Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Monday, 21 June 2010

Reframing The Issue To Win The Debate

"I'm amazed I haven't caved, and I still have faith in myself today
I'm no stranger to misbehaviour, I've reframed every single failure" (Headstones: Reframed)

One of the best ways to win an argument you are losing is to change what the dispute is about.  Can't prove that the Vancouver Canuck's 1970's uniform is the ugliest of all time?  Tell the disputant it's about Canadian teams only, or that you're expanding the field to include all sports, not just hockey.
The current dispute in Immanuel over who's eligible to attend the local school is another example, at least if you read the various propaganda pieces over at Cross Currents.
This isn't surprising that this would be attempted.  After all, no matter how much of a problem they don't have with it, some Ashkenazi Chareidim do realize that justifying entry to a school on racial grounds sounds awful and raises more of a fuss than they might want to deal with.  The solution?  Turn it into a case of freedom of education, with the High Court in Israel playing the familiar role of the heavy-handed State trying to tell poor religious folk what and how to teach their kids.
The school – and it does not matter whether or not you agree with the criteria which they have set for admission – established objective requirements which relate solely to lifestyle issues. An argument might be raised that in a small community like Emanuel establishing such criteria might be economically unfeasible and given the limited number of potential students, compromises should be expected. However, this suggestion was never presented as a factor to the court nor was it mentioned as a basis for the court’s ruling.

The problem with this eloquent and very reasonable-sounding statement is that it isn't the real issue.  As HaMekubal pointed out at his blog and in comments on others, the issue is one of who gets to run the school.  What has been lost in all the arguing is that the institution in question is funded by the State.  This might come as a surprise to many mostly because the Chareidi PR phalanx has treated the issue as if the school was private, but it's not.  It's a public school that a group of Slonimer Chasidim have taken over and forced to implement their preferred entrance requirements.  All those willing to accept the Slonimer version of halacha with all its particular stringencies are welcome in the school.  Those whose traditions and/or understanding of halacha differ are, according to the Slonimer worldview, "less religious" and therefore unwelcome around their spiritually pure daughters.
If the Slonimers were running their own school, this would not be an issue.  A private institution has every right to set standards for entry and enforce them equally on all applicants.  That's not the case here and those who oppose Ashkenazi on Chareidi racisim need to keep their eye on that ball.
The other issue is whether or not the High Court overreacted in its decision to force the Slonimers defendants to make their daughters attend that particular school, even when many had many alternative arrangements at other schools they found more suitable.  Again, on the face of it, it sounds absurd that the court would make such a highhanded demand, especially when having the Slonimers send their girls elsewhere would have been another resolution to the conflict.
But again, the Chareidi PR people are being selective in their recollection of events.  Like a rapist who sued his victim for physical damages suffered during his attack without recalling what happened to earn him the scratch marks in the first place, the response to the High Court has been one of bewilderment.
In reality this kind of an outcome was completely forseeable.  Remember that the judges of the court are mostly ultra-secularlists who have little tolerance for religion since such archaic modes of thinking are incompatible with their "enlightened" view of the world.  Time and time again  the court has not hesitated to force decisions onto Israeli society in an attempt to remove as much of its Judaism as possible. 
This time, however, the Chareidim have no one to blame but themselves.  From reading the various accounts in the Israeli newspapers as well as from frequent exposure to emphatic triumphant writings, it seems the Chareidim were very clear in their message to the secular court: We don't recognize your authority.  We don't recognize your laws.  Only God rules over us and we will only act as we see fit.  We don't care what you think.
And surprise!  The court pushed back as if to say "You think we have no authority to tell you what to do?  Just watch!"  And thus came about the shoving match.
Like the Rubashkin debacle, the Chareidi lack of self-awareness or interest into how their behaviour is perceived in a negative fashion by others has once again created a civil conflict in Israel.  The only way out is for the Chareidi community to recognize this and back down.  But that would be against halacha as they understand it.


David said...


I've tried (without much success) to figure out what's going on in this dispute. I understand that the Chareidi argument is that they're not excluding people based on ethnicity, but rather on hashkafa. While I'm not sure I'd approve in either case (especially not in a public school), there is a difference. Is there anything to the argument? Also, how is it that Ovadia Yosef has not chimed in?

Garnel Ironheart said...

My understanding is that it's on hashkafa - accept Slonimer hashkafa in both the school and your own personal life and you're in. That's why there's a small number of Sephardi girls allowed into the school. As long as they behave Ashkenazi, they're considered frum enough.
In addition, both Rav Ovadia Yosef and his son Rav Yaakov Yosef have registered their disapproval of this situation but there is a tremendous split between them. The senior Yosef holds that going to the secular courts over this matter is forbidden while the junion Yosef is one of the plaintiffs in the case.

Bartley Kulp said...

The point still is that the by going after the parents and forcing them to put their children in that particular school they have crossed the line civil rights wise.

People can say whatever they want regarding courts. Granted as long as they do not they them during the proceedings in which case they can be held in contempt.

The point is this was a religious judge with a chip on his shoulder. He had something to prove. That is why he reacted the way he did. For a religious person to serve as a judge in a secular court especially an Israeli one will have to make tenuous rationalizations to himself every day with sophisticated reasoning when ruling over a religious matter.

The point is that no matter what the merits are regarding the ruling over the school, the authorities had no right to come after the parents. You may be correct in your assessment regarding the school by virtue that it excepts government money. However going after the parents is a step to far. This is the school's problem, not the parents.