Israeli Hardliners attack Police over Women’s Segregation

Haredi Jews clashed with police on Monday in Beit Shemesh, Israel, leaving one policeman wounded, over the issue of segregation of women. They shouted “Nazis!” at the police. The Haredim are the Salafis of Judaism, and many insist on strict separation of women in public. Some forbid women to visit deceased relatives in cemeteries or walk on public sidewalks. Although gender segregation is asociated with Islam, it is also common among conservatives of other religious traditions, including Hinduism.

Part of the conflict is over the establishment of a national-religious school for girls in the town, which the Ultra-Orthodox activists say is full of “prostitutes” and of non-Jewish loose women (“shiksas”). Some have been spitting on the girls, and have beaten up non-Haredis who support the school.They complain that Zionists have invaded their neighborhood (most Haredis reject Zionism or Jewish nationalism on the grounds that it is impudent for Jews to establish a state before the Messiah comes.)

One of the victims who was spat on is an American little girl, Na’ama Margolies, whose plight has enraged secular Jews.

Haredim are about 10% of the Israeli population, and are growing rapidly because of large families. They are an important part of the coalition led by the ruling Likud party, so that this controversy has put the government in an awkward position. It has responded with verbal condemnation of extremism but no practical action.

Ironically, the more hardline Haredis do to secular Zionists what the Zionists do to Arabs, generalizing, stereotyping, and Nazifying them. See e.g. Ben White. And while Na’ama Margolies’ ordeal is heartbreaking, so is that of Palestinian children in al-Khalil / Hebron, who suffer restrictions from the occupying Israeli troops (h/t Ali Abunimah)

14 Responses

  1. It should be pointed out that in the cases where Left-wing parties formed the government since 1992, they also included Haredi parties in the coalition. Most professional Haredi politicians (as opposed to the rank-and-file) are closer to the Left in thinking than they are to the Likud. Thus, the fact that the media has decided to make a big thing out of current problems is reflective of the anti-Likud media using this as a stick to beat the Likud with since the issues involved have been around for a long time and are not unique to the Likud happening to being in power.

    • The word definitely has the negative connotations Mr Cole ascribes to it.

      Today, the word “shiksa” is generally used in good humor, but historically it has a negative connotation. A shiksa was a temptation for a Jewish man; the word was an insult, implying that the woman who was not born Jewish was somehow “unclean.”

      link to pbs.org

  2. It’s usually not a good idea to rely on racial and gender practices several thousand years old, they just don’t travel through time all that well.

    Of course, this is same mythical text used by today’s Israeli Zionist to justify their modern day right to murder Muslims and confiscate Palestinian land and personal property. Even to the point where just last month Israeli Jews were warned they should not wed Jews from America. Seems American money is good, but the American Jew…not so good.

  3. If you put aside the Pecksniffian doctrinal details and “naming rights” and loyalty issues, when looking at the oxymoron that’s called “hardline conservatism(sic),” it’s at least a little interesting, from a social-psycholgical perspective, that there’s damn-all little to distinguish our US “social conservatives” and “evangelicals” from Salafis from Haredrim from what we so loosely call “Taliban” from mean-spirited, hierarchical, patriarchical androcracies or would-be’s all across the planet.

    Gee, could it be that humans have some real problems with “seeing themselves as other see them?” Some vampire-mythical deficit like not being visible in a mirror?

    Given that what many would characterize as Bad People, with the same identifying characteristics, reproduce in numerous spots all across the planet, could it possibly be advisable to stop fussing and feuding over little doctrinal bits and tribal reliquaries, and focus on what might be done to cure or excise these little cancers of oppressive and destructive self-interest? Since when is the sum of all goodnesses advanced, on the scale and vector of “freedom,” by securing “freedom of religion” to this set of critters? Rights are supposed to come with correlative duties and responsibilities — you can’t have it both ways for long, before there’s an adjustment needed.

    Over the long haul, does the Golden Rule indeed have to rule, for the species to survive? At what cost in pain and fear? Or are we humans in fact an evolutionary dead end, like other branches of the primate tree, sitting up here and pelting each other with our feces and diddling ourselves and ganging up to beat down the weak and the strong alike?

