|Mahmoud Darwish, the world’s most recognized Palestinian poet passed
away in a US hospital Saturday, August 9, 2008 after undergoing complicated
heart surgery. Darwish has published more than two dozen books of poetry and
prose rooted in his experience of Palestinian exile and struggle in a career
spanning nearly five decades.
By Mahmoud Darwish -1942-2008
Here on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of time
A little of this absolute and blue infinity
I have changed.
enslavement that does no harm, in fullest liberty!
-Translated by Marjolijn De Jager.
Palestinian poet Darwish dies
Mahmoud Darwish, the renowned Palestinian poet, has died after open heart surgery at the Memorial Hermann medical centre in Texas.
Ann Brimberry, Memorial Hermann’s spokeswoman, confirmed to Al Jazeera that Darwish died at 1.35pm (18:35 GMT).
Siham Daoud, a fellow poet and friend of the 67-year-old, had asked not to be resuscitated if the surgery did not succeed.
She said Darwish departed for the US ten days ago for the surgery, and he had undergone two operations for heart problems before Saturday’s surgery.
Best known for his work describing the Palestinian struggle for independence, the experience of exile and factional infighting, Darwish was a vocal critic of Israeli policy and the occupation of Palestinian lands.
Many of his poems have also been put into music – most notably Rita, Birds of Galilee and I yearn for my mother’s bread, becoming anthems for at least two generations of Arabs.
“He felt the pulse of Palestinians in beautiful poetry. He was a mirror of the Palestinian society,” Ali Qleibo, a Palestinian anthropologist and lecturer in cultural studies at Al Quds University in Jerusalem said.
Last year, Darwish recited a poem damning the deadly infighting between rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah, describing it as “a public attempt at suicide in the streets”.
He was born in the village of Barweh in Galilee, a village that was razed during the establishment of Israel in 1948.
He joined the Israeli Communist Party after high school and began writing poems for leftist newspapers.
He was put under house arrest and imprisoned for his political activities, after which he worked as editor of Ittihad newspaper before leaving to study in the USSR in 1971.
Originally a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Darwish resigned in 1993 in protest over the interim peace accords that Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, signed with Israel.
As a journalist, he worked for al-Ahram newspaper in Cairo and later became director of the Palestinian Research Centre.
In 2000, Yossi Sarid, Israel’s education minister, suggested including some of Darwish’s poems in the Israeli high school curriculum.
But Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister overruled him, saying Israel was not ready yet for his ideas in the school system.
In 2001, he won the Lannan prize for cultural freedom.
Leaves of Olives was published in 1964 when Darwish was 22-years old. Since then more than 20 volumes of his works of poetry have been published.
by Khalid Amayreh
Israel is very much behaving like a whore who urges her town’s folks to erect a great memorial plaque to celebrate and glorify her chastity.
This week, some Zionist pundits both in Israel and North America have urged the Israeli government to boycott the Olympic Games in China to protest that country’s dismal human rights record.
These self-righteous Zionists claimed that a country that rose from the ashes of the holocaust shouldn’t have normal relations with a country that systematically violates human rights and civil liberties.
There is no doubt that China is a prominent violator of human rights (Is the US any better)!!! But the more important question in this context is really whether Israel, a state that has been murdering, enslaving and tormenting another people for the past sixty years, is in a position to lecture or criticize China or any other country on the subject of human rights.
One can argue with little exaggeration that Israel itself is a crime against humanity since its very creation in Palestine in 1948 entailed the extirpation and dispersion of 90% of Palestine’s indigenous inhabitants.
In fact, the systematic ethnic cleansing from Palestine-Israel of non-Jews, who constituted more than 80% of the total population, is still an ongoing process. Moreover, the nearly daily demolition of Palestinian homes in the Negev desert and the West Bank, along with the unceasing theft of Arab land, show that Israel is far worse than China with regard to observance of human rights and the rule of international law.
And while China does indulge in serious violations of human rights, especially in the Tibet region and against certain religious minorities, Israel routinely commits serious war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinians and other peoples of the Middle East.
These crimes include, inter alia, deliberate and calculated murder of innocent civilians, blockading civilian population and denying it access to food and fuel and health care, bombing apartment buildings and crowded streets, vandalizing and ransacking civilian institutions such as orphanages, schools, hospitals and sports facilities and encouraging Nazi-like Jewish settlers to terrorize and murder Palestinian civilians for the purpose of driving them away from their land.
Israel also has been burying nuclear wastes in the vicinity of Arab communities, such as in the southern Hebron region, which is causing a dramatic increase in the occurrence of cancer.
Two years ago, the Israeli air force dropped millions of cluster-bomblets on Lebanon, enough to kill millions of people.
In short, it is really very difficult to imagine a crime that Israel has not committed. True, Israel, unlike China, enjoys the benefit of world-wide hasbara (propaganda) machine extending from Los Angels to Sydney which celebrates Israeli “democracy” and “liberty.” However, the truth, the naked truth, is that Israel remains a murderer, thief and liar.
Israel may very well have been successful in hiding its evil nature from the eyes of many people, especially in the West. However, this evil will eventually corrode Israel from within and bring its demise.
The brazen depravity of Zionist thinking had another morbid expression this week. The Israeli government reportedly protested to Turkey a planed visit to Ankara by Iranian President Ahmadinejad.
Israeli officials have called on Turkish leaders to cancel the visit to protest the Iranian nuclear program and Ahmadinejad’s rejection of Zionism.
Again, the odor of hypocrisy is wafting all over the place.
First of all, Israel has no right to dictate to Turkey, a nation of 75 million people, which foreign statesman to invite and which not to invite. Turkey, after all, is a sovereign state that is mature enough to decide for itself. Turkey will not view favorably any foreign interference in its internal affairs especially if such interference comes from a state that is more sinful than sin itself.
Second, a country that possess hundreds of nuclear heads, many of them are probably directed at Muslim cities in the Middle East, have no right to protest Iran’s nuclear program.
Indeed, if Israel, India, Pakistan, U.S., Russia, China, France Britain and other countries have the right to develop nuclear technology and even nuclear weapons, why can’t Iran, a country that had a prosperous civilization thousands of years before the discovery of America.
Moreover, with such a holier- than- thou attitude, Israel is really not morally fit to protest Ahmadinejad’s anti-Zionist remarks.
Israel today spearheads a worldwide venomous campaign of hatred and incitement against Islam and Muslims. Israeli and Zionist leaders, officials, diplomats, writers and spokespersons routinely incite against nearly one quarter of humanity.
Six decades ago, Nazi leaders in Europe spread the message “kill the Jews, don’t let them take over Europe, don’t let them destroy Christianity, don’t let them destroy mother Germany.”! Today the chorus of hate from Jerusalem to New York to Sydney is spreading a similar message: “Islam is taking over Europe!!, kill the Muslims, kill the terrorists, wipe Islam off from the face of earth.!!”
