(Translated from the French by Mrs. T. Sayers)

It was said in ancient times that when the gods wished to destroy someone they began by fulfilling his wishes. This is exactly what is happening to the Zionists in Israel. The Jewish immigration from the USSR, over which no trouble has been spared, now constitutes a threat to the Zionist establishment for having aggravated the split between oriental and western Jews.

What is the trouble?

First, it must be understood that the whole immigration policy is discriminatory. I am not alluding here only to the fact that non-Jews (particularly Palestinians, even if born in the country) have great difficulty in securing permanent residence in Israel and even more in becoming citizens, but to ethnic discrimination, exercised against Jews themselves.

A distinction is made regarding Jews emigrating to Israel, between “white” (European), and “black” (oriental) Jews, referred to as coming from ‘developed’ and ‘underdeveloped’ countries. The hypocritical nature of this division becomes clear in the case of Jewish emigrants from France.

French Jewish immigrants to Israel are divided into ‘French from the north’ and ‘French from the south’. The division is not at all geographical. The southern French comprise those coming from North Africa who are French nationals by birth or naturalization, even if they resided in Paris or Lille. Those who speak Yiddish, even if from Marseille, are automatically included among the northern French. French Jews of old lineage are in a separate category in Israel where the purity of their Jewish origins is of little interest and is discounted – for reasons to be explained later.

This distinction results in the settling of the ‘northern’ French mainly in Tel Aviv, Haifa or Jerusalem, or leaving them to shift for themselves, with help from relations and families, while the bulk of the ‘southern’ French Jews are shunted off to distant development towns such as Dimona, Hatzor or Kiryath Shmonah, where the greater part of the population comes from the Orient.

To appreciate the difference, it is enough to recall that in ‘development towns’ to which the ‘Orientals’ get sent, the infant mortality is 31% above the national average. In Beisan (Beit Shan in Hebrew) it is over 70%, that is 2.5 times the infant mortality of Herzliya (situated on the coast and peopled mainly by western Jews).

The situation worsened considerably with the arrival during the winter 1970-1971 of thousands of Russian Jewish immigrants. For two reasons. First, facilities made available to them surpassed by far those normally made to ordinary “white” Jews. A Russian immigrant family of three received a three-room flat of 80 square metres, with television, washing machine, fridge and furniture, all at very low price. They could buy a car untaxed, which in Israel’s conditions meant that its price was less than a quarter the usual. Often, they were given a loan to acquire it. It is not surprising that in the largest Russian immigrant concentration in Tel Aviv, Neveh Sharett, the number of private cars per family exceeds the average in the United States.

It must be noted also that, despite the noisy campaign conducted on their behalf in France and elsewhere, Jews coming from Russia scorn no comforts in Israel and in fact demand them. If denied them, they threaten to return to Russia. The threat works perfectly. It is estimated that such families with two or three members receive in goods and money the equivalent of at least 100,000 Israeli Liras (about 25,000 U.S. Dollars).

What on the average does an Oriental Jew earn? Wages from IL 400 to IL 500 a month are often the rule. For a family this spells poverty; eight to ten persons in one or two rooms of 30 to 40 square metres. Frequently, two or three children sleep in one bed if not on the floor. And then, all of a sudden, a Neveh Sharett is erected just across the road from them.

This new quarter has been built facing the most miserable slums in Tel Aviv. Russian Jewish immigrants have little love for their new ‘neighbours’ who have long resided there. They find it difficult even to believe that they are Jews. “They’re Arabs”, they exclaim.

1. Welcome to Vienna Airport. “Just a minute, we’ll convert you and we’ll go on…;
2. Conversions. “next!”; 3. Lod Airport; 4. “Are these blacks Jews too??!! Oi.

At the beginning of 1971, a group of Neveh Sharett residents detailed a list of ‘complaints’ and ‘demands’ together with the threat that they would return to Russia if satisfaction was not forthcoming. The daily Ha’aretz on 22 March 1971 published extracts of the petition and although they were not the most virulent passages, they will give an idea of the spirit in which it was drawn up:

“Some weeks ago, a moving petition was addressed to the municipality by an ‘Action Committee’ from one house in Neveh Sharett concerning the situation in the quarter” (Each signatory gives name, surname and apartment number as is usual in petitions of this kind in the USSR).

