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Neo-Nazi Gang a Malignant Growth in Israel

The founders of the State of Israel never expected to see a need for a law banning neo-Nazism, but 8 Hitler-loving teens are being indicted Monday.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 9/10/2007, 1:36 PM / Last Update: 9/10/2007, 4:26 PM

Authorities are hoping to throw the proverbial book at eight members of a neo-Nazi gang Monday, indicting them on charges of causing grievous bodily harm and Holocaust denial, as well as other crimes.

But they won’t be charged for the one crime which eclipses all others in its implications: neo-Nazi activity.

Reason: Neo-Nazism is not against the law in the State of Israel.

Legislators in the Jewish State never created a law specifically outlawing anti-Semitic hate crimes. Clearly, no one ever thought there could come a day when such a law would be needed.

Israel Police Inspector-General David Cohen said Monday there are dozens of neo-Nazis in Israel. He added that a number of neo-Nazi web sites have been operating in Israel for years and although it is not yet a widespread problem, the phenomenon is growing.  Police are working on tracking them down, Cohen emphasized.

Nonetheless ministers were stunned, during their weekly Sunday morning cabinet meeting, when they viewed footage of the teenagers’ activities. 

Police superintendent Yigal Ben Shalom, who headed the year-long investigation into the gang, said the videos were indeed shocking. “The materials we found were difficult to watch,” he said.

The videos were found on computers seized from the two primary suspects in the case, 21-year-old Ilya Bondenko of Petach Tikva and Arik Bunyatov, who is suspected of being the leader of the teenage wannabe Nazis.

One of the videos showed the gang members punching a foreign worker in the face and busting a bottle on his head as he spoke on a public telephone.

Another showed members of the group surrounding a Russian heroin addict and, after the man admits he is Jewish, beating him mercilessly, along with another man who tries to assist him.

The teens and other people in the clips were wearing skinhead, neo-Nazi clothes, with several actual uniforms found during searches of the suspects’ homes. The footage was accompanied by a blaring music bed and shots of swastikas and other Nazi symbols flashing between segments. 

The detectives also found photos of the group giving the "Heil Hitler" salute in front of a synagogue in Tel Aviv as well as an M-16 assault rifle, a cache of explosives, Nazi uniforms, posters of Hitler, and knives.

Other materials on the computers led detectives to conclude that suspects planned to celebrate the birthday of Nazi mastermind Adolph Hitler at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum.

Parents of several of the gang members denied their sons had any connection with neo-Nazism and blamed Israeli society for the teenagers’ behavior.

The father of Vladimir Tronorotsky, for example, said his son wore a swastika tattoo as a way to get out of the army. “After being screwed over all the time, he had finally had it. He came home and showed me his arms and said ‘Now they’re sure to take me out of the army, the Jews can’t stand that.’”

The elder Tronorotsky, Alex, said he was horrified, telling his son that his grandfather Yaakov had fought the Nazis while serving in the Red Army.  Vladimir’s mother Yvetta is Christian.

Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said  all the suspects were immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and seven out of eight of them were not Jewish according to Jewish law. He said the group had carried out at least 15 attacks, many against religious Jews.

In the 1990's, the Jewish Agency brought into Israel some one million immigrants from the former Soviet Union, of which an estimated 250,000 to 330,000 are not Jewish. The endeavor was funded largely by funds donated by Jews and funneled through the United Israel Appeal.

Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Weisenthal Center said that the neo-Nazi cell was the result of lax laws granting Israeli citizenship to people "with little connection to Jewish history, the Jewish people, the Jewish religion and Jewish culture."

Although the arrests were made a month ago, a gag order prevented coverage of the matter. Police had been investigating over 20 people involved with the group ever since the vandalizing of a large synagogue in Petach Tikvah over a year ago. The neo-Nazis had painted swastikas and other Nazi symbols on the walls,and the insides of prayer books.