Just as Israel was getting ready to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, news broke of Rabbis Eliezer Kashtiel, head of the Bnei David pre-military academy in the settlement of Eli and Rabbi Giora Redler, telling their students it wasn’t Hitler who was in the wrong, it was the Jews he killed.
Redler can be heard describing Hitler as
‘the most correct person there ever was, and was correct in every word he said… he was just on the wrong side.”
In other words Hitler’s only fault was that he targeted the wrong people, Jews, instead of those who were members of the lower race (Arabs?).
“The real Holocaust was not when they murdered the Jews, that’s not it. All these excuses — that it was ideological or systematic — are nonsense,” he said. “Humanism, and the secular culture of ‘We believe in man,’ that’s the Holocaust.”
The rabbis are not alone. It is a widespread belief amongst religious Zionists that the ‘real Holocaust’ is assimilation, inter-marriage even abortion because all of these involve a loss to the Jewish race.
Rabbi Shimon Elitov, a member of Israel’s Chief Rabbinatetold a conference in Budapest in 2014 that “Assimilation in the shocking numbers that we see is worse that the physical Holocaust that we saw,” (my emphasis) RabbiYisrael Eichler, a Knesset member for the Haredi United Torah Judaism told a Knesset Committee that assimilation was the ‘silent Holocaust’.
If you believe that what is most important is the preservation of the Jewish nation/race then there is a racist logic that the physical extermination of Jews should be seen as the equivalent of those Jews who have been ‘lost’ to assimilation.
Again the Bnei David rabbis were not unusual in advocating that non-Jews should be slaves to Jews. The late Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef also urged that non-Jews become the slaves of Jews and that non-Jews should be bannedfrom living in Israel.
Rabbi Kashtiel told his young audience that
“The gentiles will want to be our slaves. Being a slave to a Jew is the best. They’re glad to be slaves, they want to be slaves, instead of just walking the streets and being stupid and violent and harming each other, once they’re slaves, their lives can begin to take shape.”
“All around us, we are surrounded by peoples with genetic problems. Ask a simple Arab [because all Arabs are simple – TG]‘where do you want to be?’ He wants to be under the occupation. Why? Because they have genetic problems, they don’t know how to run a country, they don’t know how to do anything. Look at them,”
“Yes, we’re racists.’ He said.
‘We believe in racism… There are races in the world and peoples have genetic traits, and that requires us to try to help them. The Jews are a more successful race.”
What is important to understand is that these people are not marginal cranks. They hold power in Israeli society. United Torah Judaism is part of Israel’s ruling coalition. The idea that assimilation, Jews marrying non-Jews, is the equivalent of the Holocaust is common to secular Jews too because racial supremacy is the knot that binds secular and religious Jewry.
The leader of the ‘centrist’ Yesh Atid and one of the leaders of Israel’s Blue & White party, Yair Lapid reacted to the wedding of Israeli Arab broadcaster Lucy Aharish to Jewish actor Tzachi Halevy by saying that intermarriage was problematic because “we haven’t recovered from the Holocaust yet.”
This isn’t the first time that Bnei David has been in the headlines. In July 2016 Bnei David Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, was recorded calling LGBT people “deviant.” Less than eight months later, Levinstein told IDF recruits that military service drives female soldiers “crazy” and strips them of their Jewishness. In February of this year, another Bnei David rabbi, Yosef Kelner, lectured students on women being “weak-minded” and possessing a reduced capacity for spirituality.
The Jerusalem Post explained why, despite former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatening to cut their funding, Bnei David has been the darling of the Israeli military. It all began in the late 1980s when the then-head of IDF Central Command Amram Mitzna and Rabbi Levenstein conceived of a program that would encourage more religious-Zionist young men to become IDF officers.
In 1988, together with Rabbi Sadan, Levenstein created the very first religious pre-military academy. Today there are dozens of such pre-military academies throughout Israel. In 2016, Sadan received the Israel Prize, its highest award, for the project.
