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October 23, 2016 / 21 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Justice Minister Shaked Issues Manifesto on Jewish Democracy, Based on the Teachings of Chief Justice Barak

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

“The Knesset is attempting to legislate away our lives and the High Court is invading territory to which it is not entitled,” declares Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), in a lengthy but exciting essay in the inaugural issue of Hashiloach, an Israeli Journal on thought and policy. The essay, titled “Tracks toward Governing” (the Hebrew title is a play on words between Mesilot-tracks and Meshilut-governance), suggests that the behavior of some of Israel’s branches of government is threatening individual freedoms as well as the ability of elected officials to govern. Shaked is urging a return, as soon as possible, to the proper governing on the proper tracks, from within Israel’s definition as a Jewish and democratic state.

“Good governance is not a blind force, certainly not a strong but silent engine,” writes Shaked, stressing that “the ability to carry out goals in the way they have been defined is a prerequisite condition for good governance, but is far from being sufficient in itself: good governance is measured above anything else by the ability of government ministers to establish their own goals.”

“A politician who knows how to bring the train to its destination, but is unable to set the destination, as senior as he may be — is not governing but merely subcontracting; he may have been appointed Minister, and he may get to cut ribbons in the end, but he is nothing more than a contractor,” Shaked argues. “To move down a track laid down by others does not require leaders; any driver could do it just fine. The essence of governance is always setting down directions and posting goals. This requires of elected officials to lay down new tracks only after they had decided for themselves where they would like to take the train.”

Shaked asserts that every time the Knesset votes in favor of any given law, it is also voting against the freedom of individuals to take care of their issues on their own. She calls it a vote of no confidence in the autonomy of communities and individuals. Indeed, as Chair of the Ministerial Legislative Committee, Shaked laments that she has processed more than 1,500 legislative proposals, from amendments to existing laws to fully realized, new bills. Suggesting the Knesset is by far the most prolific parliament in the entire Western world, Shaked describes this abundance of new laws as a hospital that’s being built underneath a broken bridge to care for the people who fall off.

Referring to economist Milton Friedman’s impressions following his visit to Israel in the 1960s, when he predicted that the historic spirit of Jewish freedom would eventually overcome the newly bred spirit of Socialist bureaucracy in Israel, Shaked admits she’s not so sure Friedman was right. “Without our firm push on the brake pedal of this locomotive, week in and week out, those legislative proposals would have created for us an alternative reality, in which government controls the citizens through the regulation of more and more economic sectors, with the individual being left with precious little freedom to manage his own affairs.”

Shaked provides several examples whereby proposed legislation would have, for instance, created a world in which a landlord would be forbidden to raise the rent for several years. Of course, rents would soar on the eve of this new law going into effect, followed by a loss of interest on the part of investors in creating new rental stock, leading to a drop in available apartments and, of course, another rise in rents. It would also be a world in which employers must comply with pensions set by the legislator, until, of course, they go bankrupt. And a world in which police would be bound by a two-strike law that compels them to arrest any individual against whom someone has filed two complaints. Running down some of these “bizarre” proposals, as she calls them, Shaked eventually describes a proposal to compel the state to solve terrorism by distributing bulletproof vests to every citizen against knife attacks, as well as a proposal to eliminate the reference in the law to “Beit Av,” which is the Biblical term for Household, because it has a reference to a father rather than to a mother.

Shaked reports that she requested, for the 2017-18 budget, that the ministerial committee would no longer consider bills that add new criminal offenses to the law books, without a thorough investigation of similar legislation in other countries, of the ramifications of the new criminal law on the books in Israel’s society, and, most important — of existing, non-criminal alternatives.

Alongside the need to restrain the legislator, Shaked sees a dire need to restrain Israel’s expansionist Judiciary. She notes an ongoing war between the Supreme Court and the executive branch, which necessitates the passing of a new constitutional-level legislation (Foundation Laws in Israel’s system) to regulate once and for all this combative relationship. She cites several cases in which government was blocked by the high court in areas that are clearly the executive’s domain, such as the law regulating the treatment of illegal infiltrators from Africa, and the government contract with natural gas companies to exploit Israel’s rich deposits.

Shaked laments the fact that the Supreme Court so often usurps the right to kill an entire legislation, as if it had appointed itself the 121st Knesset Member (or more than that, since it so frequently joins with the opposition parties to defeat a majority coalition). She has no problem with individuals seeking remedy in the lower courts to damages they claim to have suffered from, say, the new gas contract. That’s a legitimate use of the court system. But how can the unelected high court delete an entire legislation passed by elected officials? Who, after all is said and done, is the sovereign, the people or their appointed judges?

As a result, the art of politics in Israel is practiced as follows, according to Shaked: first the different parties vie for the voter’s trust; then, in the Knesset, the coalition negotiates with and fights against the opposition over a proposed bill; finally, after the bill was passed, the opposition parties appeal it before the Supreme Court, which reverses it. That, in a nutshell, was the story of the natural gas bill earlier this year.


Woman of the Year 5776: Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked

Saturday, October 1st, 2016

The January 22, 2013 general elections in Israel marked the emergence of two new parties; one, journalist Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, was yet another attempt to grab the undecided center among Israel’s voters; the other, Habayit Hayehudi, was a coalition of National Religious parties led by hi-tech executive Naftali Bennett and his long-time political ally, a 30-something computer engineer from Tel Aviv named Ayelet Shaked, who stood out as the only secular Jew in an otherwise Orthodox Jewish party. Both parties did well, although Lapid’s party took seven more seats than Bennett’s (19 vs. 12). Both parties also represent new challenges to the current power status quo in Israel, with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud leading a right-leaning coalition government over an opposition being led by Labor (a.k.a. Zionist Camp).

At this point in the life of the 20th Knesset, the polls are showing Yesh Atid as the new largest party, siphoning off votes from Likud’s centrist voters and Labor’s more nationalistic supporters, as well as from Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party which barely passes the threshold percentage in the polls. At the same time, Likud is also being bitten on its right flank, by Habayit Hayehudi. And, also for the first time, the National Religious leader Naftali Bennett has been speaking openly about his ambition to be Israel’s next prime minister, at the helm of a rightwing, pro-religious, pro-settlements government.

That ambition is a new thing to a party that, since its incarnation as NRP in 1956, has always seen itself as a second banana, always in government, be it with leftwing or rightwing majority parties, but never at the helm. And while Chairman Bennett has been outspoken about his ambition to carve out a new direction for the country in the image of his party’s ideology, another Habayit Hayehudi leader has been giving the nation an idea of how a national religious government would carry out its agenda — Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

Since the end of the 1990s, it has become clear that Israeli Jews are only going to become more traditional, even religious, and, consequently, the chance for a left-leaning party to receive the largest percentage of the vote will continue to grow dimmer. But while political positions have been given by the voter to rightwing governments, key decisions on issues that are close to the heart of the same rightwing voters have continued to lean to the left. This has been most notable in the liberated territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, where evictions of Jewish settlers have been carried out over the past decade and a half by rightwing-led governments, and those same governments have been refusing to implement Israeli civil law in Jewish communities hat have been living under martial law since the 1970s.

This is because the judiciary in Israel has been ruling as a shadow government, unelected and with a leftwing, secular agenda. In addition, Israel has had the most activist supreme court anywhere in the West, a court that has seized for itself powers well outside the norm in countries that uphold the principle of three branches of government. In countless cases, the high court has acted as a legislator, siding with the opposition against a ruling government (the recent vote on exploiting Israel’s natural gas come to mind, when the court torpedoed a government signed contract with US and domestic companies). The judiciary has also had its hand on the executive branch through the Attorney General and the legal counsels who are appointed to every ministry, and who often force the hands of elected officials using the threat of legal action against them.