The extracts follow:

“A large proportion of new immigrants from developed countries who have lived in this area or live in it are returning to their country of origin or are planning to do so… Our children cannot play in the garden of the estate because of attacks by bands of children off the streets who break everything within reach, windows, lamps, lifts, etc. They do their business all over the place, even on stairs, lifts, etc. Our appeals to the police always meet with the same response: there aren’t enough of us. The situation is becoming intolerable…

“All the new immigrants living in our street came here moved by the same desire, to contribute to the building of a homeland for our people and we all want our children to live here and participate in the creation of a better, more just and happier society. It has become obvious to us that awaiting this future means living among some people whose conceptions grow less and less civilized and more and more Levantine, and that we shall have to choose between duty to the nation and duty as head of a family”.

In Israel such threats are very effective, and some of the demands were met. The schools in the quarter have in practice been separated according to discriminatory criteria. The “blacks” are not admitted to “white” clubs and often are turned away from the newly built swimming pool at Neveh Sharett.

But there is a problem in meeting the residents’ demands regarding those who are abhorrent to them. Where are they to be sent to? Another difficulty arises with the enforcement of these discriminatory measures by the police, a great number of whom are themselves oriental Jews.

At first, there was widespread uneasiness among policemen when, for example, they were called upon to forbid club entry to members of their own community, or when Neveh Sharett residents complained that punishment in Israel was too lenient and suggested that they should be ‘corrected’ Russian style. But a policeman is first and foremost a policeman, and finally they accustomed themselves to this role, even more so when the “Black Panthers” movement, which fights the police, began to spread.

More than any of these factors, I believe however that it is the multifarious vexations to which they are subjected that gave rise to the “Black Panthers”. They militate not only against the money and apartments given to Russian Jews but also against the things said by the media in Israel during the great wave of enthusiasm over the Russian immigrants, and the media means European Jews.

Rarely does one find among journalists, writers, officers, air pilots or government officials, in short within the establishment, anyone whose skin colour is darker than ‘what is proper’, and these are so used to think that they alone matter that they imagine that oriental Jews have no mind to understand what is said and written in the press. They feel secure and allow themselves to make statements such as: “Once again, real Jews are coming here…”, “On seeing them one knows at once these are good people”, “These are people of superior cast, and will give us heroes”, etc.

And then [the PM] Mrs. Golda Meir, on whom one can always count to say something shockingly stupid, declared, during a solemn reception at which she was made honorary citizen of Haifa, that every loyal Jew must learn Yiddish and that without Yiddish one is no Jew.

The establishment does not believe in the myth it created and on which it rests, namely the myth of one Jewish people. It believes in Jews who speak Yiddish, Jews who come from Europe. Jews coming from the east are valued only as cannon fodder, manual workers, first class Arabs, as human ‘material’ (this expression is widely in use in Israel) of inferior ‘quality’ – anything other than free and equal human beings.

To the utter astonishment of the white establishment, it has suddenly become apparent that the “black” Jews can see and understand what is happening to them.

As an illustration, one can cite Yehuda Nini’s article in Shdemoth, No. 41, Spring 1971. Mr. Nini began his career as a commandant of the “black” units in 1948. As indicated, this refers to units of oriental Jews with Arab appearance and speaking Arabic who were specially trained for sabotage and espionage. Many of them have fallen during the 1948 war, and the author of this article has now arrived at the conclusion that they died in vain.

The article he wrote is entitled “Reflection on the Destruction of the Third Temple”, stating it was necessary to go to the Yemenite Jews and “tell them that they die for the Abromovitches and their like, sons of small shop keepers, textile merchants and profiteers-turned-princes who rule us. The government and administration are people of the Ashkenazi (Western) Jews. Statistics show that among them are a few from oriental countries, but note well to what posts they are relegated. You will find them at the bottom of the ladder, among the waiters in the cafes, the clerks and small administrators.”

Mr. Nini doesn’t stop there: he concluded that Israeli Arabs are second class citizens while the “black” Jews are citizens of third class, which hardly corresponds to reality. Mr. Nini accuses Israeli judges of being racists and swindlers:

“Let an oriental commit the smallest crime, even if acquitted he gets thrown into prison. Let an Ashkenazi contravene the law, eyes are shut to it and he is even acclaimed publicly, and if he must be penalized, he can ‘aspire’ to nothing more than an open prison.”

