Suppose someone has the nerve to build a combined Jewish/Arab school with the goal of teaching tolerance in a southwest Jerusalem neighborhood. Then suppose you’re a kabbalist currently being groomed for the unofficial title of Israel’s leading mekubal in the wake of Rav Kaduri’s death. How would you react? No idea? Doesn’t seem like one follows the other? See how it goes down in a bright, cheery and encouraging report in today’s Jerusalem Post.
The State Attorney’s Office ordered police to open a criminal investigation of Rabbi David Batzri and his son, Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri, on Tuesday on suspicion of committing incitement to racism during speeches they made protesting the establishment of a mixed Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem’s Patt neighborhood.
The complaint was based on a news report about a rally against the school at the neighborhood’s community center on January 9, which appeared on the Jerusalem Internet news site 02net.
The report quoted from speeches by several rabbis including Batzri, a well-known kabbalist, and his son.
“The establishment of such a school is an act of abomination and impurity,” the report quoted David Batzri as saying. “You cannot mix pure with impure. Of course we have to keep apart from all the other nations. You must stand in the breach and prevent this. One cannot mix light with darkness. The people of Israel are pure.
“The Arabs are a nation of donkeys. They are an evil plague, an evil Satan, an evil pestilence. One may ask, ‘why did God not create them to walk on all fours?’ for they are donkeys. The answer is that they have to build and clean, but they have to understand that they are donkeys. There is no place for them in our schools.”
His son, Yitzhak, was quoted as saying, “The Arabs are donkeys and beasts. They are inferior. What do they want? To take our women. They say we are racists. The truth is that they are the evil ones, the cruel ones. They are bestowed with the filth of the snake. There is purity and there is impurity, and they are the impure.”
Considering how long ago this happened, I’m surprised it’s only starting to appear in the news now.
What does one even say? Opposition to a Jewish/Arab school in and of itself would be grossly inappropriate. But to use such a harmless (and even encouraging) event as a launching pad for shockingly racist and triumphalist declarations demeaning an entire ethnic group (which, by the way, outnumbers ours by a hell of a lot) is insane. And even worse, these are not the words of the sort of gun-toting Arab-hating Kahanists that inhabit the far fringes of normal Israeli, or settler, society. This is a supposedly holy man, a man about to become the leading kabbalist in Israel, a man who one might be mistaken into believing would be a walking kiddush Hashem.
And yet, he’s not. Listen, we’re all Jews. We know our history. And every one of you knows as well as I do exactly what and who language like “they are donkeys” or “the filth of the snake” or “one cannot mix light with darkness” or “our people are pure” sounds like. We demand that the world that stood by and did nothing learn its lesson, why do we not demand the same of ourselves?
The fact that so many people appear to respect Batzri worries me greatly. This is not a spiritual leader, this is a man who should be shouted down every time he speaks, no matter how advanced his Jewish learning. If this is the stance of authentic Judaism, and I certainly hope it’s not, then we should all be atheists.
And to preempt the inevitable rejoinders, I’m fully aware that attitudes like these do not characterize the general attitudes of many religious Jews. And I’m also fully aware that similar language spews out of the Arab world on what seems to be a daily basis, and I think it’s disgusting and should be fought against. But the way to fight against it is not to denounce the small efforts in favor of the peace we all desperately need. We as Jews, or Zionists for that matter, like to tell ourselves that we’re better than the worst elements of the nations of the world, that we have some sort of enlightened mission to fulfill. If we are going to continue to regard ourselves in this way, it is our collective responsibility to make sure that everybody knows that fascists like Batzri do not speak in the name of the Jewish people. Because if speeches like his are part of our enlightened mission, count me out.