Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Moral Oppression

It's no secret that the gulf between the political right and left in Western society is a gaping chasm filled with piranha.  The level of virulence in the debate between the two sides rarely reaches levels of calm, reasoned discourse and inevitably any serious interaction between them ends in a rancorous exchange.
It should be no wonder then that the fight over the recent British referendum on whether or not the UK should leave the EU was characterized by loud arguments, physical violence and one political assassination.  The increased level of fighting since then has only continued the pre-vote trend.
On the surface, it should have been a no-brainer for the Stay side to win. They had almost every important card in their hand, including economic, politican and trade stability.  The Leave side, on the other hand, focused its campaign on the ugly side of matters: immigration and xenophobia.  Why did the English and Welsh vote decisively (which is was when you take the Scots and Irish out of the numbers) to leave a system which has served them well for decades?
To understand why this happened you have to look at the tactics used by the right and left in political debates.  On the right there is no shortage of vulgarity.  One need only look o'er the pond at Donald Trump for the stereotypical approach.  The right does not mince words but proceeds to insults, especially those that question their opponents' intelligence.  Don't look for complex put downs either.  "You're a stupid head" is pretty basic fare in this camp.
On the left, however, the approach is quite different.  For the left, disagreement isn't a simple matter of someone not being smart enough to agree with, like it is with the right, although it is part of the system.  Instead there is an approach based on morality.  You're not stupid if you disagree with them, you are evil.  They have many words for evil such as homophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny and so on but at the base of it they treat their opponents not just as intellectual inferiors but as moral ones as well with themselves being the arbiters of what is true and righteous in the universe.
We saw this in Canada with the recent Jian Ghomeshi scandal in which a well-known radio broadcaster in Toronto was accused of sexually assaulting several women.  The justice system eventually determined that, at least with three of the principle victims, the charges were unwarranted and he was acquitted.  The social justice system, on the other hand, had declared him completely guilty as soon as the story broke and then went on to vilify the judge who let him off, the proectuing lawyer for not getting the conviction, the defence lawyer who had dared to defend him despite his "obvious" guilt and any others who questioned whether or not he was guilty.  Such people were quickly labelled as women haters and enablers of rapists.
In Britain the referendum campaign ran pretty much along the same lines.  For those on the Leave side, people wanting to stay were simpering fools who preferred to have their lives controlled by the bureaucrats in Brussels.  There were idiots who didn't want Britain to return to its former glory.  But the Stay side?  Their opponents were labelled as xenophobes, racists, neo-fascists and the like.  It wasn't about seeing things differently or not understanding how great the EU has been for the UK, it was a campaign to legitimize their opponent's right to a differing opinion.  What's more, it didn't matter how mild the concerns were on the Leave side.  If you weren't on Stay you were Sauron's handmaiden.
That is what ultimately backfired on the Stay side.  Yes, there is a hard core of the British population that is living in denial.  This group really believes that Britain has mattered as a world power since the end of the Second World War when it really hasn't.  They really believe that, unfettered by EU constraints, Great Britain shall be great again.  They want all them yucky foreign types out so there's no competition for jobs.  Britain for the British, eh guv'nor?
There is also a large, more moderate population that has legitimate concerns with the current arrangements Britain has with the EU.  They worry that uncontrolled immigration will cause economic upheaval.  They worry about the increasing role Brussels has in regulating their lives.  They wonder why un-elected Europeans seem to have more and more control over the government that they actually vote for.
But when they express these concerns, the Left responds in monolithic fashion.  "I want all 'em grubby types out!" and "I'm worry about a sudden expansion of the population and how our economy will handle it" are met with equally vehement cries of "Racist!"  So resentment builds and then, given the chance, it expresses itself as it did in the referendum.
The response of the left to the results is also instructive as to its condescension for its opponents.  One smarmy left wing talk show host after another has gone on record condemning the results.  Never mind that in democracy the golden rule is that the electorate never makes a mistake.  For the left, the electorate only gets it right when they win.  Otherwise the people are indeed wrong.  Don't think that large numbers of folks in the moderate middle weren't thinking this in the ballot booth.
In short, the left's delusions of moral superiority have pushed the UK to the edge of an abyss and, in their lack of insight, they now stand poised to push it off the cliff.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

A Wall For All Jews, Not All "Judaisms"

