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.