IDF troops handed Hezbollah-Vatican conspiracy theory
By Ofri Ilani • Ha'aretz
The Pope and the cardinals of the Vatican help organize tours of Auschwitz for Hezbollah members to teach them how to wipe out Jews, according to a booklet being distributed to Israel Defense Forces soldiers.
Officials encouraging the booklet's distribution include senior officers, such as Lt. Col. Tamir Shalom, the commander of the Nahshon Battalion of the Kfir Brigade.
The booklet was published by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, in cooperation with the chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, and has been distributed for the past few months.
The booklet, titled "On Either Side of the Border," purports to be the testimony of "a Hezbollah officer who spied for Israel."
"The book is distributed regularly and everyone reads it and believes it," said one soldier. "It's filled with made-up details but is presented as a true story. A whole company of soldiers, adults, told me: 'Read this and you'll understand who the Arabs are.'"
The copy obtained by Haaretz included a Pesach greeting from Shalom, "in the name of the Nahshon Brigade."
The story is narrated by a man named Avi, who says he changed his name from Ibrahim after he left Hezbollah and converted to Judaism. Avi says he was once close to Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, and describes Hezbollah's purported close relationships with the Vatican and European leaders.
The IDF Spokesman's Office said in a statement: "The book was received as a donation and distributed in good faith to the soldiers. After we were alerted to the sensitivity of its content, distribution was immediately halted."
According to the book, Nasrallah was invited to join a delegation to tour France, Poland and Italy, including the Vatican. Nasrallah could not refuse an invitation from the Vatican, Avi explained: "We knew [the Pope] identified with Hezbollah's struggle."
The book describes the alleged visit of Hezbollah officials to Auschwitz, led by the Vatican: "We came to the camps. We saw the trains, the platforms, the piles of eyeglasses and clothes ... We came to learn ... Our escort spoke as he was taught. We quickly explained to him: Every real Arab, deep inside, is kind of a fan of the Nazis."
The booklet also describes how European politicians and journalists ostensibly work against Israel.
"Our escort introduced us to important figures who identify with our causes. Rich people, people with authority ... They allocate big budgets to all sorts of Israeli organizations that erode the standing of the IDF ... We have a special budget for encouraging politicians and journalists who serve our purposes. Every opinion piece that conforms to our position is rewarded generously."
Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, the son of former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, is known for his extremist views, and was once charged with incitement to racism after calling for the expulsion of all Arab students from Safed College after a terror attack in the area.
The younger Eliahu was also behind an online video in which he described the "miracle of our matriarch Rachel," whom he claims appeared before Israeli soldiers in Gaza to warn them of booby-trapped buildings during Operation Cast Lead.
"In some of the places we went in Gaza there was a woman who warned them ... 'Did they tell you who I am,' she said, 'I am the matriarch Rachel," Eliahu says in the video. He claims his father confirmed the veracity of the story, and told him that he had prayed to Rachel: "I told her: Rachel, there's a war... Go to God, Blessed Be He, pray over the soldiers who sacrifice themselves for the People of Israel, so that they will strike and not be struck."
David Menahemov, an aide to Eliahu, claims the book is not fiction. "Avi is a real person and everything in the book is absolutely true," insists Menahemov. "It's a totally true story, I know the guy personaly. He's an Arab, who even though he converted still acts like an Arab. We helped him to write and to translate it. We changed a few details to protect him and his family."
UPDATE 7-19-09 6:45 am CDT – A couple months ago, VIN published a translation of an article from the Israeli haredi publication Sha'ah Tova that itself appears to be the entire booklet mentioned in the Ha'aretz piece.
To say the story is implausible is an understatement. It reads like bad fiction. How anyone from the OU could be involved with this is beyond me.
Here it is in its entirety as a PDF file.
UPDATE 7-20-09 1:50 PM CDT – Here is the OU's statement regarding the booklet:
OU Regrets Unauthorized Link with Publication
July 20, 2009
A report in the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, dated July 19, 2009, discusses the distribution to members of the Israel Defense Forces of a booklet which asserts that the Pope and the Vatican identify closely with the ideals and purpose of the terrorist group Hezbollah. The report states that one of the booklet’s publishers was the Israel branch of the Orthodox Union (Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America). Upon investigation, it has been ascertained that this endorsement was made by staff at the OU’s Israel branch office, and was never submitted to, nor approved by, senior Orthodox Union management.
While the Haaretz report certainly sensationalized the book’s contents, there is no doubt that some of what it contains is antithetical to the well-known views of the OU regarding respect for other faiths and their leaders. The OU rescinds the endorsement of the book and disavows any connection to the views expressed in it. The OU’s senior leadership has directed that an internal review of this incident take place, and that the organization tighten its procedures to ensure that such a situation is not repeated. The Orthodox Union expresses its sincere regret to those of other faiths who may have been embarrassed or offended by the publication of this work.
David Olivestone, the OU's spokesman, declined to answer questions or further elaborate on the issue.