Just read the hateful Zionist press such as the Jerusalem Post, the New York Post, Commentary, the New Republic, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, to mention just a few example, and you will see how the “Nazi mind” is still very much alive and kicking 63 years after the demise of the Third Reich.
Today, Israel is waging a dirty war against Islam under the pretext of fighting Hamas and other Palestinian resistance organizations.
Israel is destroying Palestinian schools, closing down Palestinian orphanages, and, probably in collusion with the quisling-like Palestinian Authority, terrorizing Islamic institutions that predated the appearance of Hamas by many decades.
Israel is arresting and torturing young men and women for the pettiest Islamic activity. Israel is really very much like Nazi Germany prior to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.
Needless to say, such a state has no right to preach righteousness to the world.
In fact, with such a manifestly diabolical behavior, Israel is not only an abomination upon humanity, it is also a cancer upon the collective conscience of the Jewish people.
Toilet water – the new kind of weapon used against the people from Bil’in
International Solidarity Movement
To view the village of Bil’in’s website click here
Today, 8th August 2008, after the Friday Prayers, the inhabitants of Bil’in, Israeli, and international peace activists participated in a demonstration against the wall. They raised Palestinian flags and signs with slogans that condemn the policies of the occupation. The slogans condemned the construction of the wall, the confiscation of Palestinian lands for the construction of settlements, the road closures, and the seizure of Palestinian villages, towns, and cities. The protesters also carried signs with slogans against the killing of innocent civilians, especially children. In addition, the slogans condemned the attacks on detainees, in particular, shooting at them while detained, hand cuffed and blindfolded.
The protest started from the centre of the village, and the protesters chanted similar slogans in addition to those that called for national unity. Upon arrival to the wall, the protesters while raising photos of the murdered children, Ahmed Husam Yousef Musa and Yousef Ahmed Amera, attempted to cross the wall in to their land. The action was a symbol of protest against the monstrous violations that Israeli soldiers commit against Palestinian civilians. Israeli soldiers murdered Ahmed 10 days ago, 29 July 2008, and Yousef 3 days ago, 4 August 2008 – both while participating in non-violent protests against the construction of the segregation wall in Ni’lin.
Today, the protesters succeeded to arrive at the location of the wall, and they repeated chants and slogans against the occupation soldiers and their officers that command them to shoot unarmed civilians. Soon after, confrontations started, the soldiers started firing tear gas, and sprayed us with toilet water. We would like to take a sample for analysis. Many people immediately had to be sick after being sprayed with this water. This is not the first time they use water, but this time was the first that they used water from the toilets. In addition to the water, the soldiers use many types of weapons on the Palestinians. For example they use many types of gas, many types of rubber bullets, clean water, water mixed with gas, scream, saltball, sackbeans. All of these are new weapons.
From a different point, the Israeli Supreme Court gave 45 days (52 as of today) to the Israeli army to correct the current track of the segregation wall that passes through the village. Israeli Chief Justice, Dorit Beinisch, and two of her fellow colleagues, condemned the Israeli government’s neglictance of the Supreme Court’s ruling last year, which ordered the correction of the current track of the wall.
Chief Justice Beinisch confirmed to the Israeli government representative, Avi Lisht, her ruling to correct the track of the wall and added; “we ruled that the current track cannot sustain as it does now.”
The people of Bil’in submitted a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court in 2005, hoping to prevent the Israeli occupation army from confiscating their lands. The confiscated lands would be used to build the segregation wall and further annex the remaining of the land in favor of constructing the illegal settlement, ‘East Metateaho’.
On July 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court decreed the illegitimacy of constructing the wall on Bil’in’s lands, and further ordered the government to propose a different track of the wall without harming the nature of the village. A year after the ruling, and because the Israeli government did not act in accordance with the ruling, the people of Bil’in through their advocate, Mikhael Sfard, decided to return to the Supreme Court. The Israeli government further continues the same policy without acknowledging the Supreme Courts ruling.
The latest confrontation between Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip has deepened the chasm separating the two largest Palestinian political movements.
The “Battle of Shijaiyeh” raged for 48 hours in the eastern suburbs of Gaza City, leaving 11 people dead and 110 injured. Several buildings and homes were completely destroyed. Dozens of Fatah activists, including some allegedly responsible for the Gaza beach bombing of 25 July which killed six people, among them a six-year-old girl, were arrested.
Hundreds of members of the Fatah-allied Helis clan fled to Israel after Hamas’s forces overran their neighbourhood.
Some of the escapees were killed while others were turned back by Israeli troops, only to be arrested by Hamas.
A majority of the clansmen have now been allowed to return to their families after Hamas leaders declared that their “security campaign” did not target a particular family but rather “criminals and murderers” hiding in the Shijaiyeh neighbourhood.
Initially, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas had requested that Israel return all the “refugees” back to Gaza “because we don’t want to leave Gaza for Hamas”. His stand triggered an outcry among Fatah’s rank and file in the West Bank, with some Fatah leaders accusing Abbas of betraying his followers by delivering them to Hamas to be tortured and killed. Eventually Abbas relented and asked Israel to allow the escapees to enter the West Bank.
Israel, which is reaping the fruits of the inter-Palestinian conflict it has fanned, first incarcerated the fleeing Fatah men after forcing them to undress before TV cameras. This humiliating conduct drew no reaction from the PA leadership in the West Bank. Then, on 4 August, more than 100 members of the Helis clan were driven to Jericho where they were housed in a makeshift camp on condition they remain within the confines of the desert town and not move to other parts of the West Bank. Other escapees were taken to an Israeli military prison without any explanation.
In the West Bank the Fatah-dominated PA retaliated with sweeping arrests of religiously-oriented figures suspected of sympathising with Hamas. The crackdown targeted religious scholars, journalists, elected city council officials, civic leaders and public officials. Hamas said hundreds of its supporters were arrested as PA security forces closed down dozens of Hamas- associated institutions, including cultural and sports clubs and community centres. Hamas reciprocated by arresting Fatah political leaders in the Gaza Strip, including Zakaria Al-Agha, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee, and Ibrahim Abul-Naja, a local Fatah politician.
The arrests of Fatah political leaders drew sharp reactions, even from some Hamas leaders in the West Bank and Gaza who castigated the unprecedented measure as “crossing a red line” and amounting to “emulating Fatah’s lawless behaviour”.
The criticisms forced Hamas to release all the political detainees and re-open Fatah- affiliated offices and institutions closed days before on the orders of Said Siyam, Hamas’s interior minister in Gaza. In Ramallah, Abbas had earlier ordered the release “political detainees” rounded up by PA police last week, though as of press time many still remained in custody.
