The Zionist Conspiracy

A clandestine undertaking on behalf of Israel, the Jets and the Jews.

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Friday, June 06, 2008
Tommy Lapid, ZT'L

One of the Jblogosphere's more bizarre spectacles has occurred this week, following Sunday's passing of former Popolitika talk show host and Shinui leader, Tommy Lapid.

At first, the kind remarks about Lapid from Orthodox Jbloggers seemed to be a welcome and refreshing contrast to the all-too-frequent coarse and nasty rhetoric toward adversaries. But Lapid's purported virtues have been extolled - and his negative attributes completely ignored - to such an extent that it would not be unreasonable to expect that at the current pace, Artscroll will publish a book about him in time for his shloshim.

The first distortion concerning Lapid has been that he merely opposed religious coercion, and had no problem at all with Judasim or religious Jews. What nobody bothered to consider is what exactly "religious coercion" means.

"Coercion" is defined as "the use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance." In Israel, secular Jews are not forced or intimidated into keeping kosher or shabbos, or halacha generally.

When secular Israelis refer to "religious coercion," they are either being paranoid, or are referring to inconveniences like closure of certain stores on shabbos, lack of public transportation on shabbos in certain cities, the law regarding the sale of bread during Pesach, and the fact that in Israel, the religious have dominant control over issues involving marriage, divorce and burial.

Even if these kinds of things can be deemed to be "religious coercion," it is obvious that Lapid's agenda vis a vis the religious went far beyond these issues. Which leads to the next distortion among Jbloggers about Lapid - that he merely opposed charedim, not all of the religious.

Lapid indeed opposed draft exemptions for yeshiva students, increased child allowances for large families, and government funding of charedi schools that failed to offer a secular curriculum. He certainly had a right to these positions, and it is not unreasonable for religious Jews to agree with him on some of these positions.

But Lapid did not merely oppose charedim on policy issues. He repeatedly used invective against them and made charedi bashing an essential part of Shinui's election campaigns. He exploited concerns about whether charedim were getting too much from the government by inciting hatred of charedim.

In any event, Lapid clearly did not only oppose charedim. During the summer of 2002, when few people were visiting Israel yet several thousand North Americans made aliyah via Nefesh b'Nefesh, Lapid said that Israel would be better off without the new olim, who were mostly religious (but mostly not charedi). Lapid expressed opposition to the hesder units of the national religious sector. Under his leadership, Shinui even campaigned against Rabbinut kashrut certification on the basis that the cost was passed on to consumers, and hence was a "kosher tax."

None of this suggests that following his death - or during his life - hatred should be directed by religious Jews toward Lapid. Indeed, positive sentiments about and toward Lapid that are based on reality are a good thing. So are questions regarding whether and how the religious also have contributed to a rift between religious and secular. Not highlighting Lapid's negative attributes is okay too. But the whitewashing of what Tommy Lapid stood for is not appropriate.