Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fascists Of Israel



Agudas Yisroel could, l'mayseh, do a lot more for the sake of its own name - to try to unify, or at least to diminish the estrangement and animosity between the different factions claiming the exclusive rights for authentic Judaism. Rabbi Mark Dratch of J-Safe said in an interview (regarding the Mondrowitz sodomy case): “…As an outsider to the Catholic Church, it seems to me that there is an infrastructure or a hierarchy and they have the mechanism, they really do have the mechanism to effect systemic change in a much easier way in a much more efficient way and a much quicker way because of that hierarchy,” Dratch said. “In the Orthodox world, we don’t have such a hierarchy. There is no pope and there are no levels of responsibility and answerability.” Dratch said there is no way to really gauge how widespread the problem is in the community, “because of this conspiracy of silence.”

And here lies the real problem, in my humble opinion. No centralized authority means no one to answer to. And no one to answer to means anarchy. Of course, compared to out and out anarchy we aren't doing too bad, but that of course is not what we want to measure our standards against. Even if we can't immediately achieve idyllic harmony among our entire nation, there is still ample room for improvement in the current situation. But since it is easier and more comfortable to run a small, tightly knit community without having to answer to anyone but G-d, - and the standards for that answerability are self-set - membership in the central organizations is mostly nominal, and de-facto ineffective from the broader community's standpoint. In other words, most leaders/Rabbonim in the Agudah, RCA or UJC tend to look after their own respective communities than the collective good of Klal Yisroel.

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Fascist and Fascism nowadays have become words epitomizing the sum of all evil. The strongest expression to attack, denigrate and voice contempt of someone is "Fascist", and has become a synonym of Nazi, and all totalitarian, racist regimes. But in fact, quite little is being taught about real Fascism, and who the Fascists really were. The only bona-fide Fascist government in History was Benito Mussolini’s Italy, wherein a very large numbers of Jews were party members, even prior to the war. After Hitler demanded the enacting of race laws in Italy, most Jews were made nominal members of the party, in order to escape race laws. Even the Italian anti-Semitic party was opposed to the extermination and deportation of Jews to Germany. Not that Mussolini’s alliance with Hitler is in any way forgivable, but these little details haven’t made it into most history textbooks, neither to most Jews’ consciousness either. In fact, Hannah Arendt’s book The Origins of Totalitarianism, considered as one of the definitive works on political theory in general and totalitarianism specifically, traces Nazism and Communism –but not Fascism- to a common root.

The literal meaning of fasces is Italian for bundle (or brindle)- implying power through unity, inspired by popular legend wherein a father on his deathbed summoned his sons, and gave each a brindle and ordered them to break it, which they easily did. He then instructed them to try breaking a bundle of brindles - in which they couldn't succeed. The obvious lesson was that keeping together would save them from harm.

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Although the Agudah’s national public policy position paper is generally good, valid, and acceptable to most Orthodox Jews, (although many points are quite debatable) it is a pity that the organization is so distant from the Jewish community itself, and the immediate interests of the community at large. Instead of pushing for pro-Israel, anti-abortion, human rights, social services etc., the Agudah could in fact carry an internal, or pan-Jewish, policy containing guidelines regarding batei-din, educational institutions and such. This would probably diminish a great deal the multitudes of small batei-din ignoring and invalidating each other, which is a major factor in the large numbers of agunos, heterei agunos, heteri meah rabbonim and such. Or at least to raise awareness to those problems in their publications, to push for unity and end the sinas-chinom induced meshigassen.

And since our good friends the "Progressives" (whether reform, far left, pseudo-orthodox, anti-religious “frei” or any other Jew-haters) anyway accuse us of being fascists, we might as well live up to the literal meaning of that word - and in fact the name of one of the most important Orthodox Jewish organizations - Agudas Yisroel.