The appointment of Ayelet Shaked to be the Minster in charge of this judiciary stronghold of the real power in Israeli society was received with a great deal of alarm and trepidation in the leftwing media, which called her “Israel’s Sarah Palin,” and accused her of inciting the mobs against the Supreme Court justices, “as if she were the worst [Internet] talkbacker and not the minister in charge of the holiest holy of every democracy — its separate and independent judiciary.” (Uri Misgav, Haaretz, Aug. 11, 2015).

The attack came in response to the new Justice Minister’s tweet on the same evening the Supreme Court was convening to rule on a law designed to block infiltration of illegal migrants from Africa through Israel’s southern border. Shaked tweeted that the law had already been quashed twice by the court, causing the infiltration, which had been reduced to single digits, to grow to dozens of new border crossings.

“If the law is revoked a third time,” Shaked tweeted, “it would be tantamount to declaring south Tel Aviv an official haven for infiltrators.” She then added that, until the court’s ruling, she would upload every two hours a new video describing the “intolerable life conditions of south Tel Aviv residents,” urging her followers to spread the message.

The court took notice and restricted itself to a few minor corrections, mostly regarding the length of time an illegal migrant could be held in a locked facility until his case is resolved by the Interior Ministry. The court continued to take notice throughout Shaked’s first year in office, and has been noticeably mindful of the need to avoid unnecessary friction with a Justice Minister who is probably the most popular minister in Israel. How popular? In 2013 she was picked by the Knesset Channel as the summer session’s most outstanding MK, and in 2014 as the second most outstanding MK of the winter session. In 2015 the Jerusalem Post ranked her 33rd on its list of the most influential Jews in the world. In 2015 she was ranked by Forbes Israel as the fifth most influential woman in Israel. And in 2016 Lady Globes ranked her second on its list of 50 most influential women.

Most importantly, Minster Shaked has afforded Israelis a view of a nationalist, rightwing politician who can be trusted to run the country’s third most complex system, after Finance and Defense. As Justice Minister, Shaked also chairs the ministerial legislative committee which decides which bills receive the backing of the government. Her role is comparable to that of the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House, in terms of influencing the legislative process. And the fact that she has been a competent, creative and resourceful Justice Minister might suggest to people in the secular center and right of center that her and Bennett’s party is worthy of their vote.

Shaked and Bennett are in troubled waters currently, over the fate of Amona, a Jewish community in Judea and Samaria that the Supreme Court has slated for demolition by early December, 2016, over claims to ownership of the land by Arab PA residents. The fact is that no one on the right in Netanyahu’s government believes that Amona could be saved, which Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman stated openly. Shaked wants to see the residents being relocated to a nearby plot of land, that could turn out to be just as problematic. But both Bennett and Shaked are also interested in advancing new legislation that would compel future claimants to settle for fair market value or comparable land from the Israeli government. At stake are an estimated 4,000 homes, the bulk of which were built as part of a government sponsored settlement program. The Supreme Court has rejected these “arrangement law” initiatives, and the current AG, Avihai Mandelblit, also objects to them, even though he himself is on the record as supporting them in the past.

For now, Shaked and Bennett are under attack by their voters, who cannot believe that a government that is as rightwing as this one would still engage in the forceful removal of Jews from their homes. And the last thing Shaked and Bennet want is to be forced to resign from Netanyahu’s government over this dispute.

Shaked, like Bennett, is a vehement enemy of the two-state solution. But she is also a liberal when it comes to many legislative initiatives. She has fought court activism; she objected to imposing jail sentences on Yeshiva students who refuse to enlist; and she supports a free and open market and reducing state regulations of businesses. She also believes in cutting down on new laws.

