Fox News and other far-right media sites and politicians have railed for years about the “War on Christmas” supposedly waged by atheists, liberals and other enemies of the Judeo-Christian tradition. But there is a far more virulent enemy of Christmas and Christianity in our midst. No, you won’t find him in a Muslim country, the demon du jour of Donald Trump and the far-right.
Instead, you will find him in the Holy Land, Israel, the birthplace of Christianity. He is Bentzi Gopstein, leader of a Jewish fascist group, Lehava. In his past, he’s been accused of murdering an Arab couple a week after the assassination of his mentor, Meir Kahane. No charges were ever brought against him for that crime. Like white supremacists and Kahane himself, Gopstein has adopted fighting Jewish-Arab miscegenation as his political mantra.
Lehava administers a hostel supported with $120,000 in government funding for “wayward women” who’ve supposedly left relationships with Arab men. In Knesset hearings, Gopstein and his political supporters have cried rivers of tears about impressionable Jewish women being lured into lives of sexual slavery by Arab men who tempt them. They offer reams of claims about the severity of the problem, but never any firm statistics. Nor does anyone ever offer a skeptical view on the matter.
In the past year, Gopstein has expanded his attack to include Christianity as well. All of it. He called for the banning of Christianity and the burning down of churches and…lo and behold, a week later the Church of Loaves and Fishes was nearly burned to the ground. Though arrests were made, no one has been charged for the crime, a standard outcome in Israeli police investigations unless massive political pressure is mounted to lay charges and prosecution. Jewish terror even co-opts the security apparatus.
This week, just in time for Christmas, Gopstein let loose his latest barrage against the Church. It’s a memorable screed called Defeating the Vampire, combining overwrought rhetoric with a largely-fictional account of Jewish history:
In recent days, I’ve walked through this land [of Israel] feeling a sense of real disquiet. I’m not talking about the lack of personal security that derives from a government that is impotent against the Arab enemy…but rather a lack of spiritual security, a destruction of the fortress, a disintegration of the Jewish people’s line of defense against our most deadly enemy of the past hundreds of years: the Church.
He proceeds to outline the ways in which Christianity has allegedly attempted to exterminate the Jewish people:
Against this [the Church’s] unimaginable power stood the Jewish people like a poor sheep surrounded by seventy wolves; like easy prey before all those bloodthirsty animals. The history of the Jews of Europe…is written in the blood of millions–from the cruel Crusades in which entire [Jewish] communities were wiped out, to pogroms throughout the continent [sic], to countless blood libels, mass expulsions from England, France, Spain and Portugal–all of them were only stations along a cruel journey which our people suffered in Christian Europe. A journey which reached its end in the smokestacks of Auschwitz, a moment over which the Vatican rubbed its hands with glee [sic].
Despite all this, the Jewish people survived…The Eternal Jew stood tall. And when the ashes of Auschwitz piled high and the blood soaked into the fetid soil of Europe–when the the desecration of God’s name [the extermination] had reached its peak…God could no longer stand it and raised up out of the smoking embers the State of Israel–a most resounding slap in the face the Church had ever endured.
What was the secret of the Eternal Jew enabling him to survive all these horrors of the Church [sic]? Without doubt, it was the burning faith in the justness of our path, the deep loathing of Christianity which every Jewish baby sucks from his mother’s milk…The children of those Jews who were burned like sacrificial sheep, founded the State of Israel, whose very being negated the Church.
…Because we maintain one of the strongest armies in the world the Church has no chance of destroying our bodies…But they place their last hope in the blood-sucking vampire: the missionaries. If they cannot kill Jews, they can still try to convert them…Stores devoted to selling evangelical literature offer their wares to all on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road. Entire settlements are crawling with missionaries. Many businesses are run by them and serve the evangelicals, in many cases camouflaging their intent and without the knowledge of their [Jewish] employees.
That same disgust Jews felt toward Christianity, which was the only thing which saved us during our dark days in Europe, that same disgust has faded in the midst of the good life of the era of democracy. The Christian is no longer perceived as a threatening vampire, but rather as a nice tourist, friendly and a partner in the prevailing western culture we both share.
…In a few days, this cursed religion will celebrate Christmas throughout this land. To our sorrow we can feel this everywhere. You see fir trees in stores. On billboards, you can see flyers inviting the wider public to study about Christianity–right in the heart of Jerusalem.
…How could even the Orthodox and Haredi communities not have raised their voices against this? Could they too have lost the basic Jewish instinct which was the inheritance of our people for hundreds of years? Have they too become trapped in the net of democracy, free speech and the politically-correct brotherhood of man?
Christmas has no place in this our holy land. Evangelicals must not gain a footing here. Expel the vampires from our land before they once again suck our blood. We’ve already fed them enough.
For those of you who heard echoes of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda in Gopstein’s tropes, you heard well. The notion of the Eternal Jew is of course directly appropriated from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But the most striking phrase was the notion that Christians are blood sucker-vampires. This is precisely the complaint that echoed in the pages of Der Shtumer: the Jews as leeches sucking the vitality from Europe. In the case of the Nazis, they were more obsessed with money and high finance, claiming Jews controlled world capital. Gopstein sees Christians sucking the blood from the millions of Jews murdered, supposedly by direct command of the Church.
Of course, much of his argument is false and fabricated. I’ve added [sic] after the ones that are the most farcical.
There will be those who argue that Gopstein is an outlier. He has nothing to do with the real Israel. Everyone sees him as a madman, etc., etc. But that is patently false.
