Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 3, 2009

The contradictions of Bat Ayin

Filed under: Fascism,zionism — louisproyect @ 5:21 pm

Bat Ayin’s hippie fascists

Yesterday a Palestinian youth penetrated the Bat Ayin settlement in the West Bank and killed a 13 year old boy and wounded another 7 year old boy with an axe. Ofer Gamliel, the father of the wounded 7-year-old, is serving a 15-year prison term for planting a bomb outside a Palestinian girls’ school in Jerusalem in 2002 to go off at the busiest time of the morning. But, according to the N.Y. Times, there was no evidence that the attack on the boy was retaliatory.

Bat Ayin figured heavily in a PBS documentary on ultra-Zionists that can be watched online. Go to the PBS website and view the segment titled “A Plot that Shocked All Israel” for the facts on Ofer Gamliel’s terrorist plot that involved other members of what might be reasonably called a fascist Jewish sect.

Bat Ayin propaganda film

One thing that the PBS documentary does not get into is the “new age” character of Bat Ayin, something the N.Y. Times alluded to in its May 19, 2002 report on the bombing plot:

Most of the six detained so far come from Bat Ayin, a cluster of 13 trailer homes near Hebron that has attracted people known here as the “New Age” religious, a mix of newly observant Jews, Lubavitchers, and Bratslav Hasidim, followers of a rabbi who preached joy in Ukraine 200 years ago. Strict rules require men to grow beards, women to wear modest dress; in contrast to many settlements where menial labor is done by Arabs, there are no non-Jewish workers.

Indeed, the Bat Ayin sect’s religious ideology is referred to as Chavakuk, an acronym that stands for Chabad, Breslov, Carlebach and Kook. The aforementioned Carlebach is none other than Shlomo Carlebach, a Hasidic rabbi who launched a congregation on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that challenged conventional Jewish ideas about spirituality and ethics. He was a folk-singer who would energize his services with traditional Hasidic songs mixed with spontaneous recitations of religious fables. On a website devoted to the memory of Shlomo Carlebach, you can find the following quote:

After the Six Days War, I was one of the first people to walk into the Old City of Jerusalem. I walked up to every Arab, our cousins, and kissed them. I went to the top politicians in Israel and said, “We want to live in peace with the Arabs. As much as we need an army to make war, we need an army to make peace. Give me five thousand free plane tickets to bring holy hipp’lach [hippies] from San Francisco to here. We’ll go to every Arab house in the country. We’ll bring them flowers and tell them that we want to be brothers with them.

Needless to say, the Bat Ayin settlers are not that interested in peace but they certainly do embrace some values that resonate eerily with the 1960s counter-culture. The website for the school Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin (midreshet is the Hebrew equivalent of the Arabic madrassa) reveals an affinity for “Green” values:

Recycling is part of the basic Jewish way of Tikkun Olam – (Betterment of the World) through the way we live. By recycling, we elevate even the “lowest” materials by reconnecting them to a purposeful role in the cycle. This connects the sparks of holiness and purpose in each thing that we work with to its higher capacity.

Composting is a form of recycling, in which kitchen scraps and yard waste are turned into a rich earthy fertilizer over the course of several months. This is accomplished by making a pile, alternating layers of food scraps and yard waste with thin layers of earth, finished compost, or manure. Any kind of plant material can be composted. The finished product looks like dark brown earth and is rich in nutrients essential to healthy plant growth.

Now I have never given much credence to the idea that the Nazis were heavily into environmentalism, but this stuff really makes me stop dead in my tracks.

They are also into yoga apparently, but worry about whether they are acting as infidels if they adopt the One-Legged King Pigeon position. One adherent posted an inquiry to the midreshet authorities after the fashion of a good Shi’ite asking an ayatollah about whether masturbation is permitted by the Quran:

To Whom It May Concern; I am wondering about one of the items on your course description. You list something called Meditative Movement, which you describe as “Yoga and Kabbalah.” I am informed that various positions and movements in yoga are signs of obesiance to various Eastern deities. This being the case, how can it be permitted to perform yoga? Please advise me on this matter.

They reply to her thusly:

Rabbi Mordechai Goldstein Shelita: Dear Chana Bracha, Hi, I’m a secretary at Diaspora Yeshiva and I was the one who sent the reply to your e-mail about Yoga. I asked Rebbetzin Goldstein and she gave me a Hebrew quote which I sent as an attachment. Since you haven’t gotten it the second time around, I’ll try transliterating that part in English. The Rebbetzin said, “Chachmah BaGoyim Tamin, Aval Torah Al Tamin.” the goyim know the human body. The main thing is your kavanah (intention). Our intention is purely physical; health, breathing and exercising every limb. Yoga is widely used for this purpose and has been for many years.”. I want you to know that she consulted with her husband, Rav Mordechai Goldstein, the Rosh Yeshiva after she received your message, just to confirm that this was correct. Sincerely, Feigy Ellenbogen

For those who are unfamiliar with Yiddish or Hebrew lingo, the term goyim refers to non-Jews but in a derogatory fashion. In my household growing up, I used to hear my father say things like “the goyim like to drink too much.” Hearing such things and being forced to go to Hebrew school steeled my resolve to break from this suffocating religion the first chance I got. With the zealots at Bat Ayin, the term encapsulates their attitude toward the outside world and functions more or less as the term untermenschen did in Nazi Germany.

It is also of some interest that the Chavakuk principles are based partly on the teachings of Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935), the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandate for Palestine. The wiki article on Kook states:

Kook built bridges of communication and political alliances between the various Jewish sectors, including the secular Jewish Zionist leadership, the Religious Zionists, and more traditional non-Zionist Orthodox Jews. He believed that the modern movement to re-establish a Jewish state in the land of Israel had profound theological significance and that the Zionists were pawns in a heavenly plan to bring about the messianic era.

In other words, he was instrumental in fostering the kind of alliance between religious zealots and secular nationalists that came to fruition in the modern state of Israel.

Rabbi Kook had a nephew named Hillel Kook, who is better known as Peter Bergson, a leading member of the Irgun from the 1940s onwards. During WWII, Bergson was an activist with the “Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe”. Despite his Irgun membership, Bergson attracted the sympathy of Lenni Brenner who discusses him at length in chapter 24 of “Zionism in an Age of Dictators“. It turned out that Bergson was willing to put the Zionist project aside when it came to the urgent task of rescuing Jews. By committing to this course of action, Bergson won the enmity of the official Jewish leadership that was staking everything on the creation of a Jewish state. They were so opposed to his emergency committee that they pressured the government to have him deported. Brenner wrties:

The committee mobilised 450 orthodox rabbis for an October march to the White House, but Roosevelt would not see them; he rushed off to dedicate four bombers to the Yugoslav exile air force, but the campaign continued. Peter Bergson emphasises: “The rich Jews, the establishment, always fought us. It was always the little Jews – and Gentiles-who sent in the money for our ads.” Sensing that there was now clearly enough public support for the cause, their leading congressional friends, Senator Guy Gillette and Representatives Will Rogers Jr and Joseph Baldwin, put in a Bill for a rescue commission. They pointedly emphasised that their proposal had nothing to do with Zionism. Hearings in the Senate in September were friendly, but in the House Foreign Relations Committee the Chairman, Sol Bloom, a Jewish Tammany Democrat from Brooklyn, bitterly attacked Bergson and the hearings went against the proposition. For good measure, American Zionism’s most prestigious figure, rabbi Stephen Wise, came to Washington to testify against the rescue Bill because it did not mention Palestine.

The liberal defenders of Zionism, including their fellow travelers at the Militant Newspaper, Spiked Online and the Alliance for Workers Liberty, get all worked up when Israel is compared to the Nazis. In my view, it is a mistake to liken one fascist movement to another. For example, Mussolini’s Italy had no particular desire to exterminate Jews while Franco’s Spain was willing to trade with Communist Cuba.

As the fascist movement in Israel congeals around the rancid mixture of religious zealotry and secular nationalism, it will have its own characteristics. Marxist scholars will certainly have their work cut out for them in analyzing this toxic stew, but analyze they must.

14 Comments »

  1. Excellent.

    Comment by littlehorn — April 3, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

  2. The syncretic nature of Fascism (in the broader sense, i.e. not just the Italian variety) has been noted in several places. Probably the best description of it comes from George Mosse who called it a “scavenger ideology which gains its power from its ability to pick out and utilize ideas and values from other sets of ideas and beliefs in specific socio-historical contexts.” It has and can attach itself to Christianity as easily as to paganism, to parts of the Left as easily as to those of the Right.

    You might also find the Pecksniffian statement below from Rabbi Stephen Wise of some interest:

    In a news conference on the eve of Thanksgiving, 1938, Ickes proposed offering Alaska as a “haven for Jewish refugees from Germany and other areas in Europe where the Jews are subjected to oppressive restrictions.” This would bypass normal immigration quotas, because Alaska had not yet become a state….The plan met with little support from American Jewry, however, with the exception of the Labor Zionists of America; most Jews agreed with Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise of the American Jewish Congress that the plan, if implemented, would deliver “a wrong and hurtful impression … that Jews are taking over some part of the country for settlement”.

    Inhabitants of Alaska can thank their stars that they were not turned into the ‘new Palestinians’.

    Comment by sk — April 4, 2009 @ 5:49 am

  3. For those who are unfamiliar with Yiddish or Hebrew lingo, the term goyim refers to non-Jews but in a derogatory fashion. In my household growing up, I used to hear my father say things like “the goyim like to drink too much.” Hearing such things and being forced to go to Hebrew school steeled my resolve to break from this suffocating religion the first chance I got. With the zealots at Bat Ayin, the term encapsulates their attitude toward the outside world and functions more or less as the term untermenschen did in Nazi Germany.

    Yeah just like that. Historically “goyim” has been a mildly derogatory expression of casual prejuidice and insularity. The inhabitants of Bat Ayin obviously hate Arabs and probably consider themselves better than non-Jews (though not in a racial sense) but I doubt that they see gentiles as sub-human and you don’t provide any evidence that they do.

