Judaism is not racist, and neither am I
In a recent post of mine, titled “Disclaimer” I wrote about the violence of Jewish police against peaceful Jewish protesters in Amona. The gravamen of my post was that Israeli police should not treat fellow-Jews as if they were Arabs.
In comment #5 to my post, Joel Rich wrote:
Interesting is how when one’s own group has elements that act inappropriately, they are often minimized as a fringe element not representative of the greater whole, yet when “the other’s” group has elements that act inappropriatley, that entire group is demonized.
I didn’t realize he was talking about different groups of Jews and thought he was saying that there is little difference between Jews and Moslems/Arabs — that Arabs merely have “elements who act inappropriately.” I thought he was saying that there is little difference between peaceful Jewish protestors and jihadi Islamo-fascist Arabs, that is.
In my outrage at this moral equivalence I wrote in my comment #9
Arabs are brutal insane murderers whose mothers have nachas when their kids grow up to be terrorists, and Jews and Arabs are very, very different.
It was obvious to everyone who read my post that I was talking about the kind of Arabs who more typically find themselves at the wrong end of Israeli police batons. However, several of the louder voices in the blogosphere, making no mention whatsoever of my argument or my context, pretended to misunderstand my point and also pretended that my article was about Arabs — which it was not. I have not yet written an analysis of the Arab world.
I was writing about Jew vs Jew and why Israeli police should not treat peaceful Israeli demonstrators the same way they would treat a murderous Palestinian mob. (BTW does anyone remember that famous picture of the Arab mob hanging the bodies of two Israeli soldiers — killed in cold blood — upside down out the window of a Palestinian police station? Ever see an Israeli Jewish mob do something like that? No, and you never will.)
But anyway, to quiet the tempest in the blogosphere, and to reassure our well-meaning and good-hearted friends that Judaism really does not condone racism, it seems necessary for me to spell out in excruciatingly boring and legalistic detail what I really meant and what was already perfectly obvious to 99.9% of the people who read my blog.
First of all, I said “Arabs are brutal insane murderers.” I have been misquoted as having said “ALL Arabs are brutal insane murderers.” The distinction is absolutely critical.
Imagine reading a sentence like this: “Jews are cultured, intelligent, worldly people who value education highly.”
Now change it so it reads, “ALL Jews are cultured, intelligent, worldly people who value education.”
In the first case, you are describing a general tendency, a mere truism.
In the second case, you need merely to find a single Jew who is boorish, stupid and parochial in order to falsify the entire statement.
So it is with the statement FALSELY attributed to me: “All Arabs are murderers.” It’s an idiotic statement, since you only have to find one Arab who is not a murderer, and the entire statement is thereby proven false. Of course I don’t write idiotic statements!
As it happens, you could easily find — not just one — but millions of Arabs who are not murderers. It is probable that you can find millions of Arabs who are not even sympathetic to murderers, who do not think the Koran preaches mass murder, who do not rejoice when innocent Israelis die, who do not honor suicide bombers, who do not hate the West.
Considering how many Arabs there are in the world, any statement about “most Arabs” would still not be describing millions of Arabs who are not part of the majority.
Yes, there are millions of Arabs in the world who are genuinely peaceful, decent, well-intentioned people. They may be a minority, but millions of good and decent people are nothing to sneeze at.
As for my previous statement that Jews are very different from Arabs because “Arabs are brutal insane murderers” I should have said that “Jews are different from THE KIND OF ARABS who are brutal insane terrorists.”
Jews are NOT different from — in fact, they are JUST LIKE — the other kind of Arabs — the KIND OF ARABS who are decent, peaceful, book-loving, warm-hearted, generous and cultured people.
Oh one other thing: the KIND OF ARABS who are Islamo-fascist jihadi brutal insane terrorists are NOT genetically born to be terrorists. They are the products of a very very bad educational system, which is probably George Bush’s fault.
OK now I will BEG you to PLEASE re-read my original post, and ALL my comments thereto:
Comments #4 #13 #16 #18 #25 — please read, and then you won’t be sucked in by inflammatory and defamatory and false statements against me and against Cross-Currents that you may read elsewhere. You may still disagree with me of course, but you won’t have a simplistic and misleading idea of what I actually believe. You will see there that I expressed quite a degree of sympathy with the sufferings and the humanity of the Palestinian Arabs, in my original post and in several of my later comments. You will also see that I made reference to a number of well-known Arab moderates who are upset with what is going on in their culture. I hope this now clears up this subject and we can move on to other things.
The “all” was more than implied in your sentence. You use a very positive exmple about “Jews are…” Now try this — If you saw the sentence “Orthodox Jews spend all day in yeshiva and refuse to work for a living,” it would become a post on this blog about the anti-Othodox bias in the press – and you’d be correct. I am sure you realize that there are many (primarily Orthodox) Jews who believe that your original statement does apply to all Arabs, and even that it is genetic. And those who do hold that belief would not need to defend their statement when criticized, but rather would insist that they are correct. So the clarification was definitely necessary if in fact you do not believe that.
I agree with Esther.
There is much to condemn in contemporary Arab/Muslim culture. What is most worrying is how mainstream the hate, bigotry and lies are; what would be marginalised, extremist filth in Western countries is broadly acceptable in most Arab regimes.
However, the pshat of Toby’s original comment – as Esther points out – is one that tars ALL Arabs with the same brush and is, therefore, racist in effect even if not in intent.