The Abromovitches are presented as blood suckers on the body of the oriental community. “Those from Islamic countries have been expelled with trifling opposition from any corner of good earth which could be the object of a development programme so that the ‘others’, the Ashkenazim, may prosper.”

A wave of personal attacks and collective hatred immediately fell on the head of Mr. Nini. The work of denigrating him was not easy because according to the respectable Ha’aretz, “Mr. Nini, native of Yemen, does not live on the fringe of Israeli society; he was one of the cadres of National Defence, was Secretary to the late Minister of Education Zalman Aran, and a university graduate, professor of literature, member of diverse radio and TV commissions.

“These harsh words were not spoken over Radio Cairo microphone”, Ha’aretz continues, “nor written in the organs of ‘Matzpen’, nor proffered in one of the denigrating campaigns launched by Moscow. It was not the journal of the ‘Black Panthers’ that published the article, but the Shdemoth Review, respectable organ of political orientation of the kibbutzim”. How can one say such a person is a ‘Matzpenist? ‘Matzpenist’? Everything is possible, it is said that he is “worse than Matzpen”.

In general, hatred and fear of ‘Matzpen’, of the left and of ‘agitators’ has now reached a new peak. When anything is disagreeable to the regime, the press goes on about ‘Matzpen agitators’. It is generally assumed that by blaming ‘agitators’ people would accept anything and everything – hunger, oppression, discrimination and spread of corruption in ruling circles.

Yehuda Nini drew attention to the attitude towards “blacks” in the army. There is a widespread myth that “in the Army everything is fine”; there, “all soldiers are equal”. In reality there are few places in Israel where discrimination is so blatant.

For example, among the numerous Israeli Generals there is not a single non-Ashkenazi to be found. The number of “black” officers with rank of colonel or lieutenant-colonel is very small and, also, in ranks below that of Major, the number of “black” officers is estimated by authentic sources as being below 10% (their proportion in the Jewish population of Israel is about 50% and in the military service age group 70%). Concerning important posts such as pilots etc, official army “experts” declare with cynicism that, based on so-called “psychological” profiling, the most suitable to fill these posts are from the kibbutzim or other agricultural collective settlements; those coming from Anglo Saxon countries; or the “offspring of those from Western Europe.”

Class and ethnic discrimination are even more evident in the technological branches such as aircraft maintenance or armoured troops. Senior officers issue from origins already mentioned, with an especially high percentage from kibbutzim (children of the kibbutzim occupy in Israel a role similar to that of the Junkers in Prussia); career sergeants and sergeant-majors, for the most part, stem from Balkan countries (Romania and Bulgaria) with a high percentage of “blacks” who, as they say, are “Ashkenized”, that is, they ape the life-style of Ashkenazim from “suitable” countries; they have learned a certain number of Yiddish expressions which they utter, often without understanding the real meaning; moreover, they are ashamed of their oriental origins and are, in short, at one and the same time repulsive and tragic figures. But in their limited roles (particularly as sergeant-majors responsible for discipline) they are first class.

At the bottom of the scale, of course, are the ordinary soldiers, the “blacks”, or as they say “the poor types”. Although not all oriental Jews are in one class, and not all of them serve in the lower ranks, still, in both cases, it is true of the great majority.

The military prisons are full of them. There are some units where one third to one half of the men have spent a few months in prison. These are most often the “blacks”.

Their occupations – cooks, orderlies, officers’ chauffeurs (domestics would be more precise), cleaners, sweepers, greasers, etc. – in short, labourers within the army. They are not the ones who decide or command, they are there to obey. Now and again some come to understand their situation, if not consciously at least instinctively, but their number is small, almost negligible in relation to the mass of soldiers.

Their reaction is not at all political. One can see such a person sometimes let go completely, his head in his hands; question him and he replies: “I’m lost in despair, I ask myself how I’m to get out of it.” Officers and sergeants have learned from experience that it is better to leave them alone in such cases. If crossed or bothered at such times a “crisis” may ensue. Often, they will attack the officer, more frequently, themselves. I have myself seen one take a razor blade, slash himself with it and cry: “Better this than suffering, let me be decommissioned as a madman, so long as I get away from it all.”

(Originally published in “Israel & Palestine”)

This shocking misery is aggravated by the new riches and gross inequalities created side by side with it. Low wages are not rising, or only a little, while at the same time price increases and inflation have been drastically lowering the living standard of the proletariat over the last three years. The devaluation of August 22, 1971 works to the same end, which is its declared purpose. War profits have reached an unprecedented level, as for example in the construction of the Bar-Lev line along the Suez Canal. The cost of the Sinai fortifications is estimated at not less than fifteen hundred million Israeli Liras, the fortifications along the Jordan at around 500 million Liras, the strategic highways in the occupied territories at around 200 million Israeli Liras.

All this, together with the construction of a vast industrial complex directly or indirectly for the Army, has given birth to a new class of enormously wealthy people who compound rabid exploitation with gross squander.

I know few countries in the world where the negative traits of the newly rich flourish as in Israel and where riches are elevated to such supreme value. It is a radical change which marks a clear break with the past character of Zionist colonization, notwithstanding our criticism of it.

Ministers preach austerity to workers while sumptuously celebrating their children’s weddings at the Tel Aviv Sheraton for the official cost of IL 10,000 but in reality, probably double that figure. Similarly, the ‘official’ salary of a company director is IL 10,000 a month (as against 500 for a worker) not counting the various expenses and ‘extras’ (tax-free). Bank Leumi for example, ‘provides’ its official directors with villas valued at 600,000. Other enterprises are more modest, but the purchase of an apartment at IL 250,000 for a director is common. The millionaire Wolfson is at present constructing a block of luxury flats each of which costs IL 260,000. All were sold in no time at all, mostly to directors.

That luxury development has been erected just across from the Nahalath Zadok slums in Jerusalem. As I have already stated, the average wage in such slums is around 400 to 450 Liras a month. The average resident of such a quarter would have to devote his whole wage for 54 years in order to buy one of Mr. Wolfson’s apartments, and almost 125 years to acquire a villa that a director of the Leumi Bank gets without untying his purse strings.

This happens under a government which regards itself as ‘socialist’, and is headed by the Zionist Labour Party. Frankly, I prefer a country like France headed by Mr. Pompidou, which at least makes no pretence at being socialist.

“The Black Panthers”, Matzpen’s front page, April 1971

Given this situation, it is not difficult to understand why and how the phenomenon of the “Black Panthers” came into being. There’s no need to foster illusions about them. This group is still in the primary stage of its activities and organization. Previous attempts of the “Black Panthers” sort, whatever the name, were marred by three original flaws from which the “Black Panthers” are not entirely exempt, and which in the past facilitated their subduing by the authorities:

  1. The racist propaganda directed against the Ashkenazim to an extent making cooperation impossible;
  2. Their anti-party attitude which shows in their refusal to collaborate with any left organization;
  3. The anti-Arab feelings which from the start excluded any possibility of common action.

On all these points, and under the pressure of events, a pattern is evolving. In Jerusalem, for example, when the regime used Arab policemen from the old city as jailers for “Panthers” arrested during demonstrations, the solidarity on ethnic lines among oriental Jews was broken. When they are supported in the struggle by the Israeli revolutionary left, composed mainly of western Jews, solidarity is such that some “Panthers” militants do take part in demonstrations against anti-Palestinian repression in Gaza.

But I believe this is episodic and will remain without an organizational form, other than at the level of the local community. As long as this group does not work on the basis of opposing all oppression, exploitation and military expansion; and so long as their arguments remain purely negative – as in the slogan “When will Aboutboul become Grisha Feigin?” (The first is a common Moroccan Jewish name, the latter a new Russian immigrant, once Red Army hero, today a Zionist hero) – the “Panther” phenomenon will remain limited to a kind of urban Jacquerie.

But to liquidate them, the regime would have to engage either in something that would weaken it more than the “panthers”, or engage in a new war. The “Panthers” themselves question what their own fate would be in case of a new war, as one of their militants said to me: in this eventuality we would be abandoned by the greater part of our supporters in the slums, and then we could be arrested en-masse and no one would say a word. But even under “normal” conditions, their development will be greatly limited without an ideological and organizational foundation, as mentioned earlier.

There is a fundamental difference between the situation in the U.S. (given the quagmire in Vietnam) and in Israel. Most Israelis, particularly those of low educational level, identify emotionally with the military triumph, tending to neglect rational and moral factors. As long as Dayan succeeds, as long as he does not meet with defeat, or so long as he simply manages to stay in the occupied territories without significant loss of life, he can with one single TV appearance, with a single public speech, put the “Panthers”, as well as any other group which thinks and acts independently, in their place – that of a marginal minority. Myth is stronger than reality: it makes bad housing and poverty be overlooked by the majority of people, so long as myth endures.

But I am far from belittling the significance of the work the “Panthers” are doing – quite the contrary. They are doing work among their people, just as an organization like Matzpen does among its people.

They are setting up groups which, though still not engaging masses, are not negligible numerically, people who are thinking for themselves, people who contest, in short, oppositionists. Nor do they limit themselves to thinking, they act and they learn in and through action.

Furthermore, the action of the “Panthers” and the conflict between them and the new Russian immigrants, for example, reveals in a concrete way the contradictions in Zionist society. We could not have done it, not even theoretically. We were in no way aware of the deeply racist feelings of the Russian immigrants. We were not expecting petitions to the Israeli authorities that publicly stated “We do not wish to live in a Levantine quarter”, etc.

Similarly, I was astonished at the depth of hatred and anger expressed in the midst of the oriental community, and I don’t mean only the “Panthers”. The authorities and the dominant Ashkenazi public have real fear of the “Panthers” and this very fear reveals the profound racist attitude which until now has been hidden by the myth of “unity of the Jewish people”.

When, for example, some residents of Hatikvah slum in Tel Aviv organized a demonstration in the city because of discrimination against their football team, one read in the press (Ma’ariv, 8 June, 1971) that “These people only understand the big stick”. This is exactly what was said of the Arabs. The shopkeepers questioned after the demonstration – all Ashkenazim – complained about the “mob”, praised the police, they only lamented the fact that it didn’t hit the demonstrators harder. The only Oriental Jew interviewed by Ma’ariv (probably by mistake) “blamed the police for using force to disperse the demonstration” (spot the difference there!). The fear caused by this small demonstration was so great that an entire unit of Frontier Guards from the occupied territories was brought in and surrounded – fully armed – the Hatikvah quarter (night of 7-8 June). The authorities also resorted to other, more sophisticated means.

Policemen attack the May 1, 1972, demonstration
of the Black Panthers & the Left in Jerusalem

When, more recently, the “Panthers” wanted to organize a demonstration, the authorities initially refused authorisation, so as to be able to arrest those who were distributing leaflets in the development towns and quarters, under the legal pretext that “they were calling for a banned demonstration”. On the morning of the demonstration, authorisation to hold it was nonetheless granted. In Tel Aviv, the authorities brought the local mafia headed by Mentesh – a notorious criminal – to disperse the legal demonstration, while the police played the role of neutral observers.

Mentesh, to whom Ha’aretz devoted a series of articles (May-June 1971), a key figure in the Israeli mafia, is most active in Tel Aviv and its suburbs, where half the Israeli population resides.

He also has access to upper circles. Among his invited guests one finds Government Ministers (Dayan, Sapir). It was he who, free of charge, organized the wedding party of Dayan’s son. He moves furniture for ministers, high functionaries and officers of the police, always free of charge, and performs other services of that kind.

Besides that, he provides “public order” services, that is musclemen, for Labour party meetings. He gets people sprung from prison, restaurant licences “delivered” in the Tel Aviv area, his men exact “protection tax” out of all the luxury clubs and restaurants, and from greengrocers on the streets, poultry and meat delivery men, as well as from clandestine gambling venues.

His affairs are no doubt even more extensive. Mentesh is a symbol; friend of Dayan and Sapir on the one hand, protection tax on the other, with musclemen and criminals under his command. How could this go on unnoticed for so long, especially within the ruling Labour Party?

One now hears the arguments used by some people in bygone days about the U.S. Jewish gangsters: “…but he gives money for good causes; but he helps orphans and widows; but he is a good Zionist; but he fought for employing Jewish labour rather than Arabs in the 1930s.” And now he fights inside Hatikvah quarter in Tel Aviv…

Mentesh is getting currently some reinforcements, as well as competition, from criminals throughout the world who are having “difficulties with the law” in their native countries, and suddenly remembering their Jewish origins, invoke the “Law of Return” and demand Israeli citizenship (or at least the right of residence in Israel), which ensues.

In France there was the affair of M. Claude Lipsky who took refuge in Israel. He was not the only one. Thus, the question “Who is a Jew” got a new lease of life. With Lipsky, for instance, cynics insinuate – to use the phrasing of Canard Enchainé – that he’s not so sure whether he is a Jew, since his mother…

This leads me to say a few words about other problems which arouse strong emotions in Israel. They are so bizarre that similar cases would be hard to find anywhere else.

I refer to the problems of bastards, the converts to Judaism, and the hidden “goyim” (gentiles).

1 The bastards

Orthodox Jewish rabbinical law is strictly applied in Israel. A Jewess married to a Jew, by any ceremony whatsoever, who then divorces according to rites other than orthodox rabbinical law (for example, civil divorce in France) and remarries a Jew, the children of this second marriage are “bastards”. They are forbidden to marry a Jew, other than “bastards” and converts to Judaism. Descendants of “bastards” are bastards and ruled by the same ban.

That is the reason religious Zionists are less keen on the immigration of French Jews of old lineage, as mentioned earlier, because, as the latter are often non-believers, there can be no certainty that they are exempt from “bastardy”.

The orthodox rabbinical law in practice in Israel demands an examination of “four maternal generations”, i.e., it is essential to prove that neither mother, grandmother, great grandmother nor great-great grandmother were guilty of neglect of the orthodox rites. If one of them was guilty, all of her descendants are “bastards” forever.

Consider the undesirable consequences of submitting to close examination the scrupulous respect for orthodox rites among old French families, particularly of the south, the more so as there is a tendency to accept any testimony and denunciation. I believe only the House of Rothschild could manage it, possibly only by virtue of the old Hebrew proverb that “gold purifies bastards” …

The “bastards” who do without rabbinical law can get round the problem as follows: a marriage abroad, later recognized in Israel; living in legal concubinage, which confers on the spouse and descendants practically the same legal status as a marriage; finally, they can now institute civil contract proceedings before the Minister of Commerce and Industry who confers on them juridical matrimony (community or separation of assets, inheritance, alimony in case of separation, etc.).

But descendants of “bastards” remain bastards and must take recourse to similar subterfuges. It is different for “bastards” who want to marry in proper and due form in Israel itself. Only one course is open to them. They must prove that one of the husbands (first or second) of the up to four generations back mother in question was not Jewish. If he was not, then the marriage was not a marriage, and the children are not “bastards” in the rabbinical sense of the term, however odd that may seem. This because sexual relations with a gentile do not count in orthodox rabbinical law (“keviath behema” – literally, “like the copulation of animals”). But it is hard to bring such proof even if the case applies (non-Jewishness of one of the husbands).

In Israel today there exists a blacklist comprising thousands of names of Jews to whom normal marriage is denied. The list is compiled and kept up under care of the Ministry of Religions and of the Rabbinate, in cooperation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In most cases people whose names appear on the blacklist are not aware of the fact until they register to be married. Then they and their children find out. Inquiry can be carried on in their absence, with written proof or on the evidence of a denunciator. Israelis who run the greatest risk of finding themselves blacklisted are German immigrants. There are two reasons for this.

First, because German registration has always been very thorough (even before 1933, and certainly between 1933 and 1939). Then, because German officials (in the Federal Republic) are eager to answer enquiries addressed to them by the Israeli Ministry of Internal Affairs, partly for fear of being accused, in case of non-cooperation, of anti-Semitism by their Israeli colleagues, partly out of sheer pleasure…

Every day sees an increase in the number of bastards of all origins. Why, one could ask oneself, has this question suddenly become such a burning issue, to the degree that Golda Meir is forced to intervene and to complain that high dignitaries of the Rabbinate aren’t moving with the time?

The Rabbis could, if they wished, adopt a “liberal” attitude, discouraging denunciations or providing a situation in which all “incriminating” testimony is stricken off the record, they could fail to search out the antecedents – in short, the Rabbis could shut their eyes. If one now finds a sharp hardening on their part in Israel, it must be ascribed to the political conditions. Hardening in religious matters is a consequence of profound changes in Zionist ideology. The Rabbis have the wind on their stern.

2 Converts to Judaism

Israel is unique among modern countries in that it is a state that actively deals with religious conversion. There is a conversion “workshop” in the Army; two such workshops are active in the Kibbutzim; in Tiberias there is the Hotel Yalon, where new immigrants from the East are lodged and where they are daily subjected to long sermons by both male and female Rabbis. The Kibbutzim are at the forefront of converting activity, just as they provide the most jealous officers and pilots. Not only is pressure put on Kibbutz members married to non-Jews for the conjoint to be converted to Judaism, but the leadership of various kibbutz movements demand from their adherents that ‘tourists’ who come to work on the kibbutzim shall not be accepted as members.

To this can attest the circular letter of 20 January 1970, issued by one of these Kibbutz movements’ managements (Ihud Hakvoutzoth Vehakibbutzim) to all their affiliated kibbutzim. It stated that the letter was sent at the request of the Secretary General attached to the Ministry of Internal Affairs:

“Subject: acceptance of tourists as members of Kibbutzim. The Department of Immigration and Registration of the Census has addressed to us a request to refuse Kibbutz membership status to those having tourist status who live in them. Some of these tourists addressed the above-mentioned department requesting that they be accorded legal status (permanent or temporary residence). The authorities were faced with the alternative of either refusing the request (when this is justified) or granting the request in violation of the dossier at their disposition, in order to avoid causing annoyance to the kibbutzim. For your attention.” (Quoted from “Hahesder”, Shulamith Aloni, Hebrew, Othpaz, 1970, p. 2).

This alludes to the fact that non-Jews can have access to resident status with their acceptance as members of kibbutzim. This is in regard to mixed marriages, mainly, and assurance is sought that in case such a marriage takes place the non-Jewish partner will be made a convert. Pressure is greatest, naturally, on the woman. In towns, for example, she will often be followed around her quarter by children calling after her: “goya” (gentile), “prostitute”, “traitor”, “spy”. Official emissaries are sent to the house; the schoolmaster – if she has children at school; the manager of her place of work; if in a little village, the mayor; in the town a municipal functionary or perhaps the social worker. They explain to her that “In a Jewish country one should be Jewish like everyone else”, or that “The children’s future is in danger”, and “Why come here if you want to be different”, etc. In most cases the pressure exercised bears fruit, and the woman decides to undertake the necessary steps for converting. This is neither easy nor rapid.

To begin with she must within a few months learn Jewish religious law and pass exams in the subject. In most cases she is not a believer, but that is of little consequence. She is not asked to declare that she believes. After more exams, comes the converting ceremony. She must undress completely and enter the ritual bath (mikveh in Hebrew) with water up to her neck. Three rabbis then come in and, in their presence, she must submerge her head in the water – at that moment she becomes a convert.

A convert is not Jewish like the others. According to orthodox rabbinical law a convert is a prostitute. The Talmudic Encyclopaedia, 1954 edition (Vol. vi, pp 22-23) states:

“A female born a non-Jew shall be termed prostitute, even if she has known no man, for it is said that there are no prostitutes except converts.”

This law even applies to little girls whose parents are converts to Judaism: “because of her parents, a child of three years bears the blemish of prostitute, even if she has known no man.”

(Even Rabelais never descended to an age so tender, but this has nothing to do with humour – it is official law in the state of Israel).

When this law was invoked last year in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) while converting was debated, it created a great stir among members of the Labour Alignment – not so much the law itself, but the fact that it was publicized. Chief Rabbi Untermann has just expressed his delight over an increase in the number of converts whom “bastards” could marry. A convert, by virtue of being a prostitute, could marry a “bastard”.

3 The Hidden Goyim (Gentiles)

Israel has a new committee called the “Public Committee for the Cohesion of the People” whose task is to unmask goyim who pretend to be Jews and who, according to the Committee’s terms “are the cause of great catastrophe, and constitute a threat to destroy the state of Israel”.

The Committee is powerful and rich. (I wish that the entire Israeli Left had but one percent of the funds at this committee’s disposal). The Committee has the support of the rabbis and various religious personages as well as of the “socialists” in the Labour Party and even of (the “radical“ left-wing) Mapam party (for as you ought to know, behind every “socialist” Zionist lurks a religious man). This Committee, which has the support of the public, proposes to unmask converts to Judaism who have not been properly converted. Thus, if a conversion took place without three orthodox rabbis being present, and, above all if a woman was converted with the rabbis present not seeing her face while she was nude in the ritual bath (literally), then the person remains a non-Jew in the eyes of the Rabbinate and the Israeli government. And in the case of a woman, she and her children are gentiles and the “Public Committee for Cohesion of the People” will fight to the end to prevent such people from being registered as Jews.

