April 15, 2010

Shoes Can Kill

The Sunday Times of London reported on April 11th that the Metropolitan police in London allowed protestors to throw shoes and the English Courts have agreed that the shoe-throwing incident was simply a ritual form of protest and therefore not a criminal act of violence:
Judge Denniss agreed that the act of shoe-throwing should not be considered in a charge of violent disorder because it was “a symbolic” political gesture. Shoes, and particularly the soles of shoes, are regarded as ritually unclean in the Islamic world. An Iraqi journalist became a folk hero for throwing a shoe at President George W Bush during a press conference in December 2008. A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service admitted this weekend that the police advice to the Downing Street protesters was a factor in the case at Isleworth crown court, west London. It has now emerged that the Metropolitan police first told protesters of its stance on shoe-throwing shortly after the attack on Bush. The concession has already been taken up enthusiastically by Muslim demonstrators, who pelted Downing Street with shoes in protest at the Israeli bombing of Gaza last year. Dozens of ski-boots and clogs were also hurled at the US consulate in Edinburgh in a related protest, in which three policemen sustained minor injuries.
If I needed any further proof that England has gone to the dogs, this is it. Have you ever been hit by a hobnailed boot? It doesn't matter if the nails pierce your skull or if it puts out an eye. It is alright because Justice Denniss thinks that, as it is an old Muslim ritual to throw shoes as sign of disgust, it must be allowed. I suppose the prophet Mohammad went skiing and that is why hurling ski boots is a legitimate manifestation of Islamic protest.

And if it is an ancient tradition to throw knives, Islamic protestors should be allowed to throw knives; and if it is an ancient tradition to murder in the name of honor, then one should be able to do that, and to keep women subservient at home, uneducated and unliberated, should also be enshrined and protected by English law. Just imagine what the fascist National Front can now ask the law to justify on the grounds of the ancient Angle custom of throwing axes! I just thank the Almighty there are still some free countries they do not allow fanatics of any kind (including our own) to act a they feel entitled to.

We Jews have our ancient customs of protest too. The Mishna records that once a heretical High Priest (according to Josephus it was the Sadducee King Yanai, or Jannaeus) performing the water libation ceremony in the Temple on Sukot, instead of pouring the water over the altar, poured it over his feet. This was his protest against what he considered was a rabbinic innovation without any Biblical authority. The gathered masses who supported the rabbinic line responded by pelting him with etrogim (citrons). Yanai's response was to call in the guards and thousands were massacred.

Now, I am not suggesting the Metropolitan Police should have called in the army to massacre the protestors, but I am suggesting that, as dangerous missiles as lemons might be, I'd far rather be hit by a lemon than a shoe; and that might explain why we Jews do not have a long history of killing people for relatively minor offences.

It is true that ultra-Orthodox Jewish protestors in Jerusalem throw stones. They’ve been throwing stones at other Jews certainly for the past fifty years. I know because I have personally seen it happen that long ago, and I suspect it had been going on for long before that. After all, the Jerusalem community has been living under Islam for nearly fifteen hundred years, and as we know, no pilgrimage to Mecca is complete without a good bout of stone-throwing at the devil in the Ramy al-Jamarat ceremony. I'm only surprised that they haven’t added slingshots to the ceremony yet. But I have never, ever heard any rabbi of significance in Meah Shearim or anywhere else express his approval of what is a gutter response of primitive idle fanatical youths who only prove that many outwardly ultra-Orthodox simply obey their spiritual leaders when it suits them.

But if it is allowed to throw shoes at demonstrations in London, why shouldn’t we import cadres of Charedi stone-throwers from Meah Shearim to mount a counter demonstration? If the Law or the police are consistent they should surely allow it? No? Or is this a special case before the elections to court the fanatical vote?

