Purge the Racist Rabbi From Israel's Governance

Habayit Hayehudi, with its racist members and rabbis, must be denounced, shunned, and removed from Israel's government immediately, and condemned forever. A country established in the wake of terrifying racist persecution has no room for this party.

Sefi Rachlevsky
Sefi Rachlevsky
Sefi Rachlevsky
Sefi Rachlevsky

There are moments in a person’s life when he says to himself: This is one boundary I won’t cross, for if I do, I won’t be the same person anymore, I won’t be able to look in the mirror. Even the heartless majority has a moment, and a boundary, like that. For the members of the Israeli government and its governing coalition, particularly from Hatnuah and Yesh Atid, that moment has arrived. That moment is now.

Naftali Bennet's party Habayit Hayehudi - “the Jewish home” - wants to run Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu as its candidate for Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel. Yes, the rabbi of Safed who engages in incitement; the rabbi who ruled that Jews could not rent or sell apartments to Arabs; the rabbi who, for years, has incited against Arabs and non-Jews in general, and whose speeches have been followed by racially-motivated rioting; the rabbi who organized the inflammatory letters from rabbis and rabbis’ wives; the rabbi who incites against having sexual relations with Arabs; the rabbi against whom even the State Prosecutor’s Office, weak and paralyzed against the power of religion, prepared an indictment for inciting to racism; the rabbi who used his weekly pamphlet to mock “moderates” who would oppose building death camps for anyone determined to be “Amalek” [the gentile enemies whom the Jews were ordered to inflict genocide upon, in Deuteronomy 25:17–19]. Yes, that rabbi. As the chief rabbi of Israel.

Maybe the racist rabbi will issue a scrap of “clarification” intended to whitewash his hundreds and thousands of racist acts so he can be elected. The logical conclusion of this route is that a minor apology, motivated by personal interest, could make the man who murdered the prime minister fit to become Israel’s president.

A few years ago, Jorg Haider’s racist party was brought into the Austrian coalition as a junior partner. The world was outraged. Israel recalled its ambassador. In the end, the party was removed from the coalition. The usual practical wisdom says “Never compare,” but sometimes reality surpasses imagination.

So yes, it’s hot here. And it’s summertime. And every boundary has been crossed. And heads of state go to jail for rape and theft, and sometimes return to their positions. And yes, the man who conducted the inflammatory rallies of “In blood and fire we will drive out Rabin” against the man who was prime minister and defense minister now lives in the prime minister’s official residence. Bashful and blushing. And inside Israel, Jews and non-Jews cannot marry each other. And in Israel’s capital, Jews are citizens while non-Jews are not. And yes, Israel, which together with Sweden headed the list of countries where there was no gap between rich and poor until Likud came to power, has become a leader in poverty and socioeconomic gaps among the non-industrialized countries. And the finance minister who was elected on the strength of the protests for equality took part in appointing the last of the world’s Milton Friedmans and Ayn Rands as governor of the Bank of Israel. Yes, every boundary has been crossed here. And it’s still happening.

MKs Amram Mitzna, Amir Peretz and Tzipi Livni all have mirrors in their homes. Yair Lapid certainly does. A lot of mirrors. So does Ofer Shelah. So do Ruth Calderon and Ronen Hoffman, who was on Rabin’s staff. They all have mirrors. How can they — the people who keep this coalition in existence — pass by those mirrors even once? And the people of Yesh Atid also made a pact of brotherhood and friendship and embracing — the pact that served as the basis for this government — with a party that seeks to install, as a symbol of the state, a radical racist who engages in incitement. How can they do it? How?

Habayit Hayehudi — this party known as “the Jewish home” — with all its people and rabbis must now be denounced and shunned in every house. Certainly in the house of the legislature. More than what was done when right-wing extremist Meir Kahane spoke and all the Knesset members walked out. The party known as “the Jewish home” must be removed from the government immediately and condemned forever.

That is no mere slip of the tongue. It is not even "shrapnel in the backside." It is essential. There is no room for terrifying historical racism in the government of a country that was established after terrifying racist persecution. Isn’t that obvious? Doesn’t it go without saying?

Maybe Yair Lapid has no heart. To be truthful, anyone who expected a man who has appeared in TV ads to have a heart was a bit confused. Anyone who stars in ads on behalf of a corporate entity that gouges millions from the masses probably has no heart, as a rule. But to this extent?

Lapid brought his late father’s briefcase to the Knesset on his first day. Maybe he’s grown numb to the fact that his father’s family was destroyed by laws and opinions exactly like those of the man his partners and his “Jewish brothers” have chosen as their candidate for Israel’s chief rabbi. Maybe he has. But I haven’t. My beloved grandmother, Haicha, went to sleep every night with the photographs of Temaleh and Shalom and little Leibeleh, the siblings she loved, who were murdered by the monster of racism. How are you not ashamed? How?

Now that I’ve violated the usual “don’t compare” rule because I simply had no choice, I have a small personal request to make of several people, most of whom I know well. Six million requests, actually. Mitzna, Livni, Peretz, definitely Lapid, Shelah, Calderon and Hoffman — if you have no power to set a boundary and dismantle this frightening government of racism, and if you must be the collaborators of such a party in the government, at least take down the mirrors in your homes. That's the least you can do.

Safed chief rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, on October 30, 2011.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky

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