Two rather distressing articles:
When the leader of Israel's religious-Zionist Meimad Party recently addressed a meeting of 800 high-school students in a Tel Aviv suburb, his words on the virtue of Israeli democracy for all its citizens were drowned out by student chants of "Death to the Arabs."
Not since the days of the now-illegal Kach party, and Baruch Goldstein killing 29 Muslims at prayer in Hebron in 1994, has Rabbi Michael Melchior heard such anti-Arab sentiment.
But that sentiment is swelling, and the controversial former cabinet minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu party are riding the wave. They have emerged as the biggest political winners from the recent war on Gaza. Their unequivocal anti-Arab policies have never been more popular.
It was Mr. Lieberman who led the recent campaign to have Israel's two Arab political parties banned from next month's Knesset election. He argued that their public criticism of Israel's assault on Hamas in Gaza constituted a disloyalty to the country as a Jewish and Zionist state.
Mr. Lieberman has long argued that all Arab Israelis should be made to swear an oath of loyalty to the country and, if they don't, they should lose their citizenship.
The country's highest court ruled in favour of the Arab parties, but not before the Knesset's central elections committee voted in favour of the ban. Even representatives of the mainstream Likud, Kadima and Labour parties cast ballots supporting the ban.
"The court has effectively given the Arab parties a licence to kill the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," Mr. Lieberman said, adding that his party would not give up the fight.
Besides loyalty oaths, his party wants to exchange Arab communities in Israel for Israeli settlements in the West Bank; it says that giving up any land in exchange for peace with Arab neighbours is "fundamentally flawed" and should not be pursued; and it argues that Jordan should be where Palestinians seek to create a state.
Public opinion surveys indicate that a growing number of Israelis support this approach; Yisrael Beitenu is poised to win 16 seats in the Feb. 10 vote (it currently has 11), as many seats as Labour might win.IDF rabbinate publication during Gaza war: We will show no mercy on the cruel
More importantly, the party could be a coalition partner in an expected Likud government - something that would put Mr. Lieberman in a good position to promote his agenda.
"Yisrael Beitenu's rise, with its racist agenda, is a very dangerous trend in Israeli society," said Mohammad Darawshe, an Arab from the Israeli town of Nazereth who is co-director of the Abraham Fund, an organization that promotes co-operation among Israeli Arabs and Jews.
The anti-Arab trend is particularly strong among the young generation, Mr. Darawshe said. "In a poll conducted in May, more than 60 per cent of Jewish high-school kids say they want to control the political participation of Arabs in Israel; they're not ready to live in the same apartment building as Arab citizens; they don't like to hear the sound of Arabic language; and so on," he said. This racism "has to be taken seriously and dealt with seriously," Mr. Darawshe said, "as must separatism in the Arab community." A growing number of Israeli Arabs want to opt out of Israeli society, including boycotting elections, he said.
"Unfortunately, [the two trends] have common agendas; they feed off each other."
Even Foreign Minister and Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni shocked many by saying that if people don't like what the government is doing "they can leave."
Overall, Israel's Arab population, while sympathetic to the plight of Gazans, is not particularly radicalized, certainly not as it was in the early days of the 2000-2004 Palestinian uprising. Yet, as Mr. Darawshe says, anti-Arab sentiment in the country has never been greater. The Lieberman party "ultimately seeks a direct clash with the Arab citizens in Israel" he said. And he worries that "there's no serious effort to stop it."
The 100 people at the Yisrael Beitenu rally for English-speaking voters Thursday night in Jerusalem certainly don't want to stop it. "It's the clarity of it that's so appealing," said Yona Triestman, a thirtysomething who works helping new immigrants settle in Israel. And the message certainly is straightforward. At the end of the night, Uzi Landau, a former Likud cabinet minister now running for Yisrael Beitenu, leaned forward and wagged his index finger at the audience. "There's just one thing you have to remember about our platform," he said, "just one thing to tell your friends: 'No loyalty, no citizenship.' "
During the fighting in the Gaza Strip, the religious media - and on two occasions, the Israel Defense Forces weekly journal Bamahane - were full of praise for the army rabbinate. The substantial role of religious officers and soldiers in the front-line units of the IDF was, for the first time, supported also by the significant presence of rabbis there.
The chief army rabbi, Brigadier General Avichai Rontzki, joined the troops in the field on a number of occasions, as did rabbis under his command.
Officers and soldiers reported that they felt "spiritually elevated" and "morally empowered" by conversations with rabbis who gave them encouragement before the confrontation with the Palestinians.
But what exactly was the content of these conversations and of the plethora of written material disseminated by the IDF rabbinate during the war? A reservist battalion rabbi told the religious newspaper B'Sheva last week that Rontzki explained to his staff that their role was not "to distribute wine and challah for Shabbat to the troops," but "to fill them with yiddishkeit and a fighting spirit."
An overview of some of the army rabbinate's publications made available during the fighting reflects the tone of nationalist propaganda that steps blatantly into politics, sounds racist and can be interpreted as a call to challenge international law when it comes to dealing with enemy civilians.
Haaretz has received some of the publications through Breaking the Silence, a group of former soldiers who collect evidence of unacceptable behavior in the army vis-a-vis Palestinians. Other material was provided by officers and men who received it during Operation Cast Lead. Following are quotations from this material:
"[There is] a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [the Land of Israel] to gentiles, though all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses. We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it." This is an excerpt from a publication entitled "Daily Torah studies for the soldier and the commander in Operation Cast Lead," issued by the IDF rabbinate. The text is from "Books of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner," who heads the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the Muslim quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem.
The following questions are posed in one publication: "Is it possible to compare today's Palestinians to the Philistines of the past? And if so, is it possible to apply lessons today from the military tactics of Samson and David?" Rabbi Aviner is again quoted as saying: "A comparison is possible because the Philistines of the past were not natives and had invaded from a foreign land ... They invaded the Land of Israel, a land that did not belong to them and claimed political ownership over our country ... Today the problem is the same. The Palestinians claim they deserve a state here, when in reality there was never a Palestinian or Arab state within the borders of our country. Moreover, most of them are new and came here close to the time of the War of Independence."
The IDF rabbinate, also quoting Rabbi Aviner, describes the appropriate code of conduct in the field: "When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers. This is terribly immoral. These are not games at the amusement park where sportsmanship teaches one to make concessions. This is a war on murderers. 'A la guerre comme a la guerre.'"
This view is also echoed in publications signed by Rabbis Chen Halamish and Yuval Freund on Jewish consciousness. Freund argues that "our enemies took advantage of the broad and merciful Israeli heart" and warns that "we will show no mercy on the cruel."
In addition to the official publications, extreme right-wing groups managed to bring pamphlets with racist messages into IDF bases. One such flyer is attributed to "the pupils of Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg" - the former rabbi at Joseph's Tomb and author of the article "Baruch the Man," which praises Baruch Goldstein, who massacred unarmed Palestinians in Hebron. It calls on "soldiers of Israel to spare your lives and the lives of your friends and not to show concern for a population that surrounds us and harms us. We call on you ... to function according to the law 'kill the one who comes to kill you.' As for the population, it is not innocent ... We call on you to ignore any strange doctrines and orders that confuse the logical way of fighting the enemy."