Sunday, February 23

Religious Corruption in Israel

The deification of many establishment rabbis in high places is frightening. Added to this, are the large sums of money that is involved in this relationship. Recently the Israeli tycoon, Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto has been involved in a very big scandal. He is listed as one of Israel`s richest rabbis.  Tycoons have always come to him for blessings and while receiving Pinto’s blessings, large sums of money probably land in his coffers.

The plot thickens and the list of suspects involved in the Pinto Affair gets more and more complicated. The cartel of those involved in misdemeanors or even crimes range from tycoons, businessmen, underworld figures, and some Knesset members, senior police officers involved in uncovering fraud, bribery, and corruption, money laundering and other crimes.

The belief in "Yehudo-Voodoo" among many Israelis is very strong, this is the stuff giving rabbinical charlatans enormous power, and this power creeps, like a cancer, into many business dealings. Bribery, corruption and blackmail are part of their trade. Large sums of money change hands. Some rabbis become very wealthy, and when questions are asked about the source of their wealth the answer inevitably is that "it comes from donations of supporters of these rabbis, who regard them as the ultimate spiritual authority in their lives". This somehow keeps the law enforcement authorities at bay for a while.

However, when rabbis start giving money to the "poor" such as high level police officers, who are responsible for inquiries into bribery and corruption, then it is reasonable to start asking questions as to whether the rabbi's relationship with law enforcement officers is proper.                                                             

At this stage, there is a lot of cloudiness over the whole investigation and much has to unfold. Pinto has tentacles with followers attached even in the U.S. Even an ex-FBI official is involved. This is only the beginning of all kinds of rabbinical monkey business going on, which is also an embarrassment to the Israeli Police. One of its top crime investigation officers is also on suspicion of being caught up in this rabbinical web of iniquity. It seems that the tip of the iceberg of crime in rabbinical circles has been scratched. More red faces under the cloak and dagger of Torah will soon be revealed. It should be of deep concern to law-abiding citizens in Israel, who pay taxes. Much of the money from these taxes go to the running of corrupt institutions responsible for maintaining the chief rabbinate and other yeshivot of dubious repute.

Meanwhile, Major General Menashe Arviv, who commanded Lahav 433, a unit popularly known as the "Israeli FBI," which includes the fraud squad, serious and international crimes unit, and the financial investigations unit, has resigned as the noose round his neck tightens. This does not mean that he will not be brought to trial.  Brig. Gen. Ephraim Bracha – the commander of the national fraud squad – in 2012 was also involved. Pinto is suspected of trying to bribe Bracha in return for information on the investigation being conducted against him. Pinto was also the target of a joint investigation by the authorities in the United States and Israel, into the suspected misuse of funds at Hazon Yeshaya, a nonprofit controlled by the rabbi and his wife.

This rather complicated business does not seem to have an end at this stage. Surprises occur all the time. Apart from suspicions of bribing senior police officers and associating with crime king-pins like Shlomo Domrani, Pinto has an amazing cartel of tycoons and characters.Some of his associates and "friends" have criminal records.One of Pinto's aides in the past, Ben Zion Suky, is connected to porn sales and has a host of legal problems. The impression is that Rabbi Pinto is not such a "tzadik" (saint) as most of his followers believe. Pinto is a shrewd businessman. He is a multimillionaire because "God was good to him as he is a great example of humility and saintliness". I have a feeling of deja vu. There is some similarity here to the reaction of his followers against the investigation of this rabbi and the reaction of the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in the bribery and corruption case involving Aryeh Deri of Shas some years ago.Yosef proclaimed Deri's innocence in public.

Prosecutors are now busy turning the 10-page document detailing these suspicions into an indictment, as Pinto waived his right to a hearing. The likely charges will include offering bribes, obstructing an investigation, suborning witnesses, making threats and money laundering. Pinto denies all the allegations.

The saga unfolds and is far from completion as everyday a new twist occurs. There is a dangerous trend in Israel. The Rabbi Pinto Case is an example of what happens when rabbis have tremendous power and influence over the lives of citizens in theocratic Israel. They fill the observant Jewish Israeli mind with religious muck and many of these religious people become dependent on the teachings and purveyors of pseudo-religious superstitions. This involves purchasing religious cameos against "the evil eye" and all kinds of folklore, including other pseudo-religious paraphernalia. There are rabbis with enormous powers in the eyes of the superstitious observant, who are grist to the mill in the talons of these charismatic, rabbinical ignoramuses, many of whom have great influence in high places in the rabbinate. These rabbis feel that they are above the law and have the right to bribe government officials whether they are high ranking officers in the Israeli Police Force or even in the government. They are the "Rasputins of Israel". Some are also faith healers such as the X-ray Rabbi Ifergan, who is wealthy in his own right.

Rabbi Yeshiyahu Pinto

The following is a list of Israel's wealthiest rabbis: 

1. Rabbi Pinchas Abuhatzeira – NIS 1,300,000,000
2. Rabbi David Abuhatzeira – NIS 750,000,000
3. Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter – NIS 350,000,000
4. Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokea
– NIS 180,000,000
5. Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi – NIS 100,000,000
6. Rabbi Yaakov Ifargin – NIS 75,000,000
7. Rabbi Yeshayahu Pinto – NIS 75,000,000
8. Rabbi Baruch Abuhatzeira – NIS 50,000,000
9. Rabbi Reuven Elbaz – NIS 40,000,000
10. Rabbi Yoram Abargil – NIS35,000,000

The corruption in religion occurs because of the monopoly held by establishment orthodox rabbis in Israel. They do not recognize other religious streams in Judaism. A glaring example of Orthodox Judicial hegemony is non-recognition of Conservative, Progressive and Reconstructionist streams in Judaism. These non-Orthodox streams in Judaism cannot perform marriage ceremonies recognized in Israel because they are not recognized by the Orthodox Establishment. The reason is competition and loss in financial profit that goes into the orthodox establishment rabbinical coffers and not so much because of Halacha as they claim. Let us not be naïve.

