A California Court Prevents a Yom Kippur Ritual

Oct. 27 2016

On the eve of Yom Kippur, a time-honored tradition, now preserved mainly by the ultra-Orthodox, is to perform kapparot, a ceremony in which a chicken is offered up as a sort of atonement offering and then slaughtered and its meat given to the poor. This year, United Poultry Concerns—which campaigns against cruelty to domestic fowl—sued the Chabad house of Irvine, CA for violating a statute prohibiting the “malicious” and “intentional” killing of an animal, and succeeded in obtaining a temporary restraining order from a federal judge, thus effectively preventing the performance of the ritual. Howard Slugh comments:

In their briefing, the plaintiffs lay out a vision in which private morality and individual conscience are replaced by a one-size-fits-all, government-mandated morality. . . . In their complaint, [they] caricature religious liberty as a matter of religious people asserting that “they are above the law and can conduct themselves as they wish because of their religious beliefs.” The plaintiffs’ objections are not limited to the realm of law. They object to Chabad’s desire to “determine for themselves what is . . . moral conduct.” They argue that only the legislature can determine “legal and moral behavior in the state of California.” The plaintiffs do not want to control only Chabad’s conduct. They want to control its conscience.

[They] describe the Jewish tradition as a “societal evil” and mock kapparot as “taking out vengeance on an innocent animal for one’s own shortcomings.” . . . The plaintiffs are no more subtle about the scope of their ambitions. They acknowledge that their lawsuit is merely “the first step” toward their “ultimate goal” of banning the religious ceremony nationwide. . . .

[Furthermore], the plaintiffs openly dismissed the importance of the fulfillment of [the] religious obligation as understood by Alter Tenenbaum, [the rabbi of the Chabad of Irvine]. United Poultry Concerns argued that “the relative harm to the defendants” in preventing them from exercising their religion was “minimal,” [because] not all Jews use live chickens for the ritual and that therefore doing so must be “completely optional” and a “mere preference.” They implied that Tenenbaum preferred to use live chickens because doing so was “more lucrative.” Whether [this] explanation of Jewish law is the only valid interpretation of Judaism—it is not—is beyond the point. Even if . . . a single, correct form of Judaism existed, American courts would be neither qualified nor constitutionally empowered to settle such doctrinal disputes. . . .

[T]he American notion of religious liberty has traditionally prohibited, and must continue to prohibit, judges from making such determinations in all but the most extreme of cases. . . . Defenders of religious liberty—and, in fact, of individual liberty—should stand united and refute the . . . argument that only the government can determine morality and that an individual’s understanding of his own conscience has “minimal” value.

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More about: Chabad, Freedom of Religion, Religion & Holidays, Yom Kippur

European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

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More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians