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Everything we don't know about the World Vision in Gaza story

How the Israeli media reports a story spoon fed to it by the security services. And are government officials and the courts capable of acting any differently?

The story of a Gaza man indicted for diverting millions to Hamas from a major international charity for terror activities is roiling headlines in Israel. The incident is important both for how it is being portrayed, and used, and what it says about the actual situation.

Mohammad el-Halabi worked for World Vision, an evangelical Christian charity that collects funds from the U.S., UK, and Australia among other countries for humanitarian projects in dozens of the world’s most troubled places, including the Palestinian territories. Much of its activity focuses on relief for children.

The Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, says that in addition to working for World Vision, Halabi was simultaneously working for Hamas and systematically siphoning off up to 60 percent of all funds for humanitarian projects to support its terror activities. Israeli authorities publicized his arrest on Thursday, 50 days after he was apprehended, following his interrogation and alleged confession, which led to the charges.

It is nigh impossible for even seasoned journalists to report on the story independently. The Guardian’s correspondent Peter Beaumont explained why on his Facebook page when posting his story:

Therefore even my first thoughts here should be read with the advisory that there’s much we just don’t know. But that doesn’t seem to bother the Israeli media and authorities; they have embraced the story with gusto and barely controlled vindication.

Channel 2 covered the event on Thursday without bothering to include even a journalism 101 response of anyone involved. If they had asked World Vision, they would have found, as The Guardian did, that the head of the group in Australia expressed shock, cited scrupulous forensic auditing processes, and the both the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Germany suspended their aid to World Vision in Gaza pending further developments.

Coincidentally, a recent story indicates that World Vision does not always portray its programs meticulously to donors, but these combined responses don’t support “the whole world is complicit” approach Israel promotes.

Not all media approached the story this way. Interestingly, Walla! News ran a piece about Hamas denying that Halabi was even a member of the organization, and about World Vision’s denial. But overall the Israeli media projected facts and a conviction, rather than allegations...

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Black Lives Matter should change 'genocide' language — proudly

The movement can set a precedent by displaying commitment to self-criticism, accuracy, and partnership — values sorely needed in America right now.

The policy platform released by the Movement for Black Lives represents an exciting milestone for a grassroots social movement. But like all first drafts, it gets some things wrong. If the movement is committed to the long haul, it will accept criticism from supportive observers as part of the process, and create a better, more inclusive product in the future.

The MBL movement swept aside fears of clicktivism and slacktivism, in its remarkable evolution from the “Black Lives Matter” hashtag to a swirling conversation of ideas and voices, culminating in real-world action. This looks like human empowerment in the making.

The platform reflects intense organization, investment and commitment of many authors. Its publication itself says, we are not just about tearing down, but re-building. We believe in an America that is capable of changing and serving all of its people fairly, and here are the alternatives we offer. That shows great optimism and faith in the country.

The content of the document itself is uneven, which from my experience with such ambitious group efforts, is only natural.

The detailed analyses are not systematically sourced. One example of information I tried to verify – median wealth held by black and white households – was completely credible, but the document would be stronger if the sources were transparent.

The wide array of proposals, precedents and painstaking lists of background sources are a fascinating mega-supermarket of ideas. Like any good market, some products look more or less appealing, or feasible. The proposals for law enforcement and incarceration reforms, a Constitutional guarantee to free education and racial aspects of environmental policy, contain some hugely important ideas. On the other hand, the Universal Basic Income – a guaranteed income not conditioned on work for all American adults with a supplemental sum for black people as reparations – strikes me as a bad and unfeasible idea that would undermine the basic human and economic principles. But I admit this is the first time I’ve thought about it.

The section on investment and divestment is similarly complicated. It shows a valuable change of thinking about foreign policy. But it contains at least one major flaw, on the Israel-Palestine problem, that is making waves.

The authors link U.S. foreign policy with its consequences on domestic priorities...

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What Israel can learn from wave of global terror

What’s happening in the world is far from the antiquated ‘the world vs the Jews’ paradigm. ‘Us’ and ‘them’ doesn’t work anymore. We – Jews, Christians, Muslims and every other grouping of peaceful persons – need new categories to understand the violence.

Beheadings in the desert, terror in major cities of the East and the West, racial and police shootings, mass shootings, an ax rampage in Germany and perhaps one thing – only – is clear: no part of the world is safe.

The New York Times wrote that Israelis can teach France a few things about getting used to terror. But it’s Israel and the Jews who must now confront a radical new truth: The unique existential threat against Jews in the past is gone. Crazies hate us, but they hate everybody else too. In the past the world betrayed Jews; in the present, governments and cultural norms support them. It is dishonoring the dead of Orlando, Istanbul, Nice and Baghdad to claim that Jews are more targeted than anyone else right now.

Ironically, Israeli leaders regularly help Jews realize this. Prime Minister Netanyahu loves to conflate ISIS with Palestinian terror, to justify why Israel must occupy Palestinians in perpetuity. But ISIS aims at everyone. If we’re all in the same crosshairs, Jewish persecution does not make us chosen.

This will be a terrible blow for some people. Many Israelis and Jews are steeped in the notion that violence against them is unique. It’s understandable given our past but it does no favors to our understanding of the present. I have heard Jews refer to the Hyper-Cacher anti-Jewish attack in Paris as if there was no massacre of French journalists two days before. Israelis count every body lost to the conflict, but far more Palestinians are killed daily and in each new war. Jewish self-perception is clouding Jewish vision.

What’s happening in the world at present is far from both the parochial old “Islam against the Jews” and “the world against the Jews.” The empty fallacy of Islam against the West can be laid to rest as well. Terror in the name of “Islam” kills far more co-religionists than non-Muslim Westerners: most terror attacks take place in Muslim and Arab countries, and the victims of ISIS-related violence in Iraq alone and the Muslim victims of al-Qaeda before that dwarf those groups’ attacks on Westerners. And as Amira...

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Jewish, Palestinian activists try to build a cinema in Hebron

As soldiers and settlers look on, dozens of foreign Jews join Palestinians in the segregated city of Hebron try ‘to make the unbearable a little more bearable.’ Police detain six Israelis among the group, prevent others from even joining.

The streets in the Israel-controlled section of Hebron were sunny and silent at 9 a.m. on Friday. The Palestinian shops on the main streets were all shut, as most of them have been for over 20 years. Jews were home preparing for Shabbat.

On a sloping street rising through the Tel Rumeida neighborhood where, in April, a Palestinian stabber was wounded, then executed, there is a small commotion. A scattered group of Israeli soldiers, blue-uniformed police, and a few local Israeli settlers are hovering around a battered fence, peering inside as if looking into a cage at a zoo.

Inside there is a group of a few dozen diaspora Jews, many of them American, and a few Israelis. They are singing songs and their shirts say, “Occupation is not our Judaism!” In between protest songs from the 1960s civil rights struggles in the U.S., they chant: “Diaspora Jew say: ‘dai l’kibush!’” [end the occupation], and in accented Hebrew, a chant that translates as: “You have no shame! There’s nothing holy about an occupied city!” Occasionally they sing traditional Jewish melodies, such as the anti-war “lo yisah goy el goy herev” and “hineh ma tov u’ma naim.”

But their main activity is cleaning. The fenced-in plot of land where they are working contains a few dilapidated structures, filled mostly with trash – twisted metal objects, rocks, rusted barrels and ancient piles of natural detritus. With their bright blue shirts and long yellow rakes, the activists project cheer as they rake, shovel, and pass heavy debris along a line of activists.

The group, called “Center for Jewish Non-Violence,” (CJNV) was invited by Youth Against Settlements, a Hebron-based Palestinian organization to help establish a movie theater in Palestinian Hebron, because the city doesn’t have one. “We want to make the unbearable a little more bearable,” said one of the Jewish participants, who asked not to be named due to professional sensitivities. “We will work until we can’t work anymore.” Their intention, she says, is to work until the day is done, or until they are stopped.

The CJNV group has been in the Palestinian territories for a week of activities, helped planned with another activist group, All That’s...

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Teen's murder is a reminder that we are all settlers

Just as we must mourn Hallel Yaffa Ariel as a human being and a slain child, we must also mourn her as a settler — because all Israelis are responsible for her presence in the West Bank.

Superlatives are inadequate to tell the sorrow of recent weeks. Thirteen-year old Hallel Yaffa Ariel was stabbed to death in her bed in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba Thursday morning. Forty-four people were blown up in Istanbul’s airport, nearly 50 shot to death in Orlando. Mahmoud Badran, a 15-year old Palestinian boy, was killed by Israeli forces, “by mistake,” coming back from the pool with his friends.

I can’t keep up enough to write about each one, but nation, identity and politics mean little to me when faced with innocent deaths.

Some think the Israeli and the Palestinian killings are different, somehow less innocent than the others. Mahmoud was mistaken for a stone-thrower, as if this justifies his death. Hallel was a settler. Yet she was a civilian and a child — no more guilty than Mahmoud.

I’ve written in the past that Israelis on the left must sympathize with such victims as human beings. Now I want to emphasize that we must also mourn Hallel as a settler, for her presence in the West Bank is the responsibility of all Israelis.

The Left blames much on settlements. Many view the settlement enterprise as the heart of the occupation – those who live in settlements actively choose to steal land and resources from Palestinians, to enforce apartheid rule over people living next door, through military law.

After all, settlements are a tangible, visible manifestation of occupation. Just look at those perfect new housing units in tidy rows, perched on hills overlooking vast and underdeveloped Palestinian cities or parched clusters of tents and shacks.

Getting outraged is rewarding because it lets the outraged party off the hook. If it weren’t for those darn wild-eyed-religious-messianics, many on the Left feel, Israel would transform into a Jewish and democratic state and all would be right with the world.

But people who think like that are actually sitting on an outrageous hilltop of their own. From their perch they look down on the settlers and say, we’re the good guys. We’re not complicit.

For some Israelis, settlers are becoming the main...

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Brexit and the Israel-Palestine problem

More and more people are stuck with each other in this world, even as rejectionists pretend — if only for a minute or two — that we’re not.

I wasn’t much of a political junky as a kid, and I was certainly no wunderkind at foreign relations. The Cold War was a fact of life, as solid as the skyscrapers of New York. The world was divided by ideologies of life or death — the bad guys threatened to take over, “and that’s the way it is.”

The war just ended one day when I was 17. Peace was suddenly a real possibility, not just an abstraction in my mind, and right away it felt far superior to both hot and cold wars.

Soon to follow was the belief that exposure to people who are different is healthy and leads to discovery of human similarities. This might seem natural for someone growing up in the big city. It was not. Violent crime rode on the backs of constant class and racial rage. Stereotyping and self-segregation were an easy recourse even in a city as diverse as New York, and many took it. My dreamy ideals about people knowing, appreciating and learning from each other earned me little more than condescension, or painful derision.

But when the wall fell, I saw things differently; maybe I felt vindicated before I truly knew the word. This new world became a place I was excited to enter, having learned that huge things could change — for the better.

An experiment in openness

I entered university just in time to have those early days of post-Cold War euphoria blasted by ethno-nationalist hell: Yugoslavia, Rwanda, post-Soviet wars and bitter racial violence in the U.S. My professors told us that nationalism, stifled for a short century, was rearing its bloody head.

It was no time for illusions or cockeyed optimism. The only conclusion to reach, we were told, was that human beings contain a great and a terrible instinct to hurt each other.

Yet how to explain, I wondered, the equally powerful human urge to do good, to be kind, to cooperate, to connect? Are these less important? Children can make friends before they even share a language. Adults fall in love. And countries cease to be at war. The dueling urges to draw boundaries and break them is the contradiction that defines humanity.

In that confusing decade of the...

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Go ahead Herzog, join the coalition

The fact that the head of Israel’s opposition could soon join forces with Netanyahu may actually bode well for the Israeli Left and Palestinian citizens alike.

The Israeli media has been beside itself this week with the possibility that the head of the opposition Isaac Herzog, leader of the Labor Party cum Zionist Union, may join Prime Minister Netanyahu’s governing coalition, the executive branch of the Israeli government.

Roughly two weeks of chatterbuzz about Herzog-Netanyahu negotiations have yielded the usual five stages of rumors: from denial (“there are no negotiations”); to low expectations (“they’re just talks, they won’t lead to anything”); to portfolio handout speculation (“it’s a done deal, he’s about to get justice minister and communications”); followed by the classic bait and switch (“we didn’t mean it, looks like Lieberman will join instead”); and then finally acceptance (“Herzog can’t turn back now”), as two radio political commentators decreed this morning.

