Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Israeli Left Attacks Rabbinic Freedom Of Speech
Israeli Left Versus Rabbinic Freedom Of Speech
By: Steven Plaut
Date: Wednesday, December 15 2010
In recent days, one of the most important domestic controversies in
Israel has revolved around rabbinic opinions. The media are
representing this as a great debate over "racism." In reality, it is
a great debate over freedom of speech and the rights of Israelis to
express opinions disliked by its increasingly anti-democratic Left.
The ruckus began when a few dozen Israeli rabbis issued a call for
Israeli Jews not rent or sell real estate to Arabs in predominantly
Jewish neighborhoods. The background to their call had to do with
growing tensions and even violence in several towns, such as Carmiel
and Safed, where significant numbers of Arabs have moved into
predominantly Jewish neighborhoods.
By and large, the rabbis who signed the statement were not
prominent or well-known halachic authorities. Their statement carried
neither the weight of civic law nor the authority of a religious
decree. The rabbis essentially were expressing an opinion. It might
be an opinion you find objectionable, but in democracies people are
supposed to be free to say objectionable things.
Prime Minister Netanyahu denounced the rabbis who signed the
statement. But unlike most of the Israeli Left, he did not demand
they be stripped of their freedom of speech. Among others who spoke
out against those rabbis were three of Israel's most respected haredi
rabbis - Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman and
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. They were joined in their opposition by other
leading haredi rabbis and even by rabbis living in the West Bank.
Following Rabbi Elyashiv's criticism, at least five of the
signatories withdrew their support from the statement.
But Israel's anti-democratic Left did not limit itself to expressing
disagreement with or condemnation of the opinions contained in the
statement of the rabbis. The Israeli Left was almost unanimous in
insisting the rabbis be stripped of their rights to express
controversial opinions altogether. Arabs and far leftists in Israel
can cheer on Arab terrorists who murder Jews and can demand Israel's
obliteration; that is protected speech. Tenured radicals at the
universities can call for Israel to be annihilated and can support
worldwide anti-Israel boycotts; that, too, is protected speech. But
in the Left's worldview, rabbis expressing an opinion with which most
Israelis probably disagree are not entitled to the same freedom of expression.
Several representatives of the far-left Meretz Party petitioned the
attorney general to indict the rabbis as criminals. They were joined
in that call by a number of Israeli leftist academics, journalists,
and public figures.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) - which has never
missed a chance to overlook infringements of the freedom of
expression of non-leftists in Israel - denounced the rabbis who
signed the statement and called on the prime minister to take
punitive action against them. Israel's minority affairs minister,
Avishay Braverman, asked the justice minister to begin the process of
immediate suspension of one of the signers, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu,
from his post as municipal rabbi of Safed. (Earlier this year,
Braverman demanded that Jews spend Yom Kippur atoning for their
"oppression" of Arabs.)
Arab Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi took time off from cheering on jihad
to denounce the rabbis who had signed the statement as "racists." He
has never gotten around to denouncing as racists any terrorists who
murder Jews or Arab arsonists who set forest fires.
Spokesmen for the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, suddenly seized by an
attack of political correctness, released a statement condemning the
rabbis' letter, calling it "a severe blow to the basic values of our
lives as Jews and people living in a democratic country." These same
folks have never issued a statement condemning those who demand East
Jerusalem be kept judenrein.
It's one thing to disagree with what some rabbis say, and quite
another to demand they be indicted as felons for expressing their
opinions. Once again, as has happened so often in Israel, expression
of non-leftist opinion is being criminalized, and leftists are
attempting to use the police and courts to silence their political
adversaries. Prosecution has become the favored response of choice by
leftists incapable of convincing the Israeli public of the merits of
I don't think a single one of those demanding that the rabbis signing
the statement be prosecuted has ever spoken out against the summary
execution by the Palestinian Authority of Arabs who dare sell their
property to Jews. Not a single leftist wringing his hands over the
supposed racism in the statement of the rabbis condemned the recent
death threats against young Kochav Segal Halevi, a Jew who purchased
an apartment in the Arab town of Iblin (not far from Haifa).
It's safe to venture that not a single one had anything to say about
the inability of Jews to buy or rent property in Arab towns, villages
and neighborhoods because of threats of violence; or that a single
one had anything to say about the common practice by Arabs living in
Arab towns excluding groups of other Arabs from living with them; or
that a single one condemned the racist expulsion of every single Jew
living in the Gaza Strip.
2. The link between Wikileaks and Neo-Nazis:
Why is WikiLeaks employing a well-known Holocaust denier and his disgraced son?
Michael C. Moynihan | December 14, 2010