Back in 1965, Jewish activist Paul Jacobs wrote a classic essay, “Screw the Jews,” parodying the ways various Jewish organizations would react to anti-Jewish graffiti on a bathroom wall. The ADL launches a criminal investigation, the American Jewish Committee funds a study of anti-Semitism in America, and the American Jewish Congress files a brief with the Supreme Court. You get the idea.
Life imitates art in the reaction of various Jewish writers to the swine flu epidemic and especially news that Israel’s de facto Health Ministry head, the ultra-Orthodox Yakov Litzman, says Israel will refer to “swine flu” as “Mexican flu” so as not to offend kosher sensibilities (apparently, offending Mexicans is perfectly kosher).
Watch how the news fits neatly into the agendas of the following.
First, Benjamin L. Hartman, writing for the secular, left-leaning Israeli paper Ha’aretz, who no surprise sees Litman’s statement as a another example of “the dangers of Israel’s lack of separation of synagogue and state,” and “a glaring symptom of the disease of Israeli politics”:
Such is the system that produces a government where a party representing a community whose media cannot print the word sex, airbrushes women out of photos, and binds them into a strict second-class status, can be put in charge of the Health Ministry, a ministry legally bound to protect the well-being of all Israelis, regardless of gender, race or religion. How can a man who comes from a community which views as immodest talking about or referring to genitalia, be in charge of issues like reproductive health and gynecology, where he may have to hear or say the word “vagina?”
Next we have Jeffrey Yoskowitz, writing at the Atlantic‘s Web site. Jeff, who has written for us, is an American who has been studying Israel’s pork industry for a number of years. He plugs Litman’s remarks neatly into his thesis:
The Health Ministry’s re-branding effort is the latest in a religious assault on pork consumption in the Holy Land. The raising and selling of pork was largely outlawed in 1962, though committed secularists and pork-eaters exploited the legal loopholes to indulge in the ‘forbidden’ flesh. An underground pork economy developed, and as the rift between secular and religious widened in Israeli society over the years, pork consumption slowly grew.
This has serious health consequences, adds Yoskowitz:
As a result of the government’s failure to officially recognize the legitimacy of many of the country’s pig farms, industrial hog farming goes highly unregulated.
Finally, there’s Richard H. Schwartz, president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America. Richard is a prolific writer of news releases and a genius at turning the news of the day into a pitch for meat-free diets. We sometimes joke around the office about which of the week’s stories will turn into a JVNA news release (“Scarlett Johansson’s Weight Loss Points to Need for Greater Awareness of Healthy Kosher Vegetarian Eating!”).
He doesn’t disappoint:
The current widespread breakout of swine flu, related to the close confinement of thousands of animals in unsanitary conditions, where their manure piles up and viruses can proliferate and easily spread and mutate, should be the latest wake-up call to the need to consider the many ways that animal-based diets are inconsistent with basic Jewish teachings.
I’m just waiting for the Zionist Organization of America to blame the outbreak on Muslim fundamentalists, the UJA to start an ”emergency appeal” for Israeli flu victims, and J Street to issue a news release urging Obama to provide diplomatic pressure on both Jews and Arabs that will enable them to address the ways their swine-aversion impedes progress towards peace.