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“I felt that God brought back my son from the dead,” said Fatema, mother of Gamal Nassar who attends college in the city of Safad in northern Israel. She hugs him tight after checking to make sure he was not hurt by the firebombs that targeted his car as he left his rented apartment in Safad on Friday. It was not a surprise attack, since it’s part of spiralling violence by Jewish youth against Arab students who come to attend college from villages surrounding the city. The town’s rabbi, Samuel Eliyahu, recently issued an edict banning Jewish settlers from renting homes to Arab students.
Salam Aghbaria, 20, was praying in the flat he rented in the town when the walls shook violently after Jewish youth threw a number of firebombs into the apartment. Aghbaria miraculously survived. Many of Nassar and Aghbaria’s Arab classmates quickly left their rentals and returned to their families. Now they commute the long distance daily to attend college because it is too dangerous for them to rent flats in town.
What upset the students, their families and leaders of the Palestinians of 1948 is that the Israeli government did not lift a finger against the racist instigator-rabbi, and no measures were taken against the Jewish terrorist groups targeting Arab youth. While some 1948 Palestinians wait for an official response by Israel, tens of senior rabbis in Israel are signing an edict prohibiting Jews from renting or selling their homes to non-Jews, including Arabs and foreign workers.
The Israeli news website Walla! stated that the rabbis are justifying the edict out of fear of inter-marriage between Jews and gentiles. They are also concerned about a drop in the price of residential units where non-Jews live. The edict stated: “Any Jew who sells or rents their home to non-Jews must know that he is costing a loss for his neighbours.” The rabbis further called for a boycott of any Jew who sells or rents his home to a gentile, instructing other Jews to ostracise him, not trade with him, and ban him from entering Jewish holy sites until he revokes the sale or rental to a non-Jew.
The portal noted that all senior rabbis of major cities, who all receive salaries from the state, signed the edict despite the fact that they come from across the religious spectrum. The decree is the last in a series of racist proclamations by Jewish rabbis; an earlier one banned 1948 Palestinians from nominating themselves in the Israeli elections, and another prevented Jews from donating blood to gentiles.
It seems that the political and legal environment in Israel encourages racist killings, as demonstrated by the case of Rabbi Isaac Shapiro, director of the Youssef Hai Religious School in the settlement of Har Brakha, north of the occupied city of Nablus in the northern West Bank. Shapiro recently issued a book justifying the killing of Palestinian men, women and babies. In Law of the King, Shapiro published tens of references from the Torah and Talmud justifying the killing of babies of people who are enemies of Jews.
Haaretz and Maariv newspapers published excerpts of the book noting that Shapiro had stretched the interpretation of killing the infants of gentiles if they were in a place to harm the Jews. Another stretch is Shapiro’s assertion that the children of the leaders of enemies should be murdered to influence the morale of their fathers: “It is acceptable to harm the child of any leader to prevent [the father] from evil acts… We found that jurisprudence justifies the murder of the children of non-Jews in anticipation of the danger they pose in the future if they grow up to become evil like their fathers.”
One of the most dangerous decrees is one signed by a large number of rabbis in the Association of Rabbis of the Land of Israel headed by Rabbi Dov Lior, which urged the Israeli army to indiscriminately bomb Palestinian residential areas. A number of religious officials in Olmert’s former cabinet used this edict to support the purposeful killing of Palestinians during the last war by Israel against the Gaza Strip at the end of 2008. The proclamation stated: “Jewish law permits the bombing of Palestinian civilian targets, and the Torah allows launching missiles in the direction of fire, even if there are civilians there.”
The signatory rabbis went as far as saying that the army does not have to warn civilians before shelling begins.
Rabbi Eliyahu Reskin, a leading settlements rabbi, mocked calls for dialogue between Jewish rabbis and religious officials in the Arab world. Reskin believes the only form of dialogue between Muslims and Jews should be with “bullets”, and asserts that without convincing the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular, that a settlement cannot be imposed on Israel by force, there is no point in such a dialogue.
It is clear that racist incitement by rabbis succeeded in embedding racist sentiments among the Israeli population. According to an opinion poll by the Israeli Institute for Democracy published last week, 83 per cent of Jews in Israel believe that Israel’s Jewish character is more important to them than it being a democracy. Meanwhile, 86 per cent believe that decisions on the future of the state should only be taken by a majority of the Jewish vote only. Some 62 per cent assert that as long as there is conflict with Arab countries, Tel Aviv should not take into consideration the positions of 1948 Palestinians, while 53 per cent say that the state has the right to encourage 1948 Palestinians to emigrate.
Another 76 per cent of Jews think the state should not allow first-degree relatives of Arab Israelis to come to Israel as part of any family reunification schemes. Also, 55 per cent want the state to allocate more funds to Jewish residential compounds than to Arab ones. Meanwhile, 46 per cent said they don’t want an Arab worker fixing their house and 39 per cent did not want to use a foreign handyman.
A study by the dean of social studies at Haifa University, Sami Smouha, revealed that 65 per cent of Israelis refuse to share residential areas with 1948 Palestinians, while 67 per cent of 1948 Palestinians are willing to share living districts with Jews. According to the findings, 65 per cent of Jews believe that 1948 Palestinians represent a danger for Israel because of their natural growth, and the possibility of rebellion and civil disobedience in support of the plight of their brethren in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
A report, issued by the Citizen’s Rights Society, an Israeli human rights group, revealed that hatred levels against Arabs have risen by 100 per cent. But it isn’t only Jewish society that is racist against Arabs, so are the politicians. An article by Moshe Feiglin, a leading member of the ruling Likud Party, published in Maariv on 5 December notes: “The Arab is not the son of the desert but the father of the desert. The Arab brings desert with him wherever he goes … The Arabs are rooted in the culture of thievery. The Arab mind suffers from lack of innovation; there is no good or bad in Arab culture, but only strong and weak.”
There are indicators, however, that the increasing hatred is not only against the Arabs but everything foreign. A mass rally on 9 December in Tel Aviv attended by secular and religious figures called for expelling all foreigners from Israel’s largest city under the motto, “We have become trash dumps because of foreign workers.” Suzy Cohen, an activist in the city who organised the rally, did not hesitate in saying: “I don’t care if they call me a Nazi, as long as we throw out the foreigners.”
The Israeli anti-Zionist thinker Gideon Levy is upset with the rising racism, which he describes as “a cancer quickly spreading through Israel’s body. From the southern most point of Eilat to Tabaria in the North, one Israeli city after another announces ‘I am racist’,” stated Levy. In an article published last week, he condemned the silence of the government and state apparatus regarding expressions of racism. “We are surrounded by silence. There is no government in Israel. There is no one to point out that Arab students have rights in their country,” Levy wrote.
“Foreign workers from Africa are human beings we should respect,” he continued, noting that Israel at the core is a country of “refugees and Holocaust survivors, yet discussion of the fate of foreign workers is limited to demonic solutions where Israelis are competing for the most gruesome remedies. Some suggest building a wall to prevent the illegal entry of foreign workers, while others suggest collective incarceration of foreigners or their expulsion. Meanwhile, the rabbis do not express any sympathy for these wretched foreigners who are part of the human race.”