Jerusalem – Israeli police are investigating allegations that, over recent years, a gang of youths who immigrated from the former Soviet Union who espouse neo-Nazi ideology have attacked foreign workers, drawn swastikas on walls and vandalized synagogues. So far, eight suspects between the ages of 16 and 21 have been arrested in the framework of the investigation.

The suspects were charged in a case of severe vandalism that took place in Petah Tikva’s Great Synagogue. In that incident, unknown vandals broke into the synagogue, drew swastikas on the Holy Ark and on the floor and wrote “Hitler” on the door.

At first, the Israeli police could not find any suspects, but approximately two months ago new information reached the investigators about 19-year-old Eli Boynatov, known as “Eli the Nazi,” who was involved in the incident.

The youth was arrested, and during his interrogation he admitted that he is a member of a neo-Nazi organization. A search of his home turned up flyers of the organization, drawings of Nazi symbols and a film about Nazism in America. When the suspicion was raised that other neo-Nazis were working for him and that he was encouraging them to commit acts of violence, it was decided to release him and keep him under surveillance.

Indeed, the investigation and the surveillance showed that the suspect had seven accomplices who shared his neo-Nazi ideas and exchanged messages in various Internet forums. The eight suspects allegedly engaged in neo-Nazi and racist activities during which they attacked dozens of foreign workers in Tel Aviv’s central bus station, vandalized synagogues, drew swastikas on the walls of various buildings throughout the country, including in Petah Tikva, Beer Sheva and Haifa.

Police seized homemade video clips that showed them attacking foreign workers and causing them severe injury. One of the videos showed the gang members attacking a drug addict of Russian extraction, striking him until he bled and forcing him to ask forgiveness of the Russian people for being a “Jewish drug addict.” The search also turned up photographs of the suspects wearing Nazi clothing, using the Nazi salute and calling for the burning of Jews. Explosive materials were also found in the home of one of the suspects.

Israeli police also found recordings of conversations between gang members. In one, they plan how to celebrate Hitler’s birthday, and in another they plan a Nazi ceremony, including the Nazi salute, at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. In one conversation, “Eli the Nazi” is heard saying: “My grandfather was a half-Jewboy. I will not have children so that this trash will not be born with even a tiny of percent of Jewboy blood.”

The members of the gang who were arrested (another fled the country) are suspected of aggravated assault, destroying property, belonging to a Nazi organization and harming Jewish sensibilities. During their interrogations, they claimed that they were “dragged” and acted on behalf of others. When some were asked why they came to Israel, they answered that their parents had decided to come here for economic reasons in order to receive the absorption basket.

These neo-Nazis in Israel use the Internet a great deal to pass messages, but they do so mainly on foreign sites.

Four years ago, a neo-Nazi Internet site called “the White Alliance of Israel,” which was run by youths from the former Soviet Union, was shut down. Since then, neo-Nazi activity by Israelis has moved mainly to forums in the former Soviet Union.

From time to time, Israeli neo-Nazis pop up on Israeli Russian-language blogs, but in such cases the blog moderators usually delete their posts. Thus, for example, a surfer known as “Death to Israel” wrote: “Murder all the Jews immediately,” while another surfer, known as Vasily, wrote: “All the Zhids are miserable cowards.”

How Did Neo-Nazis Enter Israel?

Ironically, a quirk in the first law of the state of Israel, the law of return, the policy that welcomes Jews to return to their homeland, allowed Jews who are anything but Jewish to enter Israel under the law of return.

While religious Jewish law defines a Jew as someone who was born to a Jewish mother or as someone who has converted to Judaism, Israeli law defines a Jew as someone who is descended from at least one grandfather who was Jewish.

During World War II, the Nazis defined a Jew as someone who had at least one grandfather who was Jewish. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, was often quoted as saying that the “grandfather clause” was Israel’s answer to Hitler.

The “grandfather clause” was never an really an issue, however, until the advent of the mass immigration from the former Soviet Union.

In the late 1980s as the former Soviet Union began to collapse, hundreds of thousands of Jews who had been living in a land where the practice of Judaism had been forbidden since the 1920s would finally be able to come to Israel.

However, hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens held identity cards as Jews, even though they had become an integral part of Soviet society – even in the most anti-Semitic areas of the Ukraine, Lithuania and other parts of the former Soviet Union.

The motivation of these non-Jews with Jewish roots was hardly one of Zionist intention. The former Soviet Union, with a collapsing society and deteriorating economy, was a place to leave. Israel, promising material comfort, was a desired place to come to.

In the late 1980s, many senior officials of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel, which processes immigration to Israel, suggested that the “grandfather clause” be dropped.

However, American Jewish charitable organizations objected. These organizations had been asked by Israel to raise funds for the exodus of Jews, and they protested any proposed in the Israeli government definition of “Who is a Jew?”

In the mid-1990s, the Jewish Agency for Israel sponsored ads in the major Russian papers that proclaimed that “If you have a Jewish grandparent, you can qualify for citizenship in Israel under the law of return.” That law also provided immigrants with a basket of free services for at least three years.

In 1997, a member of Israel’s Knesset Parliament, Alex Lubotzky, a liberal-minded Orthodox Jew, announced that he was ready to check out all conversion possibilities to provide all options of conversion for new immigrants. However, in December 1997, Lubotzky announced that of the 200,000 non-Jews who had arrived in Israel under the law of return, less than 2,000 expressed any interest whatsoever in becoming Jewish.

Instead, a Russian culture overtook many neighborhoods where former USSR residents established themselves, totally devoid of anything Jewish or anything Zionist.

The late Dr. Yuri Shtern, a hero in the Zionist resistance movement to the USSR, warned about a disturbing aspect of the non-Jewish immigration to Israel: anti-Semitism. Another former Soviet activist, Knesset member Yuli Edeslstein, concurred.

However, until very recently, the Jewish Agency, the Israeli government and the Israeli police would not react to the increasing problems that were beginning to surface, which included sporadic attacks of non-Jewish Russians on religious Israeli Jews.

One Russian Jewish Israeli, however, Dr. Zalman Gilichinski, made it his business to document Russian anti-Semitism in Israel and to mobilize Israel’s law enforcement system to tackle it. Gilichinski launched a Web site,, which consolidated reports of unimaginable anti-Semitic neo-Nazi organizations in more than fifteen Israeli cities, organized by non-Jews whose families had come to Israel under the “law of return.”

Gilichinski pleaded with organizations and academic institutions that monitor anti-Semitism to join with him to report anti-Semitic attacks as a threat to Israel’s security and well-being. However, no groups would heed Gilichinski’s warnings. Undaunted, Gilichinski took his case to the highest levels of the police five years ago and kept updating the police with comprehensive reports of attacks launched by Israeli neo-Nazi cells along with reports of their subculture.

The unkindest cut of all was Gilichinski’s revelation that the precise anti-Semitic literature, tapes, CDs, movies and books that are now banned throughout the former Soviet Union are now sold and marketed in almost every bookstore and music store that serves the Russian speaking population in Israel.

The news of an anti-Semitic Russian movement in Israel led the news in the Jewish state yesterday.

Since only one group of neo-Nazis has been caught so far, it is reasonable to assume that this is only the tip of the iceberg of a crisis that hardly anyone in Israel ever expected to cope with.

David Bedein can be reached at His Web site is

©The Bulletin 2007


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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: and A new site,, will be launched very soon.