As the Jerusalem Post explained ‘It would not be an exaggeration to say that the religious pre-military academies revolutionized the religious-Zionist approach to military service.’ Quite simply there are now hundreds of religious-Zionist zealots in the IDF, all of them influenced by the racist, sexist and homophobic teachings they have received and for whom the Palestinians are no more than subhuman.
As the religious manual Torat HaMelech, a guide to killing non-Jews legally explained, the Arabs are the historic biblical enemy Amalek and in war it is one’s duty to wipe out every Arab, children included.
After the footage was broadcast Kashtiel and Redler claimed their comments were taken out of context! Rabbi Kashtiel stated that
“yes, we are racist. We believe in racism, there are races in the world and genetic qualities of nations. This requires us to think how to help them.”
Rabbi Radler explained that the Holocaust was a divine punishment designed to make the Jewish people leave the diaspora and that the true Holocaust, according to him, “is secular culture in which we believe in man, that is the Holocaust.”
In other words the Holocaust was punishment for Jews who refused to leave the diaspora. Which was what Christian fundamentalist Pastor John Hagee, President of Christians United for Israel said when he described Hitler as a ‘hunter’sent by god to chase the Jews to Israel.
Rabbi Radler went on to say that “Hitler was the rightest person there was” and that Nazi ideology was true as there is a “masculine side which fights and is focused on honor and the brotherhood of men and a feminine world which is soft and moral and claims one should submit the other cheek.”
It will be claimed that what the two rabbis said was an aberration. That they are a couple of bad apples. The reality is different. Rather than being the odd one’s out, Radler and Kashtiel are normative.
Repeatedly religious rabbis, especially the Military Rabbinate, have urged that Arabs be treated with extreme cruelty and that the civilian population is a legitimate target. Chief Military Rabbi Avichai Rontzki was responsible for religious propaganda being given to soldiers during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9 arguing that soldiers should consider all Palestinians, as legitimate targets. The attack on Gaza was portrayed as a religious wars against the Jews’ ancient enemy, the Philistines. One of their favourite phrases was ‘being kind to the cruel [the Arabs] is to be cruel to the kind. [Jews]’
The sexism on display at Bnei David is anything but exceptional. Another Military Chief Rabbi Colonel Eyal Krim supported the idea of rape in war ruling that “Even though fraternizing with a gentile woman is a very serious matter’ it was permitted during wartime.
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, son of a former Sephardi Chief Rabbi and justified in a 2002 article the use of rape in war. David Sheen, an Israeli journalist described how Eliyahujustified genocide in Gaza arguing that 100,000 or even a million civilians should be killed.
Eliyahu was also the Safed Chief rabbi who banned Jews from renting rooms or flats to Arabs. A position dozens of Israeli rabbis supported.
Mordechai Kedar, a Professor at the religious university of Bar-Ilan urged the use of rape in war since the fear of having one’s sister or mother raped would deter Arab ‘terrorists’.
Nor is their racism at all exceptional. After all the Deputy Defence Minister Rabbi Eli Dahan, in charge of the West Bank’s Civil Administration, described Palestinians as ‘animals’ sub-humans.
“To me, they are like animals, they aren’t human.” Dahan explained that ‘A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual,” If these are views of the Deputy Defence Minister why is it any surprise that ordinary rabbis admire Hitler?
This virulent racism is not confined to just a handful of rabbis. A plurality of Israeli Jews also supports the physical expulsion of Israel’s Palestinian population.
Israel is a Jewish settler state in which Arabs are now officially 3rd class citizens. It is a state that does its best to encourage Jewish immigration whilst refusing to readmit Palestinian refugees. It is a country that needs to have a perpetual enemy and is a state of racial supremacy where relationships between Jews and Arabs are officially disapproved.
Israel in short is a state of racial supremacy and it should be no wonder that some Rabbis are coming to the conclusion that Hitler was much misunderstood and that his basic message was correct even if his target, the Jews, was misplaced.
There is no fundamental difference between the ideology of racial supremacy in Nazi Germany, of separation between Jew and non-Jew under the 1935 Nuremburg Laws, and the situation in Israel today.
It is that which explains the background to the Hitler supporting words of the two Israeli rabbis.