Monday, October 10, 2011

Two clashes

Today on the TV news I saw reports of two clashes, one between ultra-orthodox (haredi) and orthodox Jews in Beth Shemesh and the other the clash between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Cairo. These reports received equal time, I suppose the editors like to be even-handed. But, the difference between these two stories is enormous. No-one was killed or even injured in the clashes in Beit Shemesh, while 25 were killed in the clashes in Cairo during which armed police intervened and were responsible for some of the deaths.

The clash in Beth Shemesh has been going on for some months, since the opening of the new school there intended as a school for Orthodox girls. Since the school adjoins a new haredi district, the haredim expected to get control of the school, but they did not. It was planned even before their district was so populated. They claim that the Orthodox girls are immodestly dressed and call them prostitutes, whores, and throw fruit and even stones at the children. Now their mothers go with them to protect them and there is a permanent police presence that has resulted in a reduction of the protests.

The clashes in Egypt are so much more serious, in that the Copts constitute 10% of the Egyptian population and are not prepared to stand by and see their churches attacked and their people murdered. If democracy is to come to Egypt, then the treatment of this large minority is a test for that system. So far, even though the military who control Egypt have promised elections and all parties have shown restraint until elections actually take place, the position of the Copts is indeed precarious. It's the same old story, not all Muslims are murderers, but in this case all murderers are Muslims. The Muslim Brotherhood is the main party, and it does not tolerate Christians and Jews in Egypt. Some of the other parties are more liberal, but they have little power to influence the situation. So what kind of democracy can arise when milllions of Christians are under threat (the Jews were already gotten rid of by Nasser in 1976). I submit that if Christians are being killed in Egypt, the US should reconsider its generous donations to Egypt. The Egyptian National Military Council has said that it views the clashes with utmost seriousness and will prevent any further such demonstrations, much to the chagrin of democrats.

In other stories, the Israeli police arrested two youths on suspicion of carrying out the "price tag" attacks on mosques, including the one in the Israeli Druze village last week. Further, there were anti-Arab slogans daubed on a cemetary in Jaffa and several locations in Bat Yam, and police in these cases have arrested several youths on suspicion. There was a protest march in Jaffa, but no violence was reported. On Monday there were several incidents in Jerusalem of Arab youths throwing stones at buses and trams of the new light rail system.

What happens in Beth Shemesh will change nothing. What happens in Egypt will be a critical test of the so-called "Arab spring."


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