Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jewish jihad

It looks like Ynet made this headline up. And heaven knows they never miss an opportunity to bash the haredim. But as opportunities go, this is a doozie. And Ynet gets it exactly right.* It's Jewish jihad.

Less than 24 hours before the Jerusalem Pride Parade kicks off, authorities are growing increasingly concerned of possible acts of violence at the hands of extremist groups.

Poster hung throughout the capital's streets called on Jerusalem's residents to "commit their souls" against "the abomination parade" and stone those taking part in it.

The posters were allegedly signed by Yishai Schlissel, who stabbed and wounded three participants of the May 2006 Jerusalem Pride Parade. He was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 12 years in prison. It is unclear, however, whether his signature is genuine. The identity of those behind the posters remains unknown.

"I call on those loyal to the king to commit their souls, their freedom, and their being to fight against the will of the evil to have an abomination parade," the letter said. "Now is the time of reckoning – who will be faithful to the King and who will abandon the battle out of personal interests."

So much for the decision the haredi community announced last week to ignore the parade and forego the publicity it usually gets. Of course, the people involved in this "protest" are pretty much the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe. And it gets worse.

Earlier in the day Jerusalem city councilman Sa'ar Netanel, who is also one of the most prominent leaders of Israel's GLBT community, received an envelope filled with an unidentified white powder to his office along with a news article clipping about the parade. Police were alerted to the scene and launched an investigation.

Following the incident Netanel told Ynet he was "already used to receiving various threats every year.

"In the past there have been envelopes with threats, phone calls, 'pashkevilim' (street posters) calling for my death. This year was an innovation though. It's the first time I have received powder. But it never deterred me in the past and I will not be deterred this year as either. All of this just proves how necessary it is to hold the parade in Jerusalem."

I'm still on the fence about how "necessary" it is to hold this parade in Jerusalem every year. In some respects, I can understand objections to holding any parade that is primarily about (or appears to some to be primarily about) sexuality in a city that so many consider holy. The fact is, though, that its participants and proponents believe and intend this parade to be about love, integrity and tolerance. And their opponents' objections are based primarily in hate, bigotry and intolerance. No one can even begin to convince me that the behavior incited and threatened above has anything whatsoever to do with Judaism or spirituality. As the headline says, it's jihad. With all that implies.

And that makes it pretty much a no-brainer for me. Whether or not holding the parade in Jerusalem is "necessary," it's right.

*Update: OTOH, it's possible that this is Ynet up to its usual tricks again. Or that Ynet itself was a willing dupe of someone (else) with an anti-haredi agenda. No other source has carried this story that I can find. And the more I look at it, the more totally nuts it sounds. So a healthy dose of skepticism is advised.