A friend recently pointed out to me the importance of being careful in the use of language: in Gemara Pesachim 3a Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said that a person should never emit a coarse expression from his mouth for the Torah (in Bereishit 7:8) added eight letters so as not to use the word ‘impure’in relation to animals finding sanctuary in Noach’s ark.
How much more so should we be careful in the words we use with human beings. Yes, there are times when we need to be straight and direct in our language – but we should be careful that what we say is true, relevant and unambiguous.
I think your point is well taken. On the other hand, we find many statements of Chazal and m’farshim that use very harsh language toward different groups. It seems to me, that in our society, where there is such an “avodah zara” of liberalism, it is maybe better to err on the side of talking straight at times.
I don’t think “liberalism” has anything to do with it, Michael. Toby said something that was offensive to a great many people not because it was “politically incorrect,” but because it was untrue.
I think that when people are extremely bothered by minor un-truths that just happen to coincide with liberal sensitivities, one can reasonably surmise that it is the sensitivities at least as much as the un-truths that are the real issue.
Michael, it wasn’t a small untruth, it was a large untruth; anywhat what do “liberal sensitivities” have to do with anything? If someone says “Jews are thieves” does that bother me because of my “liberal sensitivities” or because it’s slander? Hint: Because its slander. The same applies to the case of Toby Katz and the Arabs.
It is worrying that you try to dismiss this as a ‘minor’ un-truth – presumably because you consider that it coincides with ‘liberal’ sensitivities. This smacks of being davka in the face of political correctness. However, by trying to argue that a racist statement (whether intended or not) is ‘minor’ you are merely reinforcing the bigoted view of many people out there that Jews (particularly religious ones) care only about themselves and their own sensitivities. One untruth feeds another. Rather than try to wriggle out of it, it would be a credit to all concerned if there was simply an unequivocal admission that the original statement was clumsy and wrong.
“It is profoundly racist of you to state that Germans are evil blood thirsty monsters that enjoy slamming Jewish baby’s heads against walls.”
-Yankel the liberal 1938
-Michoel the frumach 2006
DovBear and Calev,
I do not profess to have a burning passion for truth in my life in general. Hashem should help me to develope it. I am not the Chazon Ish. Are the folks doing all the whining about Toby Katz’s statement such Chazon Ish’s in everying else, or only here?
Clumsy, maybe. Wrong? Certainly not.
I am not one of those craven Europeans who feel a need to blur the distinctions between difference peoples and different cultures, just to be PC. I will not pretend to believe that my fellow Jews — Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox, religious or secular, Israeli or American — are “just like” their bitterest and most murderous enemies. Backing down would be futile in any case. It would not mollify the jackals of the blogosphere. Actually, I would not prevaricate even if it DID mollify them. In the immortal words of Lillian Hellman, “I will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.”
But here is an op-ed from today’s New York Times that makes my case for me much better than I could have hoped to do myself. It is by an Indonesian Moslem named KARIM RASLAN and is entitled, “The Islam Gap.” It’s about the Danish Cartoon Riots.
Just to quote the most relevant bit:
In a strict lingual capacity, Ms. Katz erred. I would even say in a political correct capacity she erred. I would even say she might agree to an extent.
Is she wrong?
Ms. Katz is addressing the pink elephant in the room. While there are many good Arabs in the world you must ask yourself, has the Arab world as a group been contributing positively to the world or not? You could chalk it up to cultural differences and racial tensions but that requires a bit of imagination and humor some of us don’t have. There are major issues that should not go unnoticed even in the name of global harmony.
In fact, global harmony should be the factor initiating a closer examination of not only Arab violence but the lack of reaction as well.
You sound rational so why not just say it straight already. The average Arab Muslim is fully capable of dancing ecstatically when they see airplanes fly into sky scrapers, killing lots of innocent mothers, fathers and children. And for all they knew 50,000 instead of 3,000 would be killed. Arab Muslims include many people that are capable of performing abominations such as walking over to the car of Tali Hatuel, sticking a gun through the rear window, and blow out the brains of a two-year baby strapped in a car seat. Therefore, we must conclude that the average Arab Muslim is deeply evil. Why do people have such difficulty with that?
In the name of truth I don’t know enough to say what the average Arab is – either way good or evil.
I do know that there is a bad situation. There is an abnormal amount of violence and intolerance coming from the Arab world without any disapointment from the Arab spokespeople. Furthermore, much of the violence is directed towrds the Jews.
Racism is when you judge a group of people by the actions of a few without addressing any inherent problems of that group. There seems to be an inherent problem coming from the Arab world
Oh dear, Toby. I’m ‘craven’ now? I’m just trying to be PC? I cut my morality to fit the latest fashion? If you knew me you’d realise how wrong you are! As a resident of Europe I’m well aware of the threats that Islamic radicalism and the fast growing Muslim population pose. I’ve shocked many a liberal and left-wing acquaintance with what I consider to be a rational analysis reasonably put. My morality is rooted firmly in the Eternal – but, the Torah being what it is, there is room for moral legitimacy beyond your own views. There are times when frustration and anxiety mean that I blow my top and say things about the political situation that are as clumsy – if not more so – as the next person’s. However, I do take particular care, when contributing to a public discussion, to be temperate and reasonable and accurate. This is not compromising my own beliefs, it is exercising self-discipline and good sense. I find that more people listen to the moderate, carefully chosen word than to a rant. And that’s something I’ve learned from my embrace of Yiddishkeit, not from a style guru.