Let us imagine that a group of radical Islamic terrorists from Northern Iraq had managed to enter Europe and were shot as they tried to engage in an terrorist attack on civilians in London.
Now imagine a circle of Muslims in Parliament Square saying prayers for them. What would be the reaction?
Okay, I get that if a few Muslims were saying prayers for Islamic terrorists, then perhaps there would exist ideological identification with the cause itself. In this way the analogy I will draw would be rejected. So let’s not imagine a circle of Muslims, let this be a group of Christians. Imagine a circle of Christians in Parliament Square that were saying prayers for the dead terrorists instead. How would British citizens react to this image?
And here we see the problem. However we switch the identity of those that are saying a prayer for dead terrorists, the conclusion is is inescapable. Whatever their religion, the people involved are clearly extremists.
So when about forty-five Jewish people gathered to say a prayer for dead Hamas terrorists, then by any reasonable definition, these people can be labelled ‘extremists’. Their actions were on the fringe, wholly unacceptable and the vast majority of Jewish people were rightfully sickened. When it was exposed that the people involved had been shaped by liberal and reform movements from within the Jewish community, there was a sense of anger and shock.
That should have been the end of the argument. A signal that there needed to be some serious soul searching. Unfortunately, when it comes to extremism on the left, the factions involved never seem able to police themselves.
Naming the extremists
The identities of *some* of those people who said Kaddish were made public on this blog. Without showing that some of those saying Kaddish were ‘influencers’ in the community, the story almost becomes irrelevant. Instead, we now know that parents who have handed Jewish children over to liberal and reform groups in the belief they will have their Jewish faith strengthened, have had their children exposed to extremists who think it is okay to say prayers for Hamas terrorists.
This isn’t difficult to understand. The Kaddish was wrong, those who do not reject the Kaddish action are wrong and those who protect the system that produces these extremists in the first place are wrong.
So now there is also a different tale to tell. A story of hypocrisy, whataboutery and deflection. If Orthodoxy publicly oversteps, there is swift public condemnation from within the community. It has been shown that liberal and reform groups are developing an identity which is creating young extremists. Yet when they overstep, the groups ‘circle the wagons’.
Giving the extremists airtime
As the news became public, social media comments were filled with the anger of many in the Jewish community. Some of these comments were indeed outrageous. Why people make comments such as ‘I hope you commit suicide‘ is totally beyond me. But as awful as this may be, this isn’t news that is specific to this event. We know social media comments are full of hate. I personally receive ‘hate mail’ almost daily. Focusing on this element, rather than the fact that Jewish groups are creating extremists, was a matter of choice. It became a successful exercise in deflection.
Jewish News published a blog written by someone who had said Kaddish for terrorists.
It wasn’t the blogger who chose to use the word ‘murder’ in the headline, it was the Jewish News editorial team (the Jewish News later changed the disgraceful headline). The blogger merely whines her way to the conclusion that Israel ‘does not value human life’. In any event, a party of forty-five extremists had been given a voice in the Jewish News.
How about giving Kahanist views airtime? Or does the paper’s pandering to more extreme views only reach out in one direction?
Forty-five people and one blog. Enough, right? Wrong. One hour later there was another one.
The second blog ran with an identical tune. Like the first it misled readers by suggesting the Kaddish group came from a ‘diverse’ range of opinions. Like the first it suggests the author is the one with a superior moral code that the rest of us need to aspire to. Just like the first it whines its way to the conclusion that outside of this band of extremists, Jewish people do not respect Jewish life.
Two is enough right? Wrong. The Rabbi who led the Kaddish also wrote a blog. That too was published. Forty five people – three blogs. But we are not finished.
The fourth piece in Jewish News wasn’t just a blog. It was the front page of the printed version of the newspaper. An article written by Adam Decker that focused on the words of Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner Klausner. The article suggested the community ‘may rip itself apart’ and focused on the toxic nature of some of the response to the Kaddish event. I agree with Laura on one thing, that there is a sickness in our community. However like Joseph Cohen from the Israel Advocacy Movement, I don’t think Laura identified it. In fact, I think her words deflect attention away from it.
There is a long history of bitter Jewish ‘in-fighting’ that long predates both Israel and Zionism. Go watch ‘Life of Brian’. It makes a mockery of history to suggest this was worthy of a front page. The article does little but address vague notions of extremism and the fallout from the event. It does manage to say that Laura’s daughter was ‘incorrectly accused of being at the Kaddish’ (not by me), without pointing out that she had in fact listed herself as ‘going’ on the Facebook event page. Most notably, Laura does not criticise the event itself.
