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      Opinion: Emanuel Isn't Little Rock

      There is no comparison between civil rights battles of Afro Americans and the situation in Emanuel.
      By Avraham Zuroff
      First Publish: 6/18/2010, 11:38 AM / Last Update: 6/18/2010, 11:14 AM

      Yoni Kempinski

      Ernest Green was the first African American to graduate from Central High School, a previously segregated all-white Little Rock, Arkansas school.

      A different “Green” – Israeli attorney Mordechai Green – attempted to defend Emanuel parents who want to maintain a higher standard of modesty than the existing religious school offers. Green and the parents constantly maintain that the issue isn’t racial, but religious. Nevertheless, Israel’s Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, who himself dons a kippah and
      No one should tolerate racial or religious discrimination in a democratic society.
      is a Sephardi minority on a mostly-Ashkenazi bench, refused to budge. That is despite the fact that 27 percent of the girls enrolled in the Chassidic track come from Sephardic backgrounds. The parents claim that this proves that two girls were not accepted due to their not being on the religious standard of the school.

      In the United States, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent federal troops to escort the “Little Rock nine” to school. In Israel, Judge Edmond Levy ordered Chareidi-religious parents jailed for disobeying the court order of returning to a school that they don’t want to send their children to.

      The 1954 US landmark Supreme Court ruling of Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka overturned the doctrine that “separate but equal” was constitutional.

      In 1959, the "Little Rock Crisis" occurred when black Arkansas students were initially prevented from entering the racially segregated high school by Governor Orval Faubus until Eisenhower intervened. On the first day of school, the nine youngsters were followed by mobs threatening to lynch them. The ensuing victory is considered to be one of the most important events in the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

      No one should tolerate racial or religious discrimination in a democratic society.

      But Emanuel is no Little Rock. Any parent that wanted to send their children to the “Chassidic track” was welcome, as long as they accepted the school’s policy. The fact that over a dozen Sephardic students enrolled in the “Chassidic track” attests to that. And no one calls the entirely Sephardic Ma’ayan HaChinuch school in Emanuel racist despite that not a single Ashkenazi student attends. Israel recognizes schools of different religious streams.

      Yes, discrimination occurs in Israel –  and a good part of it is against those Jews who proudly espouse pro-Land of Israel sentiments. Their youngsters were thrown into jail for weeks without due process for exercising the democratic right of protest against the Katif Bloc expulsion. The Knesset commissioned report of how the expellees from Katif were treated was published this week and called the worst ever abrogation of civil rights in Israel by a member of the inquiry commission.

      Could it be that the extreme leftwing anti-settlement New Israel Fund earmarked its attack against parents in Emanuel because they are Samaria residents? The Slonimer Rebbe, head of the Hassidic group whose school was the focus of the court ruling, came out publicly against the Katif expulsion, and castigated the Hareidi-Religious parties for not doing more to prevent it. He told his followers at one point not to vote in Jerusalem's mayoral election because he felt that they could not support the Agudah party that had allowed the expulsion to occur.

      In an ironic twist of events, the Supreme Court has forced the supposedly “racist” parents – who are Ashkenazic and Sephardic – to spend the next two weeks together in jail.

      Those who say that it is wrong to violate a Supreme Court ruling should look at other cases of civil disobedience. In1955, Rosa Parks, an African-American refused to surrender her seat to a white person. More recently, Gush Katif and Chevron residents of Beit HaShalom peacefully resisted orders of expulsion from their homes.

      Should we look for more tolerance and end discrimination in Israeli society? Absolutely. But first let’s call a spade a spade.