Anti-Charedi, not Anti-Semitic
On Shabbos, I was at an informal kiddush, and a neighbor of mine got up to speak. Before I report what ensued, let me say that he is a really, really, terrific person - idealistic, dedicated to helping people, great personality, and I really like him - notwithstanding what ensued.
I can't remember the Chanukah tie-in, but he somehow got onto the topic of the inconsistency of Hillary Clinton criticizing Israel's oppression of women via Charedim, when Saudi Arabia beheaded a woman and Clinton remained silent. Okay, I can hear that this is a reasonable case for alleging antisemitism.
But he then moved on to the topic of Ramat Bet Shemesh Gimmel, the new, huge neighborhood being constructed a few hundred yards from where I sit. He claimed that anyone who is against the Charedim taking over RBS-Gimmel is an antisemite who hates Torah and mitzvos.
That was the part where some of us got into an argument with him.
I won't record the entire discussion, but the main part went essentially like this:
Us: Why is it unthinkable to be against the Charedi takeover of RBS-Gimmel? The Charedi population pays much less in city taxes, they cause many non-Charedim to end up leaving Bet Shemesh, and they enable kanna'us such as harassing children, stoning buses, and placing restrictions on businesses in the area (e.g. no tables outside pizza stores, placards insisting on dress codes)!
Him: They have a democratic right to live their lives the way that they want to!
Us: First of all, to the extent that they do have such a right, we equally have a legitimate right to oppose such changes to the city in which we live. Second, what kind of "democratic right" are you referring to, in their dictating to businesses how to operate?
Him: They just tell businesses that if they don't co-operate, they will lose customers.
Us: No they don't! They threaten them with the store being trashed!
Him: Well, all that stuff is just a handful of crazy people.
Us: But it's in Charedi towns that such people have power!
Him: Well, it's just because the mayor and other charedim are afraid of the kanna'im; they don't really support them.
Us: Agreed! But since the end result is that in charedi towns, kanna'us effectively takes place, why isn't it legitimate to be against a town becoming charedi?
Him: Look, if a bunch of secular women wearing nothing but bikinis came to use our shopping center, wouldn't you be in favor of having them <i>physically</i> thrown out?
Us: No... and how exactly is that relevant?
Him: A Beis Din has the power to physically inflict lashes of someone who sinned in the privacy of their home!
Us: ??!!! What's that got to do with harassing little girls for wearing short sleeves?
Him: Well, that's just a few lunatics who should be thrown in prison. Anyway, it's a minor issue that affected one school, there's no general charedi problem like that. You don't see problems like that in Beitar.
Us: In Beitar, some people tried to build a gym for teenagers to work out their energy in a healthy way, and the extremists had it shut down on the grounds that it was Hellenism!
And so on, and so forth. And we didn't even get on to the economic issue, of how the charedi population has a very large proportion of people who do not work and thus result in the city being poorer, with its multitude of effects on everyone else.
What struck me is that this is a nice, normal guy, and a great mechanech, but to whom The Charedi Cause is so important that he can't bring himself to see how other frum Jews might have a legitimate reason to be against the direction that Bet Shemesh and Ramat Bet Shemesh have been taking in the last few years.
(See too this post at Life in Israel)