Four pieces is enough right? Wrong.
Online editorial editor Jack Mendel had to write one too. The message? Jack focuses on the toxicity of the abuse thrown at the attendees of the event.
In 2016, a speaker from Israeli NGO ‘Im Tirtzu‘ was arriving from Israel for speaking engagements in the UK. The focus of ‘Im Tirtzu’ places them in direct opposition to the New Israel Fund (NIF) and left leaning political groups like Yachad. So how did those groups respond to ‘Im Tirtzu’s’ pending arrival?
They wanted the British Jewish Community to ‘avoid’ and ‘condemn’ them:
This from the NIF
“It would be a very bad thing if the British Jewish community began engaging with an organisation like this, particularly at a time like this. It is a discredited group, and I would expect Jewish community organisations to avoid it‘
This from Hannah Weisfeld of Yachad:
‘One would hope that any mainstream Jewish communal organisation would stay well away from such a dangerous organisation and even condemn their visit to the UK.’
This is a public declaration from both the NIF and Yachad that some groups should not be associated with and can be considered ‘dangerous’ to the community. Activists even successfully managed to lobby a synagogue to cancel the ‘Im Tirtzu’ event and a new venue had to be found.
The newspaper that pushed the story and published the quotes was Jewish News. It ran a clearly unbalanced article that sought to paint the group as unacceptably extreme. Whatever I think of them, ‘Im Tirtzu’ are 100x closer to the mainstream Israeli Zionist spectrum than the 45 people who said Kaddish. The problem here is that they lean to the right and not the left. They do not suit the ‘agenda’.
Compare the hard-line ‘no-platforming’ comments about ‘Im Tirtzu’ above to Hannah Weisfeld’s article in the Jewish Chronicle on the Kaddish event. An event she too failed to criticise.
We will not be drawn into conversations with those wishing to vilify those that did participate. Many of these individuals are deeply involved in communal life and deeply committed to Israel. Rather than attempting to ostracise those involved and incite against them, those that are doing so would be better served entering into a dialogue with them.
By turning all the attention onto the response to the event, the groups on the left that groomed these individuals are trying to deflect criticism. On the one side we have a few idiots with a keyboard, on the other we have a failure of moral judgement from those who help shape our children’s future. Which is the more newsworthy?
Even the argument about maintaining civil discourse is politically loaded. There are *always red-lines*. I doubt Jewish News would run an article telling Jews to be civil to Gilad Atzmon. Why not? What’s the difference?
It is because the extreme right is viewed differently from the extreme left. This is wrong AND it is indicative of the problem. We have allowed for a poison to enter the system and this has dragged our entire conversation to the left. It is even evident in the way our own media handled the Kaddish issue. The spectrum here is badly skewed. People who are identified as being part of the ideology of the ruling coalition in Israel are considered extremists and no-platformed (as was ‘Im Tirtzu’), those who say Kaddish for Hamas terrorists are ‘good people’ who need to be protected.
This is absurd and dangerous. If anything will tear our community apart it is not addressing this poison.
Left = good
All this follows the basic law that ‘left=good and right=bad’. If the people who commit the act speak the same language (the humanitarian language of the hard-left), then the people are seen as part of the solution not the problem. If the act angers people, then the act has been ‘misinterpreted’. It is a world of ‘post-truth’ vision. When ‘tolerance’ no longer sees walls between what is real and what is not, then all red-lines disappear.
The Kaddish event evolved from within a world vision that believes Israel is wrong. That there is a ‘better way’. Those who exist with a world vision that sees ‘Israel is guilty’, view saying Kaddish for Hamas as a minor misdemeanor. From their perspective, a far graver error is made by those who support Israel’s case. These people are using our Liberal and Reform movements as vehicles for growth and children who are nurtured in these environments are sometimes being drip-fed anti-Zionist propaganda. If extremism develops within a tolerant group (as it inevitably will) the tolerant group will eventually be consumed by the extremism.
Nobody disputes that there have to be ‘red lines’. Those on the hard-left simply place their red-lines exclusively to the right of the spectrum. Those who suggest we need tolerance and understanding in this particular case speak in conveniently applied absolutes and are displaying blatant hypocrisy and double standards.
It is unacceptable that this poison should be allowed to spread unchecked. Nor can we allow ourselves to be fooled by deflective arguments. The organisations responsible for this need to address a growing problem they have within. Reasonable amounts of intolerance act like antibodies against the growth of extremism.
The people who teach our children should not be extremists. Surely this isn’t too much to ask.
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