Back in the days of the Shoah, one of the slogans of the Jew haters was: “Jews to the Ovens.” Now, it causes me anguish to say, we have Israeli Orthodox rabbis saying the same about the Palestinians.
Thanks to Cicero for pointing me to a shocking passage in an Israeli Orthodox “family magazine,” Fountains of Salvation, which suggests that Israel will create death camps for Palestinians in order to wipe them out like Amalek. The article attacks Israeli rabbis who dispute the letter recently circulated from pro-settler extremist rabbis which urged that no Israeli Jew rent apartments or homes to Israeli Palestinians. It chided them for being “politically correct” and refusing to do their jobs and educate the populace in the true path of Torah (which is presumably to hate Palestinians).
The last paragraph (page 4 of the original) though is the whopper:
It will be interesting to see whether they leave the assembly of the Amalekites [Palestinians] in extermination camps to others, or whether they will declare that wiping out Amalek is no longer [historically] relevant. Only time will tell…
A few words of explanation. There is a Biblical command for Jews to wipe out Amalek because of the viciousness with which that people attacked Israelites. Essentially, this is a Jewish call to commit genocide against Amalek. We should note that the Bible records such Jewish campaigns against other tribes as well (Moabites, Jebusites) and no doubt others did the same to their enemies.
Rabbis throughout the ages have allegorized the reference to Amalek to connote any sworn enemy of the Jewish people from Hitler to Barack Obama (yes, prominent American Orthodox Jews wrote such garbage before the last election). But this is the first time I’ve ever read any Orthodox publication calling for committing genocide against Palestinians.
As Cicero pointed out to me, the articulation of this passage doesn’t only refer to Palestinians (though most likely this was specifically who the writer had in mind given the context). It can refer to any enemy of the Jewish people including you or me.
Now a word on who is behind this publication: it is the cream of the crop of the radical right-wing Israeli Orthodox rabbinate. It was founded by the former chief rabbi of Safed, whose son currently holds that position and who circulated the letter I refer to above. Another is the chief rabbi of Ramat Gan and finally Rabbi Avinar, suspected of sexually abusing a troubled woman who approached him for spiritual advice. Each of them holds paid government sinecures, allowing them to spew hate on the dime of the Israeli taxpayer.
This raises the important question: why does the U.S. government allow tax-deductible contributions to Israeli charities like Chabad given their propagation of such genocidal rhetoric?
Cicero first learned about the Chabad article from Udi Aloni’s Ynet column, which pointed it out. He points out that it has been his custom in criticizing Israelis who support the Occupation to attack the liberal elite which is characterized by the slogan “shooting and crying.” Instead, he says he now will have to pay closer attention to the radical Orthodox who “shoot and laugh.” Aloni imagines the young Orthodox boy reading this publication in his synagogue where it’s distributed, who conjures to himself with a smile on his face the picture of Palestinians standing behind barbed wire in such a camp. This is the legacy these rabbis are bequeathing to their young followers.
Finally, since I know people of all ideological stripes may read into this story what they wish, I want to make clear that this is not Judaism. These wicked men may be Jews and rabbis, but they don’t represent normative Judaism any more than Osama bin Laden represents normative Islam. Do not make the mistake of conflating this idiocy with all of Israel or all of Judaism. Yes, these men are dangerous, they are hateful, and they must be challenged. But there is another face of Judaism and another face of Israel (though that is becoming increasingly difficult to see I concede).
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.