web analytics
August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘civil liberties’

The Haredi Civil Right to Not Appreciate Israel

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

I find myself in the awkward position of defending actions that I abhor. According to an article in YWN – the arm of Israel’s education ministry that is responsible for providing funds to Haredi schools is deciding what sanctions these schools should get. They were open on Yom Ha’atzmaut which is in direct violation of the Ministry’s requirement that all schools should be closed on that day.

I find the position of the ministry not to be in consonance with the character of a free society. I suppose that technically they can issue any conditions for funding they choose and implement financial sanctions if those conditions are not met. But I believe it undermines the very nature of a free and democratic society to force people to close their institutions on any given day of the year no matter what its significance.

Sanctions for doing so seem inappropriate and heavy handed. Ministry officials argue that this is a form of lawlessness which can lead to a general disregard for the law in other areas. I don’t think so. This is not hurting anyone. It does not detract from others their right to celebrate that day. All they end up doing is looking like bullies who want to force people to do something they don’t want to do. Haredim may be unpatriotic for refusing to close schools on Yom Ha’atzmaut. But a lack of patriotism is not – in my view a cause for punitive measures. In a free society people should have a right to do as they choose as long as they don’t hurt anyone in the process.

That said, the fact that these schools do not voluntarily close is in itself disgusting. This is not to say that I think Torah study should stop on that day. It shouldn’t. But not in ways which dishonor the day. By treating it as a normal school day – as most of them do – they are sending a message that they have absolutely no Hakoras HaTov (gratitude) for what they have been given since the very founding of the state over 65 years ago. They show that they are takers without saying thank you.

This is indicative of an attitude expressed time and again by some Haredi leaders. I am not talking about the rejectionists of Meah Shearim like Netrurei Karta and Satmar. I am talking about mainstream Haredim who rarely if ever have a good word to say about the State. Mostly what you hear them saying is that Israel is an evil empire out to destroy Judaism.

They continually bring up examples of that evil which they say took place during the formative years of the State. Examples that are of questionable reliability. I am not going to delve into those issues. All I will say is that there are different versions of what happened in every case. There are always at least 2 sides to every story.

Nonetheless they insist on believing the most unflattering versions of those stories. This is what they focus on. Never mind that this is ancient history and the religious climate then was not what it is now. Nor are today’s political leaders anything like those early pioneers. Some Haredi rabbinic leaders still see children being kidnapped from their parents and disabused of their religious beliefs.

More importantly, it is their refusal to recognize all the truly great things that Israel has done for the Jewish people that is so troubling.

It was the declaration of statehood that opened the doors to all Holocaust refugees that were in displacement camps waiting for someone – anyone – to help them get back to a normal life. Nobody wanted them after they were liberated from the death camps, including the British Mandatory government in Palestine. Very few permits were issued to those Jewish refugees. But the day Ben Gurion declared the State of Israel, the flood gates opened.

I cannot image the depth of joy, fulfillment of destiny and sense of promise that must have been in the heart of a refugee when he or she first beheld the shores of the promised land after suffering the worst degradations imaginable to man. That moment must have been cathartic. Every refugee now had the right to come to the land of Israel. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty first uttered by the Jewish Poet Emma Lazarus was never more appropriate than it was in Israel in those early and heady days of the state:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Wretched refuse. After years of anti-Semitic degradation, deprivation and torture by the Nazis and their willing accomplices of occupied lands – this is how the world saw the Holocaust refugee. It must have been hard for those refuges to think of themselves in any other way before they came to Israel’s shores. With the founding of the State these people had their dignity restored.

How in heaven’s name can any human being, let alone a fellow Jew not recognize that momentous day in Jewish History? I doubt that there is a single rational Holocaust survivor who immigrated who does not recognize it.

My wife had an uncle that was a Ger Hasid, who went through hell during the Holocaust losing his his wife and all of his children. Even though he was very close to the Gerrer Rebbe, on Yom Ha’atzmaut he Davened in a Mizrachi Shul so that he could say Hallel. There are probably hundreds if not thousands of stories like this. Surviving Jews of all stripes recognize the importance of Yom Ha’atzmaut. That’s because they lived through the horrors. But too many rabbinic leaders today refuse see any of this.