  4. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to extrapolate an apparently inherent conflict between the backward vision of religious fundamentalism as it rears its head across religions and a more modern appreciation of a given tradition. Of course, thinking specifically of Islam and Christianity, as we see how things are now unfolding in Israel.

    Conflict resolves itself through one sidecaving-in and going along or both doing so as some sort of consensus. But when any fundamentalist worthy of the name will never, ever, ever, compromise, its up to the ever-tentative “believers” to come into line.

    Historically, does this lead pretty much always to cultural clashes? The protestant/catholic conflict hadstruck me as one that wasn’t driven so much by pure ideology as the political forces that were harnessing them. In the case of Israel, however, the Zionistic vision seems to be part and parcel of who they are: in which case, what is the God-sanctioned fate they are to apply to those other Jews who do not see their Truth so clearly?

  5. Your statement that Zionists generalize about, stereotype, and “Nazify” Arabs is sloppy and misleading. Indeed, the evidence you muster for this assertion is some settler ally of Avigdor Lieberman of all people. And I don’t see what it is necessary to compare the treatment of Na’ama Margolies with the restrictions on pupils at Qurduba School. It seems that both merit treatment on their own terms.

  6. These are hard times indeed for anyone who loves Israel. Where are the Rabbis? That a sect purportedly devoted to Hebrew scriptures has so completely forgotten Micah beggars the imagination. Someone badly needs to remind them about kindness, justice, and walking humbly with their God.

  7. Can’t really say I have a lot of sympathy for a “Zionist school”.
    I believe “conservatives” have a right to live in a conservative society but, as a Muslim I deplore the use of violence especially against children.
    That being said, the more these groups fight amongst themselves the less time and energy they have to oppress their Palestinian neighbors.

  8. “Some have been spitting on the girls, and have beaten up non-Haredis who support the school.They complain that Zionists have invaded their neighborhood (most Haredis reject Zionism or Jewish nationalism on the grounds that it is impudent for Jews to establish a state before the Messiah comes.)”

    I am confused about “establish a state before the messiah comes”. I believe that non-Christians are pretty well agreed that we are in that (perhaps regrettable) time-period. OK, then, for the pious Jews, establishing a state in Zion is forbidden.

    Is it forbidden for pious Jews to exercise the power of a state by — for instance — establishing orthodox Jewish rules as the practical laws of a present-day territory?

    If Jews such as these Haredi are still in exile, must they not follow Talmud and, therefore, bow to the laws and customs of the (goyish) state in which they happen live — even if that goyish state is, today, Israel (a state primarily of people who are not orthodox Jews — even as it was earlier an Ottoman state or a British-controlled state?

  9. To IlikeIke and Steve,

    Shield them all you can, but the alliance of religious and economic conservatives, here and in Israel, should produce certain similarities over time. The religious extremists want government to stop feeding the poor and thus competing with their own charity-cum-bribery. They also want it to get out of all other activities that distract it from enforcing religion-based morality. The economic conservatives want government drowned in the bathtub so they can get themselves another filthy tax cut. Enforcing religious fantasies is cheaper than enforcing environmental laws. And the cheapest form of enforcement of all is a caste system, where the factory owner or settler becomes a law unto his own, eager to crush dissenters with his own hands or private henchmen, and every boss and every father is a tyrant on his own private freehold, and women’s wombs and sweatshop floors are capital goods producing an army of broken, pliable voter-peasants.

    So convergence is inevitable. Secular society makes real-world demands for equality and justice which can only be delivered by tax-financed government – so would-be aristocrats can’t get what they want unless it is all wiped out and seized by the holy, in Rand Paul’s Kentucky as in Evigdor Lieberman’s Israel. That is why now the most extreme brands of religion are growing fastest, and the rich keep getting richer.

  10. JTMcPhee remarks on “mean-spirited, hierarchical, patriarchical androcracies”. Good phrase! For decades now, I’ve been saying that nothing says “third world” more than a society that oppresses women.

    Denying the creativity and judgment of 50% or more of the population is crazy, particularly as that form of creativity has generally led to ideas and solutions that are out of step with the hyper-”masculinity” prized in – well, the third world.

    It looks as if Israel has made its choice. Too bad for Israel that its liberal, leftist elements and supporters in other countries have decided that tolerance and even financial support of the “mean-spirited, hierarchical, patriarchical androcracy” elements is the only civilized response.

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