Monday, September 10, 2007

Can Jews be anti-Semitic?

The neo-Nazi gang (Image from Haaretz)
Apparently, yes! Police in Israel have arrested a gang of Jewish "neo-Nazis". This is the first such instance. Their targets included orthodox Jews, foreigners and gays. The group of eight Russian-origin Jews, all between 18 and 21, even desecrated two synagogues with the swastika. Eli Boanitov, the gang's leader, was definant even after his arrest. "I won't ever give up. I was a Nazi and I will stay a Nazi, until we kill them all I will not rest," he told the police.

The problem is that this malaise goes well beyond this group. These new immigrants from erstwhile Soviet Union, who arrived in droves for economic reasons, have struggled to integrate into the Israeli society. Few speak Hebrew, many of them live in ghettos, they enjoy their pork (most Jews like Muslims stay away from pork), have their supermarkets and media outlets and have little connection, if any, with Judaism. Looks like the enemy lies within Israel now.

Anti-Defamation League maintains defensively that this incident is more a reaction to anti-Russian discrimination in Israel. But this incident has raised once again the question - Who should have the right to "return" to Israel? The country's Law of Return permits anyone who is Jewish according to halakha, religious law, or their relatives (including grandchildren) to immigrate to Israel. This has allowed many second or third generation Jews to migrate from across the world (obviously helping Israel win the demographic battle against the Arabs and also the publicity battle about Israel, despite its problems, being a magnet for new immigrants). Those in favour of changing it argue it has permitted many with scant dedication to or respect for Judaism to move to Israel. "It undermines the Jewish character of the state," says MK Zevulun Orlev of the National Union-National Religious Party.

Rather than luring immigrants en masse, the aliyah authorities are naturally being asked to be more selective to get the best and the faithful of the crop. It will be interesting to see how Israel balances its demographic fight with its struggle for security.


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