Monday, January 02, 2012

Settler and haredi extremists

This is addressed to those who think that the extreme right wing settler's groups, who carry out the "price tag" attacks against mosques and IDF bases, are in the same category as the extremist ultra-orthodox (haredi) groups, who attack girls and women and try to segregate buses and schools. They could not be more diametrically opposite.

The price-tag groups are from the national religious camp, they are extreme Zionists, who believe the West Bank is a part of historic (biblical) Eretz Israel and who regard their presence there as ordained by God. The extremist haredi groups are motivated by religious beliefs and are anti-Zionist, they don't recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel, they believe it is ordained by God that men and women must be separated (much like the extreme Muslims) and so they fight the authorities of the State in order to impose their practices on others, including the secular population.

While the price-tag groups take actions against the Arabs and against the IDF, which they see as their oppressors (when ordered to destroy settler outposts by the Israeli Government), the extreme haredim take actions against the secular population and the police if they try to stop their demonstrations and their provocations. So the motivations and targets of the two groups are totally different. Their only major similarities are that they both claim to be carrying out God's wishes and that they are both dangers to the State of Israel. However, neither group can be termed "terrorists" since they have neither killed anyone, nor intend to.

Yesterday, there was a demonstration of haredim in Jerusalem that received major media attention because men and boys dressed up in concentration camp uniforms and wore yellow stars. This disgusting PR stunt has been strongly criticized by all other groups in Israeli society. These haredim justify this because they characterize the State of Israel as a fascist state that is oppressing them and they liken it to the Nazis. This demonstration was held in response to arrests of extremist haredim in Beth Shemesh near Jerusalem, where they were obstructing and spitting on young girls going to a school near their area. These actions are meant to intimidate regular orthodox Jews and to attempt to impose haredi practices on others.

But, just as there are moderate settler's who are the majority and who would never attack mosques or IDF bases for any reason, so there are moderate haredim who would never dream of trying to frighten, intimidate and even attack women or girls. In both cases the moderates are the vast majority, one could guess that maybe only 10% of each group are extremists. However, there is a large group in each case who are sympathetic to their cause and their actions. This makes it extremely difficult because their own groups provide them with support and sympathy. However, when it comes to attacking mosques and IDF bases for the settlers and to haredim parading around in concentration camp uniforms, that's where the moderates part company with the extremists, these actions are beyond the red line.

In both cases, PM Netanyahu has condemned their practices and the results have been changes in Government policies and even the introduction of bills in the Knesset to change the law. Whoever thought that there would be the need for a law in Israel to stop Jews from using concentration camp uniforms to villify the State, just as noone believed that any Jewish-Zionist group would ever attack mosques or IDF bases. We are growing up, we are learning that everything is possible and we must be protected by legislation.

Which are the more dangerous groups, the haredim or the settlers. The former are increasing at a great rate because of their high birthrate and it is estimated that in 50 years they will comprise one third of the population (another third being the Israeli Arabs). The settler extremists are a danger from within the Zionist body politic, and they have threatened to fight the Arabs and either cause another war or to form their own Jewish State named Judea. In either case the State of Israel must protect itself from both of these extremist groups and make sure that women are protected in the public sphere and that Government decisions in the occupied areas are respected.


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