Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ani Ma'amin

The two issues which have provoked the row between Lurker and me - the shoe throwing and Lurker's view of the Israeli police - have been done to death. It should also be noted, in fairness, that Lurker has denounced violence against the police. I don't intend to rehash all that - it's tedious. Whilst we have been presented as opposites, in truth I don't know what Lurker believes in - I only know what he dislikes. I can't do anything about that but I can make it clear what I believe in.

I believe in the justice, justice we must pursue. I also know something about how that works in real life. That is something I have made clear here and which, rather unpleasantly, various people have adopted as a sneer. I have learned that justice is essentially a process. We cannot ever give an absolute guarantee that we know the truth - that is a matter for God. We can only ensure that the process we use is the same for everyone, in the hope that the application of that one standard, eliminates mistakes. Of course, it never does so entirely, which is one of the reasons why the death penalty makes me so worked up - as if a few mistakes are somehow justifiable. But I digress.

Two things, in particular, strike at the root of justice. The first is a departure from the common standard which we adopt to ensure it. One of the most noteworthy such departures in recent times has been the decision by the United States to permit torture and the use of information thus extracted. Yet, how are people so treated to be justly convicted when the standard we apply to them is so different to the standard we apply to others - and not by mistake but by the deliberate choice of the State? The State seeks to justify such injustice by evoking fear in its citizens in an attempt - all too successful - to persuade people that there are those who do not deserve the standard applied to everyone else. That they are, in fact, guilty anyway so it doesn't matter.

The second is an erosion of trust in the machinery of justice. It is precisely because the State has such power that the police force and the judiciary should be beyond State control. If they are not independent - or if they are perceived to lack independence - then people lack confidence in the administration of justice, and experience shows that it is then but a short step to people taking justice into their own hands.

In departing from the common standard - in talking about alleged terrorists and nations of evil as if they were guilty by the simple fact of his saying so - Bush promoted an idea that proving guilt in the conventional way was not just unnecessary but, in some way, disloyal. By authorising torture he acted on that idea. In so doing he compromised everyone's safety, because a society which accepts double standards and does not protect those who are already 'guilty' is a society in which no one - and especially no Jew - is safe. He shut off the resonance that had always attached to the complaints democracies made about other regimes by acting like those other regimes. He - or those close to him - knew this was happening. It was done deliberately and its effect has never been acknowledged. Rather, wrong has been trumpeted as right and genuine concern for our objective standard has been labelled as traitorous.

What of Lurker? Well I perceive him to be part of the gleeful chorus - now thankfully muted and chastened by the Presidential election result - of those who cheered Bush on. In my view, such people elevated perfectly reasonable aims to a status which meant the means necessary to achieve those aims were irrelevant. I passionately believe that only God has sufficient judgement to do that. Human capacity being what it is, we are reliant on process - on means - to ensure that justice is done.

That gleeful chorus has learned its lessons well. The settlers in Israel are behaving illegally in many respects. Their response? Well, it isn't to accept the verdict of the Courts and laws of the land. Instead they attack the police as a mass - imputing to the entire organisation, all the time - the occasions when the police fail to meet an appropriate standard. They talk as if the bias of the Court were an accepted fact - neatly sidestepping the inconvenience of having their actions declared illegal. They pose as the vanguard of the oppressed - isolated and betrayed by their government, police force and judiciary. In so doing they equate Israel with places like Zimbabwe where law and order has truly broken down and where there is no justice. They do this for their own ends, setting themselves up as above 'mere' process. In so doing they, too, erode faith in justice and encourage others to behave as they do. They imperil the State, whilst loudly proclaiming their love for it.

There is - obviously - more. But I hope it is clear that, for my part at least, the row has been about the basic building blocks of a society. If this Post draws many comments I know that some will assert my naivety and some that there really is a threat which demands such a response/the Israeli police and courts really are set up to persecute the people who live (in taxpayer supported conditions) outside Israel proper. But what can you do about idiots? Retreat and abandonement are options only for those who have given up.

Buy the bloody book already.
Buy his wife a gift - the complete responsa of the Rav of RBS for example.

No comments: