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Not even the Iranian threat, the spread of poverty in Israel or the growing violence are as frightening to Shas leaders as what they consider the real danger threatening the existence of the State of Israel - the Gentiles. Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who has not let up in his struggle against the migrant workers and their Israeli-born children (in recent days, he surpassed himself by speaking of the threat of terrifying illnesses that the foreign workers might bring with them), has now found reinforcement for his approach. After the police solved the murder of the Oshrenko family, Yitzhak Peretz, a former head of the Shas party and former interior minister who is currently chief rabbi of Ra'anana, took the opportunity to launch a racist attack on immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Since he doubts their Judaism, he considers them potential criminals.

This is the moment to note that in the previous century, some of the leading figures in the American mafia were Jews, and some of them, like Bugsy Siegel, were infamous for their extraordinary cruelty even when compared to other mafiosi. Over the past few years, reports have appeared in the crime pages of both American and European papers about Israelis whose Judaism is certainly not in question. The export of these Jewish criminals is offset by the import of criminals whose Judaism even Rabbi Peretz could not find fault with.

Israel has in the past brought several nefarious criminals here under the aegis of the Law of Return. True, it was forced to deport Meyer Lansky, one of the cruelest American mafiosi, after he had spent six pleasant years here. But Joseph "the Butcher" Stacher, Lansky's right-hand man, who got rid of dozens if not hundreds of people with his own two hands, settled down well in Israel. He went into partnership with Rabbi Menahem Porush to establish the strictly-Orthodox Central Hotel in Jerusalem, and he was buried in the Holon cemetery after dying a completely natural death.

The Judaism of some of the oligarchs who came here was checked closely, but no one insisted that Arcadi Gaydamak provide a certificate of good conduct as a condition for immigration. Shmuel Flatto-Sharon, a dear Jew (in more ways than one) and even a Holocaust survivor who speaks Yiddish, was also welcomed here with open arms and even elected to the Knesset, despite charges that had been brought against him in Europe. The Kahanist movement also brought to Israel young Americans with a criminal background who went to live in the settlements.

We likewise have a plethora of locally produced criminals. Many murders are carried out at the behest of heads of criminal families, all of them Jewish. Even the despicable murderers of children, such as Eli Pimstein and Ronny Ron, were born here. And there are murderers, not necessarily of Russian origin, who become even more Jewish when their trial is due to begin. Others return to religion after they have been incarcerated. Even several leaders of the Shas movement itself have sat, or are sitting, in jail.

Were I to start generalizing in the spirit of the Shas leadership, I would be obliged to declare that Shas is a movement of criminals. But clearly this would be a false generalization. On the other hand, Shas members ought to be especially cautious before stigmatizing an entire community as potential criminals.

Quite a few bad people can be found in our midst, most of them Jewish. But there has been no report of a migrant worker or refugee who became a murderer. And it is certainly unacceptable to view their children as potential criminals or disseminators of disease.

Instead of making residence in this country conditional on the state of a man's foreskin or a woman's familiarity with the religious precepts that apply to baking challah, the authorities should perform the same checks performed in all enlightened countries - those aimed at determining whether someone seeking to immigrate here has a criminal background.

And in a properly run state, needless to say, it would also be possible to put both Peretz and Yishai on trial, on charges of inciting to racism.