Volumes of the pious

5 Aug 2015

The 19th century philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill is known to have said during a parliamentary debate: "I did not mean that conservatives are generally stupid; I meant, that stupid persons are generally conservative." Traveling from Victorian England to Netanyahuian Israel, we can paraphrase as "Those that belong to the nationalistic/political-right/religious camp are NOT generally church- or mosque-burners, or teenager-/baby-killers; but those who perpetrate such hate crimes are generally of that political camp."

Following the horrific events of last week, the leaders of that political camp did not lose a second before shouting "Gevalt!", "Defamation!" and "Incitement!", as if the blood of an entire sector of Israeli society is being spilled. Minister Bennet and other members of his party talked of an "attempt to blacken" the political right in its entirety, as well as the "430,000 wonderful Israelis" (quoting Bennet) that live in the so-called occupied territories. Another member of parliament from the same party has called the organizers of the support rally for the LGBT community, following the stabbing and murder in Jerusalem, "extremists", in response to them canceling the appearance of Minister Bennet in the rally. A third member of that party, in an exemplary display of bad taste, has published a list (not particularly complete or accurate) of babies, children, and teenagers who have been murdered by Jewish terrorists compared with those that have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

This is the usual cheap politician trickery, conjuring a rhetorical straw man, in order to avoid dealing with the real criticism. And besides, the brave new generation of "leaders" is one that does not take responsibility. Try to divert the discourse to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and to so-called incitement, but by no means address the real issue, which is an internal matter of Israeli society, and the real criticism, with regard to the second part of my aforementioned paraphrase.

The facts are that the real (not metaphorical) blood that has been spilled is that of the marchers at Jerusalem Gay Pride. The facts are that the real (not metaphorical) blackening has been of a baby and a teenager who have been burnt alive. The facts are that the perpetrators of these crimes committed them out of ideology.

No one is contesting that the vast majority of those "430,000 wonderful Israelis" are law-abiding citizens, even if they do not have a warm place in their hearts for gays, Non-Jews, or the political left. However, can a government minister be so blind as not to acknowledge that perhaps it is not "430,000", perhaps it is 429,000, or perhaps 420,000?! Can a leader be so blind, as to not see that the sector in Israeli society that he claims to represent, repeatedly produces violent criminals who commit their crimes in the name of the ideology that he advocates?! Or are the burners of babies and teenagers, and of churches and mosques, those that rejoiced in the murder of a teenager at Jerusalem Gay Pride, and those that attack army bases, soldiers and policemen, part of those "wonderful Israelis"?!

I suspect that Mr. Bennet is an intelligent man. However, he is a prisoner of the fascist/religious-fundamentalist mindset that is prevalent in his camp, namely, that if one pretends that there is no problem and shuts eyes and ears sufficiently enough, then there is really no problem. Never let real-world facts confuse the most childish beliefs. This is true in this case, just as it is for religious denial of modern science, as advocated by other members of the current Israeli government.

In vain we shall expect self-examination, critical thinking and correction. From whom shall we seek it?! From the aforementioned member of parliament who calls LGBT activists extremists, because following a horrid hate crime, they justly believe that the head of a political party that opposes pro-gay legislation should not speak in a pro-LGBT rally?! The same member of parliament who only nine years ago organized a mock parade under the title "parade of beasts", carrying signs comparing gays to animals, in a truly nauseating "non-extremist" display of "do unto others", and in complete disregard to historical precedences, where minorities have been similarly dehumanized. Naturally, he has repented that before entering politics, calling it a mistake of youth. Should we similarly expect to see the attackers of soldiers and burners of churches and mosques in the Israeli house of representatives in 10-20 years, after they have seemingly repented the crimes that they commit today?!

Should we seek self-examination from politicians who participated in a racist demonstration, comparing yet a different minority to disease, and now hold positions in the Israeli government?! Should we seek self-examination from politicians who systematically attempt to delegitimize political opposition, most recently by censorship?! Should we seek self-examination from a government, whose members systematically attack the rule of law and the role that the judicial system plays in Israeli society, thus siding with extremists, intentionally or unintentionally?! Should we seek self-examination from a government, whose members brand a large part of American Jews as sinners, because they do not subscribe to a primitive and chauvinistic definition of Judaism?! Should we seek self-examination from members of the Israeli government who import ignorant views from the darkest corners of religious fundamentalism in the world, in regard to modern science?! Should we seek self-examination from members of the Israeli government who are completely uncommitted to a democratic state, advocating total and blind obedience to religious leadership, in an interview to an Israeli newspaper on the very same day that young Israelis have been stabbed and murdered by a person who was convinced he was following the divine creed?!

It starts with "gays are beasts" and "African refugees are cancer", continues with "leftists are traitors", "Arab voters are coming out in droves" and "Arab-Israelis are fifth column", and so far has culminated in "Reform Jews are sinners". But make no mistake, in two or three weeks the peddling of hatred will resume. Should we expect something like "scientists are the manufacturers of heresy"?! Or maybe something like "The secular Israelis are sinning beasts" against the economic backbone of the state, without which Israel will quickly decay into a poor overcrowded third-world theocracy?! Under the sword of religious fundamentalism and ignorance and fascist world views none are safe. I will refrain from making any ignorant metaphor in bad taste about human pathology or the animal kingdom. That is the speciality of some members of the Israeli parliament and ministers in the Israeli government.

Whether the sane part of the Israeli population will come to their senses and replace this rule of madness in the next general election, remains to be seen. In the short term, one can expect that such horrid hate crimes will continue to occur and in increased frequency. To conclude, let me quote from another great 19th century liberal thinker, Herbert Spencer (as an advocate of evolution, he would have no doubt been branded in Israel of 2015 as a traitor, a sinner, a beast and whatnot): "Volumes might be written upon the impiety of the pious."