The New 'Nazi Hunters' Are Outraged by Justified Criticism of the ultra-Orthodox

Avi Garfinkel
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Ultra-Orthodox protesters in Bnei Brak, last month.
Ultra-Orthodox protesters in Bnei Brak, last month.Credit: Oded Balilty,AP
Avi Garfinkel

A new breed of Nazi hunters has arisen. They are the people outraged by every criticism of ultra-Orthodox Jews and rush to brand it “antisemitic.” They are the ones who are infuriated more by an offensive sentence or curse by a Haaretz writer than by the lockdown violations of masses of Haredim. It’s as if they are afraid that someone will read one of those writers’ columns and, in response, will dispatch the Haredim to the ovens.

It won’t happen, and the ones who have taken offense know it. They know well that no secular person intends to unleash a pogrom on the Haredim, or even boycott their factories. Of course, there are barely any such factories – the Haredim are actually the ones who tend to boycott secular businesses and companies; torch bus stops; beat army draftees, Arabs and police officers; and write pashkevilim (posters pasted up in public places in religious communities that are far more venomous and full of incitement than any newspaper column).

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If so, what motivates those who feel righteous outrage, if not the unfounded fear of physical harm to the Haredim? Some would say white guilt, the chronic feeling of the privileged, who bear on their conscience the wrongs committed by their forefathers against minorities, and sometimes even the sins that weren’t committed.

However, the secular guilt that exists in Israel is even more ridiculous than its American counterpart, because the Haredim in Israel are the ones with the privileges, who enjoy an exemption from work and war, while they live in their masses over the Green Line and vote for parties that sit in governments that are disgusted by peace.

It’s possible that secular guilt is too flattering a term – not misplaced although still authentic guilt, but rather plain narcissism. Look how sensitive I am to the Other, how I worry about minorities. Call it virtue signaling: displaying how beautiful their souls are like a peacock shows off its feathers.

Some of those peacocks even take pains to announce that anyone who writes against settlers “is not a leftist, because hatred of the left is not a generalized one.” They thus forget Lenin, Mao Zedong – and most ironically even themselves – when they express generalized hatred for settlers, the Shin Bet, Benjamin Netanyahu supporters or even Haredim, especially if those Haredim beat Arabs, for example, as in the pogroms that have taken place recently following the death of hilltop youth Ahuvia Sandak.

A virtue signaler may attribute antisemitism to anyone that criticizes Haredim who violate coronavirus regulations, but lifts the exemption from criticism if the Haredim hurt Arabs – a minority relative to them.

This is political correctness at its worst, the kind used to silence much-needed criticism of the Haredim. Such political correctness can kill because it delays correcting a life-threatening situation (mass violation of coronavirus lockdown rules): It is censorship of the national discussion in the name of defense of the “minority” – even a very powerful, self-centered and pretentious minority that wreaks enormous damage on itself and its surroundings.

Similarly, the virtual signalers have attributed Ashkenazi racism to writers who predicted that MK Orli Levi-Abekasis would betray her voters and join forces with Netanyahu. Everyone knows how that ended (without the virtue signalers apologizing).

Virtue signalers forget that minorities sometimes deserve criticism. They mistakenly believe that “minority” is a synonym for “being right.” Virtue signalers ignore the fact that the real left constantly demands – and particularly during a pandemic – solidarity from everyone, including minorities.

It is highly ironic that the people who silence criticism of the Haredim by claiming that it’s antisemitic are the first to get angry when Israel brands as antisemitic every European criticizing its policy in the occupied territories. Virtue signalers are the first to criticize Netanyahu’s cynical and instrumental use of the antisemitism card, even in connection to Iranian nukes. But virtue signalers cannot see their own faults and act the same way when it is convenient for them.

The time has come to stop this corrupt, narcissistic and McCarthyist practice of silencing justified criticism of Haredim by means of shaming and calling the critics antisemites. Without such necessary criticism, the situation in this country won’t change, and people will continue to suffer needlessly.

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