Gal Beckerman has written a sharp investigative piece for the Forward amplifying points I’ve already made here about Rabbi Dov Wolpe and his suspect U.S. non-profit, Machanaim and its Israeli sister group, SOS-Israel. I noticed that Machanaim found a loophole that allowed it to be exempt from filing the required IRS 990 report. It claimed it was a “church.” Which seemed entirely suspicious.
Beckerman has confirmed these suspicions were well-founded as even Wolpe has confirmed that Machanaim is nothing more than a post office box near Chabad world headquarters. It has no building, conducts no services and is little more than a fiscal conduit for SOS-Israel’s nefarious pro-settler activities. That group pays blood money to IDF soldiers who publicly promote their insubordination by waving signs at demonstrations demonstrating their refusal to follow military orders by evacuating settlements. It pays them for waving the signs and pays them if they are imprisoned ($250 for every day of military imprisonment).
This is the clearest report yet indicating blatant law-breaking by a pro-settler U.S. non-profit. Several bloggers including Phil Weiss, me and others have been calling for an extensive IRS review of these groups (not just Machanaim–there are many others including the Hebron Fund, Central Fund of Israel, etc.). So far, we’ve heard nothing (the IRS refuses to provide any information about which groups it examines and what outcome if any there is). I’ve also tried without success to contact several members of Congress to ask them to exert pressure on Treasury and the IRS to take up this issue. The National Lawyers Guild and Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee will shortly be filing a formal IRS complaint against Machanaim.
It’s long past time for American rabbis and secular leaders to call for American Jews to stop contributing to these insurrectionist Israeli non-profits through their American tax exempt conduits. Do you hear me Abe Foxman, David Harris and Howard Kohr? How about a few Jewish members of Congress? Do you hear me Howard Berman, Gary Ackerman, etc.? I also wouldn’t mind hearing from my own Congress member Jim McDermott on this matter.
Beckerman notes that Wolpe has also called for Ehud Olmert’s last cabinet to be “hung.” He is part and parcel of the radical rabbinic settler leadership which has essentially abandoned its allegiance to Israel as a state. A group of rabbis who run military training yeshivas have been openly counseling their students to defy orders. As these yeshivas are heavily subsidized by the government and closely tied into the IDF, this has caused a certain level of embarrassment in certain government circles. Defense minister Ehud Barak even threw one of the yeshivas out of the program, thus denying it hundreds of thousands of dollars in government subsidies. You’d think in most other democratic countries the subject group would come back with its tail between its legs and apologize and do whatever was necessary to get itself back in the good graces of the authorities. Not so with these rabbinic extremists who know nothing but defiance and imprecation.
The rabbi whose yeshiva was ejected from the hesder program refused to answer a summons from the defense minister to meet with him before the decision was made. Afterward, the same rabbi said the minister had accused him of perpetrating a “blood libel.” As this is much more the excessive rhetoric of the settlers than of a secular Labor party minister, I don’t believe for a moment that Barak said this (though no doubt harsh words were exchanged).
Here is how Haaretz characterizes the latest developments:
Rabbis and teachers from Hesder yeshivas…released a letter to students in which they reiterated their assertion that soldiers must refuse orders if they are commanded to evacuate settlements, arguing that Torah law is above the Israel Defense Forces. The letter emphasizes the importance of enlisting to the military, but instructs soldiers to adhere to Jewish law when it conflicts with orders handed down from superiors.
This letter comes as yeshiva heads closed ranks around Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, whose declarations in support of soldier insubordination caused Defense Minister Ehud Barak to oust his Har Bracha yeshiva from its hesder arrangement with the IDF.
“Unfortunately, the IDF has been used for purposes unrelated to Israel’s defense and directly opposed to God’s wishes for quite some time,” the rabbis wrote in the letter. “This situation faces IDF soldiers with a contradiction between Jewish commandments and commanders’ orders.”
“We are committed to teach that loyalty to the lord comes before any other loyalty, whether to the army or to the government,” the rabbis went on to say.
The document concluded with the rabbis’ assertion that they are guiding their students to “be loyal soldiers through their commitment to the word of God.”
It’s hard to know where to begin in parsing the treasonous nature of this passage. First, the Talmud maintains a famous dictum: dina d’malchuta dina hu (“the law of the land is the law”), which has always meant that civil law must be respected on a par with Jewish law. These rabbis are throwing out this important halachic rule in favor of a new interpretation that places settler rabbinic paskanut above this tradition. So this is troubling in halachic terms. And it’s even more troubling in terms of the Israeli state. Can it afford to have a vociferous minority that declares the laws of the state are null and void when in conflict with a few radical rabbis? I don’t think so.
It’s a little hard to know where this will end up. The state usually backs down in the face of persistent resistance from these fifth columnist settlers, figuring it’s not worth the fight. But the challenge is gradually becoming more and more fundamental and hard to ignore even for otherwise dilatory politicians seeking to go along to get along with the radical Orthodox.