Noting that her government legislative committee has processed over the past year and a half no less than 1,500 new legislative proposals, Shaked wrote an op-ed in the right-leaning website Mida, saying that “every time the Knesset puts its faith in a new law intended to serve a worthy cause and solve a social or economic problem, we are, in effect, raising our hands to support a vote of no confidence. … It’s a vote of no confidence in our ability as individuals and as communities to manage ourselves in a good enough manner; it’s a vote of no confidence in the wisdom of the nation and of each person to create and preserve mechanisms that are better than those which are designed artificially by experts; it’s a vote of no confidence in the ability of familial, social and economic communities to run their own lives and strive successfully to reach their goals.”

Spoken like a true, sane Libertarian. And a Libertarian who knows how to combine the principles of freedom with the ideals of nation and Torah — could make one fine prime minister some day. Which is why we believe 5776 was the year of Ayelet Shaked.


AIPAC Mourns Shimon Peres, Indefatigable Advocate for Justice [video]

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobby group extended its condolences Wednesday on the passing of former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The organization created an especially dramatic video tribute to Peres, using for the audio track a recording of a stirring speech delivered in English by Peres himself, against starkly simple piano notes.

In a separate statement the organization said, “We join the people of Israel in mourning the loss of Shimon Peres, a visionary Israeli patriot and beloved statesman who came to symbolize the reborn Jewish state.

“He sought to realize the ancient Jewish yearning for peace where there was strife and pursued reconciliation amidst discord.

“As an indefatigable advocate for justice and human progress, he earned the respect and appreciation of his fellow leaders and the global community. Indeed, his life’s work was an inspiration to all who strive for peace and freedom.

“Throughout his distinguished career in public service, including his work as Prime Minister and then as President, Shimon Peres sought to strengthen ties between the United States and Israel in deep appreciation of the democratic values we share.

“As we mourn his passing, we know his legacy will live on through the many good deeds he accomplished, the countless lives he enriched, and the commitment to the Jewish state he inspired in so many. May his memory forever be a blessing.”

Hana Levi Julian

Turkish Justice Ministry Asking US to Detain Dissident Gülen

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

The Turkish Justice Ministry on Tuesday officially requested that the US arrest Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, the founder of the Hizmet (Service) movement and its Alliance for Shared Values. Gülen lives in self-imposed exile in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.

Despite President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s repeated calls over the past two months for the cleric’s extradition, this is Turkey’s first official provisional arrest request to the US for Gülen, who is accused of leading the failed July coup that resulted in the death of 240 people, according to Justice ministry sources cited by the Anadolu news agency.

According to these anonymous sources, the official request claims that the July 15 coup attempt was carried out under Gülen’s “command and control.”

The dispute between Gülen and Erdoğan go back to 2013, when a number of corruption-related arrests were made against Erdoğan’s allies, reflecting a growing political power struggle between Gülen and Erdoğan. The arrests led to the 2013 corruption scandal in Turkey, which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s supporters (along with Erdoğan himself) as well as the opposition parties said was choreographed by Gülen.

The Erdoğan government said the corruption investigation and comments by Gülen were part of the long term political agenda of Gülen’s movement to infiltrate the security, intelligence, and justice institutions of the Turkish state, a charge almost identical to the charges against Gülen by the Chief Prosecutor of Turkey in his trial in 2000 before Erdoğan’s party had come into power.

Gülen had previously been tried in absentia in 2000, and acquitted of these charges in 2008 under Erdoğan’s AKP government.


Pursuing Justice

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Tzedek (justice) is a key word in the book of Devarim – most famously in the following verse toward the beginning of this week’s parshah: “Justice, justice you shall pursue, so that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your G-d is giving you” (16:20).

The distribution of the word tzedek and its derivate, tzedakah, in the Five Books of Moses is anything but random. It is overwhelmingly concentrated on the first and last books – Genesis (where it appears 16 times) and Deuteronomy (18 times). In Exodus it occurs only four times, and in Leviticus five. All but one of these are concentrated in two chapters: Exodus 23 (where three of the four occurrences are in two verses, 23:7-8), and Leviticus 19 (where all five incidences are in chapter 19). In Numbers, the word does not appear at all.

