by Rabbi Jeremy Rosen
I have added a PS on the Weekly Torah Reading.
I have a love-hate relationship with the New York Review of Books. I love the range of articles and reviews on literature and culture. They provide me with a feast of information and ideas. But I hate the political biases of many of its writers. It might have the best of intentions and some valid points, but the relentless, one-sided, politically correct pursuit of its agenda leads it to lie and betray the very ideals it purports to maintain, namely free and objective speech. Like the New York Times, it is convinced that its view is the one and only Holy Grail and all others are dishonest. Whether it was Nazism or Communism, they have a record of turning a blind eye to both. And now it is anti-Israelism. And they probably do not even realize how toxic they are.
Do you think I am crazy? Here is a small but typical example of the sort of bias I mean. In April 2021 the New York Review of Books published a harrowing piece called Me too in Egypt and Morocco by Ursula Lindsey. The article is about sexual abuse and rape which are commonplace within the male-dominated Muslim world. Lindsey deals specifically with recent cases in Egypt and Morocco where women were abused recently by males that protected by their wealth, status, and connections. As well as the culture that treats women as sexual objects and inferior class citizens. There was a time when secularism brought improvement to women’s lives in the Arab and Muslim world, but the revival of religious fundamentalism has turned the clock back.
Lindsey describes the recurring pattern of police reluctance to investigate, let alone charge. They invariably do not believe the woman. The male will claim it was consensual. The women will be accused of sexual impropriety and be subjected to a medical examination to prove they were not virgins (as if that should make any difference in a fair society). The victim will be blamed and ostracized. Her family will accuse her of heaping shame upon them by going public. In many cases, she will be forced to marry her rapist.
Lindsey tells the story of a campaign initiated by Nadeen Ashraf, a student at the American University of Cairo. On July 1, 2020, she posted a warning on a Facebook page that another student, Ahmed Bassam Zaki from a rich and powerful family had a long record of sexually abusing, harassing, and blackmailing young women. The list of complaints was immediately taken down by the authorities who, thanks to his connections and wealth closed ranks, not by any means for the first time. She then set up a website called Assault Police that went viral. As a result, over 150 complaints against Zaki surfaced. Nadeen was credited with starting the MeToo movement in Egypt. Eventually, and after a humiliating struggle, thanks to her persistence, Zaki was charged and sentenced to eight years in prison for sexual assault. Nadeen left Egypt.
The problem is a huge one. In Egypt, women reporters and photographers have been sexually assaulted by mobs during protests. And witnesses who have been willing to go public have themselves been charged and jailed. In Europe gangs of males brought up in primitive societies have attacked and abused women in public spaces and networks that trained vulnerable girls for sex all went ignored for many years or the complaints were suppressed.
In Morocco, a similar pattern of behavior and government cover-up and blaming victims prevails. Lindsey gives examples of journalists who try to take up a cause, such as Omar Radi and are persecuted, charged falsely, and imprisoned. When charges of rape are brought against wealthy and influential men they are dropped.
The article is a horrific expose of the injustices prevalent in societies that claim to respect women but refuse to protect them from rampant males. This has always been a feature of religious, patriarchal, gang cultures and autocracies. I recognize too that sometimes charges are indeed false and the result of ulterior motives. But that should not impede a strong and objective pursuit of every claim. We must address these issues wherever they exist. If I agree, what is my complaint?
Here is the quote from Lindsey’s article
“In June 2020 newspapers around the world published the results of an Amnesty International investigation showing that Radi and others had been targets of hijacking by the Moroccan Government which used spyware from an Israeli company.” Yes of course I am hyper-sensitive. I, we, have every reason to be.
Why on earth is it at all relevant where the technology comes from? Why mention that the surveillance equipment comes from Israel? Would she have cited China, Russia, or the USA which have even more effective technology than Israel had they provided the technology? What does the origin of a weapon have to do with the person who commits a crime with it? It is only because the left believes that Israel is guilty of original sin so that any way you can denigrate or implicate her in any evil you are just doing a service (and winning votes). This tiny example makes my point.
Every day in the so-called free press, which is the biased press, this pathological hatred of Israel reveals itself. It is the flip side of “virtue signaling,” dropping words and phrases to show you are on the side we approve of. “Hatred signaling “is a way of telling everyone what you hate. It matters not what you call it, anti-Zionism, Anti-Jew, Anti-Semitism, it is the slow, almost impervious poisoning of society that leads to permitting anything because you believe it is so.
Israel is far from perfect. It has its fundamentalists and crazies too. But it does prosecute sexual abuse with the full force of the law. It allows and protects sexual freedom and does not throw homosexuals off rooftops. Yet the blindness of world opinion is so pervasive that it rather supports fundamentalism if it comes from the enemies of Israel than freedom and choice if it comes from Judaism. The Torah describes rape as the equivalent of murder. And our moral standards both in matters of personal behavior and even in self -defense are way above the norm. I would rather be on our side than the other.
This irrational hatred is now embedded in most societies West and East. The left-wing is in bed with Islamists for their votes if not for their ideology. It is taken for granted that at the UN, the Committee on Human Rights, on campuses, and in local government, you can say whatever you like against Jews. Like Erdogan of Turkey, Mahateer Mohammad of Malaysia, Imran Khan of Pakistan, or Rouhani of Iran, no matter what you say, or how ridiculous and insane your charges and prejudices, no one blinks, protests, or walks out anymore. You can say any disgusting things about Jews as a Google employee, and not be fired.
Public opinion demographically and culturally is against us. Hitler meets Stalin. The Fascist Right and the Marxist Left are allies again! Thank goodness Bill Maher hasn’t been silenced yet by the Olivers and the Noahs.
Americans used to be surprised to see police and security outside European synagogues. Now it is happening here. Some think it is too late to turn the tide and the battle has been lost. That American Jewry has abdicated and retreated into apologetics. But we must not withdraw from the public arena. We have to stand proud and make sure we protect ourselves, our culture, and our values, with whatever it takes, even responding to as small an example like this one.
Jeremy Rosen was born in Manchester, England, the eldest son of Rabbi Kopul Rosen and Bella Rosen. Rosen's thinking was strongly influenced by his father, who rejected fundamentalist and obscurantist approaches in favour of being open to the best the secular world has to offer while remaining committed to religious life. He was first educated at Carmel College, the school his father had founded based on this philosophical orientation. At his father's direction, Rosen also studied at Be'er Yaakov Yeshiva in Israel (1957–1958 and 1960). He then went on to Merkaz Harav Kook (1961), and Mir Yeshiva (1965–1968) in Jerusalem, where he received semicha from Rabbi Chaim Leib Shmuelevitz in addition to Rabbi Dovid Povarsky of Ponevezh and Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Shapiro of Yeshivat Be'er Ya'akov. In between Rosen attended Cambridge University (1962–1965), graduating with a degree in Moral Sciences.