Rabbis of the Dry Bones

"Racism surfaces when a society loses its self-confidence and turns to seeking ways to defend itself against what is different and perceived as increasingly threatening." ...

Salman Masalha

Rabbis of the Dry Bones

The rabbis’ letter in support of Safed’s Town Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, the demonstrations against renting apartments to “foreigners” and slogans like “Jewish girls for the Jewish people” reveal only the very tip of the iceberg of sinister racism that had been dormant and wrapped in shabby feathers. This racism hid itself for many years behind barren discourse about a state with a formative “Declaration of Independence” in which there is civil equality and so on. All those who lauded the declaration have been in the forefront of those who have been trampling it early and late in the cabinet and the Knesset.

The despicable letter signed by dozens of rabbis is the peak of “the vision of the filthy dry bones” of the religious racism taking on flesh and sinew in Israel. This letter shows more than anything that the odious Kach movement was not a transient episode. It shows that Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of that movement, was not at all a loose cannon in the rabbinical world. He was a darling son of a racist monotheistic theology, like the other branches of this abominable tribal theology that arose in our region.

We are told Zionism aspired to liberate a religious group, to have it undergo a revolution of consciousness and to make it like all other nations. This, at least, is what is said by its disciples. So they say, as in the old joke about the rabbi and the harried husband who came to complain. However, a quick look at what is happening here makes it easy to see the deception. Indeed, see what a wonderful thing: From the moment the Jewish state arose it hastened to push aside civil secularity and adopted “Hatikvah” as its national anthem – an anthem the entire essence of which is religious.

You don’t need a weatherman to say which way the wind blows in words like “a Jewish soul yearns” or “an eye gazes toward Zion.” Thus a state was created in which at the base of its national anthem is a kid of religious prayer – Jewish and not Israeli. In other words, by means of the anthem Israel became a Shari’ah state – a Jewish country ruled by religious law and not a secular, modern, civilized country.

Not two decades elapsed after the establishment of “the Jewish state” and Israel found itself, with its yearning Jewish soul, not only yearning but also captive in the honey trap of the occupation of greater Zion. And thus the tribe with the religious anthem touched times and places laden with a mythical historical past. Thus, after the Six Day War of 1967 the Jewish-theocracy state removed the mask from its face and the Judeo-religious noose tightened around the slender neck of Israeli secularism.

The compound of tribalism and religion is a toxic compound that gives rise to fanatical murderers. This poisonous mixture led to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin because he tried to draw a line separating Israeli tribalism from Jewish tribalism. The right, which usually draws its strength from religious tribalism, took to the city squares. Before Rabin was assassinated, he was often accused of not having “a Jewish majority.” This charge is what ultimately led to his murder, in the context of secularization and desecration Jewish “tribal honor.”

Racism surfaces when a society loses its self-confidence and turns to seeking ways to defend itself against what is different and perceived as increasingly threatening. This defensiveness is sometimes manifested through an “Iron Dome” directed at a danger from outside. No one talks about the deep root from which are growing the branches of racism flourishing in the streets. The root of the problem lies deep in the minds of those wishing to restore racist monotheist beliefs to their former glory.
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Published: Op-Ed, Haaretz, December 27, 2010
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