Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Touchy feely chareidim

Occasionally one comes across a statement so audaciously outrageous, so leap-from-your-seat politically incorrect, so preposterously preposterous that you simply freeze on your first encounter. You then go back to the beginning of the sentence to make sure you actually read those words. Still reeling from incredulity that such sentiments could be uttered in our prejudice-free era you reread the paragraph, restart the article and even check the cover of the book or masthead of the paper to ensure that the context, the tone, key and pitch of the words which so profane all our sancrosanctities are not only there and carry their usual meaning but were actually intended to mean as they do.

Such were the words in Geoffrey Alderman's article in last week's JC which I reproduce here in their full glory.

It is, however, well known that charedi men are notorious harassers of the opposite sex.

And then when you finally thaw and are sitting comfortably again you are at a loss at how to respond? What does one do and say in such instances? Pitch tents outside the JC's offices or Mr Alderman's home with banners reading 'members of the opposite sex welcome?' They'll just use it as further proof of our roving fingers. Initiate a chesed campaign of holding doors open for the fairer sex to show what a gallant and chivalrous lot we are? For goodness sake we don't even look at them so how are to we know when they're coming and going. Perhaps get the Neturei Karta involved to walk to Trafalgar Square on Shabbos with banners pinned to their bekitshes, 'Chareidi and not Harraser'. Or, preferably, 'WE FRESS NOT HARASS'.

Alderman is a man of many talents but impartiality is unfortunately not one of them. Let us not forget that Alderman is also the columnist who publicly rejoiced at the brutal murder of a peace activist because he happened to favour the Palestinian cause. There appears to be nothing the Israeli government can do that will condemn them in Alderman's eyes and nothing chareidim can do to win them his praise. Heaven help us were a similar sweeping statement to have been made against Israelis. You'd have Melanie Phillips squalling in the shrillest tone she has yet to muster and Alderman himself collapsing apoplectically from his perch smothering Jonathan Freedland below him. Yet when it comes to the frummers you can malign, slander and impugn us with impunity and none of the Jewish anti-bigotry campaigners on the left and media obsessives on the right will take up cudgels on our behalf.

But before the unnaturally gifted columnists of the Hamodia and Tribune indignantly dip their quivering quills in their seething inkpots it is worth considering what leads a commentator to make such a sweeping statement. As outrageous as it may be the fact of the matter is that tales of harassment, child abuse, violence, fraud and a whole panoply of crimes are reported against chareidim with increasing frequency such that they are hardly news items any longer. Yet they are met with total silence from chareidi leaders and press.

When a London couple were arrested in Israel last year for allegedly abusing and trying to abduct their daughter, Tehilim was recited for the suspects and the victim was instantly declared mad and wayward. In Israel violent demonstration have been held in defence of murderers and abusers often with the tacit if not express support of some leaders. Yet these leaders are not shy of heaping a curse or two for anything from the misdemeanour of too short a skirt to the cardinal sin of possessing a blackberry.

Besides, without getting too talmudical about it, Alderman didn't say sexual harassers but merely harassers. In my shul on simchas torah small kids were slamming doors and knotting curtains in front of adult women to block their view of the men's dancing. In other shuls women were yelled at and threatened for not clearing the exit. From young girls to adult women, the opposite sex are constantly made to feel that there isn't a malady in the world that hasn't been caused by their lapses in tznius and which won't be cured by an inch on the skirt and off the sheitel respectively. One would indeed require a heavy dose of talmudic ingenuity to argue that these are not forms of harassment.

So before our apologists and 'spokesmen' get onto their soapboxes and cry wolf yet again they may wish to reflect how their whitewashing over the years has led to criminals feeling safe in the knowledge that they can always rely on support from the home side, while those on the outside will not believe a word uttered in our defence. We revere the leaders who lead us astray and by our reverence and blind obedience we come to be tarred with the crimes they condone by their silence and inaction when not by their express approval and encouragement.


Anonymous said...

The quote in full is "It is, however, well known that charedi men are notorious harassers of the opposite sex. In Israel and in theUnited States there have been numerous instances of inappropriate conduct.. "

The implication here clearly is sexual impropriety, with Alderman being the vile dinosaur that he now appears to be, shying away from being "explicit".

Anonymous said...

Now, how is Ben Yitzchok going to refute the Alderman contention without referring to his statement or even its implication if he won't mention half the population that doesn't exist?

Anonymous said...

Anon 2 here is how with this email doing the rounds:

Please forward to as many people as you can. and send the following or similar to:

To the Press Complaints Commision.

