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Charges brought against neo-Nazis in Israel

Eight youths suspected of being part of a neo-Nazi group in Israel have been formally charged. The group, all immigrants from the former soviet republics, has allegedly been involved in attacks on foreign workers and orthodox Jews.

There is no legislation in Israel dealing specifically with membership of neo-Nazi movements or expressing sentiment in support of neo-Nazism. So the youths are now facing the charges of committing violent acts based on racism, vandalism and distributing racist material.

As evidence the police are using a video that the youths made of themselves beating up foreign workers from Asia and Africa and also harassing orthodox Jews.

Police escorting the youths
Police escorting the youths

The youths are also suspected of desecrating a synagogue in the town of Petah Tikva, north-east of Tel Aviv, in March last year, when the walls of the building were spray-painted with swastikas and Nazi slogans.

Although the case has been receiving extensive media coverage, journalists, in particular television cameras, have been prevented from entering the court room. Instead, the media are being updated by lawyers leaving the court room. Some 30 to 40 people, most of them relatives, are attending the trial.

It is unlikely that the verdict will come any time soon. Most probably the case will continue for another year.

The eight suspects are aged from their late teens to early 20s and are immigrants from former Soviet republics allowed entry to Israel under the Law of Return, which grants citizenship to people with Jewish ancestry.

It seems that the youngsters were not acting in isolation. Police have announced that they believe there are dozens of such individuals across the country. On Monday night a synagogue in a southern Israeli town was desecrated, the walls being painted with the words “Heil Hitler”.

The Israeli police are saying they are looking at neo-Nazi cells operating in several Israeli cities. The police are also using neo-Nazi websites that have existed for several years to find potential suspects.

The case has drawn much public attention in the Jewish State, since it was widely thought that neo-Nazism is non-existent in the country.

The government and police are taking the issue very seriously. There have also been calls from some Israeli Parliamentarians for the citizenship of the youths to be revoked. 

There are some 1 million Russian Jews living in Israel. Russian community leaders are saying that the community should not to be held collectively responsible for the case. They are concerned that this could intensify the tensions that exist between the Russian immigrant community and other Israelis.

In a separate development, the Minister of Education has ordered classrooms throughout the country to dedicate a special lesson to dealing with this phenomenon and to teaching students about neo-Nazism. Israeli television channels are also going to broadcast various programmes about neo-Nazism and ways of dealing with it throughout the week.