Israel’s Channel 13 aired recordings (the Jerusalem Post has a highly truncated version of the story) of two senior rabbis at the Orthodox military preparatory academy in the settlement of Eli, as they taught their students lessons on race, the Holocaust, and the evils of “secular pluralism.”
Rabbi Eliezer Kashtiel lectured his students:
“Yes, we’re racists. We believe in racism. There are races in the world and there are genetic traits inherent in nations. This demands that we think how to help them. There are differences among races.”
A student challenged him, asking “Who appointed you to decide who is who [which nations are best]?” Kashtiel answered: “[Because] I can see that my achievements are more impressive than his.”
The rabbi added:
It’s best to be a servant of a Jew. They are happy to be servants [of Jews]. There are nations around us with genetic defects. The Arab wants to be under Occupation because they have a genetic defect. They don’t know how to run a state. They don’t know how to do anything. Look at how they act.
Another teacher, Rabbi Giora Radler, addressed his students during a lesson:
The Holocaust was not due to the fact that they killed Jews. That wasn’t the Holocaust. All of the excuses claiming that it was based on ideology or that it was systematic, this is ridiculous. Because this was based on ideology, to a certain extent, makes it more moral than if you murdered people for no reason.
Humanism, all the secular culture [saying] that we believe in Man [above God], that’s the Holocaust. The Holocaust is really being a pluralist, to believe in Man, that’s what’s called a Holocaust.
When asked what was his definition of the Holocaust, he replied:
“The Holy One Blessed Be He has been shouting for years that the Diaspora was doomed. But people paid Him no attention. That was their illness that had to be healed by the Holocaust.”
Later in the class, he added:
The logic of the Germans was the right one for them. Hitler said that a certain group within the population was a calamitous race for mankind. Because of it [this race], mankind will be destroyed. They [the race] are bad for humanity and therefore they must be eliminated. Does this ideology sound logical to you? Very bad?
A student answered: “This doesn’t sound ethical.” Radler replied: “Wasn’t Moses cruel and evil like Hitler? The student responded: “No.” The rabbi said: “Why not? There is one thing in the world that is truly evil and that is to be a hypocrite. Does it make a difference to you if they killed you now with a knife the way they did to Agag [the Amalekite king brutally murdered by the prophet Samuel] or if they kill you in a gas chamber?”
Later Radler added:
Let’s begin by asking the question: was Hitler right or not? He is the most correct person there is. He was definitely right in every word he said. His ideology was correct. There is a male world which fights, which deals with honor and the brotherhood of soldiers. And there is the soft, ethical feminine world which turns the other cheek. We believe that such [secular Diaspora] Jews carry on this [feminine] heritage, making them the real enemy. He [Hitler] is 100% correct, aside from the face that he was on the wrong side.”
A note of explanation is in order: these views are common among a certain sector of the Israeli Orthodox population. They may not believe that Hitler was right. But many believe that the Holocaust was a punishment for Diaspora Jews, who were largely secular and refused both to become observant Jews and to abandon the Diaspora and make aliya to Israel. Hence their punishment was, in some perverse way, just.
Further, there is a clearly racist element in this type of Orthodoxy which believes that Jews are a superior race to all non-Jews and especially to Palestinians, who are largely Muslim and Christian. This in turn justifies the brutal methods employed by IDF divisions composed largely of such yeshiva students, armed now not with Bibles, but with lethal weapons.
Your first reaction to this lunacy may be to dismiss it as the anti-Semitic ramblings of a few insane holy men. But you’d be wrong for a number of reasons. First, because these views are prevalent among a substantial portion of Israeli Jews, especially among the Orthodox and the radical far-right. Further, these sectors of society are dominant in Israeli politics. So the views are far more visible and influential than you might think. There are many MKs and ministers who essentially believe these ideas, though they may tone down their statements for public consumption.
Second, these are the teachers of the future soldiers and officers of the IDF. They are the boys who will be fighting Israel’s wars, guarding settlements, and monitoring checkpoints. They will bring the foul attitudes taught them by their teachers into combat, where they will make decisions about life and death for their Palestinian victims. The heartlessness they learned in their studies will make them more efficient killers of heathen Arabs.
Third, this “lesson” implicitly teaches that just as Hitler’s genocide was right “for the Germans,” an Israeli genocide against Palestinians would also be justified. Since Israelis (in this teaching) are the equivalent of the Jewish Master Race, anything or anyone that threatens them must be eradicated. Palestinians would certainly fit that bill.
It’s heartbreaking to admit that the term “Judeo-Nazi,” which Yeshayahu Leibowitz coined decades ago to portray such aberrant ideas is, if anything, more apt today than it was when he first uttered it.
In closing, this is not the equivalent of a lone gunman theory. These rabbis are not outliers. They are at the heart of the thinking of the most powerful elements of the Israeli religious and political establishment. If you wonder why Bibi Netanyahu can endorse European anti-Semites and break bread with brutal dictators, it is precisely because of the twisted logic offered by these rabbis. If you wonder why or how Israel can become a proto-fascist state, thriving on bile and hate, you have only to look at this perverted logic for your answer.
Finally, I’d ask anyone who wants to trot out their anti-Semitic canards to withhold them. This post was meant to show the moral perversion at the heart of certain form of Israeli and Orthodox triumphalism. Any generalizations about all-Jews-are-this-or-that, are absolutely treif and will be treated as so.
H/t to Iris Bar for alerting me to the story and David Sheen for transcribing the video and captioning it.
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.