Archive for December 2010
Chaim Amsellem was certainly not the first Israeli Parliament member to suggest that most ultra-Orthodox men should work rather than receive welfare subsidies for full-time Torah study. But when he did so last month, the nation took notice: He is a rabbi, ultra-Orthodox himself, whose outspokenness ignited a fresh, and fierce, debate about the rapid growth of the ultra-religious in Israel.
“Torah is the most important thing in the world,” Rabbi Amsellem said in an interview. But now more than 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men in Israel do not work, compared to 15 percent in the general population, and he argued that full-time, state-financed study should be reserved for great scholars destined to become rabbis or religious judges.
“Those who are not that way inclined,” he said, “should go out and earn a living.”
In reaction, he was ousted from his own ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, whose leaders vilified him with such venom that he was assigned a bodyguard. The party newspaper printed a special supplement describing Rabbi Amsellem as “Amalek,” the biblical embodiment of all evil.
Though watch what you ask for: once the ultra-Orthodox join the labor force and no longer are so dependent on state subsidies, they’ll more more politically influential, not less. Those who pay the piper are more assertive in their demands.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — who recently claimed his goal was to deny Obama a second term — reportedly reacted with disgust when he read Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer’s recent suggestion that he oppose the package because it would lower unemployment “and easily be the difference between victory and defeat in 2012.”
Said one person close to McConnell: “We’re not going to bet against the economy. If it helps Obama, so be it. We’ll do it. Who gives a s–t?”
I think intransigent partisanship is too often dismissed. It may be a sign of a healthy political debate. But, at the end of the day politics is politics. It is not the ends, it is the means.
Tax cuts. Keep entitlements. No mandate. But no discrimination based on pre-existing conditions! Cheap goods & services. No outsourcing! Cheap labor. No immigration. High wage jobs. Great benefits and time off.
Cross-posted over at the Corner:
An Islamic suicide bomber who attacked Christmas shoppers in Sweden at the weekend is a British university graduate and was living in [the UK] until two weeks ago. Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly tried to set off a car bomb packed with gas canisters in a busy shopping street in Stockholm. The car caught fire and the bomber fled the scene before blowing himself up 300yd away 15 minutes later, injuring two bystanders.
It emerged last night that Abdulwahab, who was due to turn 29 yesterday, is a former physical therapy student at Bedfordshire University in Luton, and that his wife and three young children still live in the town. MI5 is now investigating possible links with extremists in Luton, whether the bomber was radicalised at the university and claims that he was helped by an extremist group in Yemen, the base for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The suicide bombing follows an attempt by Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, a former student at University College London, to blow himself up last Christmas on a flight to Detroit.
Abdulmutallab had trained in Yemen, but had become increasingly radical during his time in Britain. The security services and police are concerned that British university campuses have become breeding grounds for extremism…
[Al-Abdaly] had recently advertised on a Muslim dating site for a second wife, saying he was looking for a “lady 25-30 who lives in UK for marriage”. The site, Muslima.com, said he was born in Baghdad, Iraq, and moved to Sweden in 1992 and then to Britain in 2001 to study for a degree in physical therapy, marrying in 2004.
On his Facebook page, he included a group called Yawm al-Qiyaamah, meaning Day of Judgment, that featured a montage of Tower Bridge in flames.
President Obama doesn’t mention God frequently enough in his speeches, a group of religious House Republicans said in an open letter to the president, chastising him for skipping over mention of the “Creator,” especially in a recent overseas address.
Forty-two members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus complained in a letter sent to the White House Monday that in a speech delivered last month in Indonesia, the president substituted the U.S.’s religious-themed national motto for a more secular alternative.
The letter suggests the speech was not an isolated incident but part of a series of remarks that “establishes a pattern” of the president intentionally excluding talk of God from his public remarks.
The prayer caucus members who signed the letter, however, neglected to mention that in the Indonesia speech, Obama mentioned God four times.
As I noted in my review of Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth (also see John Derbyshire’s review) “In 1960 15 percent of elementary age students in Israel were Arab or Haredi. In 2010 ~50%….” Additionally, while the Arab Israel TFR has been dropping, that of the ultra-Orthodox has not. In 2001 30% of births in Israel were to Arab Israelis. In 2008 25% were. The difference was a function of dropping Arab fertility combined with no decrease among the ultra-Orthodox. Projecting current trends 40 years the Haredi will be a majority of Israelis. I don’t think this projection is reasonable though, at some point the lack of proportionate Haredi participation in the labor force will result in a fiscal crisis and the Israeli nation will have to restructure itself.
Via the Daily Telegraph, here’s just another story that gives some clues of the unfortunate direction in which the rise of the Ultra-Orthodox may be taking Israel:
Over the past week, fierce forest fires have devastated large swathes of Israel, killing 42 people – including the country’s most senior female police officer. So you could be forgiven for thinking that the emergency services needed all the help they could lay their hands on.
It is not hard to imagine the firefighters’ anger – and disbelief – on discovering that the country’s interior minister, Eli Yishai, had rejected an offer by a Christian charity in North America to donate some fire engines. Given that the country often struggles to provide adequate cover during such emergencies, the proposal by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews could have made a vital contribution to the attempts to bring the fires under control.
But Mr Yishai, who represents the ultra-Orthodox Shas party in the ruling coalition, had other ideas. Shas, which speaks for Israel’s burgeoning ultra-Orthodox community, is deeply suspicious of non-Jewish organisations, even those that are committed to Israel’s well-being. Many of its supporters fear any help offered by Christian groups is part of some sinister plot to convert the Jews.
So Mr Yishai vetoed the American charity’s offer – and in doing so, further inflamed tensions between more secular-minded Israelis, who form the majority of the population, and the religious hardliners whose growing influence over government policy is a source of mounting friction between the communities. The anger only grew when Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas, publicly declared that the fires were divine retribution for the failure of secular Israelis to observe the Sabbath…
it’s worth keeping in mind that, while Mr. Yishai may come across as just another paranoiac religious cultist in a Middle East full of such folk, he is also the interior minister of what is meant to be America’s main security partner in the region.
It continues to be difficult to be optimistic about what the future may have in store for that part of the world.
So how will the right-wing conceit that Obama represents an eruption of radicalism so alien and extreme as to lie outside of any American political tradition survive the left-wing attack on Obama for preserving the Bush tax cuts and other betrayals of the left’s agenda? Easily. By ignoring the contradiction. Rush Limbaugh today gloatingly read from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s op-ed in the Washington Post blasting Obama for his compromises with Republicans. Limbaugh noted that Obama appears committed to winning in Afghanistan and that he has yet to close Gitmo, then added: And of course the Right criticizes Obama for trying to destroy America with his left-wing agenda. If Limbaugh discerned any tension between these two positions, he did not let on.