But even if there had been no Holocaust, what about the of the land of Israel being returned to the Jewish people after 2000 years? Do they not recognize the miraculous nature of that event?! Satmar refuses to recognize it calling it the work of the devil. But supposedly this is not the mainstream Haredi view. And yet they ignore it.

What about the fact that the state has enabled the development of the greatest Makom Torah in the world? Greater in depth and scope than at any time in history since the time of Hazal? It was Ben Gurion that exempted all Yeshiva students from army service! According to an article in last week’s Mishpacha Magazine, the Chazon Ish himself had said that Ben Gurion would have no idea why he would be given such honor in the next world. It would be due to the few words uttered from his mouth. He declared that he would not be the destroyer of Yavneh and its sages!

And then there is all that money given to Yeshivos and their students. There has probably never been a greater Issachar- Zevulun partnership in history.

And yet, not the slightest bit of hakarat hatov (appreciation of a good deed). All they see is evil. That is the message far too many Haredi mechanchim (educators) impart to their students. Especially now that there is a threat of a draft and reduction of funding.

I’m surprised they don’t tear kriyah (mournful tearing of the clothing) on that day based on the rhetoric I hear from some from some of their leadership these days.

I have absolutely no sympathy for their position on this matter. None! And yet I support their right to be as disgusting about it as they choose. Because that is the way of a free society.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

The Dreaded Drone

Monday, March 11th, 2013

At the end of last week we were consumed by the question of whether the President of the United States can order a drone strike on an American in the United States.

But why ask that question only about a drone?

Suppose that Obama decides that he wants Rush Limbaugh gone once and for all. He gives the order and B-52s from the 11th Bomb Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana are dispatched to put an end to the talk show host once and for all.

The B-52s arrive over Rush Limbaugh’s Palm Beach compound in under two hours and begin to pound away at his 2 acre estate dropping 2,000 pound bombs until absolutely nothing is left standing. Every building has been destroyed, the staff is dead, the golf courses are wrecked and there is no sign of life.

The 11th returns to base and receives a congratulatory call from Obama on a job well done.

Why can’t this happen?

For one thing it doesn’t make much sense. If Obama ever gets that determined to take down Rush, Team O will put together some ex-Feds turned private investigators to plant evidence of a Federal offense and then bring in the FBI. It’s a lot cheaper and less likely to make even Obama’s most loyal lapdogs balk at wrecking Palm Beach.

Federal prosecutors have nearly as good a track record at getting their man, innocent or guilty, as drones do. And they raise a lot fewer questions. Even mad dictators in totalitarian states aren’t known for sending air strikes to take out individual critics. Not unless they have no control over the territory that they are in.

So why not send in the B-52s to get rid of Rush Limbaugh? Because despite last week’s filibuster, military operations in the United States are far more restricted than law enforcement operations. The odds of a member of the United States Air Force killing you outside of a bar fight is very slim, but the odds of a member of a local or state police force killing you are far higher.

When it comes to the Federal government killing Americans, the civilian law enforcement side is far more likely to kill you than a USAF Staff Sergeant taking out Taliban across the border in Pakistan.

Every Federal agency has its own SWAT Team which is why every Federal agency is also buying up huge amounts of ammunition.

That means that you are far more likely to be shot by a SWAT team from the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General than by a drone operator from the 3d Special Operations Squadron in New Mexico (Motto: Pro Patria, Pro Liberis – For Country, for Freedom.)

The DOE’s private police force has the authority to use lethal force, conduct undercover operations, including electronic surveillance, and may not have drones, but does have 12 gauge shotguns and far more authority to use them on you than the Staff Sergeant in New Mexico does.

The Department of Energy has two SWAT Teams. The National Parks Service has four. And if any of them do shoot you, it will not result in congressional hearings or collateral damage. Law enforcement officers kill hundreds of Americans every year. One more won’t be a big deal. And the militarization of the police and the proliferation of Special Response Units in the Federal government are a far more serious concern than being taken out by a drone while sitting in a Starbucks.

Military operations in the United States are fairly tightly constrained and while that line has blurred at times, it’s still a much more difficult and controversial process. Today’s military is far less likely to be deployed against civilians than in 1932 when General Douglas MacArthur and Major George Patton led a fixed bayonet charge across Pennsylvania Avenue to dislodge unemployed protesters to protect President Hoover. And that is because Federal law enforcement has been militarized to such a degree that it can cope with just about anything short of a full-fledged civil war. And whatever it doesn’t have now, it will soon enough.

