Thursday, September 20, 2007

Triumph of Hitler 

In Israel. By Meron Rappoport:

Last week, as all the Israeli television networks were broadcasting pictures of the "neo-Nazi" teenagers attacking random victims, public attention inevitably turned to the attackers. It is difficult to imagine a neo-Nazi group operating here, in the Jewish State...

In Israel, the discussion immediately turned to the Law of Return, as if the phenomenon would disappear if only those Jews who are recognized as such by Jewish law [halakha] were allowed to enter Israel. This baseless argument is refuted by the fact that some of the neo-Nazi group's members are considered Jews according to halakha...

This is undoubtedly a shocking phenomenon and the attackers, alongside the environment that bred this pattern of behavior, must be dealt with. But the victims also deserve attention. According to comments made by the attackers, most of their targets were foreign workers. Haaretz's Roni Singer-Heruti reported that the police mounted a concerted effort to locate the victims in order to strengthen the case against the attackers, but this effort was unsuccessful. None of the victims filed a complaint with the police. It seems that a foreign worker in Israel is more afraid of the police than of a gang of hooligans that beats him mercilessly. The hard work of the Immigration Police has apparently borne fruit.

This is no surprise to anyone involved in the field. Noa Kaufman, the director of a clinic run by Physicians for Human Rights, says that foreign workers occasionally come to the clinic after taking a beating. Although the staff encourages them to file a complaint with the police, the workers are usually scared of doing so.

The fact that no one complained about these brutal attacks on foreign workers should trouble us even more because they occurred in public places. Even if the gang members made sure there were no eyewitnesses to the attacks, they probably left the victims bleeding at the scene. It is possible that passersby stumbled upon them, saw the beaten people and continued on their way.

Although the police demonstrated persistence in this case, the feeling remains that those without rights, the various "others," have no real address where they can seek protection here in Israel. Sometimes, it seems as though the authorities ignore the violence directed against these individuals. During the second intifada, several hundred people gathered around Jaffa's Hassan Bek Mosque following a terror attack and threw rocks at Muslim worshipers, who took cover in the building.

Prominent among the rock throwers were Russian-speaking skinheads with tattoos. In my layman's eyes, they looked incredibly like neo-Nazis. Time and again they broke through the police lines and surrounded the mosque, hurling rocks at its windows. The policemen took note of them, but did nothing. At one stage, several of the skinheads lifted the police barriers and tossed them at the mosque and at the worshipers' cars. The police continued to look on with curiosity. No one was arrested.

...Perhaps those skinheads did not salute with an upraised arm. Perhaps they did not venerate Hitler. But they venerated violence against those weaker than them, and this is just as bad.

Until Israeli society begins seriously combatting this dark racism, it will continue to regard the "neo-Nazis" as aliens who suddenly landed here. Public opinion will continue to believe that if we only send them back to the distant planet from whence they came, everything will be resolved. This is really not the case.


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