This distribution is one of many indications that the Chumash is constructed as a chiasmus, a literary unit of the form ABCBA. Here’s the structure:


A: Genesis – the pre-history of Israel (the distant past).
B: Exodus – the journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai.
C: Leviticus – the code of holiness.
B: Numbers – the journey from Mount Sinai to the banks of the Jordan.
A: Deuteronomy – the post-history of Israel (the distant future).


The leitmotif of tzedek/tzedakah appears at the key points of this structure – the two outer books of Genesis and Deuteronomy, and the central chapter of the work as a whole, Leviticus 19. Clearly the word is a dominant theme of the Mosaic books as a whole.

What does it mean? Tzedek/tzedakah is almost impossible to translate, because of its many shadings of meaning: justice, charity, righteousness, integrity, equity, fairness, and innocence. It certainly means more than strictly legal justice, for which the Bible uses words like mishpat and din. One example illustrates the point: “If a man is poor, you may not go to sleep holding his security. Return it to him at sundown, so that he will be able to sleep in his garment and bless you. To you it will be reckoned as tzedakah before the Lord your G-d” (Deuteronomy 24:12-13).

Tzedakah cannot mean legal justice in this verse. It speaks of a situation in which a poor person has only a single cloak or covering, which he has handed over to the lender as security against a loan. The lender has a legal right to keep the cloak until the loan has been repaid. However, acting on the basis of this right is simply not the right thing to do. It ignores the human situation of the poor person, who has nothing else with which to keep warm on a cold night. The point becomes even clearer when we examine the parallel passage in Exodus 22, which states:

“If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate” (Exodus 22:25-26).

The same situation that in Deuteronomy is described as tzedakah is termed in Exodus as compassion or grace (chanun). The late Aryeh Kaplan translated tzedakah in Deuteronomy 24 as “charitable merit.” It is best rendered as “the right and decent thing to do” or “justice tempered by compassion.”

In Judaism, tzedek, as opposed to mishpat, must be tempered by compassion. Hence the terrible, tragic irony of Portia’s speech in “The Merchant of Venice”:

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to G-d himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest G-d’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this:
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea…


Here Shakespeare is expressing the medieval stereotype of Christian mercy (Portia) as against Jewish justice (Shylock). He entirely fails to realize (how could he, given the prevailing culture?) that “justice” and “mercy” are not opposites in Hebrew but are bonded together in a single word, tzedek or tzedakah. Adding to the irony, the very language and imagery of Portia’s speech (“It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven”) is taken from Deuteronomy:


May my teaching drop as the rain,
my speech distill as the dew,
like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
and like showers upon the herb …
The Rock, his work is perfect,
for all his ways are justice.
A G-d of faithfulness and without iniquity,
just and upright is he (Deuteronomy 32:2-4).


The false contrast between Jew and Christian in “The Merchant of Venice” is eloquent testimony to the cruel misrepresentation of Judaism in Christian theology until recent times.

Why then is justice so central to Judaism? Because it is impartial. Law as envisaged by the Torah makes no distinction between rich and poor, powerful and powerless, home born or stranger. Equality before the law is the translation into human terms of equality before G-d. Time and again the Torah insists that justice is not a human artifact. “Fear no one, for judgment belongs to G-d.” Because it belongs to G-d, it must never be compromised – by fear, bribery, or favoritism. It is an inescapable duty, an inalienable right.

Judaism is a religion of love: “You shall love the Lord your G-d”; “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”; “You shall love the stranger.” But it is also a religion of justice, for without justice, love corrupts. (Who would not bend the rules, if he could, to favor those he loves?)

It is also a religion of compassion, for without compassion law itself can generate inequity. Justice plus compassion equals tzedek, the first precondition of a decent society.


Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

The Foundation Stone: Parshat Shoftim: Seeking Justice

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg’s website, The Foundation Stone}

A woman, suffering serious financial hardship due to the dishonesty of outwardly observant friends who are supported by the community, declares her rejection of Torah beliefs.