    Comment by a — April 4, 2009 @ 7:05 am

  4. well a when you’re actively paticipating in lebensraum as they are I think yes they do think of Palestinians as sub-human. You kind of have to really to justify edging another people out.

    Comment by SGuy — April 4, 2009 @ 10:07 am

  5. You may be interested in an incident which preceded the recent killing in Bat Ayin.

    On the 12th February this year, according to B’Tselem, a Palestinian boy, Adham Ghaneimat, age14, was attacked by two young settlers while visiting his grandfather’s land a kilometre away from Bat Ayin. He was beaten with sticks, punched, and ridden over twice by one of the settlers on a motorbike. He was then illegally detained by the settlers at Bat Ayin. see http://www.btselem.org/english/testimonies/20090212_settlers_assault_and_kidnap_adham_ghneimat.asp

    THis assault has not been mentioned at all in the mainstream media that I can see, but would seem a far more probable “revenge based” explanation for the April 2nd attack than the “terrorism” splashed across most of the world’s newspapers when dealing with the event.

    Comment by Rod — April 4, 2009 @ 10:38 pm

  6. sk – It has and can attach itself to Christianity as easily as to paganism, to parts of the Left as easily as to those of the Right.

    Like how we’re reminded over and over that Israel, which denies citizenship to 1/3 of the people within its ambiguous borders, is a liberal democracy. And even the Arabs who can be elected can’t do anything to oppose the 2003 Nationality Law.

    Comment by andrew r — April 5, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

  7. Is there a difference between autocratic corporatist states like Salzaar’s in Portugal and real fascist states like Franco’s or Mussolini’s?

    Comment by Bhaskar Sunkara — April 6, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

  8. Is there a difference between autocratic corporatist states like Salzaar’s in Portugal and real fascist states like Franco’s or Mussolini’s?

    Not as far as I am concerned. The more interesting theoretical question is whether fascism can exist in 3rd world settings like Pinochet’s Chile.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 6, 2009 @ 5:27 pm

  9. I don’t see the difference. Portugal was basically a 3rd world country in Western Europe for a long period. Italy and Spain had comparatively low levels of economic development and where there was industrial development it was only concentrated in a few locations. If these states could have a fascist regime then Pinochet’s Chile could have one.

    That being said, a lot of these third world neoliberal states were dismantling a lot of the corporatist structures. Peronism was a form of corporatism that benefited a segment the national bourgeois, how far are these states from the fascist label?

    Comment by Bhaskar Sunkara — April 6, 2009 @ 10:25 pm

  10. Actually, Portugal had colonies–unlike Chile. There is evidence that Salazar came to power in order to help preserve these colonies in the same fashion as Franco.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 6, 2009 @ 10:29 pm

  11. B’tselem put out the story by the 14 year-old boy. That NGO is staffed by theleadership of Israel’s Communist PArty that still adheres to a platform of destroying the Jewish state as was advocated in Stalin’s day. Anat Biletzski, the head of Isael’s Communist PArty is also on B’tselem’s board of directors. As for the boy,
    you only have half the story; was he stealing from the settlement when caught? Was he throwing stones at the settlers there? ANd why is it their practive of Yoga disturbs you so much? Jews have a right to live in Judea. The Arabs want the area judenrein (Jew free). It is your own resentment of our parents and ignorance of the religion from which they sprang that obviously inspires you to criticize
    “settler” (Jews living in the Holy Land). Goyim in Yiddish means “other nations” and has been bastardized by some as criticism of non-Jews perhaps, but how does this compare with terrorists murdering Jews for having a Jewish community in Judea.

    Unprentent Marxist? More like a spolied brat out to get back at mommy and daddy for being Jewish. The Arabs are no seethearts and fascists to boot. I know plenty of Arabs who respect Israel aned feel Jews in Judea are not “settlers” and should be left to live in peace, regardless of how they practice Yoga.

    Comment by Marxism is dead — April 13, 2009 @ 11:19 am

  12. That NGO is staffed by theleadership of Israel’s Communist PArty that still adheres to a platform of destroying the Jewish state as was advocated in Stalin’s day.

    What idiocy. The USSR voted for the creation of the state of Israel in clear defiance of Arab interests.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 13, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

  13. What a bizarre piece of nonsense from M i d! Quite apart from anything else Anet Biletzski is neither on the board of B’Tselem (though she was some years ago) nor the head of “Israel’s Communist Party”. She is, however a a member of Israel’s Ministry of Education committee for teaching philosophy in high-schools and a highly respected international scholar whose primary publications focus on the woks of Wittgenstein and Hobbes. If you would like to know who she really is take a look at http://web.mit.edu/phrj/fellows.html

    Comment by Rod — April 16, 2009 @ 10:37 pm

  14. ‘goyim’ is a basic hebrew word. in the bible the word goyim is used many times , it literally means strangers, or people living with the israelites who are from other nations.

    just because someones father used the word in a negative way does not mean that the word itself is negative in any way.

    like saying black people. is it negative? positive? its just a description.

    Peace.

    Comment by Alyssa — July 8, 2010 @ 3:52 pm


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