I am mightily disturbed by this latest example of capitulation of a hitherto open democratic society to violent fanaticism in the name of cultural appeasement. I am completely in favor of peaceful demonstrations, even where I disagree with the ideology and think they are all lying prejudiced lunatics. But I object to any form of physical violence. Eventually the Metropolitan Police did reluctantly act when banners called for the killing of Jews. Incitement to violence is not allowed (though I am sure it will be soon in the UK). But if incitement to violence is still forbidden, how can throwing missiles (and don’t tell me a heavy metal and fiberglass ski boot is not a dangerous missile) be allowed?

The English police and judiciary have gone mad. Thank goodness I got out!

9 Comments:

At 4:16 AM , Anonymous Leila said...

It is so-called political correctness that has been taken to the point of madness in the UK. Governement offices and officers are so frightened of causing upheaval in Muslim society that they are allowed to get away with anything short of murder. After this article in The Times, someone wrote on the blog that he was taking his ice skates to the next political meeting!

You were right to leave. The way things are going over here, I think we should all be considering our next move.

 
At 9:52 AM , Blogger Rabbi Jeremy Rosen said...

Leila:
What worries me is that political expediency, getting votes, seems to be the ultimate arbiter. It's sad that the very feature that makes Democracy so attractive is is its biggest threat.
J

 
At 10:28 AM , Anonymous bananabrain said...

jeremy,

from what i hear, this has been rather misreported; the guy who threw the shoe was prosecuted for throwing a stick and the met have gone on record saying they have no such policy - anyone who lobs anything at a copper, shoe or not, muslim or not, will get their collar felt. i believe this is an overzealous subeditor bigging up the title, same way as richard dawkins isn't the prime mover behind the attempt to arrest the pope, he just supports it.

that is not to say that the atmosphere of militancy here is not unpleasant, but we have the bnp to contend with as well as the far-left loonies.

b'shalom

bananabrain

 
At 11:12 AM , Blogger Rabbi Jeremy Rosen said...

bananabrain:
Yes, I have heard this too from the Board of Deputies who say the Times got it wrong. I am trying to clarify it before issuing a formal response. But thanks for posting this.
J

 
At 2:24 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with ultra-Orthodox Jewish stone throwing is when the stones are aimed at the windscreens of moving vehicles.

If I have followed the latest lesson correctly from the BMV, currently midway into Bava Kamma, http://www.bmv.org.il/Shiurim/bk/bk042.html responsibility for damages begins with foreknowledge of the likely consequences.

 
At 4:08 PM , Blogger Rabbi Jeremy Rosen said...

Anonymous:
Absolutely correct. As the Gemara says, "Adam Muad LeOlam". A human being is always and automatically responsible for his or her actions and is in the category of an animal "warned" (Shor Muad an ox that has twice gored previously and the owners got away with limited damage on the basis of an assumption of accident rather than intent but once it has a reputation the owner pays the max).

 
At 6:25 PM , Blogger Bazza said...

Jeremy, I am surprised that you wrote "thank goodness that I got out", it smacks of the rats jumping ship! Although I left Britain for Israel nearly forty years ago, I will always be grateful to that wonderful country which gave shelter and a home to my forefathers (and yours) who escaped from the terrible pogroms of Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century.
Your comments reminds me of the ex-Anglo’s that I meet here in Israel who very quickly forget where they came from in order to become "Israeli".

 
At 10:58 AM , Blogger Rabbi Jeremy Rosen said...

Bazza:

I am afraid the non-Jewish England that my grandparents found refuge in and that my parents loved, admired and respected no longer exists.

It is true there were always groups of anti-Semites like Mosley, just as in the USA there was Father Coughlin and Ford but now there is an almost universal intellectual alignment between fundamentalists opposed to the libertarian freedom of action and thought and left wingers with an agenda that selects Israel for specific hatred and delegitimization that determines the political and intellectual agenda. I find it very uncomfortable. And thats without going into Anglo Jewry.

J

 
At 2:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

remembering history to justify the present is a problem. how far back do we go?
rabbi rosen is right, we must remain aware of the present reality, understand the changes that are taking place.
england may regret its present tolerance of extreme islam the way it regrets chamberlain's ". . . peace in our time . . . ".

 

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