Sorry this took a little longer then anticipated, and it may not be the most complete response but at least everybody will know my stance on this.
This is in response to a call from Observer92, a long time listener and follower who was talking about the potential for the Ultra-Orthodox jews to gain power and influence in Israel in the coming year, as part of the official predictions show. (The compilation of which I’m also working on now)
You can listen to the show HERE! My response and thoughts after the jump.
First – I appreciate Observer92 calling in and chattering with me frequently about things we disagree about, and he deserves credit for being a guy who will listen to and dissect opposing viewpoints. I think an opposition voice who will actually debate in good faith is a valuable thing.
I think you can tell by that preamble that I’m going to be disagreeing with Observer92 on this issue – but NOT with everything he said! I didn’t have time in-show to fully develop his case, but I asked clarifying questions in the comments.
Now, the actual prediction at hand was that ultra orthodox jews, a subsection of Israeli society, are gaining power and influence and will slowly exert their standards and norms onto Israel at large, things that would lead to a more beligerent Israel and push it to become a backwards society.
His cited source was this Al Jazeera piece.
I DID listen to the piece. I also spent several hours picking through news reports, stories, context, etc. Based on my research, past readings and research, basic familiarity with Israel as well as Al Jazeera, I’m concluding that in regards to Al Jazeera’s panel – I believe they’re making a mountain out of a mole hill.
I do not consider Al Jazeera a non biased and impartial source when it comes to issues regarding Israel, Judaism, and the west (particularly American foreign policy). In the past it has taken severe anti american stances and has inflamed several scandals that were later deemed to be trumped up. Their coverage of the Haditha “Massacre” as well as the first Gazan Flotilla incident are some of many personal blackmarks I have against them. So, I am going to be hard pressed to trust them on certain things.
In my research it appeared that beyond direct news reports of the events, Al Jazeera, certain middle eastern newspapers, and blogs that really like Al Jazeera were largely the only ones concerned about the ultra orthodox effectively seizing control of Israel and/or representing a menacing influence and threat to Jewish society.
It IS true that the ultra orthodox exert undue influence over Israeli government, and that they are militarily exempt, but there are glossed over facts, generalizations, and broad brush treatments that made me sour on the Al Jazeera panel really quickly.
1) The Ultra Orthodox Jews were treated as a blob who were all the same.
My understanding prior to this story, which was reaffirmed by the overall incident AND the response, was that the Ultra Orthodox jews are by and large analogous (at least culturally) to the Amish in the United States – a group that largely wants to be left alone, keep to themselves, and stay out of society at large.
This does not represent the entirety of this group. In fact, those whom were throwing stones and epithets, clearly heinous actions, are a minority of a minority and have been condemned by many in their own community. This was largely ignored by the panel.
I emailed several Israeli bloggers and journalists, though only one got back to me - David Hornik, an active blogger who in the past has written about the ultra-Orthodox population. He wrote:
Mr. Martin,The ultra-Orthodox make up 9% of the Jewish population, and while some of them are growing more radical, others are growing more moderate. Numbers of them–still small, but unprecedented in the country’s history–are now enlisting in the army, and more and more are entering the workforce. Talk of them “taking over the country” is not based on reality.
I am inclined to agree, as too many things back up this general line of reasoning.
2) The Panel assumes that Demographics will Win the Day (see 1)
A significant item cited was the increasing birth rate of the Ultra Orthodox (lets go ahead and call them what they are, the Haredi since the term ‘Ultra Orthodox’ is seen as an insult to some). This is a tempting argument to follow but a few things are ignored. It makes the previous error of assuming that the entire group is a ‘blob’ – that they are all the same, think the same, and also will somehow be able to make their children exact copies of themselves.
Israel is not a closed society. Haredi jews are regularly exposed to the outside world. As cited above ( and will be cited below, shortly) the broader community is moderating and adapting to western life, while a small sect is radicalizing. If anything, the demographics argument acts directly against the radicals who attacked Na’ama.
I don’t think I need to take things much further, as
This article written by Rabbi Dov Lipman, as well as the comments on the article, are very much worth reading and explain the issue better than I could, and confirm my initial reaction that:
3) broader Israeli society is backlashing hard against the Haredi radicals.
This leads me to suspect that any attempt by the radical Haredi to impose dogma on Israeli society will simply fail.
BUT! Observe (harhar) the questions I asked of Observer92:
Before I respond to your points regarding Ultra Orthodox jews in Israel, I need a few clarifications from you:
1) What time scale are you saying these potential things will happen over?
2) Why does it matter in the contexts of international relations? IE: What will the ultra orthodox jews do if they get power (specifics please)
3) What degree of control will the Ultra Orthodox jews have in your opinion
4) Do you think Israel is justified in feeling that Iran is a threat to it?
5) Are Hamas, Fatah, and others justified in their resistance?
Treat this like an open ended question on each point. Thanks!
1) Well about 10-20 years for the population increase.
2) Well they are backwards in religious and women’s rights that may also be even more hostile to Muslim nations neibouring Israel.
3) They will steadily gain more and more control unless the ultra-orthodox leave government.
4) Yes Iran is a threat to every country near it.
5) Hamas is not as they have taken a violent path. Fatah on the other hand is peaceful and justifiable.
Observer is not an “ISRAEL SUCKS” guy and is not prone to the anti semitism that many Middle Eastern ‘scholars’, al Jazeera, and others seem to flirt with and at points openly embrace. I think he’s primarily concerned about religious radicalism in general.
I do have to mention regarding Fatah that while they are the less violent of the Palestinian factions, they are hardly saints. (Please hit ctrl+f, then type ‘Fatah’, and scroll down)
I want to thank Observer92 once again for sharing his opinion with us, and I encourage him to keep it up.