The European Union appear concerned about the new Israeli herem law. The law suggests that a person or an organisation calling for the boycott of Israel , including the settlements, can be sued by the boycotts' targets, without having to prove that they sustained any damage.
“We are concerned about the effect that this legislation may have on the freedom of Israeli citizens and organisations to express non-violent political opinions" said spokesperson for foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.
More and more people and institutions now understand that Israel is not a ‘civilised society’: it is impervious to notions of human and civil rights, and it also does not share the common and fundamental foundations of a Western value system. Israel is not a democracy and it has never been one. At the most, Israel has managed to mimic some of the appearances of a Western civilisation, but it has clearly failed to internalise the meaning of tolerance and freedom.
This should not take us by surprise: Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, and Jewishness is, sadly enough, inherently intolerant; indeed, it may be argued that Jewish intolerance is as old as the Jews themselves.
Regarding legislation then, how are we to understand the implications of the word ‘herem’? The Hebrew word herem in its contemporary usage refers to a ban, boycott and sanction. However, within the biblical context, the word suggests the total destruction of the enemy and his goods at the conclusion of a campaign.
The emergence of Christianity then, can be viewed as an attempt to rectify such a situation of stark intolerance -- it can be understood as an attempt to drift away from The Old Testament’s dark ideology. Christianity introduced ideas of harmony and love. And it is no wonder that the man who dared suggest to his Judean contemporaries to ‘love their neighbours’ ended up nailed to wood. He himself ended up being subject to a vile homicidal herem campaign.
Uriel Da Costa
The spirit of herem is intrinsic to the Judaic teaching and spirit. Many people are aware of Spinoza being subject to a Rabbinical herem. Yet, not many are familiar with the story of Uriel Da Costa.