Biblical Advice for the Internet Age IV

August 31, 2011

This is the fourth and final instalment in the series Biblical Advice for the Internet Age. [Previous instalments: I, II and III.]

Advocates of extreme transparency on the internet, who imagine an electronic communication beast that ultimately strips away almost our entire privacy may claim that people behave better when being watched. However, that contention is questionable. It is, in fact, rather unbearable for many. Read the rest of this entry »

Biblical Advice for the Internet Age iii

July 27, 2011

This is the third of four instalments on internet privacy and Biblical values. Last week we discussed how peoples’ professional and even social life suffers from the excess information we put on line, which does not remain private, and suggested some practical measures, inspired by Micah’s prophecy, that would spare people much anguish. Not everybody, however, can simply fix his or her on line profile and re-engineer his or her online identity to be more wholesome, more chaste. Some people suffer their identity irrevocably, as we will see.

Some people land in difficulty because poor taste and poor mores; others because of poor judgement. Some people exhibit smaller or greater moral-ethical failings, and commit crimes, for which they subsequently get arrested. Others get arrested by association, because of the poor, apparently criminal company they keep, but are ultimately freed of all charges, or are arrested through no fault of their own whatsoever – mistakes happen. Courts eventually sort out who is or isn’t guilty, but the court of public opinion doesn’t necessarily keep up with all the updates. Read the rest of this entry »

Nicht Rassismus, sondern ein mildes Urteil

September 7, 2010

11. Juli berichteten die Medien über die Verurteilung in Israel eines Arabers namens Sabbar Kaschur. So berichtete die Süddeutsche Zeitung:

Jetzt muss der Vater von zwei Kindern 18 Monate ins Gefängnis und umgerechnet 2000 Euro Schmerzensgeld zahlen, weil er sich vor dem einvernehmlichen Sex mit einer Israelin als Jude ausgeben hatte.

Die Welt (und manche Israelis) schrie “Rassismus!” Die Gratiszeitung 20-Minuten schrieb sogar den Titel “Sex mit Judin — Araber muss ins Gefängnis”.

Die Süddeutsche Zeitung war zwar einigermasse vernünftiger, und liess das Urteil, wo sich schnell herausgieb, dass es hier überhaupt nicht um Rassismus geht, denn Juden werden genau so für solchen Dingen verurteilt. Es ist nähmlich strafbar in Israel, einen anderen unter Vorspiegelung falscher Tatsachen und Identität zum Geschlechtsverkehr zu überzeugen, was die Süddeutsche auch erklärte. Immerhin gab es für das Urteil wenig Verständnis.

Die Wahrheit ist aber überraschender. Nicht Rassismus, sondern ein erfolgreicher Versuch des Verurteilten, nur eine milde Strafe zu bekommen, war Anlass zu diesem Urteil. Haaretz berichtet nähmlich, dass es hier nicht einmal um strafbare Vergewaltigung unter Vorspiegelung falscher Tatsachen und Identität ging, sondern um die “übliche”, gewalttätige Art, berichtet Haaretz. Sabbar Kaschur war bereit eine mildere Straftat zu anerkennen, und bat nur für jene mildere Straftat verurteilt zu werden.

Die grosse Verliererin ist natürlich sein Opfer. Immerhin stimmte sie vielleicht zu, so vorzugehen.

Immerhin ist das Gesetz lobenswürdig. Auch wenn ein demokratischer Staat den moralischen Verhalten ihre Bürger nicht zu eng vorschreiben kann, kann sie aber ihre Bürger einigermasse von Süssholzraspler schützen und die Moralität damit stützen.

Equal Justice for All?

August 1, 2010

The Torah teaches (Devarim 16:19): לֹא־תַטֶּה מִשְׁפָּט לֹא תַכִּיר פָּנִים – Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons. Rashi takes this as a prohibition incumbent upon tribunals: Not only may one not favor one side over the other, but not even give the appearance that this is so. More particularly: Even when the litigants argue their cases before the tribunal, the judge is forewarned not to treat them differently, to be easy with one litigant and hard with the other, not to make one stand while the other is allowed to press his case while seated, for the mere sight of a judge bestowing respect upon one litigant renders the other litigant mute (Based on TB Sanhedrin 30a).

While in theory this principle is well accepted and even obvious, in reality, matters are not everywhere all right. Thus, CBS News reports:

Justice may not be blind after all.

According to a Cornell University study, unattractive defendants are 22 percent more likely to be convicted than good-looking ones. And the unattractive also get slapped with harsher sentences – an average of 22 months longer in prison.

Perhaps it is time to resurrect the ancient Jewish idea, of judges covering their faces (see Rashi Devarim 1:43) so as not to see the litigants while they plead their cases, and not to be influenced by their antics.

Equal Justice for All – even in Israel?

December 17, 2009

The Torah introduces the injunction to appoint judges and officers of the court in the just society the Children of Israel are to build and maintain, it provides an explicit mandate and raison d’être: צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף – Justice, justice shalt thou follow (Devarim 16:20). While the repetition of a verb or noun is not uncommon in the Bible, it always comes for extra emphasis or to hint at something. While the source escapes me, I do recall a most worthy explanation of the doublet “justice, justice shalt thou pursue”: it is not sufficient to achieve a just result, the court must also act justly to arrive at those means. Another injunction in the same passage is: לֹא־תַטֶּ֣ה מִשְׁפָּ֔ט לֹ֥א תַכִּ֖יר פָּנִ֑ים – Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons (ibid. v. 19).

These two principles are the basis upon which justice is carried out in enlightened societies. Justice must apply equally to all, and the ends do not justify the means.

Hence, it behooves us to decry violations of these principles, regardless whether or not we sympathize with a defendant. Haaretz, a strongly left leaning Israeli daily, has done exactly that in publishing the following opinion piece by Israel Harel, in defense of R’ Eliezer Melamed, a rosh yeshivat hesder who would not incline before the Israeli defense minister (selected quotes included below). Read the rest of this entry »