Not only is Gopstein an accused murderer, his followers burned down a Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem. Other disciples (either direct or indirect) burned the Church of Loaves and Fishes to the ground only a week after he issued a call to undertake such acts. These are not the acts of the sort of lone gunmen who’ve perpetrated acts of terror lately in the U.S. This is a powerful leader with a charismatic message that resonates deeply with tens or hundreds of thousands of Israelis. It is a message the Israeli political and security echelons have no interest in combatting. Despite calls from the Pope himself and Israeli human rights NGOs for his arrest, he remains free.
It’s also ironic that Israel’s increasingly authoritarian government considers legislative proposals that would force NGOs receiving foreign funding from wearing a sort of “Jewish star” like ones forced on us by the Nazis, whenever they entered the Knesset. The ironic truth is that rightist NGOs like Lehava, Honenu, Im Tirzu, NGO Monitor, and many others, probably receive far more foreign funding than left-wing NGOs. The major difference is that the latter receive donations from governments and large foundations, while the rightists receive mostly individual gifts. You may be certain that if these bills pass you will not see Ronen Shoval (Im Tirzu) or Gerald Steinberg (NGO Monitor) shuffling through the halls of the Knesset with any scarlet letter on their chests. That fate will be reserved for B’Tselem, Peace Now, New Israel Fund, and their like.
It is truly extraordinary that foreign funders embrace the hate spewed by Gopstein. He’s very cagey about where his funding comes from. One source we know for sure is the Israeli government itself. Its social welfare ministry funds projects sponsored by an NGO called Hemla. One of them is the hostel for “wayward girls” mentioned above. Gopstein is the public affairs representative for Hemla and earns a salary from it.
He’s told the media that individual donors are directed to give through the Fund for Saving the Jewish People (FSJP). One of these is the Falic family based in Hollywood, FL. This extended family owns Duty Free America, a company which owns duty-free shops around the world.
A Falic-affiliated fund donated $60,000 to FSJP. They donated more than half the funds that Bibi Netanyahu raised for his campaign in the last Likud primaries. They also donate millions to a raft of mostly GOP pro-Israel candidates.
As you can see, the Falics are not outliers. They find the doors of power open in Tel Aviv and Washington DC. They’ve also endowed Bentzi Gopstein with a seal of approval through their giving to his cause. Instead of six moves of separation from Gopstein to Netanyahu, there is now only one. He is close to the beating heart of Israeli political power.
The Falics offered this deceptive defense of their giving to journalist, Uri Blau:
I am committed to giving tzedakah to causes which I care about deeply, such as the well-being and continuity of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. I believe that it is important for Jews to be connected to our roots, our history and our homeland, and to take care of one another.
I believe in diversity, co-existence and integration, as opposed to “anti-assimilation,” but I recognize that this can occur only when each person holds strongly to his or her own ideals, ideologies, religion and convictions. As Tevye succinctly put it in Fiddler on the Roof, “As the Good Book says, ‘Each shall seek his own kind.’ In other words, a bird may love a fish, but where would they build a home together?” In summary, staying true to one’s beliefs can not only give meaning to one’s own life, but can influence the conscience of others to make more sound choices and better judgments, including living together in peace and harmony.
Though it’s touching to see Mr. Falic quote the words of Fiddler on the Roof, I note he’s compared Israeli Jews to birds of prey and Palestinians to fish, their prey. That does seem just about right, though I’m certain the speaker didn’t catch the irony. And how Palestinians are supposed to understand from this rhetoric or from Gopstein’s Nazi-like speeches that their “consciences should make better judgements…and live together [with Jews] in peace and harmony” is beyond me.
Donald Trump, Islamophobia, and Ethnic Cleansing
I recently posted about Donald Trump’s increasingly xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric and the tropes it shares with fascist themes. The call for closing our doors to Muslims, even those who are citizens, is extraordinary. Even more extraordinary is that such rampant racism gains him supporters, rather than destroying his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.
Though it appears in the latest polls that even Bernie Sanders could beat Trump in a one-on-one matchup, and many Democrats relish the prospect of running against him–we should recognize Trump as a watershed candidate. Before him, those whose campaigns were largely based on themes of hate and racism were thoroughly rejected even in their party nomination contest, let alone the general election. George Wallace, while popular, was largely a fringe candidate. Barry Goldwater was trounced by Lyndon Johnson.
Trump is a different animal. He exudes hate, yet his supporters feed off it. It only makes him stronger. The rest of the country waits for a day of reckoning which never comes. His comeuppance never comes. Instead he glides through the campaign season with the cocky air of Rocky, a heavyweight boxing champ. Nothing can touch him.
Bentzi Gopstein’s call for ethnic cleansing of Christians and Palestinians from Israel mirror those of Trump here in America. Israel itself is lurching farther and farther toward fascism and outright religious hatred, if not war. Israeli extremists like him thrive on this confrontation. They know the more Jews and Arabs die the closer they are to that final battle between the forces of Light and Dark, between demons (Muslims) and angels (Jews). They know in their hearts that the Jews will win. That they will vanquish their enemies and trample them underfoot. That is the day devoutly and fervently awaited.
Gopstein and Trump represent two poles which attract. They offer the same solutions (though Trump offers them with considerably more salesmanship and panache). The outcomes of their winning their contests will be similar for America and Israel: a disaster of monumental proportions.
I have enough faith in America that it will not make this choice. About Israel, I have far less faith and hope. It is embracing Gopstein’s vision with a frightful passion. Whatever ideas of his are not yet mainstream, they will be in a month or a year. This is the same path followed by his rebbe, Meir Kahane. In the 1970s they thought him a ranting maniac. Now the maniac’s ideas trip lightly off the tongues of Israeli cabinet ministers and generals. Fascism no longer lurks in Israel’s shadows. It preens and prances through the halls of power.