For the third time in just over three years, left-wing activists are campaigning against Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who they accuse of racism.
This time, leftists are seeking to block the nomination of Rabbi Eliyahu as one of the new Chief Rabbis of the city of Jerusalem.
Rabbi Eliyahu caused controversy when he joined dozens of other rabbis in declaring that Jews living in Tzfat, where he serves as Chief Rabbi, should not rent or sell their homes to Arabs. The declaration followed complaints that Arabs were moving into Arab neighborhoods of the city and deliberately causing disturbances with the intent of driving their Jewish neighbors out.
Now, his potential candidacy in the race for the post of the Chief Rabbi of Israel has sparked a fresh round of complaints. Members of Knesset from the political left were among those who pushed for Rabbi Eliyahu to be banned from the race.
The far-left Meretz party has already begun campaigning to bar Rabbi Eliyahu from the Jerusalem Chief Rabbi race. Now it has been joined by “Tag Meir,” a coalition of left-wing groups with the stated goal of “opposing Price Tag activity and Jewish racism.”
Tag Meir, which is funded in part by the controversial New Israel Fund (NIF), is urging its supporters to contact Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and express opposition to Rabbi Eliyahu as the city’s Chief Rabbi.
“Rabbi Eliyahu has incited against entire segments of the population in recent years,” the coalition accused in a letter. “He encourages open racism against Arabs and non-Jews, ruled that Jews should not rent apartments to Arabs, called to refuse orders, and incited rebellion against state authorities.”
“Rabbi Eliyahu’s racist approach to minorities in the state of Israel not only calls the status of Jews in the Diaspora into question, but also violates the Jewish values dear to Diaspora Jewry,” the group argued.
Rabbi Eliyahu for his part has consistently denied that he is racist, and has said that his position has always been that the state should act against Arabs who support terrorism, not against the entire Arab population. His supporters say the attacks against him by left-wing groups are motivated by an anti-Jewish agenda, due to the rabbi's staunch support for Jewish rights and defense of Jewish tradition.
The NIF's involvement in the campaign against him will be seen as proof of those claims by some, given the group's controversial positions on the Jewish character of the State of Israel.
A 2010 cable released three years ago by the Wikileaks website revealed how the NIF's Associate Director in Israel predicted that Israel would one day have an Arab majority and cease to be a Jewish state - and said that wouldn't be a tragedy.