A man who rightfully prides himself on his honesty leaves a hearing before a Rabbinical Court wondering where was justice.

A six-year-old girl, after overhearing her parents speak of the injustice of the UN sponsored Schabas Commission is terrified that we live in a world without justice.


“Righteousness, righteousness, shall you pursue (Deuteronomy 16:20),” teaches us that righteousness in a specific case is insufficient. We must seek to create an environment in which people expect justice.


Whether speaking to us of a king, a prophet, the desire for vengeance, war, or even an unsolved murder, the Torah insists that we create an environment in which that woman would feel confident that her community would provide justice.


We are obligated to insist on rabbinical courts that provide us with the security of justice so that man will never leave a religious court convinced he would have done better in a secular court.


We are told that our society must be so clearly just that a child will not shiver whenever she hears of the UN or the NY Times.


The Torah clearly holds community leaders responsible. The High Priest is held responsible when someone accidentally kills someone else (Numbers 35:28). City elders are responsible for the unsolved murder of a stranger (Deuteronomy 21:6). “But you shall remove the innocent blood from your midst when you do what is upright in the eyes of God (21:9).” What shall we do when we lose our sense of what is just and upright in the eyes of God?


“Restore our judges as in earliest times, and our counselors as at first; remove from us sorrow and groan; and speedily reign over us, You, God, alone, with kindness and compassion. Blessed are You, God, the King, Who loves righteousness and justice (Daily Prayer).” Rabbeinu Yonah understands this almost as a challenge of God: How can You expect us to follow Your ways if you abandon us to a world without justice (Berachot 19b on Rif)!


Our obligation is to create a strong sense of justice in our homes, schools and communities. “Righteousness, righteousness, shall you pursue,” in all we do, in every conversation, in every interaction with a child or stranger, with every word we speak to or of another. If we succeed in developing a strong sense of justice in our homes and communities, perhaps our prayer for God to restore justice will be justly heard and accepted.


Rabbi Simcha Weinberg

The ‘Altruistic Evil’ of Social Justice for the Palestinians

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

As yet another indication that the university campus has become “an island of repression in a sea of freedom,” last March a pro-Israel group, Hasbara Fellowships Canada, was barred from participating in a “Social Justice Week” event organized by the Student Association of Durham College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT).

The stated reason for the exclusion? The student association (which, not coincidentally, had just approved a pro-BDS resolution against Israel) declared that since the “organization seems closely tied to the state of Israel . . . it would be against the motion to provide any type of resources to [the] organization.”

While the term “social justice” has a seemingly benign and positive connotation, the reality is that, as columnist Jonah Goldberg observed in his book The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, social justice is actually “an empty vessel to be filled with any and all leftist ideals, and then promptly wielded as a political bludgeon against any and all dissenters…”

That has meant that students, and left-leaning faculty as well, are urged to advocate for social and economic goals described in decidedly liberal intellectual formulations such as “social and economic justice,” “distributive justice,” and “the global interconnections of oppression,” this latter view ideal for conflating, at least in liberal imaginations, the shared complicity of America and Israel in their long-term oppression of the indigenous people of the fictive nation of Palestine and the alleged “occupation” of their land.

So while social justice warriors on campus are quick to welcome a collection of perceived victim groups into their tent – Muslims, African-Americans, gays, Hispanics, women – they have been decidedly more hostile when dealing with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, with the result that pro-Israel groups (such as the Hasbara Fellowships in Ontario) are regularly excluded for allegedly being part of the oppressor class.

What are the defining characteristics of those well meaning but often misguided individuals who promiscuously proclaim their commitment to social justice? A number of tactics and behaviors are common to their efforts:

* Social justice warriors are commonly infatuated with their own virtue, which manifests itself in very public “virtue signaling,” a way that self-described activists indicate that they have taken the high moral ground, that they stand for racial equality and the aspirations of the oppressed, and that they single-mindedly fight for the rights of, and make excuses for, the oppressed state in which their victims find themselves.

* Economist Thorsten Veblen identified an emerging social phenomenon in which an increasingly more affluent middle class used spending and material acquisition as a way of signaling their economic—and social—status. Social justice warriors use the same psychological device of announcing to others their self-righteous ideology through what could be called “conspicuous moral consumption,” part and parcel of their virtue signaling.

* The rectitude of students and faculty enthralled by social justice and pushing for condemnations of Israel manifests itself as what has been termed “moral narcissism,” the tendency of members of the educated elite to align with causes and ideological positions that are based not on the actual viability or worthiness of a cause but on how the moral narcissist feels about himself by committing to a particular campaign or movement.

Like other members of the academic left, who believe their worldview is correct because it seeks to create a world in which social equanimity will be realized by the downtrodden, members of victims’ rights grievance groups and movements are content to support such intellectually dishonest campaigns as the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement because it enables them to denounce Israelis as imperialistic, colonial, racist, militaristic oppressors of wholly innocent “brown” Palestinians dispossessed and victimized by the Jewish state’s very existence. The moral narcissist’s reasoning may defective, ahistorical, counter-intuitive, or just wrong, but he still feels good about himself. In this worldview there can be only one enemy of justice, and Israel is that enemy.

* In debating the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, social justice activists, of course, demonstrate their hypocrisy by endlessly dwelling on the many evils of Israel without bothering to examine or measure the Palestinians’ own central role in contributing to the many pathologies endemic to their civil society and institutions. Like many Western elites do when choosing sides, social justice warriors infantilize the Palestinian victim and assume he has no agency to ameliorate his own conditions. In reality, pro-Palestinian activists seem to care very little about the actual self-determination and state building of the hapless Palestinians.

As is frequently the case when speaking about the Israeli/Arab conflict, the discussion often glosses over the real problems of Palestinian culture, politics, and society (including its cult of death, terrorism, and martyrdom), and targets all criticism on Israel, Zionism, and Jewish power. All of the blame for the conflict is placed on the so-called occupation, the “apartheid wall,” Jewish “racism,” the oppression and militarism of the “Zionist regime,” and the brutal humiliation, collective punishment, and even “slow-moving” genocide Israel is said to mete out on a daily basis upon the wholly innocent Palestinians. This is a clear example of another underlying factor in the social justice effort, the soft bigotry of low Palestinian expectations.

* Many academics in the humanities and social sciences, including activists in groups as disparate as Black Lives Matter, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the National Association of Women’s Studies, increasingly find a linkage as they seek to affirm the rights of the victimized and name the villains responsible for this oppression. The more that seemingly unrelated instances of oppression can be conflated, it is thought, the greater the ability to confront these oppressors and dilute the negative effect they have on their specific victims and on society at large.

This trend has been called “intersectionality” and it has meant that someone who is a gender studies professor or American studies expert can, with no actual knowledge or expertise about the Middle East, readily pontificate on the many social pathologies of which he accuses Israel, based on its perceived role as a racist, imperialist, colonial oppressor of an innocent indigenous population of Arab victims.

For social justice warriors, to know one victim group is to know any victim group – with Israel being a tempting and habitual target of their opprobrium. Thus, for instance, supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have often linked racism and police violence “from Ferguson to Palestine,” as their placards have announced, making Israel somehow complicit in American racism and police brutality, and even recently proclaimed in its recent platform that Israel is practicing “apartheid” and is engaged in “genocide” against the Palestinians.

* Social justice warriors are intent on using “weaponized intolerance,” the willingness to abridge speech and human rights of opposing groups in the campaign to seek social justice for the victim. Moreover, so sure are they of their moral uprightness in denouncing white privilege and conservative thought, that the social justice warriors will not even deign to collaborate, negotiate, or even tolerate the views of those groups and individuals they have decided are essentially unworthy of having their options heard. New York’s Students for Justice in Palestine, for example, announced proudly that “We reject any and all collaboration, dialogue and coalition work with Zionist organizations through a strict policy of anti-normalization (anti-engagement) and encourage our comrades in other organizations to do the same.”

