Nov 3, 2009 9:54 am


At the moment the Israeli media, if not the citizenry, is obsessed with a horrific crime - the brutal murder of an entire family by a disgruntle employee. Last night the national news spent at least three minutes showing the murderer dancing in the wedding of the murdered. Thirty seconds would have sufficed. Still, the real trouble has to do with the instant analysis I heard on the Israeli NPR like morning show. Dr. Baruch Ovadia, a sociologist, placed the blame for the murder on the shoulders of the entire Israeli society and, indeed, on Judaism as a whole.

Disbelievingly, I listened to Dr. Ovadia argue that certain verses in Birkat Hamazon , the centuries old Jewish post meal grace, along with poverty and aggressiveness identified in the Goldstone Report, have something to do with the horrendous murder. It was too absurd to be believed, yet the interviewer did not balk or seek to clarify.

I called Dr. Ovadia to seek clarification."Do you seriously argue that Birkat Hamazon is to be held responsible for the murder?" Taken back, he quickly answered"Of course not.""Do you believe that the murderer has ever said Birkat Hamazon or is even familiar with it?""Of course not," he quickly retorted."You must be from the religious community," he charged. He knows that the fact that the murderer is a relatively recent Russian immigrant with a criminal record who has little familiarity with Judaism, makes his analysis especially ridiculous.

So why does he seek to hold Birkat Hamazon responsible for the violence? Indeed, I asked him if he would he hold the violence of certain verses in the La Marseillaise responsible for a French murderer? The real answer turned out to be political correctness. The Israeli society, like the American one, has successfully absorbed a wide variety of people from every corner of the world, most recently from the former Soviet Union. It is an especially large immigrant cohort which changed the face of Israel. While the vast majority of these new immigrants are productive members of the society, there is little doubt that they also increased the Israeli crime rate. But just as it is politically incorrect to mention the race of a murderer in the US, so it is politically incorrect to mention the ethnicity of the murderer in Israel.

Indeed, in our conversation, Ovadia specifically said that he was most careful to stay away from mentioning the well known violent aspects of current Russian society and the problems it causes to the Israeli one. On the other hand, he actively advocates the rewriting of the Jewish prayer book to excise from it verses he deems offensive and he saw an opportunity to push a pet project regardless of its total irrelevancy to the matter at hand. He was surprised to be asked to account for the incongruity of his analysis.

"And what about the Goldstone Report?" I asked. Again, he could not be more critical of it. Not only had Goldstone charged Israel with war crimes, but he unjustifiably described the Israeli society as a violent, lawless one. Ovadia added that Israel should have cooperated with him but agreed that the lack of cooperation did not justify the childish, destructive tantrum Goldstone is in the midst of throwing.

I hear more and more Israelis blame the absurdities of their media analysis on the Jewish tradition of Yom Kippur when Jews are asked to take responsibility for every wrong committed by any Jew. Perhaps they are right. But having heard plenty of absurd contentions made by American analysts, I suspect the fault lies in the need to appear wiser and more knowledgeable than the rest of mankind which is difficult enough without adding political correctness to it.

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Arnold Shcherban - 11/5/2009

No that was not a "typical incompetence", but
a consistent policy of Israeli state not to extradite his Jewish citizens whatever crimes they are accused of committing abroad, even murder. They say, "Supreme Rabbinical Court has do decide such matters, as long as it concerns a religious Jew, period.
Which draws the roars of approval from the rest of the world...

Elliott Aron Green - 11/3/2009

The murderer was wanted by Russia and by Interpol for crimes in Russia. Typical incompetence that he was not extradited or deported.

Further, it seems that he was not Jewish so how would the Grace after meals [birkat hamazon] have affected him at all?