web analytics
April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Israeli Left Versus Rabbinic Freedom Of Speech


Share Button

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 their ideas.
 
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.

 

 

 

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Share Button

About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Israeli Left Versus Rabbinic Freedom Of Speech”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Border Police take charge of  Yitzhar's Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva while students are on vacation.
Brave Israel Police Stand Guard at Empty Yeshiva to Stop Violence
Latest Indepth Stories
Palestinian boys stand behind mock jail bars during a rally calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails (but not from Palestinian Arab jails), in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 20, 2014.

The Palestinian Authority has jailed more than 350 Arabs for “security” reasons in just 2014.

Rabbi Auerbach seen at a ceremony for the students who have finished the reading of the Babylonian talmud, at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem on July 31, 2012.

Since Torah is the great equalizer, the great reconciler of divergent but valid opinions, this is also the place where common ground is reached.

Dueling Shofarim

Some American Jews feel their community has been hijacked from within by groups waging war against Israel seemingly in the name of the Jewish people.

Al-Aksa Mosque was claimed to be the site from which Mohammed ascended to Heaven, but it was built nearly 50 years after Mohammed died.

Jerusalem only seems important in the Islamic world when non-Muslims control or capture the city.

Jordan’s king is adding fuel to the fire on the Temple Mount, blaming Israel for violence by Muslim Arab rioters.

At Brandeis, much of what counts as Western civilization got cold feet and won’t stand with Hirsi Ali.

But the lesson from this meditation is that hidden behind the anti-semitic act is the greatest light.

As support of their messianic dream, Halevi and Antepli approve dishonoring Hirsi Ali as a ‘renegade.’

If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?

When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

More Articles from Steven Plaut
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

One grey night it happened, Bibi caved no more
& Poof that Foggy Bottomer, he vanished from our sight

Ehud Olmert
Feb. 27, 2014

It’s six K, five K, four K, Graft !
(Daylight come and da jail’s his new home)

In 2012, an initiative was begun in the Knesset led by David Rotem (from the Yisrael Beitenu party), to cut the stipends and pensions paid to convicted murderers and terrorists by 50 percent.

When the Temple was in existence, Jews were religiously obligated to eat roast meat at least once a year.

I have frequently drawn up lists of what I love most about Israel, and Arik Einstein has ranked high.

In the past, the law school prohibited the singing of Hatikvah.

American non-Orthodox Jews are intermarrying their way into post-Jewish oblivion, and they’re doing so as a direct result of having emptied their version of Judaism of all meaning.

The Taliban is all too willing to obliterate anything attesting to ancient Jewish life and culture.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/israeli-left-versus-rabbinic-freedom-of-speech/2010/12/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: