Top Israeli rabbis advocate genocide

Legitimate targets, to senior Israeli theocrats: Palestinian children play on the rubble of a destroyed Hamas training base after an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip, 29 May 2007. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

Yesterday I wrote a piece entitled “Israel’s House of Horrors” about the openly murderous statements of Israeli cabinet ministers. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, I read a news article on the website of The Jerusalem Post that Israel’s former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu — one of the most senior theocrats in the Jewish State “ruled that there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings” (“Eliyahu advocates carpet bombing Gaza,” The Jerusalem Post, 30 May, 2007).

The Jerusalem Post reported that Mordechai made this ruling in a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert citing biblical authority. The letter was published in a weekly journal distributed in synagogues throughout Israel. The report states that “According to Jewish war ethics, wrote Eliyahu, an entire city holds collective responsibility for the immoral behavior of individuals. In Gaza, the entire populace is responsible because they do nothing to stop the firing of Kassam rockets.”

Eliayahu’s son, Shmuel Eliayhu, himself chief rabbi of Safad, amplified his father’s comments, stating: “If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand.” He added, “And if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop.”

This kind of genocidal hatred of Palestinians is not unusual in Israel. What used to be unusual was for it to be spoken so brazenly and openly. Of course we know what would happen if a Muslim or Palestinian religious figure made such a statement. We know the international outcry when Iran’s President Ahmadinejad made statements calling for the elimination of Israel. Will all those EU officials who curried favor by condemning Ahmedinejad take an equally strong and public stance against Israel’s former chief rabbi? Will they demand that Olmert publicly repudiate the letter he received?

A Muslim making such statements about Jews would certainly be banished from traveling to the United States, and could end up in Guantanamo for much less.

Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted in the wake of the Nazi holocaust, “Direct and public incitement to commit genocide” is a punishable act. One wonders whether the UN Security Council, which created an international tribunal to investigate the killing of one man in Lebanon, will pay any attention to the indiscriminate state- and theocratically-sanctioned massacres of Palestinians by Israel.

Will Hillary Clinton, who continues to defame Palestinian schoolchildren with the lie that they are taught “hatred” in their schoolbooks, or any of our other pandering candidates, take a moment out from praising Israel to condemn Eliayahu’s statement? What about Oprah Winfrey, who at the invitation of Elie Wiesel is to undertake a “solidarity” visit to Israel?

It seems there are no moral restraints left in Israel. It is right and proper that such a regime be isolated with boycott, divestment and sanctions until it desists from its racist — and potentially genocidal — practices. It is to be celebrated that an increasing number of individuals and organizations understand this: yesterday the governing body of the UK’s University and College Union voted overwhelmingly to support a boycott of Israeli academia. Today UNISON, the UK’s largest public service union announced it will vote on similar motions at its next congress. As Israel’s house of horror grows, so does the movement to confront it. In that there is great hope.

Ali Abunimah is cofounder of the online publication The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.