Among all the rabbinical racism that’s been surfacing, among all the events of the national memorial days that made Israel look more like a racially exclusive society than a state, even more telling than the chilling preference for placing a flag only on the grave of a certified kosher fallen soldier was an event of extreme significance that got little public attention.
It was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement saluting a Torah giant, teacher and arbiter of Jewish law. We’re talking about Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, who was arrested for giving a letter of approbation to the work “The King’s Torah − Laws of Killing Non-Jews.”
As a rabbi, Yosef contributed to and expanded the body of racist halakha (Jewish religious law) against Arabs, “goyim” and homosexuals until his recent death. But all this is dwarfed by the simple and unnerving fact that the prime minister of Israel referred to one of the people behind the “The Laws of Killing Non-Jews” as a posek gadol − a great halakhic arbiter.
No Western leader could be caught doing something comparable, even if he’d wanted to. No one in the West publishes books on “the laws of killing Jews,” or on “the laws of killing non-Christians,” or on “the laws of killing non-whites.” They would be marched straight to prison, and anyone saluting them as “great arbiters” would be booted out of public service.
Even in the most extreme Islamic countries you won’t find an exact parallel. There are no books there on “the laws of killing Jews,” or even on “the laws of killing those not of the Islamic race.” Yes, there have been religious rulings favoring suicide terrorists and the killing of Zionists. But never a blanket permit for racist murder.
Netanyahu’s declaration, which is much more serious even than his whispered confidence to an old rabbi that “the left has forgotten what it means to be a Jew,” was in essence the zenith, or perhaps the basis, for what has become the long duration of Holocaust-memorial-independence ceremonies, which do everything to eradicate the most important half of our founding principle of “never again.”
“Never again” no longer means that there should never again be genocide, but only that no one should do it to us. We no longer sacrifice our sons in the hope of peace, but as a frightening version of the drunkard in “The Little Prince.” We’ve become a country addicted to remembering-forgetting the slaughter by sinking into a cycle of endless slaughter that we dare not interrupt, and our independence is no longer for the purpose of building a society embodying the spirit of the Prophets, including love of equality and the stranger.
Even as the Israeli leadership enjoys the pseudo proof from Boston on how nightmarish Islam is and how the world will now see it and leave the Israeli occupation alone, the most important thing has been repressed: Israel is becoming a racist society, in which the prime minister of a country that was founded after the murder of Jews salutes a rabbi who supported a work on the laws of killing non-Jews.
That Netanyahu has thus essentially expressed support for “The Laws of Killing Non-Jews” overwhelms the rabbinic rulings being imposed on the military and on all of society and that are being revealed daily, whether it be permission to rape non-Jewish captives or the “necessary” inequities against “goyim” by the state. These rulings aren’t really new. This is a bucket that has been slowly filling for a very long time. It’s a bucket that has been drawing from the depths of the racism that Heinrich Heine warned against. It’s a bucket whose profound support by the prime minister will lead it to overflow and spill onto all of society.
What stands out through this entire disturbing process is the role of Yair Lapid. Lapid succeeded in the election because the public desires “a normal country.” As such, his survival depends on his distancing himself from this metastasizing racism. He took a first step with his guarded support for the Women of the Wall. He must avoid all involvement with legislation or events whose foundation or result is racism or inequality. Any deviations from the principles of equality and normalcy − from Nochi, to the X-Ray rabbis, to Tshuva, to laws against migrants or that pay salaries to racist rabbis − are merely first names of a family named Netanyahu, the man whom Lapid wants to replace, in body and spirit.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is still here. If he who salutes all “the laws of killing” isn’t deposed, his disgrace will destroy us all.