- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

PETACH TIKVAH, Israel — After laying down roots in Europe and the U.S., neo-Nazism has spread to Israel in a case that has stunned the country.

Israeli police over the weekend uncovered a cell of neo-Nazi youths in this central Israeli city who vandalized synagogues and organized attacks on Orthodox Jews, homosexuals, drug dealers and foreign workers.

As a seven-week gag order on the one-and-a-half-year-old investigation was lifted, seven members of the group were arraigned in court yesterday, with an indictment expected tomorrow.

“Until now, we haven’t experienced these incidents in Israel,” said police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld. “This was the first time … that there was a larger cell or group behind the acts.”

The members of the cell, all in their late teens and early 20s, were immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union.

Israeli news outlets said the cell members were not Jewish according to religious law, even though their Jewish ancestry qualified them for Israeli citizenship. That spurred calls from government ministers yesterday to strip the citizenship of any immigrant involved in neo-Nazi activities.

Mr. Rosenfeld said police found knives, nunchucks and explosives at the homes of one of the group members. Information stored in the computer of the suspects revealed correspondence with neo-Nazi groups in Germany and Russia, as well as video footage of some of the attacks.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who viewed the footage with his ministers at the weekly Cabinet meeting, called it “violence for the sake of violence.”

“I am sure that there is not a person in Israel who can remain indifferent to these scenes, which indicate that we too as a society have failed in the education of these youths,” he said.

Analysts say there is likely a wider network of neo-Nazis operating in Israel.

“They only caught kids. They caught the tail, not the head,” said Nahum Taub, who was assaulted two months ago outside of the Great Synagogue of Petach Tikvah.

Mr. Taub, who helps run the religious service at the synagogue, blamed the neo-Nazi cell on Israel’s policy of granting automatic citizenship to immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not Jewish under religious law.

“We need to stop importing Gentiles to Israel,” he said.

The neo-Nazi case highlights some of the social fallout from Israel’s absorption of more than 1 million Russian immigrants over the past two decades.

Though the Russian immigrants have injected Israel with a wealth of highly educated and skilled workers, many remain alienated from mainstream society. Others who are not considered Jewish under religious law suffer difficulties when getting married and at burial.

Police released pictures of the neo-Nazi group holding out their hands in the infamous salute used for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. A video in the group’s possession showed the beating of a Russian drug dealer.

Zalman Gilichenski, who has been monitoring neo-Nazi hate crimes for nearly seven years, estimates there are 500 hate crimes against Jews each year. He has also been critical of what he calls the police’s slow response to the phenomenon.

Members of the Great Synagogue, who were preparing this week for the Jewish New Year, said there is still concern on the streets in the evening despite the arrests. Residents of the neighborhood said that several years ago religious academy students were often beaten up in the evenings by skinhead groups.

“Every child knew about the danger of anti-Semitic violence,” said Miriam, a Jewish resident of the city who would not give her last name. “It’s something that’s just underneath the surface.”

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