Professor Geoffrey Alderman in the UK's Jewish Chronicle ( wrote an article on October 28, 2011 entitled "Freedom: the right to be unfair.", stating that it was well known that Charedi men are notorious harassers of women, citing a few sad but isolated serious incidents as evidence. Charedi Jews are a heterogeneous religious group consisting more than a million members worldwide and more than 40,000 strong in the UK. Needless to say Professor Alderman's claim is unfounded, defamatory and discriminatory.

I believe that Professor Alderman and the JC are in contravention of the PCC Code of Practice, 1 Accuracy. and code 12 Discrimination.

I am deeply offended by this inaccurate and discriminatory claim. Please investigate this article.

Yours Sincerely


and the following to:

Dear Editor,

Professor Geoffrey Alderman in the UK's Jewish Chronicle wrote an article last week which appeared in your paper, stating that it was "well known that charedi men are notorious harassers of women, citing a few sad but isolated serious incidents as evidence. Professor Alderman's claim is unfounded, defamatory and discriminatory.

I am outraged that a Jewish professor in a Jewish newspaper would print such statements, and call for Professor Alderman's suspension as writer for the JC pending the results a full investigation into Professor Alderman's continuously hateful conduct towards Charedi Jewry as a whole, and in particular with reference to his October 28, 2011 article entitled "Freedom: the right to be unfair."

Yours Sincerely


Moish said...

Why is is so hard for people here to come up with pseudonyms and stick with them? We're not going to figure out which seat you daven in in 69 or Reb Chuna's just because you've written a comment here!

Anonymous said...

He is absolutely right, women are treated as second class citizens in the charedi sector.

And this is inspired by the teachings of the Talmud wish is full of anti women views, and in the Torah too, a classic example is the Genesis fairy tale where Eve is blamed for seducing Adam to eat from the tree of knowledge, and it says והוא ימשול בך and he [man] will rule over you.

Anonymous said...

Commission’s decision in the case of
X v Jewish Chronicle

The complainant considered that the reference to Charedi men being notorious harassers of the opposite sex could not be substantiated. He stated that there were people who harassed women in every country but to suggest that a particular subsection of World Jewry was particularly guilty of such behaviour was inaccurate.

The Commission firstly considered the complaint under the terms of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code which states that the press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information and whilst free to be partisan must clearly distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact.

The column was written in the first person and the Commission was satisfied that readers would understand that it reflected the personal views and experiences of the columnist. It acknowledged that the complainant strongly objected to the suggestion that Charedi men were notorious harassers of the opposite sex; however, it was satisfied that readers would be aware that this comment reflected the columnist’s own opinion. It was accepted that there had been media coverage of Charedi men harassing women and it was the newspaper’s position that this coverage demonstrated that they had an aversion to women. The complainant did not accept that a few isolated acts of harassment could substantiate a claim of notoriety, especially in this context. While the Commission acknowledged the complainant’s position, and understood that readers could find the comment objectionable, it had to have regard to the fact that there was no obvious or available means of testing a hypothesis of notoriety, it was ultimately the author’s interpretation based on recent media coverage. The newspaper had demonstrated that the columnist’s views were based on the recent media coverage surrounding the topic, and indeed the article itself had stated that “In Israel and the United States there have been numerous instances of inappropriate conduct by Charedi men towards women”. The Commission was satisfied that the claim had been presented as the opinion of the columnist based on recent media coverage, and while some readers would not agree with the comment, this did not render the article a breach of the Code.

Anonymous said...

In addition, the complainant stated that there was no evidence to support the claim that Charedi men were more likely to harass women than any other section of the general populace. However, the Commission noted that the columnist had not claimed that Charedi men were, as a group, more likely to commit acts of harassment against women, but rather that they were notorious for committing such acts. As such, the Commission did not establish a breach of the Code on this aspect of the complaint. The Commission also considered the complaint under the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Code, which states that newspapers must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability. The clause does not cover references to groups or categories of people. In this instance, the article did not make a prejudicial or pejorative reference to the religion of a particular individual, but rather expressed the columnist’s views on Charedi men in general. While the Commission understood the concerns raised by the complainant, it did not establish that Clause 12 (i) of the Code had been breached.

The Commission acknowledged that the complainant found the article offensive; however, it made clear that the terms of the Editors’ Code of Practice do not address issues of taste and offence. The Code is designed to address the potentially competing rights of freedom of expression and other rights of individuals, such as privacy. Newspapers and magazines have editorial freedom to publish what they consider to be appropriate provided that the rights of individuals – enshrined in the terms of the Code which specifically defines and protects these rights – are not compromised. To come to an inevitably subjective judgement as to whether such material is tasteless or offensive would amount to the Commission acting as a moral arbiter, which can lead to censorship. It could not, therefore, comment on this aspect of the complaint further.

Chris Paget
Complaints Officer

Press Complaints Commission
Halton House
20/23 Holborn
London EC1N 2JD

Tel: 020 7831 0022