I am not sure why anyone is surprised. Labor has never shied away from sitting in the rightest of right-wing governments in recent years. I remember how many in the Labor camp were shocked when the party joined Ariel Sharon’s government in 2003. Amir Peretz led the party into Kadima’s government in 2006, taking charge of the Defense Ministry and nearly ruining his political rise. The party then joined Netanyahu’s government in 2009 (among the most extreme in Israel’s history) under Ehud Barak, prompting the loss of one of its more promising members, and eventually splitting the party. Labor/Zionist Union actually has some committed people and fresh faces in its faction, but the party as a body seems to have a mind of its own – one with suicidal inclinations.

The failure of this “can’t beat em so join em” move — every single time it is tried — makes apathy an extremely tempting response. Until I realized that there are several excellent reasons Labor should do it (disclosure: In my day job I am a pollster and political consultant, and I have advised on four national election campaigns for Labor, including in 2015):

Be you. Labor should stop pretending to either its voters, members or legislators to be anything other than what it is — a status-quo preservationist institution. If the party breaks (again) – well, when a waiter drops a glass in a Tel Aviv café it is...

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ADL's Armenian genocide recognition sends powerful statement — to Israel

A major Jewish-American organization breaking with Israeli policy, especially regarding Jewish universalism and the Holocaust, is a statement in and of itself.

The Anti-Defamation League, American Jewry’s foremost civil rights organization, has made a powerful statement recognizing the Armenian genocide by the crumbling Ottoman regime in the early 20th century. Last Friday, CEO Jonathan Greenblatt posted a blog on the organization’s website in which he stated:

The statement will certainly be cathartic for Armenian advocates in the diaspora who have made genocide recognition absolutely central to their national identity – even to a fault, as the highly thoughtful Armenian-American writer Meline Toumani has written. But the vast majority of Armenian activists have been frustrated for years by the reticence of ADL’s longtime previous director, Abe Foxman. Greenblatt ended years of just such equivocation under Foxman’s leadership (though the latter eventually used the word in a 2014 speech). The public support of a major Jewish organization could lend clout to the Armenian attempts to attain Congressional recognition, a cause generally stymied by the sensitivity and importance of U.S.-Turkey relations. That’s why Armenian activists watch for such statements with extreme play-by-play attention.

But the recognition may prove to be more important for Jews and for Israel than for Armenians themselves. It symbolizes a crack, and together with similar developments, perhaps seismic shifts in the relationship between diaspora Jewry and Israeli society.

First, the move breaks with Israeli policy. Israel’s government has long resisted formally acknowledging the term “genocide” for the Armenian experience, for what is widely understood to be political interests in Turkey and Azerbaijan, including powerful economic ties.

Foxman mostly mirrored this resistance. He was apparently disinclined to compromise the Jewish monopoly on the Holocaust, and held purported political concerns for relations between Turkish Jews and their government – these are the reasons given by a former ADL regional director and powerful advocate for recognition, who was ultimately fired for his stance on this issue. Or perhaps Foxman didn’t want to expend political capital on the Congressional recognition campaign. Either way, the ADL today is no longer aligned with Israeli policy on this matter.

Next, Greenblatt not only changed course – he did so just over a week after Israel’s commemoration of Holocaust Day. In recent years, the commemorations in Israel have erupted into debates about whether the experience of genocide belongs uniquely to the Jews or has universal lessons or comparable precedents. Rising nationalism has...

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The deeper meaning of IDF general's Holocaust comparison

The deputy IDF chief of staff came under a barrage of criticism for saying trends that prevailed in pre-WWII Europe can be seen in Israel today. But if Israelis took a minute to reflect on his comments, they would realize that they were more solemn than slanderous.

Headlines in Israel are blaring this Holocaust Day over a statement by the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the IDF, General Yair Golan, comparing trends in Israel to those in Germany leading up to the Holocaust. At the official state ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday evening, Golan gave a short speech in which he said, among other things:

“If there’s one thing that scares me about Holocaust memory, it’s identifying revolting trends that took place in Europe in general, and Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago, and finding evidence of them amongst ourselves, today, in 2016.

After all, there’s nothing easier and simpler than hating the stranger. There’s nothing easier and simpler than fear-mongering and sowing terror. There’s nothing easier and simpler than to become thuggish, morally bankrupt, and self-righteous.” (my translation – the whole speech is here, in Hebrew, courtesy of Haaretz.)

