Netanyahu Is Fanning the Flames of Religious Incitement

Israel only has a very brief time left while change can still take place. It must either stop feeding the fire that is consuming it, or the country will cease to exist.

Benjamin Netanyahu is not guilty. He learned that trick the first time he was elected. After he took part in orchestrating the rallies inciting against Yitzhak Rabin ("With blood and fire we will expel Rabin" ), along came the assassination. Netanyahu recognized the significance of the role he played and was certain the right wing was going to collapse in the next election. But miraculously, the non-right didn't raise the assassination or the incitement during the election campaign - the shooting was reduced to the act of a single bad apple - and Netanyahu became prime minister.

Netanyahu is not the first to identify the formula. In the 1980s several fires broke out on Israel Air Force bases. It was always the same firefighter who was the first to notice the fire, arrive, put it out and reap the praise. As the incidents piled up, an undercover investigation began. The firefighter, it turned out, was the one setting the fires.

The Hasidic man from Beit Shemesh who was interviewed for a TV news segment that aired Friday has revealed the truth even to those who excel at repression. He is the product of an educational system that incites its students, creates segregation between boys and girls from childhood, and teaches boys that religious law states that spilling their seed is the worst of all sins - and that the spilled seed of sinning Jews gives rise to all the demons in the world, which are responsible for every tragedy, including, of course, the Holocaust. When the Israeli government allows itself to fund such an educational system, a place like Beit Shemesh can be expected to flourish. It's clear to the product of this incitement that if a "normal man" like him doesn't forcibly cover the arms of an 8-year-old girl, the world will be filled with his demons.

This normal man from Beit Shemesh continued to cover the arms of truth when he said "we have rabbis, and they're the ones who order us to take action." And that is the essence of the incitement. In the rallies that led to Rabin's assassination, Netanyahu was assisted by Rabbi Dov Lior and his followers. Menachem Livni, the operational head of the Jewish Underground in the early 1980s, who was convicted of killing Arabs, has said Lior was the one who pressured him to kill and sent him out to do so. Lior was not questioned seriously, nor was he put on trial. He later went on to announce that his former student - Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Muslim worshipers in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994 - was a martyr, greater than all the martyrs of the Holocaust. And several rabbis have said Lior was the rabbi who ruled that Rabin should be killed because he was a rodef and moser, meaning that he was seeking to kill Jews and give up Jewish land. Rabin's would-be assassin, Yigal Amir, attended many of Lior's gatherings.

Today, the Netanyahu government is giving Lior tens of thousands of shekels a month in the salaries he receives in various capacities. When Netanyahu returned to Israel as a victor after confronting U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this year, he went straight to Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, pointed to the podium where Lior was sitting, and said that was the elite commando unit leading the Jewish people.

The "normal" bad apples who called Israelis soldiers "Nazis" also have rabbis. Lior has ruled that soldiers who evacuate outposts are like Nazis, and should be treated as such. The Netanyahu government is continuing to waste millions of shekels on education that passes on the kind of values embraced by Lior - who also heads a large hesder yeshiva, combining Torah study and military service. And it's not just Lior. This week Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Netanyahu's "moderate" partner, ruled that Jewish doctors should not treat non-Jews or secular Jews on Shabbat. In 1997 Netanyahu told the late Rabbi Yitzhak Kadouri that Israel's leftists had forgotten what it means to be Jewish. In that spirit, most young Jews are now being taught what being Jewish is all about: segregation, and the creation of hierarchies that fervently discriminate.

If I wanted to establish a school system that separates redheads from everybody else and teaches them that they are inferior, that the sight of them causes demons to be born and so they should not be seen, I would probably be either hospitalized or arrested. But the Israeli government is sending most of the first-graders it classifies as Jews to religious schools, whether Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox. Those schools are doing essentially the same thing; they are operating an apartheid system that discriminates against girls.

At the end of the McCarthy era, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate is not equal. For all that he was a Republican, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent federal troops into Arkansas to uphold the right of black students to attend the same schools as whites. In Israel there's no need to send in the army; it would be enough to stop funding every segregated school. No so-called education system that segregates boys and girls should get a single shekel from the state. That would be enough to stop the madness.

Israel has a clear choice to make. It can continue with the Netanyahu government - which is igniting, fanning and subsidizing the rabbinical flames of incitement and, as the fire consumes all, promises to take care of the bad apples - or another government can step in and put out the fire.

Each of the three instances since 1977 in which the right lost the vote all had something in common: In all three cases, the public became more aware of the domestic threat, consisting primarily of religious extremists threatening to take over. By now it's no longer just a threat. Israel only has a very brief time left while change can still take place. It must either stop feeding the fire that is consuming it, or the country will cease to exist.

Read this article in Hebrew