Similarly, a leaked memorandum from the Binghamton University Students for Justice in Palestine chapter revealed that members would never be required to even engage in dialogue with pro-Israel groups on their campus, they would be prohibited from “engaging in any form of official collaboration, cooperation, or event co-sponsorship with [pro-Israel] student organizations and groups,” and members “shall in no manner engage in any form of official collaboration with any student group which actively opposes the cause of Palestinian liberation nor with groups which have aided and abetted Zionist student organizations,” meaning, of course, that the so-called intellectual debate that universities purport to promote in exactly this type of discussion will never take place when SJP is involved.

* Proponents of social justice apologize for and enable grievance-based violence by abandoning moral precepts and applying a double standard by which they support murder, violence, “resistance,” and terror in the name of self-determination—but only that perpetrated by the favored victim. Anti-Israel campus events regularly include protesters ghoulishly chanting “long live the Intifada” and “’resistance’ is justified when people are occupied,” in other words, extolling the ongoing homicidal rampage in Israel in which psychopathic terrorists have used knives, guns, stones, and vehicles to randomly murder Jewish civilians. In fact, the use of the word “Intifada” is a grotesque and murderous reference to the Second Intifada that began in 2000, during which Arab terrorists murdered some 1,000 Israelis and wounded more than 14,000 others.

The fact that pro-Palestinian student activists, those who purport to be motivated by a desire to bring “justice” to the Middle East and who, presumably, care about all human lives, could publicly call for the renewed slaughter of Jews in the name of Palestinian self-determination demonstrates quite clearly how ideologically debased the human rights movement has become.

* Those purportedly seeking social justice for the Palestinians regularly exhibit a willful blindness to the quest for social justice for actual Middle East victims of egregious oppression, while obsessing, to the exclusion of all other examples, over the perceived perfidy of Israel. For example, this year the National Association of Women’s Studies (NWSA) voted to approve an academic boycott against Israeli scholars. It had evidently escaped the notice of the NWSA experts on gender and sexuality issues that if one wanted to punish any Middle Eastern country for its subjugation and abuse of women, Israel would probably not be the first nation to come under reasonable or justifiable scrutiny for a group dedicated “to principles of human rights, justice and freedom for all, including academic freedom.”

Totalitarian and despotic regimes throughout the region have created an oppressive group of social pathologies that negatively affect women, including genital mutilation, stoning of adulteresses, “honor” killings by fathers and brothers who have been shamed, cultures of gender apartheid in which women are seen as property with no emotional or physical autonomy, ubiquitous sexual assault, and a general subjugation of women, complete with regulations governing behavior, movement, speech, and even requirements that women be covered by burqa or hijab.

Like other members of the academic Left who believe their worldview is correct and virtuous because it seeks to create a world in which social equanimity will be realized by the downtrodden, members of the NWSA, similar to their fellow travelers in other academic associations and student groups, are content to support such intellectually dishonest campaigns as academic boycotts because doing so enables them to denounce Israel as an imperialistic, racist, militaristic oppressor of innocent victims.

* * * * * *

This nearly total rejection by those seeking justice for the oppressed of any recognition of goodness on the part of Western countries (and particularly Israel), favoring without hard judgments severely flawed societies of the Third World is, according to commentator Melanie Phillips, symptomatic of activists’ belief in their own moral superiority, a feature which, at least in their own minds, gives them a more genuine, principled, and valuable worldview. “In the grip of a group-think that causes them to genuflect to victim-culture and the deconstruction of western morality and the concept of truth,” Phillips wrote, “a dismaying number of our supposedly finest minds have been transformed from people who spread enlightenment to those who cast darkness before them.”

Richard L. Cravatts

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-altruistic-evil-of-social-justice-for-the-palestinians/2016/09/01/

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