But how to prove that “sins” were committed in the past, especially as what is required if the job is to be done properly, is to go back four generations? The Committee complains that registration in most countries (with the exception of Germany, of course) is not sufficiently precise. In this case denunciations can be used, something which is encouraged by the Israeli Rabbinate. The new Russian immigrants, who apparently learned the art of informing in a good school, are quick on the mark to tell all: this one had a non-Jewish mother; that one had a grandmother improperly “converted”; and at so and so’s house no one knows who the mother is.

The Committee complains bitterly that the French do not display similar enthusiasm about informing, especially the “southern French”. The Committee considers that this fault arises from “too much tolerance” on the part of the Sephardic rabbis (the Committee in question is made up almost exclusively of Western Jews). Worst of all, the Committee complains that there are emissaries of the Jewish Agency who know all the problems part-Jews or non-Jewish immigrants risk facing in Israel, and advise careful concealment of “blemishes”, counselling them to register as Jews in all respects.

In other cases, the Committee reveals, it is the departments for immigration in the Jewish Agency that employ rabbis given to too “lenient” converting procedures. (They do not specify in which way they are too “lenient”). Following these complaints by the Committee, an enquiry commission composed of two rabbis was recently dispatched to Vienna. They eventually decreed that fifty-four cases of conversion “fell short of the mark”. The people in question were already in Israel and thus were immediately put on the “black list”.

At the moment, a great clamour is being raised about a so-called “conversion factory” operating in Marseille. An enquiry has yet to take place, but complaints have come in from as far afield as Great Britain, because many people who were made converts in Marseille went to England instead of emigrating to Israel, and asked for help from the Jewish Authorities of that country. It was then that the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Rabbi Jacobowitch, decided that a Marseille conversion would be held valid if the converts emigrated immediately to Israel, but would not be valid if the new Marseille convert went anywhere else.

Why the insistence on all these details? One could say, not without some justice, that all religions are obtrusive, so why stress the particularly retrograde and revolting aspects of the Jewish religion?

Firstly, I would argue that it is necessary to point out the role of religion in Israel, because religious rules of different denominations constitute here the law of the land in civil status matters. Furthermore, whereas one is allowed to denounce the medieval aspects of Christian clericalism, if one attacks the Jewish religion, accusations of anti-Semitism are immediately forthcoming, and this is more so in the West than within Israel. Today it is necessary to denounce and combat our own obscurantism without quarter.

Last but not least, the importance which the Jewish religion takes on as “the guardian of tradition” corresponds to a significant political phenomenon. The Jewish religion in Israel today is a consecration of the breakdown of Zionist ideology which in its origins was a-religious, even anti-religious. Itzhak Ben-Aharon, the present Secretary General of the Histadrut (Israel’s biggest Trade Union) wrote about it very clearly in an article published during the period of ideological slump which preceded the wave of “enthusiasm” of June 1967:

“The Zionist ideology (of Borokhov or Herzl, Sirkin or Berl), whose point of departure was a catastrophe threatening the diaspora, no longer has a hold on the minds of the new generations coming onto the political scene in the U.S.A… The Zionist idea that we forged by fire in the diaspora, the theory of self-emancipation, the idea of sustained Jewish existence through territorial concentration, all this has no roots in American reality. The different schools of Zionist thought, and notably that of labour and socialist Zionism, can no longer be organically assimilated by a third or fourth generation of American Jews”.

The author is forced to admit, despite himself, that in the absence of a better alternative, religion is a lifeline: “it is true to say that the good elements of American Judaism, the young and the beautiful, fight to maintain their ties to Judaism. They fight with the help of Jewish religion. It is a clear and pure means, but it represents some problems and difficulties” (Oth, Hebrew, Spring, 1967).

Ben-Aharon is full of nostalgia for the old times of “pioneer colonists” and for his illusions of Zionist socialism. For us, there’s absolutely no question of glorifying our Zionist colonization past, but of understanding well, and of making it well understood, that Zionist colonization, precisely because it was colonial, inevitably destroyed all the trumps held by the original Jewish establishment in Palestine. We must understand and make it understood that history repeats itself in caricature form, as in the case of the new emigration of Jews from Russia, precisely because the first act of Russian Zionist immigration to Palestine, glorified today, was in reality but an illusion of Jewish national and social liberation, since it was concerned with colonization, with 20th century colonization. To understand and make it understood that the virulence of the Jewish religious obscurantism of the most alarming kind in Israel today is a political and ideological consequence, whose roots go back to the true origins of Zionism, masked in bygone days by labourite ideology.

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