Condemning Violence

Several blogs have picked up the Haaretz report about 5 ultra-Orthodox men who apparently assaulted a woman and an Israeli soldier on a bus on its way to Bet Shemesh.

The incident began when the five men asked the religious woman to move to the back of the bus to prevent males and females from sitting together in public. When she refused, they beat her and the male soldier who sat next to her. “

Yitzchok Adlerstein over at Cross-Currents should be particularly commended for asking the Orthodox community to condemn such actions. (I say “Orthodox community” because of the context and the fact that Rabbi Adlerstein is an Orthodox rabbi.) He also invites laypeople to take a role in pressuring the rabbis of Bet Shemesh to sign a petition condemning this type of violence.

However, I’m a little bothered by Rabbi Adlerstein’s stated motivation:

Verified or not, I can tell you who is interested in the story, and who picked it up right away: the Muslim media. I have seen with my own eyes the output of one Muslim listserv under the appropriate enough title “5 ultra orthodox Jews beat the hell out of woman in public.�

When the Neturei Karta rashaim gave succor to Ahmadinejad, there was a huge show of revulsion from all – and unexpected – parts of the community. Even those who shared NK’s radical anti-Zionist platform drew the line at offering aid to the enemy. There is no reason to believe that the Muslims who circulated the story are our enemies. But there is also no way that the story will not propagate itself virally, and quickly fall into the hands of our enemies, who will joyfully point out to the world that in the much-vaunted Israeli democracy, elements every bit as primitive as themselves have free rein.

Again, I very much appreciate the note of critique, but something about this rubs me the wrong way.

Why should religiously-inspired violence be presented as a public relations problem? Do we really need an added excuse to condemn this type of behavior? Shouldn’t ethics and morality and the sanctity and integrity of Judaism be enough to mobilize our outrage?


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