The defeat of Fatah in the Shijaiyeh neighbourhood has put an end to whatever hopes Fatah may have had of wresting Gaza from Hamas by force. Fatah had hoped that sporadic bombings and localised insurrections would generate sufficient turmoil and chaos to provoke a popular uprising against Hamas rule. Now the war between the two, for a time at least, is confined to words.
Ziyad Abu Ein, one of Hamas’s most implacable foes within Fatah, has called on the PA leadership to “outlaw Hamas once and for all” and to declare Gaza “a breakaway region”.
“Gaza must be retaken through violence, fire and blood,” he railed.
It is a rhetoric echoed by other Fatah leaders, who have called for the deployment of Arab and international forces in Gaza as well as the prosecution of Hamas’s leaders for crimes against humanity, and which has met with ridicule in the Strip.
Hawkish Hamas leader Mushir Al-Masri scoffed at the “sabre-rattling” coming out of Ramallah, calling Abu Ein “preposterous and foolish”. Another Hamas leader, Sami Abu Zuhri, warned that the militant group could overrun the West Bank just as it took over the Gaza Strip, if provoked by Fatah.
“Fatah can expect an uprising against them if they continue to repress Hamas in the West Bank. If arrests and other forms of repression continue, they will lead to spontaneous responses, whether from resistance fighters or common people,” said Abu Zuhri.
Neither Fatah’s threats to retake Gaza by force nor Hamas’s threats to overrun the West Bank can be taken seriously. Given realities on the ground Fatah could retake Gaza only if the Israeli army reoccupied the coastal enclave and then handed it over to PA President Abbas, in which case Fatah would be viewed by Palestinians and Arabs as a quisling entity vis-à-vis Israel and a Palestinian civil war would ensue.
Hamas and Fatah both appear to know that Israel is the ultimate winner and the Palestinian people the losers in this increasingly tribal conflict. Unfortunately, neither group appears as yet willing to abandon the parochial calculations that are driving the confrontation.
Israeli settlers prevent a Christian service in Beit Sahour, assault worshippers
George Rishmawi – IMEMC
Seth Freedman has an interesting Blog today about settler violence… you can read it HERE.
I learned of the death of your son, Ahmed Musa, through a one-sentence newsflash on the Palestinian news station Ma’an last Tuesday: “Ahmed Musa, a young boy, was killed by a bullet of the occupying forces in Nil’in.” I was immediately overcome with shock and grief and bitter tears. And above all, that relentless feeling of powerlessness that I know too well. We Palestinians cannot protect our children from being killed. Not because they are soldiers on the battlefield, but because we cannot imprison them in our homes. They must live their lives, play outside the house, go to school. We tell ourselves that there must be in our land a safe place to protect our little ones. Should not our villages be safe? Should not the courtyards of our homes be safe? And the safest place of all—should this not be the schoolyard?
But our children are still murdered in cold blood in front of our homes, in the heart of our villages and in our schools. For on another black Tuesday a year and a half ago, soldiers of the occupation killed my own beloved ten-year-old daughter. Abir Aramin was shot in the head in front of her school in the village of Anata on January 16th, 2007. Ahmed and Abir passed on the same day of the week, at the same age; both were shot in the head by the same kind of killer: one of the Israeli border patrol guards.
The moment I heard the news of your son’s death, I found myself speaking aloud to him. “Ya Ahmed, please give my regards and my love to Abir. Your two pure souls will meet in paradise. Go in peace, beloved, do not fear for you are not alone—there are others there waiting for you. Ready to greet you are more than a thousand Palestinian children who have been killed since the year 2000. And though I hope with all my heart, Ahmed, that you will be the last victim of these legitimized Israeli war crimes, I cannot help but wonder—who will be killed next?”
We Palestinian parents—are we not fully responsible for what happens to our children? For why do we allow our children to go out into the streets in the light of day? Why do we permit them play outside the house? Why do we not only let them, but actually encourage them to go to school and be educated? And even more importantly, I place the blame our martyred children—how dare you let your heads get in the way of the Israeli sharpshooters? Let’s try to be reasonable: the soldiers of the occupation don’t really want to kill our children, it can’t be a deliberate policy of intimidation and violence—they are simply trying to help us keep our children in a safe place. And clearly they believe that the safest place for our children to be, where no one can harm them, is in their graves.
When I heard what happened to Ahmed, I was in the middle of reading a book about international human rights and the specific laws pertaining to children in times of war and armed struggle. Every Palestinian should read these laws until he knows his rights, and every Israeli should read these same laws until he understands the enormity of the criminal and fascist practices of the Israeli army against the Palestinian people.
Major General Gabi Ashkenazi, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Occupation Forces, has said that “My greatest fear is the loss of humanity [among Israeli troops] because of the ongoing warfare.” I must inform the distinguished General that he lost his humanity a long time ago. He and his army should fear for their loss of humanity, for under his leadership the Israeli army killed Ahmed Musa. And if he doesn’t care about Ahmed because he is a Palestinian, General Ashkenazi should at least be afraid that his army has lost its humanity in its treatment of Israelis as well. We have all seen how Israeli soldiers treat their own people who join us Palestinians in peaceful protest in Bil’in and Nil’in and Artash and in the Galilee and in Tulkarem. Did the General see when soldiers fired rubber bullets at Dr. Tsfiyah Shapira and her son Itamar, who were participating in a peaceful march in the village of Shufa near Tulkarem alongside many peace activists? I’m guessing that he did witness this, in fact I would guess that General Ashkenazi ordered this operation and the many others like it. Look closely, General, and you will find the source of your fear.
Hussam, Ahmed and Abir have gone to the hereafter, and I promise you that in eternity they will outlive their murderers. Our children are the epitome of innocent humanity, and their killers are the most despicable of criminals. But while such ruthless men exist as part of the occupying army, please know that there are thousands of Israelis who refuse to participate in these crimes, who are ashamed at the bloody stains that soak the uniform of the Israeli army and all those who would call its conduct moral or democratic. There are Israelis like Tsfiya and Itamar who feel it is their moral, and human, duty to stand with us.
They have killed our children, Hussam. What can we do but fight on? We will never lay down our arms. For despite the advanced military technology and deadly force that we face, it is we who posses the most dangerous weapons of all. These are the weapons of morality and justice. We will not surrender these in the face of brutality, and we will be steadfast in demanding justice for our children. Ahmed and Abir’s murderers must be judged and sentenced as criminals. Let me be clear: we do not seek revenge. Justice for our beloved, dead children will not be served by the murder of a young Israeli girl in front of her school, or by the murder of a young Israeli boy by a bullet to the head. We will refuse to mirror the violent means of the occupation. You and I, and every Palestinian, must let our morals and our humanity and the teachings of our great faith be our guides.
