The Judeo-Nazis in Israel's Legislature

Racism is always offensive and it is important to fight it. But even racism has its shades, too. Knesset Member Bezalel Smotrich’s vocabulary is that of the master race.

Bezalel Smotrich speaking in the Knesset, November 16, 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

Many true and informative things have been said and written, even on these pages, about the racist show of MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Heyehudi) and his wife. But one point has not been clarified enough, and it is important that it be clarified, despite the discomfort in dealing with its implications. This point overshadows all the political and social arguments by which the Smotriches and their comments were examined. It is impossible to continue running away from what's before us.

The Smotriches spoke of the holy and pure moment of the birth of a Jewish child. Of the demand that Arab hands not interfere and pollute this holiness and purity. Of the refusal to share the physical space with Arabs, because Arabs are by necessity enemies. Of the baby that is born to an Arab mother and in another 20 years will murder the baby of the Jewish mother.

This is not just ordinary racism. Racism is always offensive and it is important to fight it. But racism has its degrees, too. This is the vocabulary of the master race. Of racial purity and its holiness. Of inferior races that could pollute the master race. Of the lebensraum cleansed of the enemy’s impurity. Of infants who will grow up to be murderous enemies because they belong to the enemy race. This is a Nazi way of thinking. The Smotriches and their followers are Judeo-Nazis.

A Judeo-Nazi movement exists on the margins of Israeli society. It is hard to estimate its size. It is not very broad in scope, but it exists. It makes various appearances in public in Israel. For example, the Lehava organization run by Benzion Gopstein (“Don’t even think about going out with a Jewish girl”); part of the activities of the La Familia soccer fan club (“Beitar Jerusalem will be pure forever”); the burning to death of Mohammed Abu Khdeir; the fatal arson attack on the home of the Dawabsheh family, and the celebration of the death of their 18-month-old son Ali at a wedding.

The time has come to recognize this phenomenon. Neo-Nazis exist in almost every Western nation. For some Israelis, the Holocaust was only a regrettable mistake in the address. At neo-Nazi rallies in Germany against Muslims, Jews waving Israeli flags participate. In last year's elections, the Judeo-Nazi denomination also won the right to enter the Knesset. It fell just short of winning more than one seat. Statistically that is logical. Representative democracy reflects the segments of its society.

What is not understandable, and what is unforgiveable is the attitude towards Smotrich. This is the true mirror he set up for Israeli society this week: Not everyone is like him, but everyone accepts his existence as something legitimate. The only thing that needed to be done was to boycott him. To ignore his existence. Not to share a word with him. Certainly not a smile or handshake. Even the media did not stop interviewing Smotrich and his wife with chilly politeness. In the previous century Likud tried to prevent Meir Kahane from running for Knesset, and after he was elected most MKs boycotted him. After that his movement was outlawed.

Look at what happened in Israel over the past year. The Tekuma faction chose Smotrich in second place on its slate in its primaries. The party that calls itself Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) recognized the results and adopted him. After that, along came Benjamin Netanyahu and promised voters they were a natural partner. Promised and kept his promise. The result is that the Judeo-Nazi faction is represented in a party that received the justice and education portfolios.

But it does not end here. Netanyahu has a coalition of 61 Knesset members. Smotrich’s vote keeps it alive. He was also appointed a deputy Knesset speaker and runs some of its sessions. The Judeo-Nazi faction sustains the government of Israel and serves as a deputy head of its parliament. It would be interesting to see what we would have said if this had happened in a different civilized country, shall we say Germany.