But let’s get back to the B-52s bombing Rush Limbaugh’s mansion. We all know that’s not likely to happen. But the idea of flesh and blood pilots climbing into planes and dropping bombs across Palm Beach has too much reality to it. The power of the drone is that it appears to be inhuman. It’s a new technology and it can do anything.

Are Drone Strikes Analogous to the Civil War?

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Pundits have for weeks been erroneously comparing the issue of “killing Americans” with drone strikes abroad to the brother-against-brother character of the U.S. Civil War of 1861-1865.  It’s time to point out that the Civil War is a false analogy to the drone-execution issue.  This false analogy muddies the waters, and the public debate over executive privilege and the people’s rights needs to proceed without it.

There are two basic aspects of the Civil War that make it different from the War on Terror, in the ways that matter to the drone issue.  One is an obvious feature of the Civil War:  the South formally seceded from the Union and called itself a separate nation, the Confederate States of America.  The Confederacy thus severed its citizens’ compact with the U.S. Constitution.  Plotting acts of terrorism doesn’t sever a U.S. citizen’s constitutional rights; it makes him prosecutable under U.S. law, in accordance with the protections afforded him by the Constitution.

An American citizen’s constitutional rights do not, in my view, apply to foreigners who plot or commit terrorist acts against America.  My point is not that all terrorists “deserve” constitutional protection in our justice system, if American citizens do.  But in terms of where executive privilege stops, in the matter of executing terrorists or in other ways denying them due process under the U.S. justice system, the bright line is American citizenship.  Even if the citizen is Anwar al-Awlaki.

The other relevant aspect of the Civil War is less discussed, however.  That aspect is its military character.  The Civil War was, for the South, about holding territory by force of arms, and administering it as a separate nation.  For the North, it was about retaking territory by force of arms.  The mode of the conflict was therefore the form in which pitched battle was met in the mid-19th century.  The Civil War was about moving armies over territory and fighting for ground.

It was thus inherently about orchestrated opportunities for killing soldiers in pitched-battle combat.  Given the objectives on each side, it could not have been about anything else.  Lincoln had no intention of merely bottling up the South, absorbing long-term costs – political and military – and letting time be his main ally.  The South had no intention of merely accepting “occupation” and fighting a debilitating guerrilla campaign over decades to wear the Union down.  Both sides sought to establish sovereignty over the Southern states’ territory as soon as possible, envisioning a future of pacification and peace, according to their separate political concepts.

Given these factors, the necessity for killing Confederate soldiers had asignificance to the objective that it does not have in the War on Terror.  The only way to win pitched battles on land is to kill the enemy soldiers.  That makes them eventually stop fighting, in a given battle.  Over time, it reduces their ranks and their scope of action, until their leaders either accept defeat or set themselves up for annihilation.  The end-state of this process is the winning side controlling the territory in question and dictating terms to the survivors.

The War on Terror does not have this character.  Although it is, ultimately, about whose view of political morality will prevail on territory, the mode of the conflict is not pitched land battle.  Therefore, the mere killing of enemy combatants is not inherently significant to America’s objective.  It is important to have that clear.  We are not advancing our own security, merely by killing terrorists.  Read that again, please, and understand it.  In the Civil War, it was inherently significant to the military and political objectives to kill combatants.  In the War on Terror, it is not.

In Afghanistan, where the American objective has been to put territory under the control of a friendly, moderate local government, it is significant to the objective to kill the terrorists who attack friendly troops and civilians.  Those terrorists are acting as guerrillas, seeking to deny us the territory that will fulfill our objective.  Their relation to our objective in space and time is what makes it essential to kill them.

But that’s not what Anwar al-Awlaki – a U.S. citizen – was doing when he was executed by a drone strike in Yemen.  He wasn’t involved in a tactical campaign to deny us territory (as the Taliban are, for example).  He wasn’t facing American troops, armed and recalcitrant and posing an immediate threat to their lives.  At the time of his execution, there was no tactical, operational, or strategic necessity to kill him to advance the U.S. objective in the War on Terror.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/j-e-dyer/are-drone-strikes-analogous-to-the-civil-war/2013/02/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: