IN OTHER WORDS...

By Oren Rawls

Published December 05, 2003, issue of December 05, 2003.

Guardian Angel: According to the Eurobarometer of public opinion recently released by the European Union, six out of every 10 Britons believe Israel to be a threat to world peace. Julie Burchill is not one of them.

The contrarian columnist for the Guardian, the newspaper of choice for Britain’s intelligentsia, is moving on at the end of the year to the liberal daily’s conservative arch-rival, the Times. In the November 29 issue of the Guardian, Burchill slams her employer and her readership in a vitriolic swan song that is music to the ears of pro-Israel media watchdogs.

“If there is one issue that has made me feel less loyal to my newspaper over the past year, it has been what I, as a non-Jew, perceive to be a quite striking bias against the state of Israel,” Burchill writes.

To begin with, the Guardian’s Middle East editor, Brian Whitaker, moonlights as the Web master for “Arab Gateway,” an online portal for all things Arab. The Guardian’s opinion page has featured a commentary titled “Israel simply has no right to exist.” And when Ariel Sharon visited the Western Wall the day after winning the prime ministerial election, the Guardian ran a cartoon depicting him leaving bloody handprints on Judaism’s holiest site.

Such antisemitism masked as anti-Zionism, Burchill writes, is symptomatic of the “shape-shifting virus” of Judeophobia. The hatred of Jews, she argues, is really “about how an individual feels about himself.”

“I can’t help noticing that, over the years, a disproportionate number of attractive, kind, clever people are drawn to Jews,” Burchill observes. “Those who express hostility to them, however, from Hitler to Hamza, are often as not repulsive freaks.”

Those repulsive freaks apparently include a segment of the more than 1.2 million Guardian readers, whom the columnist colorfully lambastes as “top-drawer plaster saints.” Lurking behind the Guardian’s broadsheet liberalism, she warns, are some inadequate individuals.

“Judeophobia,” Burchill bitingly defines anti-Semitism: “where the political is personal, and the personal pretends to be political, and those swarthy/pallid/swotty/philistine/aggressive/cowardly/comically bourgeois/filthy rich/delete-as-mood-takes-you bastards always get the girl.”

* * *

Rage Against the Machine: One of Orthodoxy’s leading Torah sages is speaking out on the dangers facing the Jewish community. It’s not the rise of antisemitism around the world. It’s not the situation in Israel. It’s not even intermarriage. It’s the computer.

“The Internet, with the flick of a button, invades a Jewish home, a Jewish soul, and makes moral disaster. And it is happening all the time,” warns the highly-respected Rabbi Yaakov Perlow in The Jewish Observer, the house organ of the organization he heads, Agudath Israel of America.

The November issue of the magazine — with the suggestive front-page headline www.ensnared.com — is entirely devoted to the online dangers to the Orthodox way of life. Offering commentary with titles such as “Staying Away From the Cyber-Slums,” “A Ubiquitous Challenge, an Insidious Trap” and “The Dangers of the Computer and the Internet,” The Jewish Observer issues a fire-and-brimstone prohibition against what it terms “the pervasive disease of the Internet.”

“If your business cannot get along without it, you must create the strictest controls around yourself and your staff,” commands Perlow, who is rebbe of the Novominsker chasidic community as well as rosh or president of Agudath Israel. “Create fences, strictures, around its use. Do not give it free rein! Remember that you are dealing with a force that contains spiritual and moral poison.”

Not to worry, assures Leib Kelemen, a rabbi at the Neve Yerushalayim seminary in Jerusalem. Just as the faithful banished television from the Orthodox world, he predicts in a separate article in the November issue, so too will it excise the computer virus.

“Today, the Internet has penetrated our community, but with the same strength we will uproot it, too,” he proclaims. “Baruch Hashem, unlike our neighbors in the secular world, we are not confused. We recognize the danger; we see the inadequacy of partial protection; and we know what needs to be done. We possess a vaccination” — the Torah.



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