The Assassination Game
Vigilance To Prevent Violence
by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak
Originally published 22 February 2000
in general release

View the search results page that proves that Cherna Moskowitz owns the domain name "ehudbarak.net."

They're on the move again -- the same forces that hectored and delegitimized Yitzhak Rabin, until a man in their midst assumed it was permissible to assassinate Israel's prime minister. Now, five years later, the target of right-wing wrath is Prime Minister Ehud Barak and other government officials involved in peace-making. In Israel the press talks worriedly of another assassination. But in the US, where many of the most extreme groups have their support systems, the Jewish community is mute.

I'd venture to say the far right, distressed by the progress of negotiations with the Palestinians, has begun threatening violence again, because last time such behavior was cost free. No one pointed a finger at -- much less ostracized -- the organizations which supported the vicious delegitimization of the Rabin government. They, in effect, made it permissible to kill a prime minister at a peace rally. Have we, in the years since, made it impermissible to do it again?

The news reports from Israel talk of warnings from security agencies, the tightening of protection around targeted officials. The reports tell, too, of scarcely veiled warnings from rightist circles, intimidation clearly aimed at short-circuiting both the peace process and Israel's democratic process.

Unlike five years ago, the current Israeli reports are discussing the crescendo of anti-democratic rightist rage in the context of its potential for anti-government violence. But in this country, the Jewish community appears dangerously indifferent to the unabashedly violent rhetoric of some rightist Jewish groups. I say "appears" because, for a community so acutely attuned to hate speech, such indifference cannot be confused with ignorance.

Our coalition has encountered chilling expressions of violence in the course of tracking the statements and activities of Irving Moskowitz and the organizations he supports. One of Moskowitz's beneficiaries, the Zionist Organization of America, last week had a large ad in the Jewish Journal here in Los Angeles. The ad sought to inflame anti-peace sentiment with a shrill attack on an inconsequential figure of speech used by President Clinton's national security adviser.

Irving Moskowitz, noted for funding some of the most provocative settler groups and purchases of Palestinian property, recently posted on his "Our Jerusalem" Web site an explicit incitement to violently oppose the Barak government. Signed by Gary M. Cooperberg, the article mocks a recent settler demonstration as too tame, then concludes: "Our [Israeli] government apparently only enters into negotiations as a reaction to violence. There must be a lesson here somewhere as to how an honest patriotic Jewish organization can influence the democratic process in Israel " Clearly, the interest of this political coterie is not to participate and test its ideas in the democratic process.

An even more frightening show of contempt for democracy appeared last winter on another Web site, this one owned by Moskowitz's wife, Cherna Moskowitz. The site featured an assassination "game," which encouraged visitors to blow up, with the click of a mouse, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and other pro-peace Israeli officials. "Hunt down the Judenrat and stop them from handing Israel over to the PLO Nazis," said the opening screen. At the conclusion of the game, the screen reads, "Thanks for helping save the Jewish people from its enemies. Total Judenrat eliminated: [whatever number of heads the player has blown up]."

When the Israeli paper Yediot Aharonot exposed this Moskowitz site, the hosting company removed it. But our coalition downloaded a copy of the "game" and posted it on our Web site, www.stopmoskowitz.org.

Alarming material, don't you think? Cherna Moskowitz apparently felt so immune to criticism, she registered the site domain as "ehudbarak.net." And last February few news organizations picked up on our news release about the violent site.

The stunning obliviousness calls sadly to mind the unheeded warnings of Israel's former consul general in New York, Colette Avital. Beginning in early 1995 Avital repeatedly called Jewish leaders' attention to the increasing violence of the rightist foes of peace. Our coalition's research shows that her concerns didn't get serious public attention until after the assassination of Rabin.

Anti-democratic as it is, so far, the right-wing clamor seems aimed at discrediting Barak and destroying his government's peace project, not killing him. But unless mainstream Jewish organizations vigorously oppose -- and expose -- the inciters as outside the bounds of tolerable political discourse, their mob emotion will soon enough progress to demand assassination.

The author is coordinator of the Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem, a Jewish-Latino-labor organization working to stop Irving Moskowitz's activities in the Los Angeles County city of Hawaiian Gardens, where Moskowitz's bingo and businesses generate funds for his anti-peace activities in Israel.

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