Who Were The Taunters?

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TAUNTAhmadGharabli:AFP:Getty

This photograph of a group of young men taunting a Palestinian woman evicted from her home to make way for Israeli settlers rightly disturbed many. A commenter on Jerry Haber's blog disagreed with the Getty caption that describes them merely as Israelis:

An anonymous commenter has said that (at least some of) the men here are students at a well-known yeshiva for Americans in Beit Shemesh. I went to the yeshiva's website -- some of my students have studied there -- and identified (I think) two of the students.

So these young men could well have been Americans. But Haber insists their orthodox identity is the more troubling issue:

The main source of Jewish hatred and bigotry against Arabs today comes from the orthodox, and especially the modern orthodox. This wasn't always the case. The orthodoxy that sprung from European soil absorbed the best of West civilization, culture, and morality. The earlier generations of religious Zionists, Rav Reines, Rav Kook, Rav Soloveitchik, were European to the core. And the early generation of religious Zionists in America, though fed the prejudiced Zionist line about the Arabs, nevertheless was deeply influenced by liberal American values, and the American rejection of bigotry. Such moderates even convinced themselves that this was the message of the Torah.

No more. The Israeli religious Zionism that has produced the settler movement is unaffected by universal moral values.

I don't need to go into details here. You are familiar with their rabbis, you have read the articles and parsha sheets; you have recoiled at the message. Israeli religious Zionism today is insular, parochial, fundamentalist, and deeply, deeply bigoted. I know many American orthodox Jews who have come on aliyah, Jews with moderate principles, proud of American and universal moral values. They are terribly uncomforable when their children return from the religious Zionist yeshivot and ulpanot as racist bigots who view the Arabs as animals and underlings, “hewers of wood and drawers of water.” Modern orthodox educators in America should have worried less about the color of their children's hats, and more about the color of their hearts.

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