This Style Does Not Work

Happy days are here again for secular politicians and journalists, with all the talk of a consensus against the ultra-Orthodox, who do not study a core curriculum and who go on to not join the workforce and not serve in the army.

But it is not that simple. There is no real link between core subjects and joining the labor force, and certainly not with military service. There are many jobs for which core subjects are not required. More to the point, as we see in the Arab community, for whose education the state spends even less, even a fine higher education is no guarantee of employment. Masses of Arab university graduates (and Ethiopian immigrants, too ) are jobless because no one will hire them, because of their ethnic origin.

Moreover, given the hatred of Haredim, there is a concern that were they to enter the labor market, particularly in management positions and the technology sector, they would draw resentment and anger for "taking" good jobs. Tzipi Livni, speaking on the subject, said that action must be taken "before the situation is translated into mutual hatred that will not lead to a solution." Regrettably, hatred, hostility, and total distrust of Haredim have been around for a long time.

Even if not everyone hates them personally - of course there are those who do not, because they know some particular Haredim - the tone and the language used by secular politicians and media outlets in connection with the ultra-Orthodox are those of hatred.

Even if some of their claims have merit, there is no mistaking the intensity of the holy, righteous rage with which they lash out against the Haredim.

Dudi Zilbershlag, an ultra-Orthodox journalist, advertising executive and public figure, wrote an opinion piece in which he compared the ways in which Haredim are negatively depicted in the media to the methods used by anti-Semites to depict Jews negatively. He quoted Max Nordau's dictum: "Hatred of the Jew is not the outcome of anti-Semitic lie and calumny. The contrary is true: the lie and calumny are the outcome of anti-Semitic sentiments."

The fact that it is considered completely legitimate to call the Haredim "extortionists" exemplifies the attitude toward them. The Haredi political parties conduct coalition negotiations like all parties, looking after their interests. In today's capitalistic climate, those who grab whatever they can for themselves at the expense of others are generally admired, not accused of extortion.

It is clear why secular politicians blame the Haredim for their own weakness and readiness to pay any price to promote their own interests, such as holding on to the territories or to their jobs. It is a little less clear why the secular public buys these accusations and allows itself to be incited and consumed by hatred.

Hatred of the Haredim is not new - and thanks to [the defunct political party] Shinui, which did some very nice work in that area. It is bigotry, pure and simple, and like all bigotry it takes a few unique characteristics and then attributes them to its target group.

Many things must be done to bring Haredim into Israeli life as productive members of society. But as long as the talk of what should and should not be done with Haredi society is accompanied by so much bigotry, no constructive progress is possible.