Yours in bereavement and steadfastness,
In a brief article published on the front-page of the East Jerusalem-based Arabic daily, al Quds, 5 August, Noam Shalit claimed that Israel’s criminal blockade of the Gaza Strip was primarily imputed to the capture by Palestinian resistance fighters of his son, Israeli occupation army soldier Gilad Shalit, more than two years ago.
Shalit also claimed that his son’s “captivity” is one of the main reasons why Israel can’t release thousands of Palestinian political and resistance prisoners languishing in Israeli detention camps.
Well, I think that Shalit, a French citizen who had immigrated to occupied Palestine to arrogate land and property that belong to another people, is insulting people’s intelligence.
He should realize that indulging in prevarication, lies and half truths can’t be an authentic substitute for an honest approach to his son’s “plight” which is really very negligible when compared to the enduring nightmare of more than 10,000 Palestinian prisoners imprisoned in Israel.
In fact, Shalit’s condescending approach to Palestinian prisoners epitomizes the overall Zionist perception of non-Jews in general and Palestinians in particular, namely that they are lesser people, with lesser rights, including the right to life.
In truth, there is a weak linkage between the criminal blockade of Gaza and the Shalit affair.
After all, Israel has been murdering, tormenting, starving and blockading Palestinians for ages. There are tens of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank who are barred from traveling or seeking work.
This has nothing to do with the Shalit affair, but has everything to do with Israel’s strategic goal of annihilating the Palestinians as a people and seizing what has remained of their homeland.
Indeed, claiming that the capture by Palestinian fighters of an Israeli occupation soldier, who may well have a lot of innocent blood on his hands, is the reason for Israel’s Nazi-like policies in the West Bank and Gaza, is a flagrant expression of ignorance or malicious mendacity.
Are we to believe that the cold-blooded murder of Ahmad Mousa in Nilin a few days ago was motivated by the imprisonment of Gila’ad Shalit? Are we to believe that the systematic demolition of Arab homes in East Jerusalem is attributed to the Shalit affair? Is the Gestapo-like reign of terror by Jewish settlers against innocent Palestinian shepherds and peasants in various parts of the West Bank connected with the same issue?
More to the point, it is also absolutely untrue that Israel would have been more willing to release Palestinian prisoners had it not been for the Shalit affair. In fact, only fools and ignoramuses would give Israel the benefit of the doubt in this regard.
Israel was holding many thousands of Palestinians, many without charge or trial, long before the “abduction” of Shalit.
The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat did everything he could, often obsequiously, to gain the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli dungeons, but to no avail.
He revoked the Palestinian National Charter, he imprisoned and tortured opponents of the Oslo Accords to please and appease Israel, he built a casino in Jericho to accommodate Israeli gamblers, he even traveled to Tel Aviv to kiss the head of Lea Rabin, the woman whose husband ordered the Israeli army to break the bones of Palestinian children during the first Intifada, the man who didn’t hesitate to reveal his wish to see Gaza, with its 1.5 million people, drown in the Mediterranean.
The same thing occurred with regard to Jordanian prisoners who are still languishing in Israeli jails despite the signing of the peace treaty and the exemplary relations between Israel and the Hashemite kingdom.
And how about Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen’s supplications for the release of Fatah and other prisoners, some of whom, like Said al Ataba and Abu Ali Yatta, have been in Israeli jails for more than three decades?
Have all his begging and pleading succeeded in getting Israel to release those prisoners?
Yes, Israel does occasionally release some prisoners to help prop up Abu Mazen’s public standing. However, we all know that most of the prisoners released in the context of these “gestures of good will” are people whose jail terms have already expired or about to expire.
Besides, it is well known that in return for each Palestinian released, the Israeli Shin Beth (the chief domestic security agency) rounds at least five Palestinians.
This consistently arrogant Israeli behavior toward Palestinian prisoners, which is contrasted by a scandalously liberal approach toward Israeli terrorists and criminals, has convinced millions of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims that the only way of getting their sons, daughters and beloved ones released from the Israeli hell is Hezbullah’s and Hamas’s way. Israel has only itself to blame.
In his article, Shalit also claims that the often open-ended imprisonment of Palestinian activists in Israeli jails is an inevitable outcome of previous Israeli-Palestinian wars! What wars is he talking about? The Palestinian people have been on the receiving end of Israeli barbarianism, savagery and ethnic cleansing for ages. The Palestinians never waged war on Israel? The Palestinians are victims of Israeli Nazism. How can a people who are surviving by dying on a daily basis at the hands of Zionism’s indifferent hands wage war on a country that possesses hundreds of nuclear weapons and is in tight control of American politics and policies? How can the victims of barbaric aggression and ethnic cleansing be initiators of war?
Finally, Shalit claims that the closure by Israel of the Rafah border crossing is related to his son’s affair.
This is not true. We all know that Israel kept the Rafah crossing and other border crossings closed, nearly completely, long before the capture of his son.
Interestingly, Shalit argued that it was his son’s captivity that was holding thousands of Palestinian civilians hostage, people who he said were “uninvolved” and suffering from abject poverty and acute shortage of basic consumer goods.
Well, thank you Mr. Shalit for recognizing the innocence of your state’s victims. Thank you for admitting, though indirectly and probably inadvertently, that Israel is a terrorist state that murders, starves and torments innocent civilians for political reasons.
But if they are innocent people, and they indeed are, then why don’t you tell your leaders that blockading, harming and starving innocent people is wrong and incompatible with moral and religious ethics? Do Jewish ethics condone tormenting innocent people who committed no wrong?
One may really sympathize with Noam Shalit especially at the personal level. However, Mr. Shalit should also try, even for a brief moment, to put himself in the shoes of the fathers, mothers and relatives of 10,000 Palestinian prisoners who, unlike him, don’t enjoy the benefit of a potent world-wide media machine that has effectively made his son the most famous prisoner in the entire world.
Isn’t that fair enough?
On July 31, a group of 25 Orthodox rabbis and community leaders visited the Agriprocessors slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, at the company’s expense. The visit was the first publicized tour of the plant by Jewish leaders since May 12, when federal immigration agents raided the slaughterhouse and arrested nearly 400 workers on charges related to their immigration status. Several rabbis who were on the tour told the Forward that the plant seemed clean and modern and that the workers they spoke to seemed satisfied.
“The responses were the responses of people there who were working hard, willing to work and satisfied with what was happening in the plant,” said Chaim Goldberg, a pulpit rabbi from Minneapolis. Goldberg added that out of convenience, he had driven to Postville at his own expense.
After the Forward published an investigation on working conditions at the Postville plant two years ago, rabbis from the Conservative movement visited the plant and criticized the company’s treatment of its workers. The government warrant that paved the way for the raid in May detailed numerous abuses inside the plant. Since the raid, press reports have given voice to workers complaining about the way the company has dealt with its employees.
