Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Raful -- a hero, but nonetheless a racist

It took me a while to find this but I knew it was out there somewhere. One interesting thing I haven't seen reference to in the obits for former Chief-of-Staff and minister Rafael Eitan is the persistent rumors that he actually wasn't halachically Jewish; as this source says, "In an interview with the press.... he admitted his mother was an evangelical Christian who came to Eretz Yisrael after fleeing religious persecution in the former Soviet Union." I can't see any other references to this (well, one rather nasty one) and can't remember the exact details myself but I do remember when the interview came out. As far as I remember, he/his mother never converted, which would technically make him Israel's first non-Jewish chief-of-staff and government minister -- and shed a rather interesting light on his entire career.
From the obits I've read, it's clearly a case of achrei mot kedoshim emor -- because the truth is that while Raful was a military hero, a modest man and a Zionist he was also a total racist who is most famous for saying that "When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle." In life he was regarded as a Gandhi -- an idealistic Israeli of the old school, whose unpalatable views on Arabs left most Israelis deeply uncomfortable and consigned him to the very edge of the political map. Let's not whitewash the truth.

UPDATE: I see the Seattle PI makes some reference to Raful's ancestry too.

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