By Shimon Z. Klein

The terrible tragedy that occurred at Mercaz Harav in Jerusalem has raised strong emotions amongst the adherents of right wing religious Zionism. They blame the left wing in Israel for the murder. This message was so clear because of the rough treatment given to Prof Yuli Tamir the Minister of Education, when she arrived at the institution on a condolence visit. The scorn and the violence that came from this sector  with the tacit support of the rabbis that graduated at this institution leaves us with no doubt about the direction of education in this “holy of holies”. Mercaz Harav, the right wing religious Zionist institution, has produced graduates that are illegal settler oriented as well as strong supporters of the occupation on religious grounds. It is a disgrace! Why must it take a heinous terrorist act to bring out true barbarism, racial hatred for others and hatred for a large left oriented non-religious section of the Israeli population? I had a feeling of déjà vu. A similar situation existed a few weeks before PM Yitschak Rabin’s assassination in 1995.  

Many rabbis, whose views are extreme right wing, are graduates of this institution.   The yeshiva’s well-known graduates include former MK Rabbi Haim Druckman, Rabbi Dov Lior, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, Rabbi Zfania Drori, Rabbi Moshe Levinger, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Rabbi Yoel Bin-Noon and former MK Rabbi Hanan Porat. All these rabbis are religious Zionist firebrands! They believe and fight for “Eretz Yisrael Shleima” (Greater Israel, which includes all the territories occupied in the Six Day War of June 1967). The ideology that these religious leaders hold, according to them, are based on the right of Jews to settle all the occupied territories.

This is based on prophecy. The damage that they have done to Israel’s credibility in the world is enormous. It is creating a situation whereby Palestinians are forcibly removed from their lands to make way for Jewish settlement in the territories. At the same time it also makes a two state solution even more complex to achieve. How can Israel claim that it does not wish to occupy another people when the settler movement is given permits to build in disputed areas of Jerusalem? Palatial homes are built for settlers while Palestinian homes are demolished to make way for Jewish settlement. It makes Israel’s claims of being a non-occupying power a complete farce! It also strengthens the case for a binational state solution. There is no place for a Palestinian state other than in the Israeli occupied territories! There are those religious Zionists who still maintain that the future Palestinian state is Jordan and that is where the Palestinians ought to be transferred.

  The religious Zionist movement is becoming more right wing and less amenable to any form of negotiations with the Palestinians. They must share a large part of the blame for much of the hate that Israel is receiving. The reaction of the yeshiva students was chants of “Death to the 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). They also called for the destruction of the home where the terrorist and his parents live.

It must be made clear that after Rabin was assassinated, there were no calls coming from rabbis or their students of this “holy of holies” of religious Zionism to destroy the home of Yigal Amir the assassin. Nor were there any calls for the destruction of the Kiryat Arba home of Baruch Goldstein the murderer of 29 Arabs in a mosque in Hebron on 29th February 1994. The deed of the perpetrators of these crimes was no less than that of the terrorist who killed the 8 students in Mercaz Harav.   

 Mercaz Harav is a hotbed of racist Jewish fundamentalism at its worst. “The Talmud states that…two contrary types of souls exist, a non-Jewish soul comes from the Satanic spheres, while the Jewish soul stems from holiness…Rabbi Kook, the Elder, the revered father of the messianic tendency of Jewish fundamentalism said, “The difference between a Jewish soul and the souls of non-Jews…is greater and deeper than the difference between a human soul and the souls of cattle.’ “Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky’s “Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel”

It is also the base of Gush Emunim. “Gush Emunim rabbis have continually reiterated that Jews who killed Arabs should not be punished, [e.g.]…Relying on the Code of Maimonides and the Halacha, Rabbi Ariel stated, ‘A Jew who killed a non-Jew is exempt from human judgment and has not violated the [religious] prohibition of murder’…The significance here is most striking when the broad support, both direct and indirect, for Gush Emunim is considered. About one-half of Israel’s Jewish population supports Gush Emunim.” “Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky’s “Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel” 

Mercaz Harav is the ideological and organizational centre of the Israeli settler movement. They oppose any form of compromise with the Palestinians or the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. 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.”   

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