Neo nazis drink beer 224.
(photo credit: Israel Police )
The public was shaken Sunday by news of the arrest in the Dan Region of eight members of a neo-Nazi gang - all from Russian-speaking immigrant backgrounds and none of them Jewish according to Halacha.
This specific bunch of hooligans didn't make do with offensive tattoos, graffiti and Nazi salutes - all repulsive icons, which unfortunately are not entirely unknown on the sidelines of the more hostile and remote fringes of the immigrant landscape. According to the police, the apprehended thugs attacked Orthodox Jewish passersby for no reason other than their attire. They also assaulted anyone they judged as punk or homosexual, as well as foreign laborers. They proudly videotaped their sadistic escapades.
Given the enormous influx into Israel of immigrants from the former USSR for the past two decades, it's hardly surprising that assorted skinheads, Satan-worshipers and even neo-Nazi types appear occasionally on our streets, trickling in via the younger, more ethnically and culturally estranged newcomers. Thankfully these phenomena are exceedingly rare in Israel, however prevalent such odious varieties of youthful antagonism and alcohol-fuelled aggression may be in Europe.
It is also not egregiously surprising that some disaffected adolescents here would replicate anti-Semitic activities - a combination of their predisposition in their countries of origin to racism and violent behavior, exacerbated by the culture-shock of a Jewish milieu. They are turning against the resented host society in a manner they calculate would be the most injurious.
Reports of the gang's arrest generated an instantaneous maelstrom, with politicians eagerly proffering unsolicited advice. Some, with preexisting axes to grind, lost no time in proposing that the Law of Return be amended forthwith, to keep out other such potential offenders. The minuscule extent of the problem was conveniently ignored, yet the law, which allowed the entry of these miscreants, was disingenuously identified as the source of trouble.
The law grants immediate eligibility for Israeli citizenship to anyone with so much as a single Jewish grandparent - even someone who no longer formally considers him/herself as Jewish. MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP), in the wake of the shocking arrests, rushed to propose an amendment that would drop the "grandparent" clause.
The heinous nature of the crimes uncovered in the Tel Aviv area serves the time-worn drive against the "grandparent clause" by some in the religious sector. The scandal provides an expedient opportunity to revitalize the campaign with new "evidence" of the malevolence imported by non-Jewish immigrants. The gang's ringleader indeed noted that his grandfather was merely half-Jewish.
But just how dangerous this rationale is was underlined by MK Ahmed Tibi, who seized upon the incident to assert that "the Law of Return, which bars Arab spouses [coming to Israel] from the Palestinian Authority, brings in bigots. It's time this law be entirely abolished and this country be turned from a non-democratic Jewish state to a state for all its citizens." It is a short road from Orlev's more restrictionist interpretation of the law to Tibi's avowed desire to altogether eliminate Israel's Jewish character and eventually render it another non-democratic Arab entity - all under the guise of seeking to bolster democracy.
Orlev ironically is playing into Tibi's hands. Devoted Zionists like Orlev would do do far better were they to begin treating the Law of Return - Israel's raison d'etre and one of Zionism's basic legacies - as a precious and fragile asset. Attempts to tinker with it risk destabilizing the entire construct. It is better to live with a compromise than to rashly imperil everything.
Moreover, seeking the law's amendment in the direct wake of an isolated outrage risks tarring the entire immigrant community with unconscionable stereotypes, as if its members as inimical hate-mongers. Such generalization is not only unfair but also patently untrue. Most newcomers are a great asset to the Jewish state and seek to assimilate here; the prevalence of immigrant soldiers among those awarded honors for bravery in the Second Lebanon War last week is only the most recent reminder. And many semi-Jews would gladly convert, were the religious authorities not to so obstinately obstruct them.
What is needed is to put the detained eight on trial. Assuming they are convicted, and while they fully pay for their crimes, all legal avenues must be examined to deport them from this country for good. An isolated aberration should be confronted - and kept in perspective.