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Israeli yeshiva cloaked racism in religion

Published Mar 13, 2008 9:41 PM

Suppose a group of KKKers and other white supremacists had their own “church” that was really a center for justifying and organizing murderous attacks on African Americans. Suppose an African-American person, tired of lynchings, tortures, beatings and humiliation of his people, came into this church with guns blazing.

Would there be any doubt that this was a reaction to racism, and not hatred of Christians? Wouldn’t it be clear who were the oppressed and who were the oppressors?

Something much like this recently happened in Jerusalem, but the real relationship of forces has been deliberately obscured by the Israeli and U.S. governments and the corporate media.

What happened?

Armed to the teeth with the latest U.S. high-tech weapons, two weeks ago Israel invaded Gaza by land and air killing 126 people, half of them civilians, including 24 children, with 13 of the children toddlers or infants.

Ala Abu Dhaim, a Palestinian worker from the Jebel Mukaber neighborhood of East Jerusalem, “was transfixed by the bloodshed in Gaza,” according to his sister. (Associated Press March 8) On March 6, Abu Dhaim, a driver who sometimes made deliveries to the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, entered that compound and sprayed the young male students with gunfire, killing eight, and then was killed himself.

While silent at the Palestinian deaths, the U.S. press was aghast at the “sacrilege” of shooting down “innocent religious students.” All sympathy was with the yeshiva student families. The New York Times carried extra photos of the funeral on its website.

Ala Abu Dhaim was labeled an anti-Semitic villain, as were other individuals and any organizations that praised his heroism. The Israeli government used his actions to justify its genocidal assaults on Palestinians in Gaza, claiming a need to “protect” its people.

But Mercaz Harav was no ordinary yeshiva. Its students’ reaction to the attack was to chant, “Death to Arabs!” Rabbi David Shalem, director of the Institute of Talmud Studies at the school, called for the Ehud Olmert government to attack Palestinians “everywhere, in Gaza, and the north and inside.” He issued a thinly veiled call for the extermination of Palestinians by referring to them as present-day Amalekites, who were “indigenous nomads who attacked the Israelites on their flight from Egypt and were annihilated by King David.” (New York Times, March 7)

Center of settlement movement

This yeshiva is the ideological and organizational center of the white-supremacist Israeli settler movement. Cloaked in religion, these arch-racists oppose any form of Palestinian sovereignty and seek to steal all Palestinian land by driving off or killing its rightful occupants. An unofficial arm of the Israeli government, they expand the settler state’s borders in a “creeping annexation”—as even Israeli Gen. Moshe Dayan called it.

It is no coincidence that three days after the attack on Mercaz Harav, Israel announced plans to expand yet another settlement, Givat Ze’ev, five miles from central Jerusalem.

Many Palestinians regard Mercaz Harav as a right-wing paramilitary organization, not a religious one. Thus Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere demonstrated and cheered when they learned that someone breached its security, attacking it in the heart of Jerusalem.

Flagship for hatred of Arabs

Israelis also know and some oppose Mercaz Harav. Gideon Levy, columnist for Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper of record, wrote on March 10: “From Mercaz Harav emerged the rabbis that led the vilest movement in Zionist history. Most of the delusional right-wing perpetrators and the mongers of hate for Arabs came from this flagship.”

Mercaz Harav is the base of Gush Emunim, the most aggressive of the settler groups. Levy explains: “Without the Gush Emunim movement, supported by successive Israeli governments, there would be no settlements; and without the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, there would be no Gush Emunim. This institution, then, was the cradle of the settlement enterprise and its driving force. Most of the students killed in the terrorist attack were second-generation settlers.”

While many Jewish religious students seek exemption from military service, Gush Emunim encourages its members to join the army and attack Palestinians. One of its heroes is Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 burst into Hebron mosque, his machine gun blazing, and killed 30 Palestinians. (Like many of his co-thinkers, Goldstein was from the U.S. and while here was a member of the misnamed “Jewish Defense League,” a racist organization that cut its teeth by physically attacking Black Panthers in Harlem.)

Moshe Levinger, one Mercaz Harav graduate, set up a settlement in the Park Hotel in the heart of the Palestinian city of Hebron, where he once killed a Palestinian shopkeeper. Levinger and his followers continually attack Palestinian men, women and children in Hebron.

Another graduate is Rabbi Dov Lior, who, according to Levy, ruled in 2004 that the Israeli Defense Forces were allowed to kill innocent people.

Knowing full well that this yeshiva used religion to cloak extreme racism, George W. Bush, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and European Union High Representative Javier Solana all condemned the attack and sent condolences to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the eight students’ deaths.

Israeli deaths mourned, Palestinian deaths ignored

One day before the Mercaz Harav attack, 20-year-old Amira Abu Aser, killed by an Israeli bullet to the head, was buried in Gaza. No international outcry followed, no condolences from world leaders or from Condoleezza Rice, who was then in the Middle East. The New York Times Web site showed no extra photos of her funeral. But the Palestinian people and their supporters won’t forget her.

The imperialist powers are neither objective observers nor mediators, but share Israeli goals: to keep the people of the Middle East from reclaiming their land and their oil. To defend these goals, they cloak the real relationship of forces in the Middle East and seek to confuse and disarm those who would support the Palestinians.

Israel remains an oppressor state, an outpost of the Pentagon in the Middle East. The oppressed Palestinian people are still fighting a national liberation struggle for self-determination and sovereignty. And their struggle deserves the support of all.