At officially sponsored meeting, Israel’s racist rabbis say ethnic cleansing working, call for more

In recent months, Israeli religious and political leaders have become more and more open about their anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism. The Israeli press is full of it. The Jerusalem Post for example reports on a conference of Israeli Jewish religious leaders and municipal officials at which Rabbi Dov Lior, a prominent settler leader from Kiryat Arba near Hebron makes this outright call for ethnic cleansing:

Israel must offer cash and other incentives to encourage Beduin citizens of the state to emigrate to other parts of the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia and Libya, a West Bank rabbi said on Tuesday.

“We must launch incentives, even offering money to encourage their return to the countries they came from.

Today there is a lot of land in Saudi Arabia and in Libya, too – there’s lots of land in lots of places,” Rabbi Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Hebron and the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, told the fourth annual Ramle Conference on Tuesday.

(See “W. Bank rabbi: Pay Beduin to move to Libya, Saudi Arabia,” 26 April.)

It’s important to note that these racist calls and calls for ethnic cleansing are being made at an officially sponsored conference, as The Jerusalem Post notes:

The theme of the conference – which was organized by the right-wing organization “Komemiyut” and sponsored in part by the Ramle municipality and the local Ramle Garin Torani, was “Land of the nation or land of all the nation’s citizens?” A small group of around a dozen protesters demonstrated outside the conference, which they called a “racism conference,” but left shortly after police arrived.

But amazingly enough, Rabbi Lior’s call to ship Palestinians to Libya and Saudi Arabia wasn’t the worst of it. Safad Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, notorious for organizing campaigns to forbid Jews renting or selling homes to Arabs was there as well making extremist and racist statements while of course denying that he’s a racist:

One of those rabbis was Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who gained notoriety last December after he penned the so-called “Rabbis letter,” which implored Jews not to rent or sell property to non- Jews, and which was signed by over 50 rabbis from around Israel.

Eliyahu said that Israel is involved in a war over its land and its Jewish character and that “today in Israel there is another war. There is an ongoing campaign to buy up Israel’s land. Are we going to be quiet in the face of this attack?” Eliyahu dismissed claims that he is a racist, saying “whenever I’m interviewed I ask the interviewer if they would want an Arab to live in their neighborhood.

Would they feel secure? Would they trust the Arabs whose national identity is Palestinian, who identify completely with Hamas and Hezbollah?” The rabbi added that “they [Arabs] want the whole world to convert to Islam,” and warned that the violence breaking out in the Arab world should be a warning sign about “these cultural standards which we can’t allow to enter Israeli society.”

He also said that the rabbis’ letter worked in Safed, where today, according to the rabbi, no Jews are selling or renting property to non-Jews.

What makes this racist incitement and demonization of an entire population different from what was heard against Jews and others so many times in history?

The conference also heard calls for Israel to continue to dispossess Palestinian Bedouins from their lands in the Negev, presumably as is being done to the village of al-Araqib that has already been demolished some 18 times.

And in another development reminiscent of America’s Jim Crow South in the 1950s, or apartheid South Africa, Haaretz reports that “Poster calling to boycott stores where Arabs work with Jewish women spotted in Jerusalem.” The poster reportedly asks: “Do you want your grandson to be named Ahmed ben Sarah?”

That is Israel in 2011.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.