Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Spitting on Reporters

Recently, this article was in the news. In brief: ABC's Middle East Correspondent Anne Barker finds herself amidst rioting Yerushalmis; to her disgust, humiliation and anger, they shower her with spit.


You and I have no idea whether the story is true or a complete fabrication, or (my guess) a broad exaggeration of a tiny bit of truth. The allegations have not one drop of supporting evidence, nor one other witness. Has this reporter earned our trust in the past? Has this reporter done anything more than broadcast simple, destructive, Lashon Hara? Is there any basis or logic to trust this reporter's claims? (These are rhetorical questions. The answers are: No; No; and, No.) Since a claim that the fascist blackshirts (not an error) had destroyed her recording devices would strain credulity, she says that her tape and video recorder mysteriously didn't work.... You don't have to be a Freudian to see the subtext of sexual assault in her description of a group of aggressive, bearded men violating a woman by drenching her with spit, and it's truly hard to parse the hysteria from the objective reportage. But "the truth" is not relevant to the effect of newspaper reports. Once the article is printed, the effect is irreversible. So, arguendo, let's assume that the events described in the article actually happened.

Assuming that some truth lies at the bottom of the article, this was a terrible disgrace, a chillul hashem. The article scathingly presents these Yerushalmis as an ugly gang of backward and filthy religious zealots. The reporter was understandably disgusted, and she reacted by using all her journalistic skills to portray her anger and disdain, from descriptions of primitive religious fanaticism, to her fear of physical injury, to malodorous mouths. Well, anyone who is spat upon is entitled to respond in kind, and that, essentially, is what she does in her article- she spits back.

Someone pointed out to me that if she had found herself in a similarly inflamed mob in Gaza, it would have been stones, and in Saudi Arabia it would have been rods and whips. And the reaction would have been "well, it was only stones...."

These Yerushalmis were, as I said, a mob inflamed by the heat of the protest. They live a cloistered life that has gone unchanged for hundreds of years, a life of complete immersion in their traditional behavior and morality, and they know very well that just a few miles south, in Tel Aviv, is a population that hates what they stand for and that ardently desires to inflict a hedonistic, amoral, and anti-religious lifestyle on them. Unlike Pennsylvania, where the Amish are left alone to live in their traditional way, in Israel no one has learned the lesson of "live and let live." Anyone who has lived there will tell you that people can't rest without acting out their animosity to those who have beliefs that are different than theirs. A traditionally garbed Yerushalmi would elicit sneers and shoves if he were to go to certain malls in Tel Aviv or Eilat, and indeed they stay away from places where they are not welcome. On the other hand, it is a predictable and never failing certainty that irreligious people will intentionally drive as close as possible to the chareidi neighborhoods in Yerushalayim on Shabbos, and stroll wearing clothing diametrically antithetic to modesty, with the specific intent of upsetting and demeaning "those adukim," those zealots.

If they were great lowland apes in a wildlife preserve in Rwanda, harassed and traumatized by jeering, leering tourists, they would get far more media sympathy than these people get

Once again; it was a terrible chillul hashem and counterproductive to boot. But it would have been nice if one iota of sympathy or empathy had been evidenced by the media. Now, let's see, what would a level headed, even handed article look like....

Long demonized by virulent antipathy of the mainstream media for their traditional lifestyle and beliefs, this was, for them, the last straw. A new mayor had been elected, who, it was hoped, would maintain Jerusalem's delicate detente between the anti-religious left and the ancient non-Zionist Ultra-Orthodox community. But when the mayor opened a city parking lot on the Sabbath, it became clear to the traditional Jerusalemites that their community was in the cross-hairs. Tel Aviv, the anything-goes seaside city famous for its nightlife and unabashed exhibitionism, was on the march, and would not rest until all of Jerusalem was "liberated." Anger simmered, protests were organized, and, with all the ingredients primed for an explosion, events were brought to a head when violent confrontation broke out between the truncheon swinging riot police and the unarmed protesters.

This reporter had the misfortune to fall afoul of a small group of protesters, who, in the manner of adrenaline-stoked activists since time immemorial, vented their anger on the interloper. In retrospect, I think their choice of weapon was, in a sense, quaint. Having dodged half-tracks and bullets and clubs, I can report that being spat upon left me feeling soiled and humiliated, but it also left me shaking my head at the innocence of these Davids facing down mounted riot police looking for heads to split. All things considered, I prefer spitting to splitting.


  1. I am going to add my two cents to this argument with a D'var Torah on this week's Parsha.
    How did Moshe "forget" this Halacha of "KANOIM POIGIM BOI"?
    A Further question on Moshe also after Pinchas asks him didn't you say "KANOIM POIGIM BOI" he says "oh yeah I did say that, but you do it". Why didn't Moshe jump up and kill him himself? He could have prevented the whole Lashon Hara about Pinchas. Where they questioned his Yichus saying he was the child of a man who was a priest for Avodah Zarah. They said he should not be the one to kill off a Nasi Bi'yisroel.
    The answer is there are two types of people the Kanoim and the regular people. There are also two types of leaders Moshe had to be of the Non-Kanois variety. In the Gemara You Have Shamai and Hillel. It can be said Shamai was a Kanoi and Hillel was not. The Gemara says you should always be like Hillel and Not like Shamai does that mean the Shamai approach was wrong? No at certain times each approach is needed. Then there has to be recognition that Kanois is important too in fact it is essential. It is known that Rav Kook used to say the only reason he can be what he is because of Reb Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld and his Kanois. His Frumkeit allows me to be more Liberal. When the nephew of Reb Sonnenfeld came to Reb Kook for a Bracha for his Chasunah Rav Kook told him as a Cohen I can give you A Bracha as for a Bracha from a Tzaddik You must go to your Uncle".
    The people of Yerushalayim long taking the approach of Reb Sonnenfeld of Kanois is it the wrong approach NO is it for Americans also NO. But then there are people who sit here in America and Pass Judgment it is funny. They don’t know the reality on the ground how the fear of theses so called Chillul Hashem Riots has prevented the Israeli Government from doing things that are way worse and how they see a weakening they will see it as an opportunity to take it to the next level. Let us just remember this is the same government who kidnapped children to save them from their backwards RELIGIOUS parents they know no limits. Remember "Yoselleh ".Where the Israeli government just went into random houses and Randomly Beat people looking for "evidence" so if you looked Yerushalmi you are guilty by affiliation(and the same thing happened in Satmar in Yerushalayim Three years ago). Read the current Knesset members' statements that say that when they see the RELIGIOUS people the Understand why Hitler did what he did. These are people who unfortunately require this exactly "ZEH LEUMAS ZEH" so I am calling everyone to arms against the Israeli government ABASLOUTELY NOT. BUT RECOGNIZE THE OTHER SIDE.

  2. You might be interested in the comments in isreallycool.com for July 8 at 6:25PM and the text of the complaint letter filed against the ABC reporter.

    Do you have ANY evidence that there was even a scintilla of truth in the negative aspects of Anne Barker's reporting?

  3. To the anonymous who wrote above that the threat of riots stops the government from doing worse things I have a simple question. How did spitting on the reporter help? The government fears the riots, I agree with that. The riots probably do stop the government from doing worse things. How does spitting on a reporter help?