February 20, 2019

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Checking Both Moshe and Mohammed: Moral Relativism is Not Equality (Judean Rose)

New Media Editor Sarah Tuttle-Singer, of the Times of Israel introduced her newest blog, Why I want the security guy at the train station to search me, on the Times of Israel bloggers’ Facebook page with these words, “There are two things I care about when it comes to Israel: Security and equality. And this is why I say with no hesitation: Search Muhammed. And search me. Search everyone.”

The fallacy of these words hit me with immediate clarity. I knew what her blog said without reading it. She was going to say that everyone has to be checked by security guards, both Jew and Arab, in order to protect democracy—that equality means checking everyone, irrespective of whether or not they might be guilty.

But that isn’t equality. Equality is about holding everyone to the same societal standards. If Moshe is a bad boy, he goes to jail. If Mohammed is a bad boy he goes to jail. Because everyone is supposed to be good and obey the law. And when they don’t, there are repercussions.

Because that is how the security apparatus protects our liberties. They have intel. They use it to protect everyone. The intel is what it is. It’s what Moshe or Mohammed make it. And should Moshe’s or Mohammed’s relatives tend to be rowdy, they then become “the usual suspects” and anyone who looks, sounds, or acts like them is identified and scrutinized.

That’s how we protect equality. By making sure that everyone has the right to safety and security. And by setting standards of appropriate behavior. And making sure there are consequences to bad behavior.

And if Moshe or Mohammed don’t want their families scrutinized, they need to behave. Period.

But let’s say one relative doesn’t go along with the rowdy bunch. He’s a good guy. Is it fair that he be profiled, scrutinized, his liberties temporarily curtailed?

Absolutely. Because these standards protect him, too. Which is why, by no stretch of the imagination can it be called collective punishment to more carefully scrutinize Arabs going through Israeli security points. Because 99% of terror attacks in Israel are carried out by Arabs.

Enforcing the law and being tough on criminals or those at risk of becoming criminals, is how we protect our civil liberties and our security. For everyone. Equally. If a terrorist blows up a train, Arabs get hurt, too. The entire point of security is to prevent everyone from getting hurt, both Arab and Jew.

That is real equality, while checking everyone would be a mere performance, a show of equality, not the real thing.

I monitored the comments on the TOI bloggers’ Facebook page. No one was saying what I was thinking. The next day I read the blog, and the comments below. No one had written what I was thinking (as of this writing). So I ventured to say it myself, on the Facebook TOI bloggers’ page:

Equality, yes. Hold peoples to the same standards. Jews are, by and large, not carrying out terror attacks against people in malls and train stations. You can tell by looking at them if they are the rare exception. Which is how the intelligence community managed to infiltrate the youth group of Rabin’s assassin (and incite the killer to murder): they knew this was a rare extremist group because of the way they looked, spoke, acted [Tuttle-Singer had referenced Yigal Amir in an earlier comment on the thread, “The only person to assassinate an Israeli PM was a Jewish Israeli.”]

So why should manpower and money be wasted to check every single Jew, when the Jews are by and large, a peaceful people? Equality under the law means holding people to the same standard. A people with a large proportion of terrorists must unfortunately be scrutinized with care, also for the sake of those among them who are innocent and might be harmed by the actions of those among them who are violent.

I too, always thank security guards for checking me, as I know this is for my own safety. But I am also grateful when they use their common sense, look me over, know I’m a granny with arthritis, without a violent bone in my body, and wave me through without further ado.

I am tempted to blog about this, so I hope you will answer me, Sarah Tuttle-Singer. It is not equality to check every single person, when you know which people are the ones [who] may or may not endanger society. Equality is holding peoples to the same standards.

Jews, in general, don’t deserve to be treated with suspicion. Certainly not Feige Rochel, for example, whose sector has never perpetrated a terror attack at a bus station, AFAIK. That would just be holding up people to make a show of equality, when the real equality is to hold her sector to the same standard: are Haredim perpetrating terror attacks?

Equality doesn’t mean an inconvenient show. It means societal standards of behavioral norms.

Sarah did, in fact, respond to me, as follows:

Varda, for the sake of our Jewish and democratic state we should demand equality. It’s essential or we wither.

I’m willing to be inconvenienced and we can and should find budget for more guards if necessary. The prime minister’s ice cream budget ought to cover some of the costs.

Search everyone.

Feige Rochel and Varda Epstein and Sarah Tuttle singer and Igal Amir and

Yosef Chaim Ben David and ruvi rivkin and that random barista and Omar al-abed and 
Muhammad salim and george dabit and the woman who works in the clothing store on Hebron road and EVERYONE should be subject to same rules

And treatment.

And the guilty should go to jail.

As I didn’t feel this answered my question, I tried narrowing things down further, as follows:

There’s an issue with this idea: it means focusing on everyone, which dilutes/diverts the focus away from probably troublemakers.

It harms everyone by making the security apparatus LESS effective.

It’s not about the inconvenience or money. It’s about the fact that this is not real equality, but a show of equality. The real equality is holding people to the same standard, which deters actual terrorists.

I really hoped that Sarah would see my point and speak to it. But she didn’t deign to respond. She’d doubled down, reiterated her talking points, and closed shop.

Which is a pity. Because I want security and equality every bit as much as she. I want both Moshe and Mohammed to be safe. I want the terror and the fear to end.
And that requires true equality, equality under the law, and not some silly superficial spectacle masquerading as the same.

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