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Jewish Holy War

Modern Israel experienced the Independence War of 1948, and then the Sinai War of 1956, to be followed by the Six-Day War of 1967. This last war brought about not peace, but two more wars: the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. These wars of “existence” were duly followed by a succession of other wars, somewhat smaller in scale–and please, faithful readers, forgive me if I forget a war or two, as I’m not a historian–such as the first and second Lebanon Wars; the first and second Intifada Wars, and a few wars/operations in the Gaza Strip, the last one being Operation Iron Cast. As a matter of fact, we are due for another good war pretty soon. It might be another large-scale operation in Gaza, or better still, the mother of all wars: the “Iran War.” Or, it might just be the “Jewish Holy War.”

This is not my idea, matter-of-factly, as it came from the mouth a young settler, Liat Weisel, who belongs to the “Hilltop Youth” faction, the tip of the spear of the Israeli Settlers Movement. Those who build unauthorized, illegal outposts on every hill not yet occupied by them in the West Bank, regardless of who owns it. One does think, and it certainly looks that way on maps and from bird-eye views, that the whole place is already occupied and built. But then Liat and her zealot friends consider the Palestinian People as occupiers, as she described it to an NPR reporter in an interview she gave January 9. This same group, the descendent of Gush Emunim, is now engaged in war of its own making. Not only do they refuse to evacuate their illegal outpost, as mandate by the Israeli High Court, but they are also sending email death-threat messages to any member of the Knesset, or the government itself, who considers voting to authorize the army to dismantle their outpost. She does not object to attack on Israeli military bases either, as indeed they did, or attacks against Palestinians, which have reacently—under the banner of “Price Tags”—included burning mosques and destroying property. All these acts, in her view, are parts for the cause: a Jewish Holy War.

The Jewish Holy War, therefore, is directed not only against the Arab population in the West bank, but also against Israel as a democratic, largely secular state. Which brings into mind another, and larger question: i.e., the survival of democracy and pluralism in Israel as we know it. The old Jewish State is facing an assault from religious extremists coming from all direction. This is a war, my friends, whether you want to admit it or not. A case in point: in another interview, Benny Katzover, a settler leader, actually called for the end of democracy in Israel. As reported in Haaretz, January 8, he told Beit Mashiach, the journal of the messianic faction of the Chabad Movement, that “the main role of Israeli democracy now is to disappear. Israeli democracy has finished its role, and it must disassemble and give way to Judaism”. But wait, before you – since, indeed, most of you either supported or did not object to the settlers movement as it mushroomed beyond all proportions – dismiss it as a fringe faction that carry no weight or consequences, let me remind you that there are now over 500,000 settlers sitting pretty in the West Bank. There is no force that exists in today’s Israel that could peacefully, legally, and maybe even forcefully, evacuate these people from their “homes”. It is with sadness, then, desperation and resignation, that I–a longtime supporter of the two-state solution–admit that it all but a dead corpse now. Only a miracle can resurrect it, and I don’t see it coming.

The sad reality in Israel today is that in the battle between war and peace, the war has won. And though I knew war, I belonged most of my adult life to the peace camp, both in Israel and here in America. It is therefore very tough on me to admit it, yet we have lost the battle. Gush Emunim, the Messianic Settlers Movement, has won the day. As an idealist, I want to believe that there’s still a slim chance to reverse course, and avoid the fateful, disastrous path the zealots are leading us to. But as a realist, which unfortunately I’m becoming with the passing of years, I know that this is not the case. Just listen to what another leader of that movement had lately said: The proof to who’s leading Israel now, is in the fact that this year more people attended the memorial to Mair Kahana, the murdered leader who envisioned that settlers movement, than those who attended the memorial to the assassinated–by one of these zealots–former Israel’s prime minister, and seeker of peace, Yitzhak Rabin. If it’s true, then nothing signify more the triumph of the war camp over the peace camp; the death of the old, democratic, civic, mostly peace loving Israel, and the birth of an autocratic, religiously, fanatically ruled state; which–sooner or later, with its own brand of Jihad, the Jewish Holy War–will lead to its destruction.

One Response

  1. Isn’t it true that of the 500,000 ‘settlers’ you refer to, the vast majority are in fact non-political folks who have taken advantage of Israeli govt. incentives to live across (and mostly just barely across) the Green Line?

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