Friday, October 29, 2010

madrassas and yeshivas

For years Americans have had the madrassa, or Islamic school, held out to them as the birthplace of terrorism. Pictures of very young boys chanting the Qur'an in chorus along with the knowledge that the intolerant Taliban are the product of such schooling is indeed upsetting - a rejection of our value on the individual and the use of rational judgment.

But the news from Israel is hardly reassuring. In that country, religious zealotry and right-wing fanaticism are growing and have been for many years. The yeshivas, or Jewish religious schools, are turning out fanatics with a very restricted view of the world and the state is in favor of it. Yeshiva students have their expenses paid by the state in contrast to secular schooling where students must come up with their tuition. Could there be anything more un-American?

Religious political parties hold power in the current government coalition. The leader of one of those parties, Shas, has declared that non-Jews are born to serve Jews. He has also said that Palestinians should "perish from the world".

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has noted the increasing proportion of officers in the IDF that are from the yeshivas, now almost a third of the total, and the population of settlers in the occupied territories is increasingly made up of the religious. I have also heard that the Israeli police are now seeking recruits in the settlements. We can confidently expect more such stories as this one reporting IDF recruits refusing to evacuate settlers.

In contrast to the depiction of madrassas, I haven't seen any of the foregoing information on the religious Jews in Israel prominent in the U.S. news. This is remarkable because the founders of the United States were very concerned about mixing religion and politics and took care to keep church and state separate. Religion, of whatever kind, lends itself to extremism and intolerance simply out of the refusal to accept other views than its own.

Israel was quite secular in early years but now it is heading toward intolerance with a will as a detailed article on legislation before the Knesset reveals.

All of this is reason for concern, but it has not stopped one dollar of American money or one item of American weaponry, or one pause in protection for Israel by the U.S. in the U.N. from proceeding. We still heard continually of how much Israel has in common with America.

I was frightened by Joe Biden's remark that there is "no daylight between American and Israel". It prompted the start of this blog. Biden is not stupid, nor is he a right-wing ideologue. He is, however, keenly aware of the layout of political power so speaks as he does. The vice-president of the United States unable to speak truthfully about a foreign country. This sobering thought should get you and I moving to reduce the power of the Israel lobby ASAP.

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