These investigations have produced a long list of allegations against the company, including that it employed underage workers, that insufficient safety training led to workers being injured and maimed, and that workers were underpaid. Amid all this, a number of Orthodox rabbis and organizations have defended Agriprocessors from afar, saying that the allegations leveled against the company are unproved.
One of the trip’s lead organizers, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive vice president of the National Council of Young Israel, said that the visit’s purpose was to provide participants with a firsthand look at conditions at the plant.
A statement released afterward by the group said that “the Rabbis marveled at how the media reports, which have traditionally placed a strong emphasis on statements from union officials and others who do not necessarily have personal knowledge of the situation, actually differ from the situation that they observed during their mission.”
The Orthodox leaders who visited Postville, including officers of several major Orthodox organizations, were given a plant tour, roughly three hours long, by Agriprocessors management. Several rabbis who went on the tour said that they were permitted to roam freely through the plant and to talk to workers without supervision by management.
“Everybody spoke to all kinds of people on line, in the lunchroom,” said Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie, a Chabad rabbi from Orange County, Calif. “What I saw there was not what I read Friday morning in O’Hare Airport, that it’s a kosher jungle. I saw a state-of-the-art plant.”
Agriprocessors is the largest producer of kosher meat in the United States, and the Postville plant is the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the country.
In addition to a tour of the plant and of Postville, four rabbis on the trip met with a local religious leader and a social worker who have worked with many of the plant’s employees. At the meeting, the rabbis offered to help look into complaints of worker mistreatment and to set up a regular meeting with Agriprocessors management.
“I told these people I’m here to listen and to help,” Young Israel’s Lerner said. Paul Rael, director of the Hispanic ministry at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, attended the meeting. Rael said he was open to a dialogue but that he was troubled by his sense that the rabbis believed the stories of worker abuse to be fabrications.
“I was telling them that I sat at my desk on many occasions and heard this for many years. When you hear the same thing over and over again, you know it can’t be fabricated and there has to be some substance to it,” said Rael, who has worked at St. Bridget’s since 2003.
The statement from the rabbis said that, “as of this moment, the Rabbis are awaiting documentation of the alleged abuses to workers of the Agriprocessors plant.” Rael said that he had not visited the plant himself and that the plant might have been changed recently, but the descriptions from the rabbis didn’t jibe with what he had been hearing from his congregants for years.
“The plant they’re describing to me, and the plant I’ve had workers describe to me, is not same facility,” Rael said.
Some in the Orthodox community are calling for a more rigorous investigation. On July 30, one day before the Orthodox leaders visited the plant, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Washington’s Ohev Sholom — The National Synagogue, sent a letter to Rabbi Basil Herring, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America, which is the largest organization of Orthodox rabbis. Herzfeld demanded that the RCA commission “a transparent, independent investigation” into the charges against Agriprocessors.
“We need a commission with incredible stature and with rabbis of great merit who can spend a few weeks or a month [in Postville] and can make recommendations,” Herzfeld told the Forward. Herzfeld, who is a member of the RCA, said that the recent trip to Postville was too short and that Agriprocessors’ sponsorship of the trip compromised the findings.
Herring declined to comment on the letter specifically, saying that it was a private communication. He said that the RCA lacked the resources, expertise and powers to conduct an appropriate investigation into the allegations and that it made more sense to wait for federal investigations to run their course.
Kosher slaughterhouse owners surrounded by scandal
US’ biggest supplier of kosher meat accused of exploiting employees, tolerating illegally hiring teenagers. ‘They refuse to accept responsibility for anything that is going on in that plant,’ spokesman for Food and Commercial Workers union says
Two decades ago, the Rubashkin family of Brooklyn opened up a kosher slaughterhouse amid the cornfields of Iowa — not exactly a center of Jewish culture.
The bearded, fedora-wearing strangers from Brooklyn quickly transformed Postville into its own small-town melting pot. Immigrants from Guatemala and Mexico began arriving in great numbers to work at the slaughterhouse. Soon, the town was home to churches and temples, and the shelves of the grocery stores were stocked with tortillas and bagels.
Lately, though, the Rubashkins’ grand cultural experiment seems to have lost any chance at a feel-good ending.
The family’s Iowa business, Agriprocessors, the nation’s biggest supplier of kosher meat, was raided by US immigration agents in May. Nearly 400 workers, mostly Guatemalans, were swept up and jailed and are likely to be deported as illegal immigrants.
Labor organizers and workers have also accused the company of exploiting its employees, tolerating abusive behavior by managers and illegally hiring teenagers to work on the factory floor.
A few Jewish groups have questioned whether the plant, given its problems, should keep its kosher certification.
It all adds up to a mess for a family that has never sought attention, and now feels it is being attacked unfairly, especially by the media.
“The press? Terrible!” the family’s patriarch, Aaron Rubashkin, told a reporter with the Jewish news service JTA during a rare interview in June. He said allegations that the company knowingly hired illegal immigrants and children and tolerated abusive conditions were all lies.
“I wish everybody would be treated like we treat people,” he said.
Attempts to arrange an interview with Rubashkin this week were not successful. His representatives told The Associated Press that the 80-year-old butcher had traveled to Iowa from Brooklyn, where he still runs the family’s half-century-old butcher shop.
The family’s history, though, is well documented.
Aaron Rubashkin and his wife, Rivka, fled the Soviet Union after World War II and settled in Brooklyn, a world center of Hasidic Judaism. Rivka’s uncles, the family has said, had been imprisoned in Siberia because of their religious beliefs.
In the 1950s, Aaron founded a kosher meat market in the city’s Borough Park section. The family prospered in America.
‘These are simple people’
Then, in 1987, the Rubashkins made an incredible leap: Looking for a way to bolster an unreliable supply of kosher beef, the family bought an abandoned non-kosher meatpacking plant in tiny Postville, Iowa.
Two of Aaron’s sons moved to Postville to oversee the plant, and a steady stream of Hasidic families followed. Soon, Postville, then a town of around 1,500 people, found itself drawing immigrant laborers, too.
Suddenly, the town was infused with rabbis and other Jews, Guatemalans and Mexicans, expatriates from former Soviet Republics — and a host of new ethnic tensions.
The town became a regular stop for out-of-town reporters looking for a story about America’s diversity. A documentary crew visited. National Geographic did a pictorial. Journalism professor Stephen Bloom wrote a book, “Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America.”
Amid it all, the company was a huge success, with popular brands such as Aaron’s Best and Rubashkin’s. By 2006, Agriprocessors had a second plant in Nebraska, run in partnership with the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and annual revenue of $250 million.
In 2004, however, the animal rights group PETA recorded a gruesome video of the company’s operation that showed cattle staggering about in apparent pain after their throats had been slit and their tracheas partly removed. Agriprocessors, while defending its techniques as a religious ritual, agreed to change some practices.
One of Aaron’s sons, the influential Brooklyn rabbi Moshe Rubashkin, pleaded guilty to bank fraud in 2002 after writing $325,000 in bad checks related to a family textile business. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison.
A son-in-law, Menachim Balkany, a political fundraiser who hobnobbed with mayors and congressmen, was charged in 2003 with misusing a $700,000 federal grant. The prosecution was dropped when he agreed to make restitution.
Agriprocessors also found itself battling a lawsuit filed by a bankruptcy trustee overseeing the remnants of a New York health and beauty supply company whose owner had pleaded guilty to a multimillion-dollar bank fraud.
The trustee said the company, Allou Distributors, had a host of suspicious transactions on its books, including $2.9 million in unexplained payments to Agriprocessors. The lawsuit demanded Agriprocessors return the payments, which it claimed were part of the scheme to hide Allou’s assets.
Agriprocessors insisted it did nothing wrong and had been supplying Allou with surplus meat, but it agreed last summer to pay $1.4 million to settle the case.
More trouble may lie on the horizon.
Moshe Rubashkin pleaded guilty this year to storing hazardous waste without a permit at a defunct, family-owned textile plant in Allentown, Pa. His son pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents during the investigation. They have yet to be sentenced.
‘Very warm relations’
Supporters say the Rubashkins are no scofflaws, just unsophisticated businessmen who made some mistakes as their company grew.
“These are simple people. They are a family of butchers,” said Dovid Eliezrie, a California rabbi who has been assisting the family with the media.
Scott Frotman, a spokesman for the Food and Commercial Workers union, had a different take, calling the company’s treatment of its immigrant work force “morally reprehensible.”
“They blame the media. They blame us. They refuse to accept responsibility for anything that is going on in that plant,” he said.
State and federal investigators are looking into various alleged violations at the company, such as employing underage employees, not paying workers, improperly using hazardous chemicals and not having alarms that could be heard by employees. The Rubashkins have not been charged.
“We are God-fearing people and we believe in the American system and we believe it will ultimately turn out OK,” Getzel Rubashkin, 24, a grandson of the family’s patriarch and an employee at Agriprocessors, told The AP in a recent interview.
He also said the family hasn’t given up on Postville, which he has called home since age 10.
“There are people who would like to see us leave, but on the whole we have very warm relations,” he said.
BEERSHEBA/JAFFA – Some 15,000 Palestinians who married Israeli citizens in the past decade are illegal or temporary residents. Their lives and those of their families have become “unstable,” according to non-governmental organizations.
“Many families are being forced to live underground,” said Orna Cohen, an attorney from Adalah, an Israeli rights group fighting the ban on “family unifications” (mixed marriages involving Palestinians or some other Arabs) in Israel.
While most foreign nationals who marry Israelis can live in the Jewish state and eventually obtain citizenship, Palestinians and some other Arabs are unable to do so.
What started out in 2002 as a temporary order — enacted at the height of regional violence — preventing Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip from marrying Israeli citizens and residents and moving to Israel, has now become law, which seems more permanent than provisional.
People who were already naturalized in Israel before the law took effect are not affected.
While heavily condemned by UN forums, including the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and numerous international and local rights groups, Israel said the law was needed for security reasons, although demographic issues have also been raised. Some nationalists in Israel expressed concern that the “family unifications” were swelling the size of the country’s Arab minority.
“If they want, let them go and live over there,” said an Israeli official in comments to IRIN. “Over there” meant occupied Palestinian territory.
Following the criticism and legal battles, the state added a clause granting a visitor’s permit to Palestinian men over 35 and women over 25 who marry Israelis, provided they had no security issues.
Rights groups protested against the age limits imposed, saying people tend to be married before they reached those years.
Adding to the trouble, a new amendment to the law says residents of the Gaza Strip, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq can never live in Israel, regardless of their age, unless they are Jewish. In practice this means such couples would have to find refuge in a third country.
Oded Feller, from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said that even if a visitor’s permit is granted, it still does not grant them social rights, like health care, and the person cannot expect citizenship or residency.
“Also, if the Israeli spouse divorces the other, or dies, the Palestinian loses all rights to stay in Israel,” Feller added, opposing the law in its entirety. “The person then gets sent back, uprooted.”
Safa Younes from Arus al-Bakhar, a women’s rights organization in Jaffa, said the lack of health insurance hits women particularly hard.
“They do not receive checkups or any of the common screenings during their pregnancy,” Younes said, adding that most of the women affected by the law are of child-bearing age in need of more medical care than men.
Private health care remained expensive and out of reach. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel offered some basic health care for free to those in need, and has petitioned the Health Ministry to offer them medical insurance.
For those living in Israel without papers, or with only temporary visiting permits, life can be hard.
“My wife cannot work, she cannot drive a car,” said Morad al-Sanaa, who married Abeer, from Bethlehem, several years ago. She lives on a temporary permit which gives her only the right to reside and not much else.
Abeer worked as a lecturer at a Palestinian university and is a trained social worker. But, to stay with her husband and two children inside Israel, she had to give that up.
“Life goes into the freezer, your good years pass, and you can’t do anything with them,” lamented Morad.
In some instances, families become divided.
Ali Sarasreh, from Bethlehem, said his request for “family unification” with his wife, a resident of East Jerusalem, was denied by the Israeli authorities.
“There is no way for us to all live together like a normal family,” Sarasreh told the Israeli rights group B’tselem. “So I live in Bethlehem, while my wife and two children live in Jerusalem.”
For East Jerusalemites, whose residency is not as permanent as that of Arab citizens of Israel, moving to the West Bank to live with a spouse can lead to the revocation of their ID cards — an end to their health care, freedom of movement and ability to live in the Holy City.
Israeli officials have said the law does not prevent people from marrying, just from living inside Israel, though a spokeswoman from the Interior Ministry admitted that East Jerusalemites would lose their residency if they moved out of the city.
In the picture: nets run over the pavements of the Old Quarter of Hebron, to spare the pedestrians getting hit by the trash dropped out the windows by the settlers. Nazi-like Jewish settlers have of late stepped up their indiscriminate attacks on Palestinian civilians and their property throughout the West Bank.
In some areas, like in the Hebron region, settler attacks have assumed pogrom-like proportions. What is particularly outrageous is that most of these attacks take place in full view of Israeli soldiers who watch passively as heavily armed settlers gang up on helpless Palestinian civilians.
The latest acts of savagery included an assault on a Palestinian wedding party and the attempted lynching of an Arab boy near Hebron, an attack on a civilian car near Nablus that caused a massive brain hemorrhage to a 6-year-old girl who is now fighting for her life, beating up and stoning Arab children near Tuwwani in the southern West Bank and setting fire to Palestinian groves and fields in several parts of the occupied territories.
