Saturday, 21 November 2009

Just When You Thought It Was Over... Channel 4 Does It Again

As if the borderline antisemitic Dispatches: Inside Britain's Israel Lobby wasn't enough, next Friday (27 November) Channel 4 will be airing a documentary that sounds possibly worse.

Their Unreported World documentary series describes itself as "Critically acclaimed foreign affairs series offering an insight into the lives of people in some of the most neglected parts of the planet - lives largely overlooked by the global news machine".

This time the episode takes place in Israel, where they investigate the growth and influence of "Jewish 'fundamentalists'" in Israel.

According to the summary of the programme, the ultra-Orthodox Haredis are accused of "creating tension within Israeli society and endangering any negotiations on a peace deal with the Palestinians."

Mea Shearim is described as a "poor, overcrowded part of the city where everyone is wearing clothes in the style of 18th-century Europe", where one nutter who is obviously going to be portrayed as representing all the Haredis says "We are the real Jews... everyone else in Israel just happens to be born Jewish."

Another Haredi says "Every 20 years we have a community that is growing at eight or nine times... It means we are growing in size and influence." Could be another nutter, or could be that his comments were taken out of context. After all what "influence" do they have? If they're anything as influential as Britain's Israel lobby it's certainly nothing to worry about. 

A reform Rabbi tells the reporter that "because Haredis are exempt from military service and heavily subsidised, they are creating huge tensions within the country." This must be the only time that people who aren't fighting in the Israeli army are the ones that are villified.

And then it just gets worse and worse. I will state the obvious here: Haredis are not perfect. No one is. Their lifestyle choices may be "extreme" but if it's not killing anyone then where's the harm? Take segregation of men and women on buses, for example. Extreme, yes, but if they want to adhere to the laws of the Torah more stringently than other Jews, by taking extra measures to prevent touching between sexes, that's their call. It's not imposing on more secular Israelis in the rest of the country.                                                   

When Haredis do something morally wrong though, such as a woman's claim in the programme that she was beaten up by a "Haredi Modesty Squad" after she left her husband, that is disgusting and inexcusable. And the vast majority of Haredis would agree with me. After all, their aim is to keep the Torah, and nowhere in the Torah does it say to beat up a woman for anything. You get psychos in every community.

However, it is clear from the summary of the programme that is goes out of its way to seek out only the bad in the Haredi community, and then portray that as the norm with complete disregard for whatever good that they do, and their contributions to Israeli society. Even their involvement in politics is portrayed as sinister. It's the Israel lobby all over again.

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