr. Valis. The prosecution has already lined up 125 witnesses from Hadassah Hospital’s medical staff. And then there is that mysterious video that is supposedly very damning. I’m sure the court will look at that very carefully. And I am equally sure that the mother’s family and her entire community will see to it that she has the best legal counsel than money can buy.

Until then it would be most productive to not automatically assume her innocence as though it was a certainty just because she is Frum and has an impeccable reputation. And those people who tend to see only the Frum side of the issue as Emes– think instead about trying to wait and see what the actual Emes is.