On General Ashkenazi, Apostle Paul and War Crimes
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More than once I got emails asking clarifications regarding ethnic issues regarding Israelis and Jews in general. Those of my readers that contacted me on the issue met an answer that is centered on two texts of Apostle Paul (I bring here only key verses, the apostle exposition is more substantial):
Romans 5:16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
What the apostle is trying to tell us is that all men are equal regardless their ethnic background, we all are separated in two families: those belonging to Adam and those of Christ. Thus my reluctance to touch this topic is clear. Moreover, if we look carefully enough, each one of us is unique, with a peculiar ethnic background defining him – or her – as much as genes.
Moreover, it is difficult to differentiate clearly between ethnic background and culture. With the complex history of the Jewish people this is even harder. Yet, Israel is a racist country (due to the Law of Return giving automatic citizenship to every Jew landing in the country and denying this right from no Jews) and it is difficult to understand its political reality and the biases of its leaders without understanding the racist principles underlying the Jewish society. I ask a thousand pardons for the following words, but they just expose Israeli racism and misconceptions. I do not believe that one person is better than the other due to his ancestry or culture.
Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi is Head of the General Headquarter (direct translation of the highest position in the IDF) since 2007. Later in this article I’ll touch his military background but first I want to expand on his name.
In one of my stays in the US, I was asked regarding the surname “Ashkenazi.” The person that asked was very surprised when I commented it was a popular name among Moroccan (and other Oriental) Jews. “That can’t be true!” was the answer I got. As usual, things in the Jewish community are complex and the popularized conceptions are – to say the least – oversimplified. “Ashkenaz” is a name given by Pharisaic-Jews to the area now known as Germany. An “i” added at the end of a noun in Hebrew denotes possession. “Ashkenazi” means “from Germany.” So how come a Moroccan Jew is called Ashkenazi?
Actually, it will be very hard to find a German Jew called Ashkenazi. The best way of illustrating this is taking the issue into neutral grounds. Imagine a Canadian family moving to Honduras and settling down there. It won’t take much until some neighbours would refer to them just as the “Canadians.” In some cases this name would stick. In the case of Moroccan Jews the name is related to the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. Some of these moved northwards, and settled down all over northern Europe, including “Ashkenaz.” Some of them failed settling down and moved back southwards – toward the beautiful Mediterranean sun. Spain was then closed for them, so they moved to the nearest country, where modern Morroco is. They were “Germans” among “Moroccan s,” i.e. Ashkenazi’s. The same is truth in all settlements of Oriental Jews.
Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi’s father was a Bulgarian Jew (most consider this community closer to Oriental than to Western Jewish practices) and his mother was a Syrian Jew. With such a background, the general is considered an Oriental Jew in Israel.
Oriental Jews are highly discriminated in Israel. Menahem Begin became the first right wing Prime Minister of Israel after amassing power among the discriminated Oriental Jews. Even now, most official positions are held by Ashkenazi Jews. Oriental Jews are discriminated also in the universities (the entry exams are culturally biased).
Sepharadic versus Mizrahi
“Spharad” means “Spain” in Hebrew. Sepharadic Jews means Spaniard Jews. In Israel the use of the term regarding Moroccan , Libyan and other Oriental Jews communities may be heard, but it is considered a bit wrong.
The term “Mizrahi” (“z” like in “zen,” “h” like “ch” in “loch”) means “Ooriental” in Hebrew and is the preferred term for Jews from the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern areas.
There is also huge subtexts in these terms. The best way to illustrate them is recalling Yitzhak Navon, the fifth president of the State of Israel (1978-1983). He became the first Sepharadic Jew to be nominated to a leading position (though in Israel the president holds just an honorific job). Instead of attempting to advance the position of Mizrahi Jews in the Israeli society, he kept saying – ad nauseum – that he is a “Sameh-Tet.” This is the abbreviation for “Pure-Sepharadic,” meaning he was a descendant of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 without any blood from Mizrahi Jews. The victim of discrimination became an ugly racist himself. In an attempt to upgrade himself (as per his racist views), he married an Ashkenazi woman.
Mizrahi is kept as a general denominator, while Sepharadic has a certain aristocratic aura to it.
In a statement that would anger many of my readers, I want to say that most of the differences between Mizrahim (the suffix “im” denotes masculine plural in Hebrew) and Ashkenazim are cultural. The first are more traditional, closer to the Hebrew culture and the Bible. The second are humanists, give up Hebrew with greater facility, and Talmud oriented. I want to keep this article short, so I’ll avoid further elaboration.
In this reality, Mizrahi Jews wanting to advance within the surrounding Ashkenazi culture become feral cats, throwing away their culture and becoming rapacious.
Back to the General
Now I want to return to the star of this article. Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi was born in a moshav. Kibbutz and moshav were two types of quasi-communists settlements designed by the Zionists as some needed social precursors for the State of Israel. Kibbutzim were settled mainly by Ashkenazim; the one I grew in had over 90% of them. Moshavim were settled mainly by Mizrahim. Of course there are famous exceptions. Moshe Dayan was from Nahalal, a moshav.
So, Gabi Ashkenazi was born in Moshav Hagor, later on he joined the Golani Brigade of the IDF. An infantry brigade, it is known as a Mizrahi stronghold. On the other side is the Paratroopers Brigade – an Ashkenazi stronghold. The commando unit of the last brigade is mockingly known as “The Blonds.”
Gabi Ashkenazi became a Major General and left the army in 2005. As a Mizrahi he had no chance of becoming the army’s Lieutenant General and general commander. Then something happened. In 2006, Israel was utterly defeated in Lebanon.
The army commander back then was Dan Halutz, an air force officer. It is unusual for a “blue” (someone from the air force in Hebrew slang) to reach such a position. Halutz held back the “greens” (ground forces) during the operation because he didn’t trust them and sent the air force ahead. It was a disaster. The fact that in the morning of the attack he found time to contact his broker and sell his stock in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange didn’t help to his public image. He left humiliated.
It was time for a major change. Halutz – as his predecessors – was Ashkenazi. in 2007, Amir Peretz – then Minister of Defense – called Gabi Ashkenazi back to the army as general commander.
Is this a happy end story? Hollywood regurgitated in a Middle Eastern army? Not quite so. The now Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi became a violent beast, he needed to prove himself better than the surrounding Ashkenazim.
At the end of February 2008, Ashkenazi commanded Operation Hot Winter during which the IDF attacked Gaza. The fighting ended in an truce between Israel and Hamas. At the end of 2008 and in early 2009 Ashkenazi commanded Operation Cast Lead. The last was investigated by the UN and lead to the definition of Israel as a terrorist organization in article 1690 of the Goldstone Report, accepted by the UN Human Rights Commission on October 16, 2009.
Under these circumstances, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi became a war criminal. As such he should be judged by the International Court of Justice, before he continues his path of killings.
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