By BJ Bjornson
It has to suck when your definitions for a term, and your treatment of those you apply it to, begins looking way to much about being about the actor and not the act, and particularly whether or not the actor shares your faith or not.
A young man calling himself Yehudi Tzadik � "righteous Jew" � picked up a rock and rolled it around in his hand, as if considering pitching it at a police car parked nearby.
Within sight was a mosque in Jerusalem that was torched and defamed Wednesday with graffiti that included, "Death to Arabs." Tzadik claimed he knew some of the group that was responsible for the attack, though he added that he wasn't there when it happened.
"The state of Israel has lost its moral code. It has forgotten what is at the heart of the Jewish nation. ... We are reminding them," said Tzadik, who gave his real name only as David.
A spate of attacks this week by Jewish right-wing extremists has called into question Israel's definition of the word "terrorist," and has prompted security officials to acknowledge the separate rules of engagement they've created for Jews and Palestinians.
Those rules were highlighted when a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, Brigadier Yoav Mordechai, was asked whether a soldier should open fire on a Jewish person who was throwing rocks, as soldiers routinely do with rock-throwing Palestinians. Mordechai answered, "I assume ... you wouldn't expect the brigade commander to open fire at a Jew standing in front of him. I am certain you didn't mean that."
No, you would never mean that you should treat Jewish rock-throwers in the same manner you treat Palestinian ones. Equal treatment? That would be crazy! It might also bring up some uncomfortable questions about the appropriate level of retaliation one should expect from security forces
Granted, that�s far from the only place in the article where a sense of irony is lacking.
On Thursday morning, Israeli soldiers destroyed several structures in a small outpost adjacent to Yitzhar. Israeli officials had ordered the buildings demolished because they'd been built on private Palestinian land, but their demolition had been delayed repeatedly.
Jeremy, a resident of Yitzhar who wouldn't give his surname, said he viewed the demolition order as a declaration of war by the Jewish state.
"What is it if not war? It's a declaration of war against the settlements and what we stand for," he said. "How would you feel if they came and kicked you out of your home in the middle of the night? Would you not want to defend your home?"
Yeah! How would you feel if somebody came and kicked you out of your home, took over your land, built their own settlements on top of them? Oh ... right ... never mind.
Then again, this is just the latest in the line of fundamentalist Jewish groups working to turn Israel into the kind of theocracy the other Abrahamic religion of the region is more known for, like attacking Christmas carolers and burning mosques, not to mention a rampage on an army base, an act that would have provoked far more than just a condemnation had the rampagers been non-Jews, I�m sure.
And when it comes to battling other Israelis, this story about the harassment of a dance studio in Jerusalem and segregating buses and businesses for men and women comes to mind.
The campaign by Haredi Jews against the dance company is not an isolated one. Over the past few years, Haredim have also persuaded companies to remove images of women from advertising billboards in Jerusalem and from the sides of buses, and have defaced or ripped down many of those that remain.
They have pressed for segregated sections on public transport and separate entrances for men and women at post offices, pharmacies, health centres and supermarkets. Last month they tried to impose a barrier on a street in Jerusalem to force men and women to walk apart during the Jewish festival of Sukkot.
Their rabbis are campaigning against female soldiers taking part in army singing ceremonies, with one urging male soldiers to walk out of such events "even if there's a firing squad waiting outside to kill you". They have also demanded that women be forbidden from taking up combat positions.
I don�t know enough about internal Israeli politics to know just how much of a threat these fundamentalists actually are, outside of the fact that they usually wind up with a disproportionate share of political power due to the make-up of the Knesset. What I do know is that these kinds of stories seem to be coming out with greater frequency, enough that even U.S. Secretary of State Clinton mentioned the matter recently.
There is also one other point from the dance studio story that concerns me:
Tension between the Haredim and other Jews is mounting across Israel. But it is acute in Jerusalem, where the proportion of Haredim is more than 20% and rising fast because of their high birth rate and the flight of many secular Jews from the city.
That last is part of a pattern seen in other areas where religious fundamentalists gain power and influence. Those with the means to do so, usually wealthier and better-educated, leave the area, which reduces the resistance to the fundamentalists� rule and therefore increases their power and ability to influence policy and education, while also leaving the remainder with less wealth, less education, and a more limited ability to improve either, which pushes out more of the secular and moderate voices in a nasty self-reinforcing cycle. It happened in Iraq after the U.S. invasion. It is also behind much of the extremism in the Palestinian territories, particularly the West Bank, which used to have a large (40%) minority of Christians and was quite secular when first conquered in �67. Bad enough that a similar movement is happening in Jerusalem now, and much worse should it start happening to Israel as a whole.