Israeli officials have halted the distribution of a booklet published by an American Orthodox Jewish Group and given to Israeli Defense Forces soldiers. The move follows reports of the booklet’s claims that the Pope identified with Hezbollah and that the Vatican took Hezbollah officials on a tour of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
The booklet claims the Pope and some cardinals from the Vatican helped organize the tours to teach the Lebanon-based Islamic group how to wipe out Jews, Haaretz reports.
Titled “On Either Side of the Border,” the booklet purports to be the testimony of a Hezbollah officer who spied for Israel. It was published by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America in cooperation with Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, Chief Rabbi of Safed.
The booklet’s narrator is a man named Avi, who says he changed his name from Ibrahim after he left Hezbollah and converted to Judaism. Avi claims to have been close to Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and he alleges Hezbollah had close relationships with the Vatican and European leaders.
Claiming to describe a Vatican-led visit of Hezbollah officials to Auschwitz, Avi writes:
“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.”
Some senior Israeli officers, such as Lt. Col. Tamir Shalom, commander of the Nahshon Battalion of the Kfir Brigade, have encouraged the booklet’s distribution over the past few months. A copy of the booklet obtained by Haaretz included a Passover greeting from Shalom, “in the name of the Nahshon Brigade.”
One soldier told Haaretz that the book is distributed “regularly” and “everyone reads it and believes it.”
"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.'"
David Menahemov, an aide to Rabbi Eliahu, claims the book is not fiction.
“Avi is a real person and everything in the book is absolutely true,” he said. “It's a totally true story, I know the guy personally. He's an Arab, who even though he converted still acts like an Arab. We helped him to write and to translate it.”
Menahemov said “a few details” were changed to protect Avi and his family.
According to Haaretz, the IDF Spokesman’s Office said in a statement that the booklet was received as a donation and distributed to the soldiers “in good faith.”
“After we were alerted to the sensitivity of its content, distribution was immediately halted."