- Israel Shahak's (1933 - 2001) "Jewish History, Jewish
Religion" argued that while Islamic fundamentalism is vilified in
the West, comparable Jewish extremism is largely ignored. In the book's
forward, Edward Said wrote:
- "....Shahak's mode of telling the truth has always
been rigorous and uncompromising. There is nothing seductive about it,
no attempt made to put it 'nicely,' no effort expended on making the truth
palatable....For Shahak killing is murder is killing is murder: his manner
is to repeat. (He) shows that the obscure, narrowly chauvinist prescriptions
against various undesirable Others are to be found in Judaism (as in other
monotheistic religions) but he always goes on to show the continuity between
those and the way Israel treats Palestinians, Christians and other non-Jews.
A devastating portrait of prejudice, hypocrisy and religious intolerance
- Shahak's "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel"
picked up on the theme in explaining its pervasive, destructive influence
in Israeli politics, the military and society. He noted that substituting
German or Aryan for Jewish and non-Jews for Jews makes it easy to see how
a superiority doctrine made an earlier genocide possible and is letting
another happen now.
- Shahak called all forms of bigotry morally reprehensible
- "Any form of racism, discrimination and xenophobia
becomes more potent and politically influential if it is taken for granted
by the society which indulges in it." For Israeli Jews, he believed,
"The support of democracy and human rights is....meaningless or even
harmful and deceitful when it does not begin with self-critique and with
support of human rights when they are violated by one's own group. Any
support of human rights for non-Jews whose rights are being violated by
the 'Jewish state' is as deceitful as the support of human rights by a
- As a leading Israeli human rights activist and Holocaust
survivor, Shakah reviewed Jewish fundamentalist history, examined its strains,
and explained the dangers of extremist messianic ones. They oppose equality
of Jews and non-Jews and destroy democratic values by espousing dogma calling
Jews superior to all others.
- The earlier influence of fundamentalist Rabbi Abraham
Kook (1865 - 1935), or Kuk, was significant. He preached Jewish supremacy
and said: "The difference between a Jewish soul and souls of non-Jews
- all of them in all different levels - is greater and deeper than the
difference between a human soul and the souls of cattle." His teachings
helped create the settler movement, and his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook,
founded the extremist Gush Emunim (GE) under the slogan: "The Land
of Israel, for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel."
- Like the elder Kook, GE sees state power as a way forward
to a new messianic era. It believes that God created the world for Jews.
Others are lesser beings. Greater Israel belongs to Jews alone, and holy
wars are acceptable to attain it.
- Kook was Israel's first chief rabbi. In his honor and
to continue his teachings, the extremist Merkaz Harav (the Rabbi's Center)
was founded in 1924 as a yeshiva or fundamentalist religious college. It
teaches that "non-Jews living under Jewish law in Eretz Yisrael (the
Land of Israel) must either be enslaved as water carriers and wood hewers,
or banished, or exterminated." It gets no more extremist than that
and highlights the dangers for Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied
Territories. Their lives and welfare are being sacrificed for a Greater
Israel for Jews alone.
- Gush Emunim adherents and other Israeli religious zealots
plan it. They're active in politics, hold seats in the Knesset, are Netanyahu
government coalition partners (including Shas, United Torah and Yisrael
Beiteinu), and are prominently represented in Israel's military throughout
the ranks and rabbinate. Chief military rabbi, Brigadier General Avichai
Rontzki, called Operation Cast Lead a "religious war" in which
it was "immoral" to show mercy to an enemy of "murderers."
- Many others feel the same way, prominently among them
graduates of Hesder Yeshivat schools that combine extremist religious indoctrination
with military service to defend the Jewish State.
- In 1981, Rabbi Harav Lichtenstein's article, "The
Ideology of Hesder: The View from Yeshivat Har Etzion," explained
- "Hesder....seeks to attract and develop bnei torah
(religious individuals) who are profoundly motivated by the desire to become
serious talmidei machamim (religiously knowledgeable) but who concurrently
feel morally and religiously bound to help defend their people and their
country; who....regard this dual commitment as both a privilege and a duty....it
thus enables them to maintain an integrated Jewish experience."
- Nearly all Hesder graduates perform combat service for
up to six years. Today 41 schools operate throughout Israel. In 1991, Hesder
was awarded the Israel Prize (the state's highest honor) for its exceptional
service to the nation.
- One commander expressed how many feel in explaining
the military's mission:
- "We are the Jewish people. We came to this land
by a miracle. God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight
to expel the Gentiles who are interfering with our conquest of this holy
- Extremist Israeli rabbis teach this ideology, and in
2003 Rabbi Saadya Grama's book, "Romemut Yisrael Ufarashat Hagalut
(The Majesty of Israel and the Question of the Diaspora), argued that non-Jews
are "completely evil" while Jews are genetically superior. Reform
and conservative rabbis condemned it. Extremist orthodox ones endorsed
it. Some more moderate ones also saying Grama advocates separating Jews
from an intrinsically hostile anti-Semetic world. Rabbi Yosef Blau called
the book "a call for a superior people to withdraw from the world
and live in isolation while submitting to its enemies and placing trust
- Others in Israel teach the extremist notion that the
ten commandments don't apply to non-Jews. So killing them in defending
the homeland is acceptable, and according to Rabbi Dov Lior, chairman of
the Jewish Rabbinic Council:
- "There is no such thing as enemy civilians in war
time. The law of our Torah is to have mercy on our soldiers and to save
them....A thousand non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew's fingernail."
- Rabbi David Batsri called Arabs "a blight, a devil,
a disaster....donkeys, and we have to ask ourselves why God didn't create
them to walk on all fours. Well, the answer is that they are needed to
build and clean." Extremist zealots want them for no other purpose
in Jewish society.
- In 2007, Israel's former chief rabbi, Mordechai Elyahu,
called for the Israeli army to mass-murder Palestinians. In fanatical language
- "If they don't stop after we kill 100, then we must
kill 1000. And if they don't stop after 1000, then we must kill 10,000.
If they still don't stop we must kill 100,000. Even a million. Whatever
it takes to make them stop."
- In March 2009, Safed's chief rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu called
for "state-sponsored revenge" to restore "Israel's deterrence....It's
time to call the child by its name: Revenge, revenge, revenge. We mustn't
forget. We have to take horrible revenge for the terrorist attack at Mercaz
Harav yeshiva," referring to an earlier incident in which eight students
- "I am not talking about individual people in particular.
I'm talking about the state. (It) has to pain them where they scream 'Enough,'
to the point where they fall flat on their face and scream 'help.' "
- In June 2009, US Hasidic Rabbi Manis Friedman voiced
a similar sentiment in calling on Israel to kill Palestinian "men,
women and children."
- "I don't believe in western morality, i.e. don't
kill civilians or children, don't destroy holy sites, don't fight during
the holiday seasons, don't bomb cemeteries, don't shoot until they shoot
first because it is immoral. The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish
way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle)."
- Views like these aren't exceptions. Though a minority,
they proliferate throughout Israeli society, and are common enough to incite
violence against Palestinians, even when they rightfully defend themselves
as international law allows.
- Religious Extremism Threatens Any Chance for an Equitable
Solution to the Israeli - Palestinian Conflict
- Israeli extremists are a minority but influential enough
to make policy, and therein lies the threat to peace and likelihood of
a sovereign Palestinian state. In his book, "A Little Too Close to
God," David Horovitz recalled that before Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's
assassination, he attended a Netanyahu-sponsored anti-Rabin rally he described
- "I felt as if I were among wild animals, vicious,
angry predators craving flesh and scenting blood. There was elation in
the anger, elation bred of the certainty of eventual success."
- In his book, "Terror in the Mind of God: The Global
Rise of Religious Violence," Professor Mark Juergensmeyer compared
the similarities among religious-motivated extremists, whether Jewish,
Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or others.
- He related a conversation with Yoel Lerner who was imprisoned
for trying to blow up the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim holy site, because
he believed that an ancient Jewish temple stood there before it was destroyed.
- He expressed messianic Zionism in saying the "Messiah
will come to earth only after the temple is rebuilt and made ready for
him," so Jews must assure it's done. These views are prominent in
high places and throughout Israeli society; that is, religious fervor for
a Greater Israel for Jews only, a Jewish state excluding all Arabs with
violence an acceptable tool to remove them, and conflict will continue
until they're gone.
- The Jewish Telegraphic Agency's (JTA) Report on Jewish
- On June 24, JTA wrote a special report on Jewish extremists
in which it described "the face of radical Jewish nationalism in Israel....a
movement of settler youths, rabbis, leaders and supporters determined to
hold onto the West Bank at any cost." They represent a minority, but
are a "vocal and increasingly violent constituency of the Jewish settler
movement" rampaging against Palestinians and Israelis, confident that
God is on their side, and one day a "Torah-based theocracy (will)
triumph over the State of Israel."
- Rabbi Yisrael Iriel is one of its adherents in preaching
Jewish superiority and unwillingness to cede any part of biblical Israel
to non-Jews. He's one of a "small group of (extremist) rabbis who
provide the theological and ideological underpinnings for radical settlers."
- The Israeli human rights group Yesh Din believes they
number about 1000 but exert considerable influence nonetheless. They're
an extremist fringe element, determined to use violence to achieve their
goals, and are supported by other West Bank settlers. One young adherent
expressed their agenda by saying "I think God chose a good and beautiful
land for us," and we'll fight to keep it. If so, it makes peaceful
resolution harder than ever to achieve, especially with political hard-liners
in charge and most Israelis supporting them.
- Hate Literature Distributed to Israeli Soldiers
- Until discontinued on July 20, a booklet published by
the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, in cooperation with
Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, titled, "On Either Side of the Border" was
given to IDF soldiers containing hateful fiction purported to be true.
It suggested that the Pope and Vatican cardinals sympathized with Hezbollah's
struggle and conspired with the organization to kill Jews. It claimed that
the Vatican organized Auschwitz tours to teach its members how to do it,
and that its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, was invited to join a delegation
to tour France, Poland, Italy and the Vatican.
- It also accused European politicians and journalists
of conspiring against Israel. Rabbi Eliahu's aide, David Menahemov, claimed
booklet material was true even though the account portrayed was preposterous.
Yet one Israeli soldier said everyone in the ranks reads and believes it.
Many soldiers told him, "Read this and you'll understand who the Arabs
are" and why the Israeli cause is just.
- During Operation Cast Lead, 10,000 mp3s were also distributed
to Israeli forces with recorded extremist sermons. Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi
Yona Metzger urged soldiers to "trust in God and know that war is
being waged for the sanctification of His name....and not to fear. (Soldiers)
should not think of (their) wi(ves) or children or (their) mother(s) and
- Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar called the Gaza conflict
"a holy mission that is being waged in the name of the entire Jewish
- Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu said "Our intention is to uplift
soldiers' spirits" in battle against Hamas terrorists. The IDF Rabbinate
division, Jewish Consciousness Field (JCF), also distributed a pamphlet
titled "Jewish Consciousness Emphases for Cast Lead" calling
military rabbis "Anointed Priests of War."
- A JCF officer, Shmuel Yurman, explained the pamphlet's
purpose as follows:
- "This is the hour to strengthen our fighters in
this heavenly commanded war that they have the merit to wage. Each (rabbi)
has the knowledge and skills needed to contribute to the IDF battle spirit.
Nevertheless, in order to enlighten and focus the spiritual message, JCF
learned and prepared itself for this war before the operation began and
as it was being fought. In meetings with soldiers and officers on the southern
front we listened to the spiritual needs."
- JCF's head, Rabbi Tzadok Ben-Artzi, justified the war
- "We, the people who contributed to the world the
book of books, who want to build a society based on creativity and peace,
love of mankind and faith in good, find ourselves chased by blind hatred
that is motivated by 'religious' terminology and aspires to bloodshed and
- He advised IDF rabbis to say that the war's aim is "to
save the Jewish people from its enemies" and eradicate evil in the
world. Other extremist rabbis voiced the same sentiment, and, under Brigadier
General Avichai Ronzki's command, the IDF's rabbinate theologized military
missions and fed messianic dogma to young minds. Many in the ranks are
already zealots enough to make spreading this gospel all the easier.
- Ronzki explains it by saying that "as military rabbis,
(we're) supposed to deal with helping soldiers to internalize Jewish values,
spirit and consciousness as presented in Jewish sources. This is our main
function as rabbis....(to) teach....what Judaism is."
- Different Sides of Israel's Religious Community
- Ronzki and other zealots represent one side of Israel's
religious community, comprised of two major groups - religious Zionists
and Charedim. Governed by their ideology, the former believe in the special
relationship between God and Jews and see Israeli governance from that
perspective. They comprise about two-thirds of the religious community
and 8% of the population.
- Representing the other third and about 4.5% of the population,
the Charedim see Israel as a secular state like most others in the country.
- Ethnicity also defines religious segments. Sephardic
Jews originated from the Middle East, North Africa and Spain. Ashkenazi
ones are from Eastern Europe and differ in religious and cultural traditions.
Both communities attend separate synagogues in different neighborhoods,
yet are represented in religious Zionist and Charedim camps. Israel has
two chief rabbis, one Ashkenazi, the other Sephardic.
- Though a minority, Israel's religious community wields
considerable influence politically, in the military and society overall.
Moreover, synagogues and yeshivas are popular places where people gather
to discuss issues of common interest and hear the views of their rabbinical
- The most extreme believe in Jewish sovereignty over all
biblical Israel, so foregoing any of it is unthinkable. Thirteenth century
Rabbi Moses Ben Nachman was their spiritual godfather. He wrote that Jews
"should settle in the land and inherit it, because He gave it to them,
and they should not reject God's inheritance." Our rabbis say it's
"a mitzvah (commandment) to settle in the land and it is forbidden
to leave it."
- Similar dogma today holds that reclaiming Israel for
Jews will foreshadow the coming of the messiah. Rabbi Avraham Kook preached
it. Today's most extreme zealots believe that conceding any biblical land
will delay or subvert messianic redemption, so it can't be tolerated. Palestinians
are called enemies for wanting land of their own. Yielding any violates
Jewish law they believe.
- In contrast, secular Charedim accept land concessions
for peace and want the government to make policy, not religious Zionists
based on biblical law. They believe Israel should serve the interests of
all Jews, not one segment over another, and feel no part of Israel is too
sacred to concede (except Jerusalem) if it best serves the Jewish people
- They believe that the Torah promotes peaceful co-existence
and, except for defense, conflict is counterproductive. Like religious
Zionists, they feel all biblical Israel belongs to the Jews, yet they're
willing to concede some in the interest of peace.
- Most religious Israelis fall somewhere between these
groups. They believe that biblical Israel was promised to Jews, yet accept
compromise to one degree or another to preserve life and serve the best
interests of all Jews.
- How the future balance of power shifts from one side
to the other will greatly influence the makeup of future Israeli governments
and determine whether peaceful co-existance can replace over six decades
of conflict and repression. So far it hasn't, and nothing suggests it will
any time soon, not while extremist Zionists run the government, serve prominently
in the IDF, and, according to critics, are gaining more power incrementally.
- Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre
for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday
- Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished
guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy