"Even when we seek revenge, it is important to make one thing clear – the life of one yeshiva boy is worth more than the lives of 1,000 Arabs. "The Talmud states that if gentiles rob Israel of silver they will pay it back in gold, and all that is taken will be paid back in folds, but in cases like these there is nothing to pay back, since as I said – the life of one yeshiva boy is worth more than the lives of 1,000 Arabs," added Rabbi Eliyahu.And Sheikh Yunis al-Astal, from Steven Erlanger's piece on Hamas's anti-Judaism in the Times.
"The reason for the punishment of burning is that it is fitting retribution for what [the Jews] have done,” Mr. Astal wrote on March 13. “But the urgent question is, is it possible that they will have the punishment of burning in this world, before the great punishment” of hell? Many religious leaders believe so, he said, adding, “Therefore we are sure that the holocaust is still to come upon the Jews."And as for the Reverend Wright...well, I don't have to cite his statements, do I? The reactions to these statements range from enthusiastic support to unrelenting condemnation of the statement and the speaker, including calls for silencing him in some way. Somewhere in the middle, trying to juggle conflicting values and conflicting loyalties, thinking people may be found. How should they react to hatred and to offensive statements? As somebody who defines himself as liberal and orthodox (hence, a fundamentalist), here are some of my thoughts: 1. Don't assume that the speaker is articulating a well-thought-out and consistent ideology. Religious folks, like everybody else, hold inconsistent beliefs. That is because they are generally not that sophisticated and because their sources speak with many voices. The Talmud teaches "Righteous gentiles merit a place in the World-to-come" as well as "Kill the best of gentiles." What you hear depends on what best serves the immediate interests of the speaker. 2. Religious rhetoric is particularly inflammatory -- but don't assume that the cleric buys into the implications what he is saying, even when he says it. "Rabin is an informer"; "The Arabs are Amalek"; "The Jews are apes and pigs," etc., are not harmless statements; they can lead others to kill. But they are said all too often in the way reserved for unthinking people (or politicians.) 3. Try to find out about the context of the remarks. There is a big difference between a Palestinian making an anti-Semitic remark during the Second Intifada and a German making the same one during the Holocaust. Both are to be condemned, but the second is to be condemned more. It is one thing for Eliyahu to stand up at a funeral service and make an anti-Arab racist slur. That is bad -- but it could be worse were he not to make it at a time of stress, but at a time of relative peace and coexistence. I am not saying that anti-Semitism is hating Jews more than is strictly necessary (the bon mot attributed to Isaiah Berlin). But I do believe that what is particularly invidious about German anti-Semitism, besides its racism, is that in no way could the Jews be objectively viewed as responsible for the troubles of the Germans. 4. Avoid the human tendency to self-righteousness and smugness. Haaretz used to regularly feature on Sunday mornings some of the outrageous pearls of former Chief Rabbi Ovadyah Yosef in his public lecture the night before. Such statements reaffirmed the moral values and Jewish identity of the secularists, but were counter-productive in trying to engage his community in dialogue. 5. Realize that the inflammatory quotes are the result of cherry-picking. In Steven Erlanger's piece on Hamas' anti-Judaism, several quotes appear to have been supplied to him by Jewish and Israeli watchdog associations like MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch. Itamar Marcus and Yigal Carmon, both rightwingers, hunt the statements of Hamas as assiduosly as the Clinton campaign hunts the statements of Rev. Wright. It makes for good copy, but does not spread a lot of light. In my opinion, Steven Erlanger's piece on Hamas was a disappointment. He did not talk to a single expert on Hamas or on religious fundamentalism. Rather, like other liberals, he cherry-picked quotes that put Hamas in a very negative light. Is Hamas anti-Semitic? You bet you it is. Just read the charter. But is anti-Semitism at its core? No, at its core is Islamic fundamentalism and a Palestinian national movement. And anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism are not anti-Semitism. The way to dampen the anti-Semitic fervor of Hamas is to force it to confront the images of other Jews besides that of Occupier. And if that fails, do what one can to minimize their influence. Right now, Israel adopts policies that ensure the growth of Hamas.