shocked by the arrest of eight young immigrants from the
former Soviet Union who wore Nazi insignia while filming
themselves carrying out violent crimes of hate,
rejecting in the most belligerent way the underpinning
of the Jewish state founded after the Nazi Holocaust
of World War II.
the arrest of the eight on Sunday and released videos
showing them kicking helpless victims on the ground to a
bloody pulp, hitting a man over the head with an empty
beer bottle, and proclaiming their allegiance to Adolf
Hitler in a Nazi salute.
Ehud Olmert, who viewed the footage with his ministers at
the weekly cabinet, reacted with outrage at what he called
''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.
While Israel has
experienced isolated incidents of anti-Semitism in the
past, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the arrests were
the first time an organized cell has been discovered.
The eight youths,
who immigrated to Israel as children, were arrested in
connection with at least 15 attacks against religious Jews,
foreign workers, drug addicts, the homeless, and gays.
A ninth member has fled the country, he said.
''This was a
cell, an active neo-Nazi group, that in fact began here in
Israel in working and carrying out sabotages as well as
different attacks on individuals,'' Rosenfeld said.
Under the Israeli
''law of return,'' a person can claim automatic
citizenship if a parent or grandparent has Jewish roots.
Authorities say that formula allowed many Soviets with
questionable ties to Judaism to immigrate here after
the Soviet Union disintegrated. About 1 million
Soviets have moved here since the early 1990s, making up a
significant part of Israel's 7 million citizens.
suspects were immigrants with loose Jewish heritage, who did
not identify themselves as Jews and whose families had come
to Israel to escape hardships in the former Soviet
when 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, continues to
touch the most sensitive nerve in Israel. Incidents of
anti-Semitism around the world outrage Israelis, and
the discovery of such violence in the country's midst
dominated talk on morning radio shows and made the
front pages of newspapers with headlines such as
that the acts of the few should not tarnish the great
achievements of the Russian immigrants, who include doctors,
professors, scientists, and cabinet ministers.
''I stress that
we should not implicate an entire community and engage in
generalizations,'' he said.
Eli Yishai of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party said he
would propose taking away the suspects' citizenship. Several
others suggested amending the law of return.
Ironically, Israel doesn't specifically have a
hate-crimes law, and the case has drawn calls for new
A court decided
Sunday to keep the suspects in custody on assault and
vandalism charges. The young men covered their faces with
their shirts during the hearing, revealing Nazi-themes
tattoos adorning their arms. They did not comment.
News of the
arrests drew condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League, a
U.S.-based group that fights anti-Semitism, and Israel's Yad
Vashem Holocaust memorial.
irony in this is that they would have been chosen for
annihilation by the Nazi they strive to emulate,'' the ADL
''While this is a
marginal and extreme case, it is nevertheless
intolerable,'' said Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev.
knives, spiked balls, explosives, and other weapons in the
suspects' possession, Rosenfeld said. One photo that was
seized showed a suspect holding an M16 rifle in one
hand and in the other, a sign reading ''Heil Hitler,''
wore tattoos of Celtic crosses--a symbol adopted by
white supremacists--and barbed wire fences, and
the number ''88,'' code for ''Heil Hitler'' because
''H'' is the eighth letter of the alphabet. Another
tattoo proclaimed ''White Power.''
the skinhead ring after investigating the desecration
of two synagogues--sprayed with swastikas--in
the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva more than a
year ago, Rosenfeld said. Police computer experts
determined they maintained contacts with neo-Nazi groups
abroad, and materials seized include a German-language
video about neo-Nazis in the U.S.
the group leader as Eli Boanitov, 19, of Petah
Tikva--known as ''Eli the Nazi.'' Gang members were
arrested over the course of the past two months.
''I won't ever
give up. I was a Nazi and I will stay a Nazi. Until we
kill them all I will not rest,'' Boanitov was quoted as
saying, in a police statement. (Aron Heller, AP)