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Rabbis of the Dry Bones

"Racism surfaces when a society loses its self-confidence and turns to seeking ways to defend itself against what is different and perceived as increasingly threatening." ...

Salman Masalha

Rabbis of the Dry Bones

The rabbis’ letter in support of Safed’s Town Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, the demonstrations against renting apartments to “foreigners” and slogans like “Jewish girls for the Jewish people” reveal only the very tip of the iceberg of sinister racism that had been dormant and wrapped in shabby feathers. This racism hid itself for many years behind barren discourse about a state with a formative “Declaration of Independence” in which there is civil equality and so on. All those who lauded the declaration have been in the forefront of those who have been trampling it early and late in the cabinet and the Knesset.

The despicable letter signed by dozens of rabbis is the peak of “the vision of the filthy dry bones” of the religious racism taking on flesh and sinew in Israel. This letter shows more than anything that the odious Kach movement was not a transient episode. It shows that Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of that movement, was not at all a loose cannon in the rabbinical world. He was a darling son of a racist monotheistic theology, like the other branches of this abominable tribal theology that arose in our region.

We are told Zionism aspired to liberate a religious group, to have it undergo a revolution of consciousness and to make it like all other nations. This, at least, is what is said by its disciples. So they say, as in the old joke about the rabbi and the harried husband who came to complain. However, a quick look at what is happening here makes it easy to see the deception. Indeed, see what a wonderful thing: From the moment the Jewish state arose it hastened to push aside civil secularity and adopted “Hatikvah” as its national anthem – an anthem the entire essence of which is religious.

You don’t need a weatherman to say which way the wind blows in words like “a Jewish soul yearns” or “an eye gazes toward Zion.” Thus a state was created in which at the base of its national anthem is a kid of religious prayer – Jewish and not Israeli. In other words, by means of the anthem Israel became a Shari’ah state – a Jewish country ruled by religious law and not a secular, modern, civilized country.

Not two decades elapsed after the establishment of “the Jewish state” and Israel found itself, with its yearning Jewish soul, not only yearning but also captive in the honey trap of the occupation of greater Zion. And thus the tribe with the religious anthem touched times and places laden with a mythical historical past. Thus, after the Six Day War of 1967 the Jewish-theocracy state removed the mask from its face and the Judeo-religious noose tightened around the slender neck of Israeli secularism.

The compound of tribalism and religion is a toxic compound that gives rise to fanatical murderers. This poisonous mixture led to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin because he tried to draw a line separating Israeli tribalism from Jewish tribalism. The right, which usually draws its strength from religious tribalism, took to the city squares. Before Rabin was assassinated, he was often accused of not having “a Jewish majority.” This charge is what ultimately led to his murder, in the context of secularization and desecration Jewish “tribal honor.”

Racism surfaces when a society loses its self-confidence and turns to seeking ways to defend itself against what is different and perceived as increasingly threatening. This defensiveness is sometimes manifested through an “Iron Dome” directed at a danger from outside. No one talks about the deep root from which are growing the branches of racism flourishing in the streets. The root of the problem lies deep in the minds of those wishing to restore racist monotheist beliefs to their former glory.
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Published: Op-Ed, Haaretz, December 27, 2010
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For Hebrew, press here
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The media fanned the flames

Salman Masalha

The media fanned the flames

It wasn't only pinecones that burst, flew far from the trees and ignited more fires in the forests. The media also set up studios and sent out reporters who stoked another fire, on top of those that engulfed the Carmel.

Faced with the tragedy of the bus that went up in flames with its occupants, the evacuation of residents from their homes and the appeals for aid from other nations, their mission this time was to transmit, in live broadcasts, "information" received from anonymous sources about the existence of some kind of "conspiracy." The reporters were quick to report outbreaks of fire in various places and point to an alleged "guiding hand" behind the fires.

But the "guiding hand" was not a hand, but rather an anonymous arm of the government, which leaked this "information" to reporters on the scene in a desperate attempt to obscure the authorities' inability to deal with the fire and distract attention from their own negligence and failures by collectively accusing the residents of Isfiya and Daliat al-Carmel, and through them the entire Arab community, of responsibility for the fires. Facing off against these anonymous sources were "knowledgeable sources" in ultra-Orthodox circles who pulled out the default mantra of Sabbath desecration, which for the ignorant explains everything.

Against the background of general panic over the fire department's helplessness, broadcasters reported willingly for a kind of media reserve duty. Every reporter who had a chance to face the camera was quick to report, whether maliciously or innocently, the alleged information he was getting by text message from those anonymous sources.

The media, in all its forms and outlets, must do some thorough soul-searching. The irresponsible behavior we witnessed, in the form of transmitting "information" without bothering to check its veracity, is the type of ember that will continue to glow under the surface long after the flames die down. Such embers whip up the flame of hatred between Jews and Arabs, and they will ignite an even greater fire when the opportunity arises. And there is no lack of opportunities for an eruption in this security-conscious land.

On the other hand, the fire can serve as an opportunity for leaders of the Arab community to do some soul-searching and demonstrate wise civic leadership on behalf of the people they are supposed to represent and all the country's residents. The heads of Arab local councils often complain, justifiably, about the central government's failure to deal with the Arab sector's problems: the rising crime in Arab communities, the relatively high number of Arab drivers involved in car accidents and other ills that must be thoroughly addressed. Here is a chance to encourage young Arab men and women to volunteer for national service in the fire department. Because, as we just saw, evil flames of all kinds can devour everything good.

Volunteering for the fire brigades will send various civic messages: We're all in the same boat in the battle to preserve nature. We're all in the same boat in the battle to save life and stop the killing on our roads. Both nature and the roads belong to all of us, and it is our duty to safeguard them not only for ourselves, but for future generations.

National service in the fire department also has an educational aspect that is no less important: contributing to the general good regardless of petty, populist politics. Such national service could also open many fields of interest and study to young men and women later in life.

If everyone joins together to do some soul-searching, maybe there will be a silver lining in the cloud of smoke.
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Published: Op-Ed, Haaretz, December 7, 2010
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For Hebrew, press here
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