Times of London

Times reporter Catherine Philp refers to nearly half a million Jews as ‘Zealots’

Remember when reading the following headline and text at The Times of London (pay wall) that this is not an op-ed, but a straight news story by their (error-proneMiddle East correspondent Catherine Philp.

timesAnd, no, this wasn’t simply the work of a sub-editor, as you can see by the opening passage:

Ultra-Orthodox Jews who refuse to serve in the Israeli army could face time in jail under a new law agreed by a parliamentary committee in a move likely to trigger fresh protests from zealots.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, will vote next month on the law aimed at ending an exemption that allows thousands of young ultra-Orthodox men to skip military service in favour of state-sponsored study of scripture. The prospect of legislation prompted thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews to block roads across Israel earlier this month, leading to clashes with police.

Given that roughly 8 percent of Israeli Jews are ultra-Orthodox (Haredi), Philps is lazily using the pejorative “zealot” to describe roughly 480,000 Israelis.

Leaving aside the Jewish historical connotations of the term “Zealots”, though some ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel can reasonably be described as extreme or zealous, to paint the entire community in such negative terms represents a crude stereotype – a simple-minded prejudice that putatively progressive journalists would typically abhor.

As with the frequent pejorative descriptions of Israeli “settlers” in the Guardian and elsewhere in the UK media, Philps’ lazy characterization of the multi-faceted and complex Haredi population in Israel represents more evidence that, when it comes to Israel, liberal taboos against painting large religious or ethnic communities with a broad brush are breezily ignored.

Editor’s Note: Following communication with CiF Watch, Times editors revised the headline.

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44 replies »

      • I need to correct myself here.
        Not all were.
        I understood the question from Pretz to be about the Avreh’im (students).

          • It is true and not true.
            In the headline the meaning is to those who have the exemption (i.e the students and Rabbis) – in which case the figure is incorrect.
            In the text though, it is placing a cover blanket because the assumption is that most of those who already serve in volunteering organisation or Orthodox units in the army will listen to their mentors or will have second thoughts and will support their communities in the protest. This will make the figure correct.

            The various agreements reached with all 3 large communities over the years are very complex and I agree that simplifying it in the way the writer does is incorrect, misleading and can easily cause offence.
            It’s unwise to do this in a large paper.

            Never the less I believe that the leadership behaves like Zealots, however this is my personal belief.

            • Yes, the original author does appear guilty of oversimplifying.

              p.s. Which “leadership” do you mean in that last sentence?

              • All 3 streams in my opinion have shown a lack of empathy towards the police and the army considering the jobs they (the law enforcement) are tasked with.

          • Michael. That’s unfair. Pretzel has a genuine interest in Israel, and although he may not share your political view, I have never known him to come here to bait Jews. On the contrary, he will defend them when necessary, and Israel’s right to exist.

                • Nope. I’m not going to do that. This is an Internet forum. You want to publicly bash somebody, then you should expect the same. It’s pretty simple.

                  Anyway, I probably have more in common with Pretz than I do with you. Not that this has anything to do with me calling you out for publicly condemning Pretz as being Sanctimonious.

                  • If you decide to base your judgments on this one part of this one thread, then I agree that you probably have more in common with him than with me.

                    • You gave me the “honor” by calling me out. I had no quarrel with you prior to this evening, but if you have decided that there should be one, so be it.

                  • How on earth have you come up with that garbage? I really see that it isn’t worth talking to you. I will not stand by and be vilified by Pretzelbull or anyone else, including you. I’ll generally ignore you from now, but I’ll respond to your attacks.

  1. Adam,
    However much I disagree with Lapid’s angle of tackling the issue of the Haredim’s behaviour in general and their unhelpfulness to join in carrying the burden of the social state, I’m afraid many in Israel see them as such.

    Many openly call them all in ugly terms such as leeches etc.

    Their leaders’ words yesterday: “There will be a war!”.

    What exactly to you classify this attitude?
    They have a problem with carrying weapons against the Arabs but okay to do so against their bretherns.
    I call this A Zealot! Don’t you?

    • Forgot to add the link;


      I wonder what do other people make of this statement?
      It is filled with charged words that are well over the top and could easily create an atmosphere where one of the followers see in commiting murder a viable option.
      It (their statement) is explicit that the govt of Israel is set on preventing Jews from carrying out their tradition and Mitzvot and by doing so creating “Hillul HaShem”.

      Shimon Peres put it simple:
      “A historical meeting in Bnei Brak brought together leaders of the two sects forming the United Torah Judaism party- the Lituaninan Degel Hatorah (Flag of the Torah) and the Hasidic Agudat Yisrael. The meeting was dubbed an “emergency meeting” and its topic was the expected majority vote in the next Knesset to enlist the ultra-Orthodox in the IDF, the most popular solution to the issue of equal share of the social burden. Meanwhile president Shimon Peres said in response that everyone should serve in accordance with national needs but not necessarily in the Israel Defense Forces. The IDF itself says that it doesn’t want everyone he said , “But everyone has to serve society in some way.” As far as haredim are concerned, said Peres, this does not have to mean abandonment of prayer and study.”


    • I understand your point, but it’s (at minimum) unprofessional and highly misleading for a journalist to use that term in a straight news piece. It’s blurring news with opinion. Plus, can you imagine them using such pejoratives for any other group?

      • Then will you also complain about the Jerusalem Post using that same term to speak of some Haredi in past articles? Or you do exclusively obsess about British journalists?

      • I see your point Adam.
        But I have to say that it didn’t bother me as much as the noise coming out of the emergency meeting yesterday evening or the harsh phootage of the street chaos a few weeks back when our police forces attacked Hassidim and them attacking the police.

        It is nice to see the religious communities meeting up for once but it’s a shame they don’t believe that negotiating with the govt is better rather than making such harsh threats like Bob Crow does from his Ivory tower with his sun tan.

    • Michael, this is turning into a ‘Judean People’s Front’ confrontation. As far as I know, both you and Pretz would like to see a prosperous and secure state of Israel, instead you waste your time telling him to fuck off because he’s a member of the People’s Front of Judea.

      • Sorry Groovy, but IMO it’s a mistake that Israel just sits and takes the attacks from the demonizers, many of them Jews. In the same vein, I won’t tolerate it either.

        • All I’m doing is pointing out your anti-Arab bigotry. That hardly constitutes an “attack” on Israel!
          It’s you who’s doing the demonizing here.

          • All you do is look for ways to puff up your pathetic personality by demonizing others. Disgusting individuals like you, apologizing for the Guardian, cause Israelis, Jews and Arabs to die. You are human filth.

  2. I forgot to mention that Lapid seem to be at ease with allowing Arabs to not carry out the same services.
    It should be all citizens equally.

  3. Strange how the (Cifwatch) article considers the term “zealot” to be pejorative but is happy to use the pejorative term “ultra-Orthodox” when referring to the Haredi community.

    • This is the term used by most Jews in the UK.
      I believe the JC also uses this term and I remember hearing this term from the Chief Rabbi in one interview, though i might be mistaken on that.
      The Reform and Liberal movements use this term to identify various streams and by no means to ridicule or cause offence.
      The term Zealot on the other hand can be interpret in various ways.

      • Zealot certainly has a pejorative meaning in the Christian world and according to Christian teachings. That`s why the Times reporter used it.

        • It seems that way, hence their retraction.
          What a sad world we’re living in, when words and insults can be thrown out publicaly against faceless far away people we care little of.

          It’s 1930’s all over again.
          I bet Galloway will drink to that.

          • Even in a secular western world most of the people are still raised as Christians, or in a way observing Christian rites, teachings or holidays, therefore the connotation stays on.