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Sinister Israeli rabbis and blind Western eyes.

Neil Berry

Published in the US at the close of 2013, Max Blumenthal's big, brash, furiously accusatory book, 'Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel,' contains passages eminently calculated to make many readers shudder, especially in light of Israel's fresh infanticidal onslaught on Gaza.

This media-savvy US Jewish journalist has been reviled by Zionists for painting an unforgiving picture of Israel as a rabidly Arabophobic ethnocracy. However, his outraged critics have been hard-pressed to fault his book on grounds of accuracy. For Goliath is essentially a work of reportage, a wide-ranging dossier of events and utterances that belong to the public record. Particularly arresting in current circumstances is Blumenthal's account of the book, 'Torat Ha'Melech,' or the King's Torah, published in Israel in 2009 amid no little controversy and addressed to soldiers and army officers needing rabbinical guidance on rules of military engagement.

Co-authored by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, Torat Ha'Melech sets out Judaic laws concerning the killing of Goyim. As reported by Blumenthal, the rabbis draw on scholarly texts to advocate a policy of mercilessness toward non-Jews, even making a case for killing dissenting Jews whose views identify them as enemies of Zion. Most shockingly, they offer, he writes, a substantial if crudely reasoned justification for the slaughter of innocent children, contending that the rules of war "permit the intentional hurting of babies and of innocent people if this is necessary for the war against the evil people." Central to the rabbis' message is the edict that killing babies and small children serves to "create a correct balance of fear" while also satisfying the collective thirst for vengeance.

In 2011, British security officers barred Rabbi Elitzur from entry into the United Kingdom after the Home Secretary signed a formal letter that charged him with 'fomenting or justifying terrorist violence... and seeking to provoke others to commit terrorist acts.' Yet, though Elitzur and Rabbi Shapira were briefly detained in 2010 by the Israeli police, in their own country they faced no official censure. Moreover, when two prominent state-funded rabbis who defended the book were summoned to be interrogated by Israel's security service, the Shin Bet, they treated the summons with contempt.

Max Blumenthal points out that Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained curiously silent about the rabbis' flagrant flouting of the law -- just as he declined to deplore the contents of the Torat Ha'Melech or take issue with those who publicly endorsed the book. What Goliath conveys is that the political culture of Israel has been decisively hijacked by the forces of Zionist intolerance. If Natanyahu's lips have stayed sealed on the subject of the rabbis' advice to Israeli soldiers, it is because, Blumenthal maintains, both his own Likud party and the coalition government he has led since 2009 have been reduced to abject subservience by the ethno-religious extreme right.

Little of this features in Western coverage of Israel. Indeed, the basic assumption of the Western media remains that Israel is a normal Western-style democracy -- albeit one confronted by challenges of abnormal severity. The other day, a London columnist, Hugo Rifkind, confessed that while Israel's actions made him uncomfortable he also recognized that it was easy for cosseted Britons like himself to talk. After all, he observed, the UK does not have Palestinians to contend with, and might not treat them well if it did. And besides, he added, there are far grimmer places than Israel: China, for example.

Yet the human devastation perpetrated by Israel means that more and more people are unable to ignore the palpable disjunction between what is reported regarding the Palestine-Israel conflict and how it is reported. Commenting on coverage of the Gaza crisis, the laudably undiplomatic former Director General of the BBC Greg Dyke declared that it is not acceptable to him that the adjective 'militant' is regularly applied by the BBC to Palestinians but never to Israelis. There is no denying that much reporting on Israel manifests a hyper-neurotic concern to avoid offending Zionist sensitivities. By an extraordinary irony, the state long upheld as the Middle East's lone bastion of Western democratic values is stifling Western freedom of expression.


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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jul 30, 2014
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