Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tyranny of the Minority

Tyranny of the minority. You’re all familiar with Alexis de Tocqueville’s concern about the viability of democracy with the ever present looming threat of the tyranny of the majority. But what about the tyranny of the minority. In America there are enough safeguards in place to protect democratic society against tyranny regardless if it is perpetrated by the majority or the minority.

In Israel however, while there are enough legislative and judicial systems in place to protect society from the tyranny of the majority; sadly however, systems aren’t in place to safeguard against the tyranny of the minority. The concern is not over a coalition of minority parties into an amalgam by which parliamentary control is achieved, because that is precisely the nature of the democratic system in Israel. The apprehension is with those agencies that operate outside of the political consensus. Normally fringe groups such as Mishmeret Tzniut wouldn’t be of concern, but when their tactics become acceptable and mainstreamed within their own community then there is concern for the viability of democratic values.

Recently the police in Israel began a crackdown on members of Mishmeret Tznius because of the terror they have perpetrated on behalf of the haredi community in Jerusalem. It is one thing for the Mishmeret Tznius to institute mehadrin bus service by having women ride in the back of the bus. These are dedicated bus lines for the haredi community and while it is unconscionable and humiliating not only for the victims and perpetrators but to all Jews, it still may not have crossed the line. However, when their conduct becomes violent and spills over into the larger community, democratic values are threatened. Harassment, inflicting bodily harm, assault and battery on those who don’t conform to haredi standards is more than criminal; it is the tyranny of the minority!

Mishmeret Tznius is nothing more than the vigilante squads condoned and supported by the haredi establishment intent on ensuring the “modesty of society” something akin to Taliban squads gone wild in Afghanistan. Vaad L’maan Tohar Hamachane, the “Council for the Purity of the Camp” sounds creepy but is for real. They are one of the better known modesty squads out there roaming the streets of Jerusalem created by the infamous Meir Safranovitch, blessed and backed by the Gerrer Hassidim. These aren’t nice people.

One of the members, Binyomin Meirovitch was detained by the police for the bloody beating of a divorced woman. So much for the injunction against violence of “al tarimu yaad”. He and six others including the nefarious Elchanan Buzaglo beat the defenseless woman to a pulp by swinging a bat to bludgeon her. Apparently her ex-husband not being able to convince her to behave more “modestly” paid the squad $2000.00 to pummel her. Imagine it wasn’t even done l’shem shamayim, but for money. To add insult to injury the haredi community defended Meirovitch and his thugs – should I be shocked? Shmuel Popenheim, spokesman for the Eda Haredit commented that “…when the iniquities are taking place right next door, anybody in their right mind would do what it takes to put an end to the madness.”

What kind of “right minded people” would justify hired violence (“hit men”) against a divorced defenseless woman by her husband, simply because her standard of behavior no longer conforms to his? The real madness is that although they are no longer married he still considers his ownership of her in tact. The madness is that he would probably treat a dog better than a human. This group and all those complicit have redefined and given new meaning to hilul hashem.