The Inquisition was created in the thirteenth century to persecute those who deviated from Catholic Church dogma. The inquisitors hunted down and punished heretics, with the greatest offenders being those who refused to mend their ways and who would not inform on others.

Although the Inquisition was abolished in the early 19th century, a similar institution has since evolved, this time around the cult of human rights. This new Inquisition is hunting down those who refuse to fall in line and is out to get those daring to think for themselves.

Instead of monks and priests, the modern inquisitors are purists in academia, the media and the liberal arts. Instead of being burned at the stake, heretics are “canceled.” This is a form of virtual crucifixion in the city square, and often, results in the loss of livelihood.

These thought police have managed to dumb down our discourse and media, as well as publicly delegitimizing whatever does not fall in line with their radical social constructs. These constructs make it impossible for those defined as “victims”—whether they are or not—to be responsible for their actions.

They are “asylum seekers,” they are “weakened populations,” even if they do not want to work (and you cannot just call them weak, but only “weakened”—by the privileged). Likewise, In Israel, the violence between Arab clans is always attributed to the Israel Police’s lack of action against organized crime, and reports on extortionist practices in the agricultural world make little mention of how it is rampant in Arab towns.

The barbaric pogroms perpetrated by Arabs (as well as despicable violence by Jews) in Akko and Lod were classified as “violence by both sides,” ignoring the inciting rhetoric of prominent Israeli Arabs who see such flare-ups as part of their national calling. In a similar fashion, radical feminists say that it is racist to fight the oppressive treatment of women in Arab and Islamic societies.

The good news is that these radical forces have become too extreme for anyone that values their sanity. There are countless examples: from canceling the production of “Madama Butterfly” for fear it would come off as racist, to the boycotting of author J.K. Rowling because she dared to say that transgender individuals should be referred to as women if their biological sex is female. Even Dr. Seuss and “The Little House on the Prairie” have been targeted. This was made all the more despicable in New York recently, where it was reportedly decided that COVID treatment would be prioritized for non-whites.

This cult has managed to take over parts of Europe, ending careers through a reign of terror. In Israel, the cult has so far managed to achieve only partial success. Its adherents should be countered—but not by adopting values that are from the other extreme. Radical purism is wrong because it undermines the very foundation of free public discourse. Yes, we can look at past behavior and amend it, as well as revisit works of art through the current values we hold, but such scrutiny must be devoid of self-righteousness and zealotry.

Dan Schueftan is the director of the International Graduate Program in National Security Studies at the University of Haifa’s National Security Studies Center.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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