The Happy Arab News Service

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Jewish Department's worst nightmare

The Jerusalem Post

Apr. 22, 2007
by Anshel Pfeffer

If, as the police suspect, the bomb that lightly wounded one man near Beit Shemesh on Friday was the work of haredi activists protesting the upcoming Gay Pride Parade, then it is a new development taking the relationship between religion and state back over 50 years.

In the early Fifties, a group of yeshiva students joined together in a clandestine group called "Brit Hakanaim" (Brotherhood of the Zealots) to try to force the new state to adopt a more religious nature. Their methods were threats, arson and primitive bombs. They acted against butchers who sold non-kosher meat and drivers and taxi stands that operated on Shabbat. The members were arrested in May 1951 before they managed to carry out their plan to plant a bomb in the Knesset. One of them was the young Mordechai Eliahu, who 32 years later was elected chief rabbi.

The Brotherhood and another similar haredi group that operated during the same period were inspired by the struggle of the Irgun and Lehi, that had not only fought against the British Mandate, but were also not part of the Zionist mainstream establishment. Many yeshiva students felt comfortable joining them.

But despite the previous clandestine experience of some of the members, they were quickly rounded up by the police and security services before they managed to cause much damage.

For the next five decades, the bitter conflicts between the government and the haredim often included violence from both sides, but at the most it included stone-throwing and fistfights.

The younger generations, further, had no experience with weapons and explosives. The most they were capable of was burning dumpsters and spray-painting Herzl's grave.

As adamant as the haredi rabbis and their followers were in fighting against autopsies, archeological digs in presumed burial grounds, and tussling with policemen during the battle for Shabbat, there always was a line they didn't cross between "casual" violence and the life-threatening variety. As much as they might have hated the Zionists, it always remained within acceptable limits.

Over the last decade, the Shin Bet's "Jewish Department" has warned about the dangerous potential of former soldiers and officers in elite combat units who joined some of the more radical yeshivot.

So far, this potential hasn't been realized - but the gay pride parades in Jerusalem have provoked a more violent response than ever. Two years ago, a haredi protester stabbed three participants.

There is not enough space here to explain why the haredi community regards gays parading as a greater abomination than bacon sandwich eaters driving on Shabbat, but it has obviously pushed them to higher levels of violence than what was previously considered acceptable.

The details released so far about Friday's bomb suggest a level of experience hitherto lacking in the haredi arsenal. If the leaflets found on the spot against the Gay Pride Parade aren't just a ruse, it seems like they have some new recruits - and the Shin Bet's fears might be realized.


The gay community may continue to entertain itself with the idea of organizing gay parades on every square mile of this country, yet the dangers outlined by this article are too obvious for any sane person to ignore. It's not only that the idea of gay parades in Jerusalem is impractical and hardly relevant for the city increasingly dominated by its religious sector and conservative 'mizrahi' population. The secular sector in general and the gay community in particular are plainly playing with fire by refusing to accommodate the orthodox sector. The approach they adopted is even less comprehensible given how much our sexual minorities are committed to making peace with the Arabs. It should be noticed that any attempt by the gay community to organize a similar gay parade in, say, Um el-Fahm would lead to even greater violence and more resistance and resentment. And this begs one question - why these peace campers are ready to celebrate differences and co-exist with everybody around except the ultra orthodox?

The ultra orthodox did not try to disrupt gay parades in Tel Aviv and in general until now they were committed isolationists. The traditional Israelis too usually mind their own business even though they may object to institutionalized gay marriages (Israel recognizes such marriages enacted by Israeli gays outside Israel).

The recent attempts by the gay community to stage provocations in the middle of Jerusalem are unsound on all grounds and they are not going to make life much easier for the gay community of Jerusalem itself. Jerusalem always had gay and mixed places. In fact some very cool places in Jerusalem have a strong gay presence. Even as far back as almost 10 years ago one of the fanciest places in Jerusalem,, the 'Q' club, was almost equally split between gays and straights who were mixing freely between themselves. Many perfectly straight people (like Nobody for example) were taking a ride on the gays' ability to create a vibrant nightlife around them and were frequenting such places. The orthodox either did not really mind such places or had no nerve to start messing with them. The last attempt by the gay community, apparently led by its members from Tel Aviv and elsewhere, to bring the gay parade into Jerusalem left many Jerusalem gays worrying if they are now going to pay the price for a confrontation they were unwillingly made part of.

Until now the unsigned pact between the ultra orthodox and gays in Jerusalem was that both sides avoided messing with each other and stayed clear of each other's territory. This time the ultras have clearly got the perception that the old red lines are no longer respected and a few more similar provocations can lead to a violent backlash. The ultras have never hesitated to resort to limited violence when the secular sector deliberately or by mistake intruded on their territory, but now it can get even worse and the gay community should take this into account.

For Jerusalem gays the situation is complicated by the demographic explosion in the haredi sector which in the future may make the city totally dominated by the ultra and other orthodox. Many secular Israelis are moving out of Jerusalem instead of waiting for the inevitable to come and this does not put the gays of Jerusalem in the position to dictate their terms. But even thinking nationwide it's time to be worried by such incidents and avoid provoking confrontations:

By the year 2020, the haredi population of Israel will double to 1 million and make up 17 percent of the total population, said Hebrew University demographer Professor Sergio DellaPergola Tuesday.

DellaPergola, who belongs to the Department of Contemporary Jewry and the Institute for Jewish People Policy Planning, spoke at the Knesset's Interior and Environmental Affairs Committee.

. . .

. . .

Nov. 9, 2005


The implications of this are obvious. While religious people are not necessarily extremists themselves (and for that matter i never claimed that the majority of Muslims are terrorists), their very existence in the population boosts the ranks of extremists by a simple law of statistics. If one can expect so and so extremists for every 1,000 religious persons, then the more religious people you have, the more chances you get that the number of extremists among them may reach a critical mass which is followed by organized religious extremism.

And above all this, the coming years may bring a partial Israel's pullout from the West Bank where over years certain sections of the settlers' population have transformed themselves into a bizarre Martian race plagued by even worse forms of lunatism than the ghetto-dwellers of Jerusalem. While the majority of settlers did manage to preserve a semblance of normalcy despite their messianic lunatism and political extremism, this is impossible to say about some hardcore communities where people at times walk around in a pseudo biblical dress supposed to be that of their Hebrew ancestors, their crystal clear eyes radiating that pathologically insane divine light so typical of many religious loons worldwide. Left for decades to their own devices in the wilderness of the West Bank some of the settlers did what lunatics usually do when locked for a while in a company of similar minded lunatics - they became even more lunatic. The government should not even try to bring these people into Israel proper and make an utmost effort to relocate all of them elsewhere.

It's a combination of the military skills of the more deranged among the settlers chronically enraged ever since the beginning of the Oslo process and the enthusiasm for Jewish Sharia state shared by some sections of the Haredi youth rediscovering with the 60 years' delay the joys of political and territorial Zionism, that is bound to increase the headache of Shin Bet's Jewish department. It may also soon teach the gay community a few valuable lessons about the wisdom of avoiding needless confrontations.

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