Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Intolerant of Intolerance

El Al, the airline of the Jewish people, recently announced an initiative to create a line of "kosher" flights. Apparently mixed seating on airplanes is a sin (presumably based on a gemara somehwere) and many in the Chareidi community want to avoid commiting such a neshama-damaging activity on flights to and from Israel.
I'm not going to debate the merits of such an idea. As a non-Chareidi, I don't think such extreme precautions are necessary and have no trouble sitting on a regular El Al flight or receiving a package of peanuts from a dour stewardness who usually reminds me of a childhood Hebrew school teacher. But clearly for many Chareidim this is important, and clearly there are enough of them to make it a worthwhile business option for El Al.
Remember that El Al is a private company. Its job is not simply to provide travellers to Israel with tiny cups of water or packaged dinners that have more scent than actual food. Its job is to make money by providing services people will buy. A defined group, the Chareidi community, has asked for a specific service to be provided so that they can buy it. They are not demanding that all El Al flights adhere to the so-called "mehadrin standard". El Al is not a government company run by the State like Egged buses. So do I see a problem with this? Absolutely not. Why shouldn't El Al run specific "Chareidi" flights if it'll sell them more tickets? If they continue to run all the rest of their regular flights so the non-Chareidi traveller can still get to and from Israel without (the usual) difficulties, who cares if the Chareidim have their own flights? They're paying for them, after all.
Well it turns out someone does care. IRAC, the Reform movement in Israel, is scandalized by the idea:
According to the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), IMPJ's legal branch, the move represents "an illegitimate policy that violates Israeli law."
In a letter to Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and El Al CEO Haim Romano, IRAC Attorney Orly Erez-Likhovski wrote that "flights that institute separation between men and women should not be approved offhandedly."
According to Erez-Likhovski, the law in Israel prohibits any form of segregation based on gender, and therefore any agreement that infringes on this principle should be grounded on a solid rationale and adhere to the law.

Ah yes, all the usual paeans of modern secular liberal tolerance: "illegitimate", "violates Israeli law", "principle", "infringe". Bottom line, this is what IRAC is saying to El Al: we don't care if you're a private company making a voluntary business decision. We think it's wrong and therefore it is wrong.
It is the intellectual and political left that fancies itself the bastion of freedom in the Western world. By fighting against discrimination it believes it is creating a world free of hatred and racism. The popular media especially plays along with this. When was the last time you saw a movie about a dystopic future in which the government was leftist?
Yet the truth about the left is that they are far more controlling and intolerant than the right they accuse of such sins. Where is personal freedom more inhibited? The United Kingdom under the Labour party or the United States under the Republicans? The left is so desirous of creating a hate-free utopia that it sees no contraindication in forcing people to have specific views and act in specific ways since those views and ways are "the right ones".
El Al has made a business decision that will hopefully increase its profits. It has done so without infringing on anyone's rights. Why does IRAC have a problem with this? Because it is the source of intolerance, far more than the Chareidim in this case.



"Rav Simcha Bunim of Pshischah, while working as a pharmacist, dressed like one"
please please i need to see please


Garnel Ironheart said...

It's referenced in the Artscroll's Sfas Emes on the Shalosh Regalim:

Nishma said...

It is difficult to challenge a policy of discrimination -- and that is how this Reform organization sees it _- based solely on an argument of private enterprise. While it may be true that a private endeavour -- such as a non-public country club -- can maintain some disciminatory practices, just because something is an act of private enterprise, does not allow all discrimination. Try opening a restaurant that has rules on where blacks and whites can sit. The problem is the lack of respect for variant viewpoints by the left and thus the lack of recognition of different reasons for discrimination that must also be recognized. Asking for seperation between the sexes by Charedi individuals is not the same as a white person asking not to sit beside a black person. To the charedi individual, the development of sexual feelings as a result of even innocent interaction with a woman presents a moral problem. It is for that reason, the concern for a moral problem, that the charedi individual desires separation. A non-charedi Orthodox individual does not reject this solution because he/she does not recognize the potential moral problem but rather believes that there are other ways of dealing with this moral problem and that this solution presents its own moral challenges and problems. This Reform movement, though, ultimately does not value the potential moral problem because sexual feelings are normal (although one should not physically attack a member of the opposite sex -- but if they are open to a suggestion, why not?). This is the discrimination. They don't respect other moral viewpoints. Of course, tolerance does not mean that you should respect all "moral" viewpoints but it does demand of one to, at least, recognize differing viewpoints and if called upon to disagree, to understand the full impact of this disagreement. In this case, all they did was call the charedi desire -- discrimination -- without any recognition of the underlying moral perspective and dilemma of the charedi individuals themselves. On this point, if a group of people want to follow a certain moral outlook without imposing it on othere -- than why challenge them? It is not like whites saying we don't want to sit with blacks but it is a group of men and women wishing to deal with any sexual tension by refraining from mixing. If they were skinny-dipping, the Reform would understand separate swimming pools. Well look at this the same way, just recognize that whild they may not understand why sitting together in a row of seats may be comparable to skinny-dipping -- well that's the place for tolerance and recogntion of differing societies.

One last point, though. I do think there was another way for El Al to accomplish this goal without infringing on any issue of discrimination in the market place. They could arrange charters with rules of separate sitting -- and the work out a booking through an organization who is offering this charter -- thus sidestepping any legal challenge. But if the Reform were more understanding, it would not be necessary. But then again, if the charedi world was not represented by individuals who impose their value perspective by attacking women who are travelling in a mixed bus, they may experience more tolerance from the non-Orthodox world. But these people who attack women are simply hooligans not representing the basic values of the normative charedi world so why should the whole charedi population be critiqued for actions of a few? That also is a form of discrimination from the left -- but it also puts an onus on the charedi world to distance themselves and make it clear that these hooligans are not part of their world and that they join in this condemnation -- and act upon it.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Dr Mike said...

There is a basic right that has been trampled in the rush to political correctness by the secular West: freedom of association. In their desire to create an anti-racist society, they have decided that all people will mix together, whether they want to or not. This policy, however, violates my rights as well which don't seem to count as they are politically incorrect. If I want to sit in a plane amongst men and not have to see women, why don't I have that right? Especially when other flights with mixed seating are equally available?
It is also hypocritical as most of these Reformers also support the concept of women's-only health clubs and blacks-only schools. It's not about discrimination but about targeting certain values and denying their basic rights while allowing other groups those same odious rights.