Islamic fundamentalism is
vilified in the West. Extremist Jews are largely ignored. In Israel
they're dangerous. They influence
government policy. They seek control of Israel's rabbinical system.
Last January, Haaretz reported that ultra-Orthodox Shas party members
used "improper methods bordering on the criminal (to get) its people
appointed to key offices."
Israeli Haredim are ultra-Orthodox extremists. They believe their way
is the only way. Others are heretics. Israel Shahak's (1933 - 2001)
"Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel" explained its pervasive, destructive
influence on Israeli politics, the military and society.
He called all forms of bigotry morally reprehensible, saying:
"Any form of racism, discrimination and xenophobia becomes more potent
and politically influential if it is taken for granted by the society
which indulges in it."
In Israel, he added:
"The support of democracy and human rights is....meaningless or even
harmful and deceitful when it does not begin with self-critique and
with support of human rights when they are violated by one's own group."
"Any support of human rights for non-Jews whose rights are being violated
by the 'Jewish state' is as deceitful as the support of human rights
by a Stalinist…."
Shahak was a holocaust survivor. He discussed Jewish fundamentalist
history. He examined its variations and explained dangerous messianic
ones. They espouse Jewish superiority. Gentiles are inferior.
Fundamentalist Rabbi Abraham Kook (1865 - 1935) was significant. He
preached Jewish supremacy, saying:
"The difference between a Jewish soul and souls of non-Jews - all of
them in all different levels - is greater and deeper than the difference
between a human soul and the souls of cattle."
He helped create the settler movement. His son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook,
founded the extremist Gush Emunim. Its slogan is "The Land of Israel,
for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel."
Its adherents believe God created the world for Jews. Others are lesser
beings. Greater Israel belongs to Jews alone. Holy wars are proper ways
to gain it.
Kook was Israel's first chief rabbi. In 1924, he founded Mercaz HaRav
(the Rabbi's center). It's one of Israel's largest yeshivas (Talmudic
It believes "non-Jews living under Jewish law in Eretz Yisrael (the
Land of Israel) must either be enslaved as water carriers and wood hewers,
or banished, or exterminated."
Kook's modern adherents teach these ideas. Jews are genetically superior,
they believe. Gentiles are completely evil. God's 10 commandments don't
apply to non-Jews. Killing them to defend Israel is acceptable.
Jewish Rabbinic Council Rabbi Dov Lior said:
"There is no such thing as enemy civilians in war time. The law of our
Torah is to have mercy on our soldiers and to save them….A thousand
non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew's fingernail."
Rabbi David Barsri called Arabs "a blight, a devil, a disaster - donkeys,
and we have to ask ourselves why God didn't create them to walk on all
fours. Well, the answer is that they are needed to build and clean."
In 2007, Israel's former chief Sephardi Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu called
for mass-murdering Palestinians, saying:
"If they don't stop after we kill 100, then we must kill 1,000. And
if they don't stop after 1,000, then we must kill 10,000. If they still
don't stop we must kill 100,000. Even a million. Whatever it takes to
make them stop."
In March 2009, Safed's chief rabbi/Chief Rabbinate Council member Shmuel
Eliyahu called for "state-sponsored revenge" to restore "Israel's deterrence."
"It's time to call the child by its name: Revenge, revenge, revenge.
We mustn't forget. We have to take horrible revenge for the terrorist
attack at Mercaz Harav yeshiva."</blockquote>
He referred to an earlier incident. Eight students died. These views
aren't exceptions. Minority Haredim make things hard for others. Representing
about 8% of Israeli Jews, their influence greatly outweighs their numbers.
Eliyahu said he wasn't "talking about individual people in particular.
I'm talking about the state. (It) has to pain them where they scream
'Enough,' to the point where they fall flat on their face and scream
Ethnicity in Israel defines religious segments. Sephardic Jews originated
from the Middle East, North Africa and Spain. Ashkenazi ones are from
Eastern Europe. They differ in religious and cultural traditions.
Both communities attend separate synagogues in different neighborhoods.
Israel has two chief rabbis, one Ashkenazi, the other Sephardic. Extremists
believe in Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel).
Thirteenth century Rabbi Moses Ben Nachman was their spiritual godfather.
He said Jews "should settle in the land and inherit it, because He gave
it to them, and they should not reject God's inheritance." Our rabbis
say it's "a mitzvah (commandment) to settle in the land and it is forbidden
to leave it."
Similar dogma persists today. Extremist zealots believe Jews alone have
rights. Palestinians are enemies for wanting their own land. All Arabs
and Gentiles everywhere are lesser beings. Killing them is acceptable
to serve Jewish interests.
Shas party spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef once called for annihilating
Arabs. On August 17, he met secretly with senior Israeli defense and
government officials. He heads Shas' Council of Torah Sages. He formerly
served as Israel's chief Sephardic rabbi.
He's 91 but still active. In an earlier sermon, he called the Palestinians
"snakes (and) accursed, wicked ones." He claims God regrets creating
He later said it's "forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send
missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable." He
considers Katrina God's wrath against Godless Blacks. He claims God
said "let's bring a tsunami and drown them."
He compares non-Jews to farm animals. They're only fit to serve Jews,
he said. According to the Jerusalem Post:
"Goyim were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place
in the world only to serve the People of Israel."
Yosef believes only Jewish lives matter. He interprets the chosen people
'In Israel, death has no dominion over (Gentiles). They need to die,
but (God) will give them longevity. Why? Imagine that one's donkey would
die, they'd lose their money."
"This is his servant….That's why he gets a long life, to work well for
'Why are gentiles needed? They will work. They will plow. They will
reap. We will sit like an effendi and eat. That is why gentiles were
Compassion isn't Yosef's long suit. Nor is reason and belief about everyone
deserving equal rights.
Friday's discussion focused on Iran. Netanyahu wants Yosef approval
for war. Perhaps he also sought his spiritual blessing. So far it's
not clear where he stands. However, a day after the meeting, he said
in his weekly sermon:
"You know what situation we're in. There are evil people (in) Iran (wanting)
to destroy us….We must pray before (God) with all our heart."
Shas party members have considerable influence in Israel. They're part
of Netanyahu's governing coalition. Yosef must be reckoned with. Twenty
years ago Hosni Mubarak invited him to his private residence. He thanked
him for supporting peace. He also sought personal ties.
Mubarak knew what others do now. Yosef's views matter. If he's against
attacking Iran, Netanyahu may have to rethink policy. If he supports
it, Netanyahu and other hardliners will be freer to act.
Yitzhak Rabin met with him three times before finalizing the Oslo Accords.
Ariel Sharon saw him twice before announcing his Gaza disengagement
plan. Thousands of Gush Katif residents were moved unwillingly to new
In 2007, before attacking Syria's alleged nuclear site, Ehud Olmert
discussed it with Yosef. He did again before attacking Lebanon in 2006.
Last October, Netanhayu sought Yosef's approval on Palestinian prisoners
to be exchanged for Gilat Shalit. US Israeli ambassador Dan Shapiro
established a friendly relationship with him before assuming his post.
He went out of his way to meet with him on arrival. Other meetings followed.
On August 17, Yosef met privately with Netanhayu, Shas party Interior
Minister Eli Yishai and National Security Council head Ya'akov Amidror.
Yishai opposes war. Amidror supports it. He's hardline against Iranian
influence. He calls its peaceful nuclear program threatening.
Yishai expressed concern after the meeting ended. Perhaps Yosef endorsed
Netanyahu's plan. Whatever his previous views, he may have been manipulated
to believe Iran poses an existential threat. He addressed other views
in Israel, saying:
"They (Iran) are capable of bringing about mass destruction, God forbid.
May God nullify their thoughts. We cannot sit idly by. The nation of
Israel is in danger. We are not in regular times."
In 2010, Yosef asked God to hit Abu Mazen (Abbas) and Palestinians with
a plague. These "evil people should perish from this earth," he said.
"God should strike them and these Palestinians, evil haters of Israel…."
Other extremist rabbis say similar things. Their views matter. They
influence policy. If Yosef urged war Iran, expect it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized
Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News
Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time
and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy