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Silence That Kills
Hirsh Goodman, Israel
September 9, 2002
There is a bumper sticker, about a year old, that adorns the backsides of cars usually substantially plastered over with other stickers proclaiming the "Golan is Ours" and "Transfer equals Security." This one demands: "Criminals of Oslo to Justice"—a statement that could be taken in many ways, all of them dangerous. The late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated for leading the Oslo process. Do those with the stickers on their cars think the murder was just? Are they advocating the same for Shimon Peres and Gilad Sher and Ehud Barak and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and Dan Meridor and Ron Pundak and Uri Savir and Yossi Beilin and Shlomo Ben-Ami and the like? The list is endless.
It is a phrase, like "Transfer Equals Peace and Security," that we have allowed to enter our national discourse without protest, despite the connotation of its message. The message assumes that those associated with Oslo are criminals and directly guilty of causing the death of Jews by allowing Arafat to come back to Palestine with seven armed brigades. When these people call for din, justice in its normal translation, they do not mean justice. Din is a whole different code-word that could be anything, including the justification for the next Yigal Amir to be loading his gun. And we say nothing.
And as for "Transfer Equals Peace and Security"—what does that mean? What are we to understand? Just one thing: that the army be used to load a million Palestinian families onto trucks and buses and transfer them out of the country. Where to? Jordan? Lebanon? Egypt? The sea? Or maybe the intention is to expel only Israeli Arabs, from Israel into Gaza? Who knows? Who cares? How can we let the concept become normative Israeli political thinking? A priori the slogan is racist, extreme, undemocratic, dangerous, fascist, unimplementable and stupid.
Insidiously, almost unnoticed by those who should have noticed, the grave of mass murderer Baruch Goldstein in Kiryat Arba has become a national shrine guarded by Israeli soldiers and police, as are those who come to pray at the killer’s graveside. One wonders what they could possibly be praying for? What do we really think is running through the heads of those who come to Goldstein’s grave for inspiration? In what other country is the grave of a mass murderer a tolerated national shrine? But we are silent.
Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, the undisputed head of the Shas movement, its spiritual leader and the man with his hand on its political helm, said in his most recent Saturday night sermon that anyone who went to a civil court for justice (and not a rabbinical one) will be infected with leprosy. This was not a slip of the tongue or yet another blast in what seems to be an endless flow of invective from the rabbi, but a move in his determined battle to diminish the power of the civil courts. He wants a Torah state. The British, Turkish, German and other roots on which Israel’s near impeccable legal system are based are all abhorrent to him. The courts are Israel’s bulwark against religious coercion, the guardian of civil liberties. They also put Aryeh Deri, the former Shas leader and apple of Yosef’s eye, behind bars for two years.
One could make light of Rabbi Ovadiah’s goals, but one should take them seriously. Shas is a well-entrenched political movement with 17 seats in the Knesset and three seats in the Cabinet. It has an impressive school system that provides jobs for Shas loyalists and churns out new Shas devotees with each graduating class. Students receive no math, geography, modern history, physics, chemistry or foreign language instruction, but they come out of school, another generation destined for the dole, knowing Yosef’s wisdom is never to be questioned and Shas will always provide them an income no matter how many children they have. And we say nothing.
Interestingly, Shas and its leadership should be included in the Oslo criminals. They voted for it at the time. Now, preparing itself for a future alliance with the Likud, who it predicts will win the next election no matter who heads the party, Shas has joined the "Oslo Criminals to Justice" crowd. The rabbi himself made a pilgrimage to the West Bank and pledged his allegiance to the Greater Land of Israel, in God’s name of course.
This country seems to have been so focused on the war with the Palestinians that it has allowed potentially dangerous phenomena to infiltrate the system. The economy is on the brink of disaster, there is a real fear of a financial crisis in the air. Unemployment is expected to rise to 14 percent next year, the highest level in the country’s history. The standard of living is falling fast. These all lead to highly emotive situations, with people, desperate for a solution to their problems, open to populist, simplistic but potentially dangerous rhetoric. Add to these the ongoing conflict and political cynicism and ponder the consequences of silence when the writing is so clearly on the wall.
Hirsh Goodman is a columnist for The Jerusalem Report.
From The Jerusalem Report, September 9, 2002.