The worldwide campaign against sexual harassment has had great success. Under the hashtag #MeToo, it won global consensus. Women denounced their harassers, and as a result, leading figures in the film and entertainment industries were forced to exit their glorious careers shamed and despised.
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The #MeToo campaign succeeded even though the denunciations didn’t receive any legal seal of approval, but relied solely on the testimony of women who supported each other. The confidence they displayed forged a new form of womanhood – one that exposes, fights and wins.
The fact that it’s possible to cast a spotlight on and reveal the heavy chains that both separate and bind men and women has a further implication: It’s possible that the #MeToo campaign could also serve the battle against other illnesses in the democratic world. For instance, it could be leveraged to fight discrimination and racism, which received a tailwind from the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and are now rearing their heads in other countries besides our own.
The rise and growing intensity of racism in the West has many reasons – political, economic and cultural. But that doesn’t mean we should simply accept it, because it’s liable to send the democratic world back to the early 20th century.
A #MeToo-style campaign against racism would publicly denounce any racist message, just as international sporting associations do. The guiding principle is that we must not legitimize any form of racism or discrimination, regardless of its reasons. Thus, for instance, discrimination against women must not be treated leniently even if it’s spearheaded by leading rabbis.
I’m not for a moment ignoring the facts that there are individuals and groups in Israel for whom racism is both their daily bread and the fruit of their labors, like the Lehava organization, or whose belief in the justice of discrimination, which they derive from Jewish sources, is entrenched in their characters and actions, such as the chief rabbi of Safed, Shmuel Eliyahu, and the rabbi of the settlement of Beit El, Shlomo Aviner. Nevertheless, waging a campaign against them under the slogan #MeToo, whose meaning in this context would be, “I, too, oppose discrimination and racism,” could reinforce norms which, even if they are subject to public debate, have power because they rest on the concepts of natural justice and belief in equality among all people – women, men, Arabs and Africans.
The new #MeToo won’t be gender-based. It will be for men and women alike. It also won’t be limited to people with certain political views, but will be a tool for expressing non-acceptance of an evil that is gathering strength.
Some will say such a comprehensive campaign contradicts religious beliefs, the desire to maintain Israel’s Jewish majority or the freedom to express any opinion or belief. But all these must be respected only as long as they don’t infringe on the natural right to equality, whose true expression is equality of opportunity.
The new campaign might not cause an earthquake the way its predecessor did, but it will provide a public platform for the battle against discrimination and racism. Granted, denouncing discrimination and racism won’t earn applause from all segments of society, but it will be hard to publicly oppose it if it is shorn of direct political context.
The campaign that denounced Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein must take on a new dimension and directly denounce anyone who makes the world more violent, racist and discriminatory.