Of course all nuances were destroyed in the media storm that ensued. Many Israelis listening to the news will take away a bastardized version that goes like this: Golan  thinks that trends of hatred in Israel mirror the hatred in Germany that led them to commit genocide. By association, what Israel does today is like what Germany did then. Not surprisingly, the IDF and Golan himself issued a statement on Wednesday clarifying that this is not what he meant.

But reactions were swift, angry, and reached partially across political lines. Right-wing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told Israel Radio that Golan was “got things completely wrong.” Elazar Stern, a legislator from Yesh Atid and a retired army man as well as a staunch centrist who has sometimes bucked right-wing narratives, allowed that the spirit of the speech might have been legitimate but that the timing was wrong. The Haaretz reporter and analyst Chemi Shalev wrote a post on Twitter before Golan’s comments, and therefore unrelated: “The attempt to draw parallel outlines between the situation of Jews in the Holocaust to Israel’s situation today verges on Holocaust denial and contempt for Zionism together.” (my translation) But as I noted, the one-dimensional headline...

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Netanyahu responds to Leahy with a strange string of lies

The prime minister shoots off a sharply worded letter to a senior American senator who dared question Israel’s human rights record. That Netanyahu thinks anyone reading it will do anything but howl is worrying sign about his judgement.

In mid-February, Senator Patrick Leahy, together with 10 other Democratic Senators, wrote a letter asking U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to investigate the possible violation of human rights by Israel, as a U.S. foreign aid recipient. The letter, which only made news in Israel on Wednesday, was prompted by suspicions of numerous extrajudicial killings of Palestinian suspected attackers over the last year.

Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to Senator Leahy, and posted this excerpt of his letter on Twitter:

Reading it, I think Netanyahu must know deep in his heart that he is lying his face off, lying obscenely, to the point of absurdity — surrealism. Does it mean that he has, as Solzhenitsyn said, no other means of justifying our violence? That there are no other accurate arguments that effectively justify what happens here?

Reading it more closely, I realized that every single line in the graphic rendition of his letter contains a bald-faced lie, or at best an egregious omission. For those who think I am exaggerating, here is the annotated version:

It did, just last week. And its soldiers executed a 14-year-old girl in 2005 (acquitted). And the Shin Bet executed captured and bound hijackers in 1984. Those are the very obvious cases. There are numerous suspected executions over just the last year, when many were killed for attempted stabbing, killed for being a troubled child, killed for suspicion. There were the two teens killed for demonstrating in Beitunia in 2014 – the IDF closed its investigation into that last case just today. The cases over the last year generally involve at least two, and often a group of heavily armed soldiers killing individual suspects grasping knives, or in one case, a pair of scissors.

The military regime governing the West Bank is not a defensive mission. The soldiers were not present last Thursday in Hebron to defend the State, but in order to enact military rule over a population lacking civil rights under conditions most of us wouldn’t suffer for a day.

The military does of course defend settlers, but the settlers aren’t there to defend Israel either....

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Israeli public opinion solidly backs Hebron soldier

Only one-fifth of Israelis say the prime minister, defense minister, and the IDF chief of staff did the right thing when they condemned the killing. Fully 68 percent believe otherwise.

Based on the condemnations from top levels of the political and defense establishment, it appears that Israelis were actually disturbed by the video of an IDF soldier killing a wounded Palestinian who lay motionless on the ground. The issue still topped the news media on Sunday, with new details emerging: Haaretz reported on early investigations indicating the soldier acted of his own accord, then updated that the soldier had said “the terrorist has to die” before shooting the motionless man, who had been on the ground for approximately six minutes, according to other news reports.

But as +972’s Natasha Roth wrote, the killing of 21-year-old Abed Fatah al-Sharif happened in a climate that largely supports — rather than discourages — this sort of action. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon condemned the attack, but not long ago he and other officials called for the killing of all terrorists rather than have them arrested. The same goes for political leaders from the right and the center, as well as religious authorities. To the public, it appears that killing an incapacitated terrorist six minutes later isn’t so different from killing one in action.

The public is apparently confused and perhaps frustrated with the mixed messages. A female family member of the soldier (they have not been formally identified by the press) who sounded young enough to be his sister spoke to the news. Sobbing and shattered, she pleaded with the country to view the soldier as a hero. Her voice shook with agony; she seemed incapable of understanding how he could be a model child one minute and an enemy of the people the next.

