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Haredim and Homophobia
by Rabbi Yonasan Rosenblum
This article orignally appeared in The Jerusalem Post

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Haredim think that the media shows a persistent and blatant bias in its coverage of the community. They are right.

For proof one need look no further than the coverage of the grisly July 23 attack on a counseling center for teenage homosexuals in Tel Aviv, which left two dead and more than a dozen others injured, three critically.

Before the blood had even been wiped from the floor, the media was rife with the presumption of haredi culpability. Some were quick to assume that the perpetrator was himself haredi. A moment's reflection should have made clear how unlikely that was.

For one thing, murder is not a haredi thing, as Anshel Pfeffer noted in Ha'aretz Second, despite Israel's large Orthodox population, there is no history of religious Jews seeking out homosexuals and attacking them. Finally, the venue of the counseling center was not public knowledge, and would have been unlikely to be known to any haredi.

Western media, in general, and the Israeli media, in particular, avoid pegging ethnic labels on the perpetrators of crimes, unless, of course, they are haredim or settlers. After 9/11, for instance, then Secretary of State Colin Powell was quick to admonish against identifying the hijackers as Muslims, rather than by the generic term "terrorists."

Consider this absurdity, then. Even after the arrest of ten suspects for last Sunday's brutal lynching, the Israeli press and radio scrupulously refrained from blaring headlines identifying the principal assailants as Arabs. Yet after the attack on the teen center, the media engaged in wild speculation about the religious identity of those responsible even prior to the culprit being caught.

Even those who did not jump to the conclusion that the murderer himself was haredi were quick to assign blame to haredi politicians for "incitement" against homosexuals. Just hours after the shooting, homosexual activist Danny Zak declared, "The Shas party has the blood of two innocent kids on their hands." Rachel Metz wrote in these pages, "Regardless of whom the killer turns out to be, . . . such violence was a perhaps inevitable response to the incitement by several haredi leaders over the years." Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, the Knesset's only openly homosexual member, attributed the murders "to the incitement of entire communities against us."

Again, such accusations are logically absurd. How is it possible to attribute the murderer's motivation to the remarks of any politician, no matter how ugly or stupid, until his identity is known? How much more so if the perpetrator was an "insider" at the counseling center, as now appears likely.

THE LOOSE CHARGES OF "INCITEMENT" brought us back to the worst days after the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin, when "incitement" was brandished as a tool to delegitimize the entire national religious community and silence all critics of the Olso process.

In screaming "homophobia," homosexual political activists have lifted a tactic from the Islamists' playbook. The latter have demonstrated just how effective a tool the charge of "Islamophobia" can be. Public officials are intimidated from mentioning pertinent facts that relate to the threat of radical Islam. After Scotland Yard uncovered a plot to blow up ten planes over the Atlantic, it announced only that the plotters were of southeastern Asian ancestry and English-born, but not their jihadist motivation. And when Canadian Mounties arrested a group planning to bomb parliament and behead the prime minister, they described the plotters as drawn from a broad cross-section of society, while neglecting to mention they were all Muslims.

Human rights commissions in Canada and elsewhere have taken on the mandate of censoring anything any Moslem finds to be offensive. Author Mark Steyn and his publisher MacCleans were dragged before the Ontario Human Rights Commission and found to be "racist Islamophobes" for an article by Steyn detailing the Moslem demographic takeover of Europe. Yet no Muslim cleric in Canada has been convicted by the same commissions for calling for the murder and subjugation of Jews and other infidels.

Even quoting from the Koran can land you in hot water, as Dutch politician Geert Wilders found out after screening his movie Fitna, based primarily on Koranic quotes. An Australian human rights commission fined two Christian preachers for quoting from the Koran.

Homophobia is used in the same fashion. One Christian preacher in Western Canada was banned by a provincial human rights commission for quoting Leviticus's characterization of male homosexual acts as "an abomination." And quoting the Biblical prohibition can run one afoul of many university speech codes.

Homosexual activists have not yet resorted to the threat of murderous violence against those who challenge their views, but they can get pretty nasty. A teenage beauty contestant in California, who expressed the unremarkable view that marriage should be limited to a man and woman, was not only publicly humiliated by one of the judges but subjected to weeks of vituperation.

Ubiquitous charges of "homophobia" are too often used to stifle public debate. And political correctness masquerades as science. When the board of American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its classification of mental disorders in 1973, its decision had nothing to do with new scientific or mental evidence. The letter to members urging support for the board's decision was written and paid for by the National Gay Task Force.

And the APA's recent advisory to therapists not to tell clients that it is possible to change their orientation through therapy was not based on evidence that such therapy does not work, only the absence of proof that it does. Not one therapist who practices reorientation therapy was on the panel, whose advisory flew in the face of a 2001 study by Columbia Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Robert Spitzer of 200 men and women, which showed that "contrary to conventional wisdom, some highly motivated individuals . . . can make substantial change in multiple indicators of sexual orientation."

Homosexual activists would have us believe that homosexual orientation is inevitable – i.e., genetically determined, immutable, and that it is wrong to counsel those seeking to overcome same sex attractions. As therapist Shlomo Zalman Jessel writes, "[I]f Bill tells me that he is attracted to his neighbor Fred's young child and he wants to reduce those attractions, I . . . can try to help him. If Bill has an unwanted attraction to Fred's wife, this too I am permitted to help him with. But if Bill has an unwanted attraction to Fred, then it's regarded as unethical for me to help."

Each element of the homosexual activists' catechicsm can and should be debated before society puts its imprimatur on homosexual behavior as no different than heterosexual. There is no "homosexual gene" -- at most a genetic predisposition. Even in identical twins, raised in the same environment and sharing the same genes, in 50% of the cases where one twin is homosexual the other is not. Many highly motivated individuals, including some religious Jews, who struggle with same sex attractions have overcome them – often with therapy -- to form loving, happy marriages.

Even if they still experience some same sex attraction does that mean they are less fulfilled for overcoming them? Don't we all experience unbidden sexual impulses from time to time? And don't most of us rejoice when we control them?

The contemporary world has degraded the very definition of humanity by urging upon us fulfillment in the form of submission to every desire. The ancients had it right it teaching that we most fully realize ourselves as human beings by giving conscious shape to our lives through choosing to do certain acts and refrain from others.

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