Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Not Racism It's Religion

That's the argument of a group of Israeli municipal rabbis who signed a religious ruling barring renting or selling apartments to non-Jews.
The rabbis defend their ruling. It's not racism, it's halacha -- Jewish law -- that prohibits allowing Gentiles a foothold, Rabbi Eliyahu told Israel Radio: "We've seen what happens in mixed towns, our girls are tempted and this leads to assimilation." "We don't want this happening in Safed or anywhere else," he said. Rabbi Dov Volpe was blunter. "State laws contravening halacha count as dust," he said, making clear that the Torah trumps democracy.

This type of discrimination, along with the idea that religion is the highest law, is common in many Muslim countries. But the Jewish state isn't immune either. It's always worth pointing out that religious fanatics of any stripe, whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian or otherwise, tend to share some similar beliefs. Their religious beliefs trump the law and rules of the society they live in. If their actions and statements appear bigoted, they aren't. They are just following their religion. Does that mean that their religion itself is partially based on bigotry? They tend to avoid that logical progression. And if you point it out they'll accuse you of being the bigot instead, or of trying to repress their religious freedom.

Fortunately, unlike some Muslim countries where far worse, such as killing people who convert from Islam, is the right and proper thing to do, many Israelis are not happy with religious leaders promoting discrimination. 

others want more than just pens taken from the rabbis -- they want their jobs. Many of those who signed the decree serve as municipal rabbis, their salaries funded by taxpayers. The Haaretz editorial calling for their dismissal was only one of many. "Racism at the expense of Israeli citizens," its headline said.

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