Thursday, December 29, 2011

What the Agudah Press Release about Bet Shemesh Really Means

Here, in blue, is Agudah on the violence in Bet Shemesh, with my remarks and interpretations in red.

Violence of any sort, whether physical or verbal, by self-appointed “guardians” of modesty is reprehensible. Such conduct is beyond the bounds of decent, moral - Jewish! - behavior. We condemn these acts unconditionally. 

 This is where the statement should have ended. Nothing more needed to be said. Unfortunately, as we shall see, the writer does not believe that the perpetrators of violence are the real villains here.

 Those who have taken pains to note that the small group of misguided individuals who have engaged in this conduct are not representative of the larger charedi community are to be commended. 

 No! True! Scotsman! What Agudah is doing here is seeking to affirm that the Charedi commuinty is perfect by insisting any non perfect people are "are not representative of the larger charedi community". This is the NTS fallacy in spades. Also, when black people riot does Al Sharpton claim that the rioters aren't real black people? Of course not. So why does Agudah think it can get away with an analogous claim? 

It is disturbing, though, that some Israeli politicians and secularists have been less responsible, portraying the actions of a very few as indicative of the feelings of the many. Quite the contrary, the extremist element is odious to, and rejected by, the vast majority of charedi Jews.

 And here we have arrived at the real reason for the press release. Agudah isn't speaking out because its upset that people who dress, think, and act like Agudah members are misbehaving. Agudah is speaking out because the "politicians and secularists" have told the story. From the perspective of Agudah, the villains aren't the men who have been mistreating small girls, but the "politicians and secularists" who are decrying the violence without issuing huge disclaimers stating that the perpetrators "are not representative of the larger charedi community."

Lost in all the animus and ill will, unfortunately, is the concept ostensibly at the core of the controversy: the exalted nature of tzenius, or Jewish modesty. Judaism considers human desires to constitute a sublime and important force, but one whose potential for harm is commensurate with its potential for holiness. 

 In a society like our own, where the mantra of many is, in effect, “anything goes,” many charedi Jews, men and women alike, see a need to take special steps - in their own lives and without seeking to coerce others - to counterbalance the pervasive atmosphere of licentiousness, so as to avoid the degradation of humanity to which it leads. It would be tragic were the acts of violence to lead Jews to, G-d forbid, reject the culture of tzenius that has always been the hallmark of the Jewish nation, to regard Jewish modesty as something connected to violence and anger, rather than to refinement and holiness.

In other words, we, the Chosen and Perfect People of Agudah agree with the perpetrators of violence. We think they are right to impose absurd restrictions on women. We agree that women are required to organize their lives to prevent men from having erections. We agree that small girls must not do anything that could arouse a full grown man. And, sure, we also condemn violence, but we totally support the underlying reasons for the violence. Oh, and when we said we condemn the violence, what we really meant was we condemn how the violence is causing newspaper stories to be written that, in turn, are making people disdain our crazy ideas about women. 

See, if the "politicians and secularists" and newspaper would shut the H up, Agudah would too.


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