The public is apparently on her side. A poll conducted for Channel 2 showed 57 percent of Israelis opposed his very arrest – not a conviction, not even an indictment. Actually the question asked about the “arrest and investigation” – so we can infer that the majority did not even want the investigation at all.

A plurality of respondents, 42 percent, described his action as “responsible,” while another 24 percent said it was the natural response to the situation. The first response can be qualified because the wording actually stated that shooting was a “responsible action...

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Israel's deepest divide

The religious-secular chasm may be kept at a low boil beneath the unifying factor of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. But more likely, the polarization is one reason why Israel does not take more action to end the conflict.

A recent and vast survey of Israelis by the Pew Research Center showed deep divisions of attitudes within Israeli society. Much of the attention centered on the finding of highly opposed views “not only between Israeli Jews and the country’s Arab minority, but also among the religious subgroups that make up Israeli Jewry,” as Pew’s own Facebook description read.

The survey offers many valuable findings, but the fact that Jews hold profoundly different attitudes based on how observant they are is the least original among them. Among Jews, the level of religious observance (secular, traditional, Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox self-definition) has long explained the most enduring and irreconcilable differences in Israeli Jewish political opinions. It predicts whether an Israeli Jew holds left, center or right-wing attitudes more than any other demographic — this has been true during my own 17 years of polling and all earlier data I know of.

Common perceptions that upper-class people are more left wing, or that Mizrahi and Ashkenazi ethnic background determines whether someone is right or left, respectively, are not totally wrong. But these factors are far weaker and less consistent predictors than religious observance. Isolating either education or income leads to poor correlation with ideology. While there are some broad left-and-right trends among clearly defined Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, those identities are increasingly mixed up after generations of immigration and intermarriage. Measurements vary, but in our own +972 Magazine survey, about 40 percent of Israelis self-identify as neither one – just “Israeli.” Moreover, former Soviet immigrants are largely Ashkenazi, but also largely right wing.

By contrast, the religious-secular split looms large in all data sets. What does this mean in practice?

Secular Jews consistently self-identify as left wing at higher rates — about 32 percent in a poll I conducted for the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP), higher than the national average of 20 percent among Jews and over 10 times more than the three percent among national-religious respondents. Over 80 percent of the latter call themselves right wing. Those ideological labels are the most direct determinant of voting behavior.

On conflict-related policy, seculars invariably support a two-state solution — about three-quarters in a survey...

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There is nothing anti-Haredi about staying in your seat

The attempt to dismantle patriarchy does not necessarily imply hatred for ultra-Orthodox Jews. Rather it is an urgent task that extends to all spheres of daily life. A response to Orly Noy.

My colleague Orly Noy, whose thinking and writing I greatly value, wrote an article entitled “Let’s fight women’s oppression without demonizing ultra-Orthodox.” After reading Orly’s arguments carefully, I found that I disagree with nearly all of them except perhaps the title. I do not support demonizing ultra-Orthodox Jews or any other group. But even my agreement with the title is qualified, since the issue at hand is everyone’s problem.

Orly was responding to a recent case of a woman who is suing El Al with the help of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), after she was asked to move seats so that an ultra-Orthodox man wouldn’t have to sit next to her. Orly felt that the incident is being exaggerated, treated like an “epidemic.”  She believes that  Anat Hoffman, a longtime activist for religious pluralism, and others opposing this practice paint Haredim as barbaric and anti-Semitic, while presenting themselves as enlightened. She hints that IRAC is using questionable legal tactics, and possibly provoked the woman to sue.

I don’t have the data to know whether the seat problem is a “phenomenon” or not. But I have been asked to move myself.

It was a few years ago, and I had a sprained ankle. Every move on the short business trip to London had been painful. On the return flight, I negotiated for an aisle seat, near the front – more stretching and elevation, less walking. Between summer heat, a crowded plane and the extra effort of shuffling through Heathrow with an injury, I reached my seat tired and grateful, settled in and closed my eyes. The stewardess tapped me. Would I trade seats? A Haredi man seated next to a woman somewhere wished to move, and I was sitting next to a man. For a second, I wanted to cry. It had nothing to do with feeling insulted as a woman or hating ultra-Orthodox. I just hated the thought of moving.

But like Orly, who made a case I generally support for simply being nice, my instinct is to be considerate and accommodating where possible. I reflexively said yes, stifling my overwhelming desire to stay put and dreading the cramped inner seat I was offered....

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