The doctrinaire and intolerant behavior of the Orthodox Rabbinical Establishment in Israel drives many Jews from the fold including the writer of this article.

The Rabbi Pinto corruption scandal is a symptom of the disease and it is only a matter of time before more corrupt orthodox rabbis are uncovered in their quest to make a quick buck from the religious believers seeking a sop for their problems.


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Saturday, February 8

The Chosen People and BDS

Israel - Boycott, divest, sanction
Israel - Boycott, divest, sanction (Photo credit: Takver)
John Kerry
These days the peace talks between Israel and Palestine, under the facilitation of John Kerry, are reaching a deadlock. This is to be expected. Netanyahu wishes to preserve his government coalition at all costs. He panders to his extreme right wing flank like a mite burrowing into the pubes, creating a great itch and a hiccup. The emphasis of the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish State is being blown out of all proportions. Nobody denies that Israel is a state with a Jewish majority and also has a sizeable non-Jewish minority.

The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, the indefatigable mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, is showing signs of frustration. Past US mediators in this conflict also started off with great enthusiasm, only to throw in the towel.

New revelations of the "settlement enterprise" in the occupied territories has come to light. The ultra-Orthodox Haredi Parties are out of the coalition, the right wing illegal settler Bayit Hayehudi Party under Naftali Bennet has replaced them. The taxpayer is now footing the bill for the building of illegal settlements for the right wing religious Zionists who are having a field day with a right wing government coalition sympathetic to their cause.

It was reported on Israel Channel 2 Television that there seem to be illegal transfer of funds to the Yesha Council for settlements. It was reported that local councils in the West Bank receive state funds to compensate them for losses incurred because of Israel's freeze on settlement building.

The Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, suspended funding as a result of information that these funds are not being used for their original purpose, such as security and maintenance of kindergartens,  but rather being transferred to the Yesha Council and its bunch of right wing croneys for political purposes. This of course means financing pro-settlement propaganda which means another stab at a two-state solution of this festering conflict. At the moment this issue is being investigated. Naturally the Yesha Council denies any misappropriation of funds and they argue that they have not broken the law. Would they say that they are breaking the law?

With this cloud of corruption hanging over the Yesha Council and the tacit support of extreme right wing members of the coalition, it would be in the best interests of peace if Yesh Atid would resign from the coalition. Bennet and Lapid are not "brothers" anymore as they claimed after both were elected to the Knesset.

It is very difficult to understand what is happening in the peace process. Nothing has changed except the tactics but the accusations and counter accusations go on as if both sides do not wish to see progress towards peace. It is an exercise in squirming and trying to satisfy John Kerry. Each side accuses the other for the failure of the peace negotiations. This has been going on over many years. The players change but the excuses and lack of trust remains the same.

John Kerry, the indefatigable mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians, is showing signs of frustration as his predecessors at the lack of progress. The paranoid Israeli Government accuses him of being anti-Semitic because he made some remarks about failure of progress towards an agreement with the Palestinians would lead to a boycott of trade and business with Israel. He expressed an opinion which is legitimate. The conflict is a festering sore that does not heal. One of the symptoms that prevents healing is the illegal settlement enterprise that seems to expand.

Why is it that when John Kerry says that if the talks fail and he warns Israel about the EU boycott of Israel is he accused of being anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic? The same goes for President Obama as well.  Israel's most reliable and trusted friend in the world is the US. It is in US interests as well as European interests that the occupation is ended. It is in Israel's interest as well though the illegal settler friendly government of Netanyahu fail to realize this.

There is a cancer eating into Israeli society. This cancer is alive and kicking in the extreme right wing flank of the Coalition Government. It turns a blind eye to Price Tag attacks against Christian and Muslim holy places and property. It coddles the kippa, tzizit and peiyot dangling hill-top youth - allies of violence. The cancer is also found in the increase of illegal settlement activity in areas in the Palestinian state-to-be if it will ever occur in the future. The cure to this widespread cancer in Israel is BDS. The inability of the Israeli Police to arrest Price Tag terrorists is an ominous sign of indifference towards terrorism and vandalism. The self-righteous, paranoid rhetoric is coming from the right wing and extreme right-wing, defining antisemitism as criticism of Israel's occupation is very dangerous and is not in Israel's interest. It gives leeway to fascism which is gaining ground.

The Israeli Government attitude towards John Kerry can be summed up in the statement by Israel's Defense Minister, Moshe Ayalon, as very unfortunate. Ayalon apologized for his statement under pressure. Kerry is now persona non grata in the eyes of the right wing because he warned Israel that failure to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians would lead to a boycott of Israel. He never stated that he supported a BDS. The contrary is true. It just illustrates how the Israeli Government is manipulating the people to believe that Kerry is an anti-Semite despite him being a true friend of Israel. In the the eyes of the right and extreme right, the whole world is anti-Semitic and ganging up to boycott Israel in order to destroy the Jewish State.

They sing the same song of the evil going on in Syria which the UN and much of the world are turning a blind eye. True! Much evil is happening in Syria and nothing is done. This is disgusting and abhorrent. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is also abhorrent no less. Israel's justification of colonization of the West Bank on the ground by building settlements turns the two-state solution into a bi-national state solution. There is no other way of looking at it.
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