One of the recurrent sources of conflict at the Western Wall is between the Ultraorthodox community and the non-religious egalitarian activities, the Women of the Wall.  The Ultraorthodox position is that prayers at the Wall should be conduct in as Chareidi a fashion as possible.  The WoW's want to turn a chunk of the Plaza into a Reform "temple".  The irony of a "temple" beside where the real Temple once stood (may it be speedily rebuilt) should not be lost on us.
An argument frequently mentioned by the WoW's and their supporters is that before 1948 when the Old City fell into Jordanian hands, there was no mechitza at the Wall.  Therefore there is a precedent for mixed prayers and, if the mechitza today can't be removed, a section should be set aside at the Plaza for mixed services.  What's more, government attempts to find a compromise by renovating a separate section of the Wall, Robinson's Arch, are unacceptable since it isolates the WoW's from the main plaza and is therefore unfair.
Let's deconstruct these arguments to reveal how shallow they are.
Firstly, it is true that there was no mechitza at the Wall before 1948.  There is ample film and photo evidence of that.  However, there is a simple reason: the Wall was not a site of organized prayer.  This was forbidden under the British and before them, the Turks due to the fear of agitating the Arabs perched on the har haBayis above.  Jews could approach the Wall in small groups and pray individually and for that no mechitza is needed.  After 1967 the Plaza quickly turned into an outdoor synagogue.  In order to accommodate all Jewish worshippers it needed a mechitza.  After all, there is no law in Reformative "Judaism" that prayers must be mixed, just a strong preference while in Torah Judaism there is a law against mixed prayers.  A mixed plaza would exclude the Orthodox.  How ironic that those who claim to be excluded are the ones pushing for it.
Secondly, despite its commercial success we must recall that the section of the Wall overlooking the main plaza is just that: a section.  The section overlooking Robinson's Arch is just as genuine a part of the Wall.  Why don't the WoW's accept that?  Could it be that they're more interested in garnering attention to themselves and infuriating the Chareidim in the Main Plaza than really wanting to pour out their hearts to God?
The official rebuttal to these weak claims is simple.  The Wall is open to all Jews but not all "Judaisms".  A Judaism in which God approves of lifestyles His Torah declares to be forbidden, a God who approves of all secular liberal principles while frowning on those that have been the hallmark of Judaism for millennia, a God who thinks that the outside world encouraging equality for men and women along with the blurring of the distinction between the genders means He has to change His Torah, that Judaism is not welcome at the Wall.  Prayer at the Wall is not about pushing an agenda but approaching the Creator with humility within the parameters of halacha.
Once you drop the authority of Torah, once you change Judaism to fit your views, the holiness of the Temple departs and the Wall becomes just a wall.  If that's the case, they can pray anywhere else.  Why cause a fuss for us?

Sunday, 5 June 2016

The City's Not For Sharing

Today is Yom Yerushalayim, the 49th one since the miraculous day that the Master of the Universe smiled on our brave soldiers in 1967 and gave us the Old City which had been in enemy hands for almost twenty years.  It has become a tradition to publicly celebrate this momentous event in Jewish history and some of the events include a march through the entire Old City by Jews intent on reminding all its inhabitants that they live now and forever under Jewish sovereignty.
Naturally there are some people who are upset by that.  Of course  it's all in the good spirit of post-Zionist, Western-culture-hatred that these concerns are raised.  The same people who were barred from their holy sites for 19 years despite signed treaties guaranteeing them otherwise are not allowed to enjoy the fruits of their success.  This is intolerable, and of course, racist.
Now remember that the Left is actual quite racist but they cloak it under the guise of political correctness.  For Jews to talk about Jewish Israel is wrong.  For benighted Arabs to talk about an Judenrein state of Palestine is fine, a natural reaction to "the occupation".  So thus we have the Temple Mount, the Har haBayis, the site of the binding of our father, Yitzchak Avinu, a"h, but for them it's only one thing: the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim holy site.  Jews need not visit.  It'll just upset "the natives".  And beyond that we have Yerushalayim, the centre of the Jewish world for 3500 years but hey, don't say that out loud.  It'll just upset "the natives".  We can't talk about how the Temple Mount is the centre of our nation but they can shout about their exclusive rights on all their loudspeakers and that's okay.
The linked article is especially weak, though, since its title implies there are two legal Jewish arguments against Jews demonstrating that Yerushalayim is a Jewish city, Old City and all, and nothing else.  The first is taken from the Nevi'im and claims that the reason Babylon was punished for destroying Judah was because in addition to conquering our ancestors they humiliated us.  From this the author learns the classic liberal lesson: you can win a war but don't you dare act like it.  On most other days of the year there are multiple neighbourhoods in the Old City that Jews dare not tarry in or even enter.  On Yom Yerushalayim, one day out of 365, we do and this is too much for the liberal mind.  Sure we won a great victory, let's go somewhere else to celebrate.  We don't want to remind "the natives" they lost or interrupt any of their "Soon we will slaughter the Jews!" speeches.
The second argument is even weaker, based on a statement that makes no sense.  The author claims that the only time the word "degel" appears in Tanach is in Shir HaShirim.  Unless her use of the word "Tanach" specially excludes Torah, she clearly hasn't read the first few sections of Bemidbar in which the word repeatedly appears.  In that case the Degel is entirely about nationalistic identification since each tribe is assigned one so that everyone knows exactly where in the camp they are entitled to live.  The degel, in fact, proves the opposite of her point.  It is the degel of the State of Israel, the Jewish state of Israel, that flies over Yerushalayim.  We should make no apologies for that and the locals should know exactly what the implications of it are.
All this goes without reminding folks that Islamic claims of Yerushalayim as a holy city are based on rumour and myth.  The greatest proof is that even those that pray on the Temple Mount turn to face Saudi Arabia, the centre of their religion.  They love the Temple Mount because it's important to us, not them.
We must understand, of course, that our Final Redemption is only in its earliest stages and that during this time we have to expect a certain level of imperfection in our Land.  We are not at the point where we can simply expel all non-Jews who refuse to acknowledge Jewish sovereignty and enforce halacha as the law of the Land.  Only the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu can help us achieve that and frankly, he's nowhere on the horizon right now.  However, we can realize the this is the reason we share Yerushalayim with others, amongst them our enemies, not because it's a nice liberal politically correct, pro-diversity thing to do.  The march is a reminder that although we cannot have our ideal situation we are still in a position to remind the others that God has given us through His kindness control of our Holy City.