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Mar 3, 2008

I just don't understand

I just don't get it. What is the difference?

Shas ministers recently proposed a new bill in Knesset for law that would require Internet providers to automatically filter all websites from pornography, pedophilia and the like. They came under heavy criticism for trying to turn Israel into Iran, religious oppression, harming people's freedom, etc.

The truth is that it is not like China, Dubai, Iran or other countries where certain websites or communications from certain countries are blocked. This is simply a filter that blocks the websites. If a person wants access to those websites, they will be available. All he would need to do is to call his ISP and say he wants access, he wants the filters removed from his account, and he would have full access. The proposed bill is meant to protect the children and young adults from stumbling upon these types of sites and being harmed, corrupted or worse, by them.

Do these filters work? I have no idea. But that is the goal. Anybody who wants access, will have it.

The proposed bill was voted on recently and passed in its first reading. It passed by a majority vote of 42-20, and MKs crossedparty lines to vote for it and against it.

The bill was opposed by Meretz, among others. MK Ran Cohen of Meretz opposed the bill saying, "It is another example of Shas's primitive approach to scientific developments. There are rabbis who are still living 2,000 years ago".

Yet today, Meretz MKs proposed a bill of their own. The Meretz bill proposes a 3 year jail term for anyone advertising sexual services. This bill would include making it illegal for people to put flyers advertising escort services on your car windshield while you are shopping in the mall, which was previously legal. If the services involve minors or trade in women, the jaiol term could go up to as high as 7 years.

So, I do not understand. What is the difference? Shas' bill filtering pornography and pedophilia to prevent them from reaching children, but allowing them upon request, is considered "primitive" and will "transform us into Iran" and harm our society's freedom, yet Meretz proposes a bill blocking the offering of very similar ideas and that is considered enlightened and worthy?

It just does not make sense to me.

Unless their opposition to the Shas bill was only because it was proposed by religious MKs from Shas, and not because of the actual bill itself...


  1. Rafi,

    I partially agree with your final analysis, i.e., that Meretz's real problem with the bill is that it was proposed by a religious party (or that it espouses religious values).

    However, I think it goes beyond that. Their initial reaction to the bill was probably that it is a bad bill since it was proposed by a religious party. But it is not so simple.

    Meretz is not pro-pornography. But they are in favor of giving people whatever options they want, as long as there is no public harm done by the people exercising these options. (One could make the case that Hashem is also in favor of giving people options, even potentially harmful ones, which is why we have free choice. Our challenge is to make the right choice when presented with all of the options. But that is another issue.) While Meretz may not disagree with the bill in its current state, they are afraid (and not without good reason) of the broad powers it gives the government vis-a-vis personal choice - that the government is making these decisions for its citizens. The next logical step is not even giving the option to "opt-in" to blocked internet sites. This would be an abridgement of personal freedoms which they feel is bad, and rightly so. However, they don't say this for some reason, so they put down the religious parties, which, IMHO, is a stupid strategy, considering they have other valid arguments at their disposal.

    The issue of limiting what can be advertised is a separate issue. Advertising is forced upon you. While people (in this case, advertisers) have a right to free speech, it can be limited if it is deemed to be harmful or offensive to public morals. Thus, restricting advertising content is not the same as blocking certain internet sites. The unfortunate thing is that Meretz missed an opportunity to raise the level of debate in this country, even on these seemingly minor matters, and instead capitalized on it to hurl insults and invectives.

  2. Rafi,

    part of the problem is "what" gets filtered. there are filters for families that go overboard. In some cases, complaints to the company made that when the word "breast" is filtered, they cannot do research on breast cancer. or if you eliminate "sex", how do you study or do a report online on DNA or most biology. As yoni says also, it's my cheshban, I don't want to have to call and say release my filter. You don't like it - you filter it yourself, leave me alone. Fatty foods are bad for you, should we forbid them? There is a group in the US trying that already. Seems silly, but where does it end.

  3. I think the concern, one which I share, is that of a slippery slope. I think most people, even those of Meretz, would be amenible to some type of limitation on actual pornography, or at least child pornography. The issue becomes one of where you draw the line?

    This bill in and of itself is fairly harmless. But it does create a mechanism for filtering, limiting, etc. One in place there's huge potential for abuse.

    It's not hard to imagine, a government held hostage to a fundamentalist religious party "filtering" all sort of things based on their fanatic standards.

    Forget pornography. There'd be no pictures of women at all, no pictures of dinosaurs, no articles about evolution or the age of the universe, no You-Tube videos of Lipa Shmetzer, no You-Tube period. You get the idea.

    So, once in while the leftists are right, this does have the potential to make us like another fundamentalist regime like Iran or Saudi Arabia.

    And this is why Meretz's proposal is not illogical. The difference is a fine one, but there is a difference between receiving unsolicited pornographic advertising and going out and finding the pornography yourself.

    The scary part to me, is that the demographics of the chareidi community will drag our country in this direction sooner or later. We can only pray that the power they attain will have a moderating effect on their ideology. It's a long shot, but we can hope.

  4. I understand there might be an issue with who would control it... but today Shas is in charge of that stuff and tomorrow it will probably be somebody else from a different party... Also, the bill says that there will be a committee (I do not know who appoints members of the committee) that will decide on the filters. It is not going to be Rav Ovadia Yosef sitting there picking websites.

    Now, those really are technicalities and details, all of which need to be worked out...

    One more thing, it is nice to say that pornography is a personal choice and if I do not want it I just should not go to those sites. And that is true.

    However we all know that there are pop ups that come without you going to a porn site. There are spam emails that contain it without you requesting anything. Spyware is a major problem when using the internet - a bad result of spyware is often that it redirects sites to gambling or porn or the like, or it creates pop-ups.

    It is not honest to say that porn is only available for somebody who goes to those sites. Those of us who are mature do our best to avoid those sites, and block them where possible. Those of us computer savvy enough to do so, do so. But many people are not computer savvy enough. Teenagers are not mature enough, in many cases, to actively avoid these sites...

    Now, I am not arguing whether the law itself is good or bad. I do not know I understand the concerns of both sides. I actually lean towards supporting the filters, but am really not sure. But, again, I am not arguing here in favor of the filters. I am just comparing the 2 bills and the reactions.

  5. Since when is pornography a "scientific development"? Shas is actually advocating a high-tech solution (filters) to a high-tech problem.

  6. For all those who advocate the "it's my choice" approach: first of all, this affects children, who aren't old enough to make that choice wisely. Secondly, Ledaat'chem, why doesn't the U.S. eliminate the FCC, and air every raunchy show available over free TV and radio?
    This bill is smart in that it doesn't eliminate freedom (you can still get it if you want it) - rather, it promotes safety.

  7. Oh please, not a "for the children" argument. Hello, Israel, home of the entire modern western world's foundation of morality and ethics, and the very idea of self responsibility, judgment, and free will? Predating Greece's input?

    If parents in Israel of all places need to have the government and ISPs raise their children, the various Charedi bans on Internet access start to make perfect sense. Choose yourself not to have access. Taking it away from someone else without their choice doesn't make them more pious or righteous. It wasn't their choice, hence not a reflection on their judgment, hence they bear no credit.

    It doesn't promote safety. It promotes making someone else responsible for the things you do and choose. I have an old Dell PC with a Linux based Smoothwall firewall on it with filtering capability. I also have a plethora of software available to filter my Internet access on the computers. I choose not to bother, but that's my choice. Not someone else's and I need not go and ask, "please, I'd like to maybe look at naughty pictures, so could you remove the filters on my account?"

    That's just silly and demeaning.


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