The hate-mongering of the Safed rabbinate
Zvi Bar’el, 20 March 2011
When Palestinians ‘incite’ against Israel, this is a matter for international protest, but when Safed’s chief rabbi incites against Arabs, Israeli Jews merely roll their eyes.
A burning car creates a luminous blaze. The burning car of an Arab student, by contrast, flickers weaker than a candle. The torching of cars in the criminal underworld is headline stuff. When right-wing extremists torch cars of Arabs in Safed, it’s almost uninteresting, nearly routine.
When Palestinians “incite” against Israel, this is a matter for international protest, or at least for a mighty influx of well-sponsored e-mails by Palestinian Media Watch, which employs translators to trace every tidbit of information that might help prove that the Palestinian Authority, Fatah or any Fatah-associated faction is busily creating a culture of hate against Israel. But when Shmuel Eliyahu, Safed’s chief rabbi, tells a conference that halakhic law demands that a man who rented or sold an apartment to Arabs compensate his neighbors for the drop in their apartments’ value, and that the solution to this problem is encouraging Arabs to emigrate, they merely roll their eyes. Nobody heard and nobody saw.
Nor did anybody hear the same Eliyahu saying in a class in the settlement of Itamar after the murder of the Fogel family that a senior security official asked him to work against any Jewish terrorist activity that might follow the killings. Fogel said he refused: “I told him, if you expect me to stop someone engaging in ‘price tags,’ you’re mistaken. I don’t work for you. But I want to tell you that unless the government takes action, the public will feel a need to take action. And if you don’t act, even if I stand with my arms wide open, I won’t be able to stop those who would act.”
But it would be a big mistake to write off Eliyahu’s words as incitement. He actually reflects an entire worldview, shared by many sections of the public, religious and secular alike, in Israel proper and in the settlements, and among many cabinet and Knesset members. Eliyahu is not creating a new ideology. At most, he’s translating into human language the idea of a “Jewish state” whose borders he is pushing east to the Jordan River.
Eliyahu and his comrades are confidently drawing the new borders of the Jewish state according to the racist principles and fascist values being fleshed out in the Knesset. The map’s general outlines can be easily seen already: They twist and turn around every neighborhood, home, village or city populated by Arabs, and they hug and embrace every settlement and outpost until a blood-chilling map of two colors is produced: One color for territories that should be Arab-free, another for territories currently free of Jews. Each person knows exactly where he should live, and where he doesn’t belong.
The map is being etched by torching Arab student’s cars, terrorism euphemistically labeled “price tag,” preventing the renting of apartments to Arabs, and taking over Arab land in the occupied territories and East Jerusalem. It’s a map aimed at purifying the Jewish camp and preventing Israel from becoming a binational state. This isn’t incitement. It’s an activity subcontracted to Eliyahu and his followers by the Israeli government.
Eliyahu is part of his people, not only in Safed but throughout the country, whose authorities allow him and his ilk to speak the way they do at the public’s expense. No parliamentary commission is needed to trace the funding sources for Eliyahu and the Safed rabbinate and to find out who pays for his hate-mongering. He’s not backed by conservative organizations from abroad, like those that support Palestinian Media Watch, or evangelical charities that fund the purchase of homes in East Jerusalem. His support comes from Israeli taxpayer money.
There’s no way of explaining the financial and ideological support received by Eliyahu but to assume he’s simply offering a practical way of carrying out the government’s hidden desires. If someone in the cabinet thought that Eliyahu and his acolytes didn’t represent him, he would have offered, for example, to compensate the Arab students for their burned cars, as any terrorism victim is compensated. There’s no way to describe what happened other than terrorism. Someone who’s only willing to roll his eyes or denounce Eliyahu’s words as incitement misses the most important thing: The state itself is an accomplice.
h/t Frank Fisher