Gov’t officials ‘disappointed’ by Clinton’s remarks

Officials tell American Jewish leaders US secretary of state's comments about haredi bus segregation were "beyond the pale."

December 7, 2011 03:05
2 minute read.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

hillary clinton_311 reuters. (photo credit: REUTERS/Tony Gentile)


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Government officials expressed “disappointment” during recent conversations with US Jewish leaders at US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments about threats to Israeli democracy, even as the Prime Minister’s Office continues to remain publicly silent on the matter.

Clinton, during a closed session at the Saban Forum in Washington on Saturday, was reported in the Israeli press as having criticized efforts in the Knesset to restrict the foreign funding of nongovernmental organizations.

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She was also reported to have likened efforts in the haredi sector to have separate seating on buses for males and females to Rosa Parks, the black civil rights icon who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus in 1955. Likewise, she reportedly said that the refusal of some religious IDF soldiers to listen to female singers reminded her of the situation in Iran.

Neither Clinton, nor the State Department, has denied or issued any public clarification of her remarks.

In conversations with the US Jewish leaders, which the government officials likely believed would be passed on, a great deal of displeasure was registered about comparing separate seating on buses among the haredi community to racial segregation in the Jim Crow US South.

“A comparison between the issue of Orthodox Jews and what happened to Rosa Parks is simply beyond the pale,” the officials said. They also noted that haredi buses with separate seating for men and women travel daily in Clinton’s home state of New York, but that no one is saying that poses a threat to US democracy.

The officials said that comparing Israel to Iran because of the issue of religious soldiers leaving a ceremony rather than listening to women sing was “equally disappointing.”

The officials pointed out that women currently head the Supreme Court (Dorit Beinisch) and the main opposition party (Tzipi Livni), and that in the past a woman served as prime minister (Golda Meir), and another as Knesset speaker (Dalia Itzik).

It was unreasonable, the officials said, to draw any comparison between women’s status in Israel and in Iran, where women have been sentenced to death for adultery.

“Is there a law in Israel, like in France, preventing women from wearing a burka?” the officials asked in their conversations.

“Is there a law here, like in Switzerland, banning the construction of minarets on mosques? Is there really a threat to Israeli democracy?”

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