A Christian Peace-making Team (CPT) member was also assaulted and badly injured by Jewish settlers in southern Hebron hills last week.
“We were driving from our home in Ramallah to a cousin’s wedding in Jenin, with our three daughters sitting in the back. We had to turn around because of engine trouble, and as we passed the Yitzhar settlement junction, we saw four people on the road. My wife said, ‘watch out!’ But it was too late, a large slab had been thrown through our windshield,” said Hazem Ma’ali, father of the injured child.
“He (the settler) dropped it right on us. My wife made a sound and began bleeding. I stopped and then decided to continue to Hiwwara checkpoint outside of Nablus. As I opened the car doors, my daughter fell out, injured. The slab had made it all the way to the back windscreens.” He added.
A few weeks ago, settler thugs attacked and badly injured several Palestinian peasants and shepherds in the Yatta region. In one instance, settlers beat up a Palestinian man and tied him up to a power pole outside their settlement outpost.
These are not isolated incidents, nor do they represent ‘a few rotten tomatoes’ as Israeli government spokespersons would claim.
These are deliberate and well-planned acts of terror carried out by settlers who are following general instructions from their rabbis and community leaders. The settlers, who claim to be religious Jews, think they are doing a ‘mitzvah’ or a good religious deed, when they murder or lynch an Arab child or shepherd or when they burn down or destroy Arab property.
And there is no doubt that the vast bulk of these criminal activities are approved and encouraged by so-called ‘Talmudic sages’ who inculcate these criminals with the hateful ideology of religious Zionism according to which all means, including genocide, ought to be adopted in order to ethnically cleanse the ‘Land of Israel’ of all goyim.
This is not a matter of speculation or prognostication. Prominent rabbis from Merkaz Harav (the Central Nervous System of religious Zionism in Israel) have repeatedly issued edicts, or religious rulings, permitting settlers to murder innocent Palestinians and steal or destroy their property. The Israeli press has published numerous reports on prominent religious leaders who call on Jews to adopt a ‘no-holds-barred approach’ toward the Palestinians. (This is the same approach that the Nazis adopted toward Jews prior and during WWII).
Nonetheless, the Zionist-religious camp is by no means the sole villain in this episode of terror and murder.
The Israeli state and army often connive and conspire with the settlers against the virtually completely unprotected Palestinian civilians, especially in the so-called area C where the army is supposed to provide protection for all inhabitants, including Palestinian inhabitants.
Unfortunately, the Israeli occupation army itself has become very much an army of the settlers, for the settlers, and by the settlers. There are two main expressions of this criminal collusion: first, the army itself deploys settler-soldiers to patrol the vicinity of Arab hamlets and villages. These ‘soldiers’, who serve as informers and spies for the settlers, regularly brief settler thugs on army patrol movement so that when the army leaves a given area, the settlers attack the nearby Arab community and then flee back to their respective settlements without being noticed by the soldiers.
And when Palestinian victims submit a complaint to the Israeli authorities, they are asked to produce impossible evidence concerning the perpetrators such as their names, descriptions and even their photographs.
Second, settler-soldiers serving in the occupation army themselves indulge in acts of murder against innocent Palestinians such as shooting and killing innocent Palestinian demonstrators, often against specific army instructions.
A few days ago, an Israeli settler soldier shot and killed a 10-year-old Palestinian boy who was among a group of boys watching Israeli bulldozers crush Palestinian orchards near Ni’ilin in the West Bank.
Mousa Ahmed Mousa was murdered in cold blood by when the soldier shot him in the forehead at close range.
Unfortunately, the murderer was questioned for five minutes before he was released to house arrest.
In light of past experience, however, it is unlikely that he will be punished for his crime.
Today, the settlers, who really have the mindset of the Gestapo, feel they have a free rein to terrorize, torment and murder Palestinians and vandalize their property with virtual impunity.
The settlers also know that there are powerful politicians, ministers and even army commanders that would get them released in case they were arrested or imprisoned for their crimes.
This explains why the Israeli army and police refrain from carrying out court orders with regard to the settlers, such as forcing them to leave an Arab property they had seized by force.
The settler reign of terror, along with the Israeli government’s apparent connivance with these criminals, poses a challenge to those concerned about the increasingly diabolical treatment meted out to the Palestinians by the Israeli state.
I believe that in order to prevent settler terror from reaching unthinkable levels, thousands of international observers, including conscientious Jews, would have to be permanently stationed all over the West Bank in order to demonstrate to these thugs and those who stand behind them that the Palestinians are not alone.
The presence of international observers may not succeed in stopping all settler crimes; but it can succeed in deterring and discouraging the perpetration of some of the uglier crimes against innocent Palestinians.
The forces of peace from around the world should also provide Palestinians, especially in remote areas, with high-resolution cameras to film and document settler attacks and savagery.
This particular method has been proven effective in exposing the criminal behavior of Israeli settlers and soldiers against innocent Palestinians in recent weeks.
We all know that had it not been for that young girl who filmed an Israeli soldier shooting a handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian near Ni’ilin, we probably wouldn’t have heard about that incident.
In the end, we must leave no stone unturned until we isolate these thugs who think they are carrying God’s instructions by murdering and terrorizing innocent people.
They must not be allowed to win. Because if they do, it is entire humanity that will lose.
The three were part of a group of seven Fulbright winners whose grants were first withdrawn at the end of May when the State Department feared it would be unable to get them out of Gaza because of Israel’s closing of the coastal strip, which the Israelis say is aimed at isolating the Hamas leadership there.
When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heard about the withdrawals, she declared Fulbright grants to be an important part of American foreign policy and the scholarships were reinstated. The students needed to undergo individual Israeli security checks in order to leave Gaza and travel first to the American Consulate in Jerusalem for a visa interview and then to fly out.
Four of the seven were cleared but three were told by Israel that they were security risks and could not enter the country. Skeptical American officials asked for details but said they only got broad accusations of links to Hamas; the officials still wanted to offer the grants. The consulate brought from Washington high-priced mobile fingerprinting equipment and sent several officials to the Israel-Gaza border to interview the three Palestinians on July 10.
Three weeks later, on July 30, all three were informed that they had cleared the security screening and were granted their visas.
Two days later, the visas were revoked although not before Israel allowed one of the grantees, Fidaa Abed, to leave Gaza to fly to Washington unaware of his changed status. He was informed at the airport that his visa was no longer valid, flown back to Amman, Jordan, and instructed to return to Gaza. He remains in Amman.
On Monday, the American Consulate in Jerusalem sent letters to Mr. Abed and the two other grantees still in Gaza saying “information has come to light that you may be inadmissible to the United States,” and therefore their visas were being revoked. In Washington, Gonzalo Gallegos, a State Department spokesman, declined to get into specifics, but said that the visas were revoked because “we got more information” about the grantees.
A senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Ms. Rice was very unhappy about how these cases had been handled and that a thorough review had been ordered to prevent a recurrence. The official added that the latest information about the three Palestinians was enough to give pause but that “we really have to scrub it and are now going to take a good look to see if it holds.”
Israeli officials, who had insisted that the three posed a risk, expressed satisfaction that their message had gotten through.
A senior Israeli official said that after the United States had granted the visas, “the process of Israeli-American contacts on the matter did not cease, and more specific information was provided.”
Of the four Gaza Fulbright winners who were permitted to leave, three are in the United States already; one dropped out of the program the night before her departure because she did not want to give up her current lectureship in Gaza.
By Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
Religious extremism is very dangerous. It means that every thinkable vice under the sun can be committed, “sanctioned” and “justified” in the name of the Almighty.
In Israel, rabbis with hundreds of thousands of followers, many of whom serve in the Gestapo-like Israeli occupation army, openly teach that non-Jews are only human in form but animals in substance.
These racist teachings can’t be dismissed as “innocuous” or “esoteric.” Very often, they constitute “a manual for action” for many Jewish settlers roaming the hills of the West Bank, fetching for an Arab prey to kill, or attack or tie up to a power pole.
The teachings also serve as a direct inspiration to numerous Israeli soldiers operating in the West Bank who, thanks to the racist indoctrination they receive from their rabbis, have come to view the estimated 3.7 million Palestinians living under Israel’s military rule, not as real human beings, but rather as animals walking on two feet. The often barbaric treatment meted out to the Palestinians in the occupied territories testifies to the rampantly racist indoctrination soldiers and settlers receive at the hands of religious Zionist rabbis.
Last year, a Jewish immigrant from France, who murdered an Arab taxi driver after luring him to his home north of Tel Aviv, told police interrogators that he didn’t kill a human being; he only killed an animal.
Merkaz Harav (the Rabbi’s Center) is the ideological and theological central nervous system of religious Zionism in Israel. Established in honor of Rabbi Abraham Kook, Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, the center, which is actually a religious college, teaches students that God Almighty created the entire universe for the sake of “the Jew,” and that all non-Jews ought to be slaves laboring for the “chosen people.”
As to the Palestinians, Merkaz Harav teaches that “non-Jews living under Jewish law in Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel) must either be enslaved as water carriers and wood hewers, or banished, or exterminated.”
Some rabbinic authorities associated with Merkaz Harav have been preaching the view that Palestinians are descendants of the Amalek, or Amalekites, whom the Bible says must be totally exterminated.
Such hateful views are actually espoused by hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers in the West Bank. This is the religious doctrine of religious Zionism. This is the theology taught in hundreds of Yeshivot (religious schools) throughout Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Settlers as well as the increasingly Settler-dominated Israeli army may very well act on these doctrines in a more wanton manner if the world goes into a slumber. They are only awaiting the opportune time to do it.
According to Rabbi Kook, “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 soul of cattle.”
The late Israeli philosopher, Yisrael Shahak, pointed out that the teachings of Kook were based on the Lurianic Cabala, one of whose basic tenets is the absolute superiority of the Jewish soul and body over the non-Jewish soul and body “so much so that the world was created solely for the sake of Jews.”
In 2003, Rabbi Saadya Grama, an alumnus of Beth Medrash Govoha, the renowned Yeshiva in Lakewood, N.J., wrote a book titled “Romemut Yisrael Ufarashat Hagalut,” which can be translated as “the Majesty of Israel and the Question of the Diaspora,” in which he argued that non-Jews were “completely evil” and that Jews constituted a separate, genetically superior species.
The book was condemned by many reform and conservative rabbis in the US as manifestly racist and incompatible with normative Jewish religious thinking. However, major Jewish organizations in Israel and North America, such as Agudat Yisrael, refused to condemn the book.
In Israel, numerous Orthodox Zionist rabbis, many of them graduates of and lecturers at Merkaz Harav, continue to teach the theologically dubious concept that the ten commandments don’t apply to non-Jews and that, therefore, the Biblical commandments against committing murder, theft, and lying don’t cover non-Jews.
For example, Rabbi Dov Lior, Chairman of the Jewish Rabbinic Council, teaches that “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. This is the real moral behind Israel’s Torah and we must not feel guilty due to foreign morals,” he was quoted as saying by the Hebrew newspaper Ma’ariv in 2004.
“A thousand non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew’s fingernail.”
Lior is not a marginal figure in the Zionist religious establishment.
I asked Rabbi Menachem Froman, who himself has taught at Merkaz Harav, about Lior’s religious credentials and he told me that the man “is considered among the most learned sages of the Torah.”
Earlier this year, Rabbi David Batsri told followers that “it is impossible to mix the pure with the impure. They (the Arabs) are a blight, a devil, a disaster. The Arabs are donkeys, and we have to ask ourselves why God didn’t create them to walk on all four. Well, the answer is that they are needed to build and clean. They don’t have any place in our school.”
In May, 2007, Mordechai Elyahu, a former Chief Rabbi of Israel, issued an edict that would permit the Israeli army to murder hundreds of thousands of Palestinians .
“If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand. 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.”
I don’t believe that this repulsive extremism represents true Judaism, the Judaism that is based on the Ten Commandments.
Jewish traditions relate the story of a heathen who came to Shammai with the request to be accepted as a convert on condition that he was taught the whole Torah while he stood on one foot. Shammai drove him away with the yard-stick he was holding. Then the man went to Hillel with the same request. Hillel told the man “what is hateful to yourself don’t do to your fellow human being. That is the whole of the Torah and the rest is commentary.”
Unfortunately, the rabbis of religious Zionism, including the so-called Chabadim who have effectively replaced the Torah with a notoriously racist manual called “Hatanya,” pay no attention to such traditions. And when they are reminded of them, they arrogantly claim that words such as “man” or “human being” refer solely and exclusively to the “Jew.”
Besides, it is obvious that these fanatics only select the most racist and most hateful texts from a huge body of scriptures, Biblical and Talmudic, while utterly ignoring and shunning authentic texts, including biblical texts, that urge Jews to treat kindly and justly non-Jews who live in their midst.
In addition, one wonders if these so-called religious leaders and “holy men” understand what it means to rule that in wartime all holds are barred and there is no such a thing as enemy civilians.
Well, Adolph Hitler could have made the same argument to justify his genocidal onslaught against Jews and non-Jews in Europe?
Finally, I hope that moderate Jewish religious authorities will move to challenge these extremist rabbis who I am convinced misrepresent Judaism by presenting it as a religion of fire and blood and hate. God-fearing rabbis should make it abundantly clear to Jews in Israel-Palestine that harming innocent people is wrong.
This is a paramount issue because if the ideology and theology of Merkaz Harav are allowed to prevail, then Judaism itself will suffer immensely.