Saturday, January 07, 2012

Some stuff I didn't have time for #4

This is what Sharia law looks like. Well, not Sharia law, no, but something that smells just as bad.
Beit Shemesh, Israel — A shy 8-year-old schoolgirl has unwittingly found herself on the front line of Israel's latest religious war.

Naama Margolese is a ponytailed, bespectacled second-grader who is afraid of walking to her religious Jewish girls school for fear of ultra-Orthodox extremists who have spat on her and called her a whore for dressing "immodestly."
She is not the only one; the other children going to the school are also targets. Beyond them, their parents, escorting them as protection against the mob, have also been accosted and spat on and journalists trying to cover the story have been the targets of eggs and rocks.

The ultra-Orthodox are only about 10% of Israel's population but they are a rather privileged 10%, and I don't mean financially but in terms of power.
The ultra-Orthodox are perennial king-makers in Israeli coalition politics – two such parties serve as key members of the ruling coalition. They receive generous government subsidies, and police have traditionally been reluctant to enter their communities. ...

[T]hey have become increasingly aggressive in trying to impose their ways on others, as their population has grown and spread to new areas.
In Beit Shemesh, a city of about 100,000, these radical-Islamist-wannabes who make up about half the local population have
erected street signs calling for the separation of sexes on the sidewalks, dispatched "modesty patrols" to enforce a chaste female appearance and hurled stones at offenders and outsiders. Walls of the neighborhood are plastered with signs exhorting women to dress modestly in closed-necked, long-sleeved blouses and long skirts.
To the credit of the Israeli public, when Naama's story and through her the story of the conflict in Beit Shemesh got media attention, the response was shock among the public and expressions of outrage from some political leaders, who have generally turned a blind eye to the treatment of women within the ultra-Orthodox community.

However, that outrage is by itself not enough.
"It is clear that Israeli society is faced with a challenge that I am not sure it can handle," said Menachem Friedman, a professor emeritus of Bar Ilan University and expert on the ultra-Orthodox, "a challenge that is no less and no more than an existential challenge."
Put another way, Israel as a whole has to decide what it will be. Even if it is determined to remain an avowedly Jewish state despite the limitations that automatically and of necessity places on its Arab and Palestinian citizens, even then it has to decide if it is to be a modern, pluralistic state or if it is to be an expression of its most reactionary, extremist, hating elements. It's a question Israel has ignored throughout its history; it is rapidly coming to a time when it can do so no longer.

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