Gush Katif's Foreign Legions

Thousands of Jews - and Christians, too - are waiting in the U.S. for the call to join the struggle of the settlers in Gaza. And the use of violence has not been ruled out

Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar
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Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar

As in the turbulent days of protest against Yitzhak Rabin and the Oslo accords, zealots throughout the Jewish and Christian world are expressing solidarity with their brethren in the Holy Land. Many of the names are familiar, such as New York City councillor Dov Hikind and Rabbi Mordechai Friedman, president of the American Board of Rabbis. But this time around the focus is on Ariel Sharon, who was their true soul mate in the mid-1990s, and on a very imminent evacuation. In Gush Katif, they expect that when the hour of reckoning comes, Diaspora Jewry will not only send financial aid, but will also dispatch legions of people for the violent struggle against the government.

Settler spokespeople report that they've received thousands of inquiries from Jews as well as Christians who are waiting for the call. Dror Vanunu, the PR director for Gush Katif, says that he's even heard from interested volunteers from Congo. Last week, Vanunu returned from a speaking and fund-raising tour in North America. Together with Brigadier General (res.) Zvi Fogel, the former chief of staff of the Southern Command, he visited Jewish communities in major cities on the East Coast and in the south. Vanunu says that both the Jews and Christians he spoke to contributed generously - all for the children of Gush Katif. They also received the blessing of Rabbi Hershel Billet, who is know to be particularly close to President George W. Bush.

The peak of the visit, Vanunu relates proudly, was at a gathering of supporters at a Brooklyn synagogue. The hall was too small to hold the thousand people who came to hear the emissaries from Gush Katif. Mayor Michael Bloomberg had promised to attend, but in the end, he sent his regrets and was represented by others from his office. The guest of honor was councillor Hikind, who was Meir Kahane's right-hand man until the early 1970s.

The fight against the disengagement plan has brought Kahane back into the picture, and not only in the posters on buildings in Hebron and Jerusalem. Washington lawyer Kenneth Klein, who represents the Kahane Chai movement, recently informed fans of the late racist rabbi that the U.S. Department of the Treasury has granted a license for the establishment of the Kahane Chai Legal Defense Fund, whose aim is to prepare for the legal battle to get Kach, Kahane Chai and removed from the U.S. State Department's list of foreign terror organizations. "For the first time since 1995, individuals and organizations will be able to make contributions to seek the revocation of these designations," Klein wrote.

Clenching the fist

According to The Jerusalem Post, Rabbi Mordechai Friedman, as head of the American Board of Rabbis, represents no less than 1,000 Orthodox rabbis. Other sources cite a lower number - hundreds or even just dozens. At any rate, Friedman does not need the approval of the U.S. Treasury. His Web site is linked to that of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), which bears the notorious logo of a clenched fist against a backdrop of a yellow Star of David. Friedman once declared that "the Israeli army became the radical leftist militia of [Yitzhak] Rabin and [Shimon] Peres" and that their "dictatorship" was persecuting the settlers. In an interview published last week in the Post, Friedman promised that he would endeavor to get the members of his organization to come to Israel to fight the disengagement and that violence was not to be ruled out. "We need to paralyze the country," he said. "The only way to do that is with means which include violence."

Horrified by what he read, a young man named Jordan Turner, who is studying government at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, sent Rabbi Friedman a letter by e-mail, in which he wrote: "Well, Rabbi Friedman, if your goal is to cause more violence and `paralyze' my country, as you put it, then you can stay in America because you're not welcome here!"

A response was not long in coming. When Turner opened his e-mail the next day, he couldn't believe his eyes. Here are a few choice quotes from the lengthy reply:

"The government is Judenrat and those soldiers and police who beat up on Jewish children, men and women are KAPOS! Rambam ... stipulates a Jew who turns other Jews to the Goyim or Jewish property to the Goyim is a moser and should be immediately executed! The Shulchan Aruch [Code of Ethics] ... stipulates the same. Both first state, the moser has no place in the world to come ipso facto they go to hell!!! You are a Kapo! If you wish to be disrespectful do it to your father! ... Every Jewish child, woman and man that is murdered in Israel is on your hands!

"The Maccabees executed tens of thousands of Jewish traitors. If you lived then, you would have been executed! With a regime change in Israel or the coming of the Moshiach [Messiah], you and your ilk will be executed. Those earmarked for execution shall be medically examined; if they are healthy, they will be sedated and their organs, blood etc. harvested for Jewish victims of Arab terrorists ... May Hashem [the Lord] curse you and your family takef umiyad mamish [immediately]."

The continuation appeared in the e-mail in capital letters: "We see on Israeli satellite TV ... how you Kapo soldiers and police beat Jewish halutzim [pioneers], women with babies in their hands are punched, shoved and kicked. Shame shame shame. Hashem will pour down on you all the wrath that you all deserve. We shall monitor the news media to see if your name appears on the list of dead soldiers."

The Shin Bet security forces was unwilling to deal with Friedman or any other individual incident of an extremist threat to form a foreign legion against the evacuation of settlements, saying only that whenever it receives a report about a foreign citizen who intends to violate the law, the Interior Ministry is asked to block that person from entering the country.

Evidently, the last time right-wing Jewish extremists were barred from entering Israel was in December 1995. The group in question was comprised of seven American Jews, led by Rabbi Abraham Hecht, who had proclaimed to thousands of rabbis that "killing Rabin and anyone who helps him is not only permitted, but required" (documented in the book "Murder in the Name of God," by Michael Karpin and Ina Friedman, published by Zmora Bitan). A little more than two years later, Eli Suissa of Shas, then the interior minister, canceled the ban that kept Hecht from entering Israel. His justification for the decision: Rabbi Hecht had apologized. Suissa also said that if the rabbi ever came to Israel, he would be ready to shake his hand.

Since the right returned to power, and especially during the years of the intifada, a different attitude has taken over. Jewish tourists and groups of Christian Evangelists who come to cheer Israel on are warmly received by the immigration police, and American reinforcements, including Kach activists, occasionally join the snipers and stone-throwers on the hilltops of the West Bank. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry consistently denies entry to Israel to peace activists who want to protest against the separation fence or to help Palestinians save their olive trees from the hilltop thugs.

To the Shin Bet's credit, it should be said that in such cases, it does not discriminate between Jews and non-Jews. For example, Kristen Razovsky, a young Jewish woman, was arrested last March in the village of Beit Kadis where she was staying with a humanitarian aid team. The police accused Razovsky of participating in an illegal assembly and sent her to the immigration police. The Interior Ministry was not impressed by her argument that the renewal of her visa to stay in Israel was supposed to give her time to consider immigrating in accordance with the Law of Return.

One wonders how many Jewish men and women who come to take part in an "illegal assembly" against the evacuation will be arrested and shipped back to New York.



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