Jewish Extremist Violence

Essay by made4sleepCollege, UndergraduateC+, February 2008

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Judaism has existed for millennia, and has been riddled with violence and war at many points throughout its history. From the purging of the holy land to make way for the Israelites to recent attacks on Arabs in Israel. There are many modern day sentiments among right wing Jews to take back the Holy Land promised to them by God in the Bible. Many people who hold these thoughts justify violence as a means to take back the land of Israel. In this essay, I will explain why and how these right-wing Jews justify their use of violence against the so-called invaders of the true Israel.

To understand why some Jews feel it is their duty to take back Israel, and if need be by way of violence, we must first examine the groups that hold these beliefs. The impetus of modern Jewish extremist views stem from Rabbi Kahane. Rabbi Kahane was an influential Jewish Rabbi who preached violent Jewish self-defense. Kahane also advocated the removal of all Arabs from Israel and reclamation of Israel for the goal of an entirely Jewish state. It is Kahane’s preaching of violence and war against Arabs has gained a large support among Israelis. It is the supporters of Kahane’s doctrine, called Kahanists, that are the main purveyors of violence against Arabs as well as Israelis in Israel.

In Terror in the Name of God, Jessica Stern Interviews three right-wing Jewish extremists in her attempt to explain why religious militants kill. Her first interview is with Yoel Lerner, a man with the goal of assembling a Jewish political party to work towards the goal of an Israeli nation founded on the laws of the Torah. Although no longer a violent man, Lerner gives the reader much insight into the mind state of right wing extremist Jews. He states that, “The highest value for a Jew is not the preservation of human or even of Jewish life. The highest value is doing what God wants you to do.” (Stern 88) This may be an accurate statement of Jewish beliefs, but the trouble with it is that it is not cut and dry as to what “God wants you to do”.

I believe this is where trouble arises, as it seems Stern does too. Lerner proclaims that there needs to be a reestablishment of the High Court, “a body of seventy-one judges who were entrusted with final rulings in connection with interpretation of Jewish law in everyday life.” It is this court that Lerner says would guide Jews to do what “God wants them to do.” He goes on to say that there are some situations where a Jew would not have to consult the court. If you see someone about to commit rape or murder, it is your duty to stop them. Likewise, if someone steals from you it is your right to take back your property by force. By following these laws, Lerner says the murder of Yitzhak Rabin was justified because he was stealing and threatening the Jewish people (Stern 90). After his arrest, Rabin’s murderer believed that he was only following Jewish religious law.

Jews see this religious law as commanded by God, and when they interpret the law to mean carrying out acts of violence, they feel commanded by God to act on their interpretations of the law. This is a major justification behind the terrorism and religious violence. Terrorists believe that God commands them to perform acts of violence and that they are carrying out his divine commands, and they seem to need no justification beyond this. There are other justifications behind the use of religious violence however.

Stern also discusses the Jewish notion of revenge. Restating the words of two Rabbis, “Jews are encouraged to take revenge against those who harm them to recover their inner power after centuries of humiliation.” In addition, “seeking revenge not only helps the Jewish people, but also ‘provides the individual Jew with the satisfaction and consolation for the troubles the people of Israel suffered so long.’”(Stern 91) I believe that if this is indeed how some Jews view revenge, then this notion would surely encourage and justify violence, as violence has been done unto them. As the Hilltop Settlement member Yarden Morag puts it, “Two eyes for an eye, teeth for a tooth.”(Israel) From my reading of the Bible, I see this as a flawed view of revenge. This to me seems like a flawed view of revenge from my reading of the Bible. It seems that the extremists are focusing on the revengeful aspects of God, while completely ignoring his merciful and compassionate qualities. This is flawed in that the Kahanists are selectively reading scripture instead of taking a wider approach to religious texts.

Along with “doing what God wants you to do” and a flawed sense of revenge, another justification for violence among Jews is their covenant with God. In the Bible, God made a covenant with the Hebrews, promising them the land of Israel. This covenant is of great significance to fundamentalist Jews. They believe that only when the land of Israel is home solely to the Jews, that only then will peace and redemption be possible for the Jewish people. A Hilltop Kahanist, Itay Zar states, “Until all the land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel according to what has been promised in the Bible, there will be no peace.”(Stern 104)When the Kahanists speak of the land of Israel belonging to the land of Israel, they seek not only expulsion of the Arabs, but the democratic leaders of the State of Israel as well. The Kahanists see both parties as outsiders, people who have no right to be in the land promised to them by God. They seek to do away with the State government and replace it with a kingdom of Israel in accordance with their interpretations of Jewish law laid down in the Torah and other religious texts. They see violence as a necessary step in the process of bringing about this kingdom of God.

Jewish terrorists like the Hilltop People and Kahanists who use violence to help achieve their goals, justify them in different ways. Some justify violence by saying that they are merely following God’s commands. Others use the notion of revenge and selective readings of scripture to justify violence. Some Jews believe violence toward outsiders is justified due to their covenant with God. I do not imagine Jewish extremists, or any other religious terrorists for that matter, relinquishing their use of violence anytime soon, as they will always have ways, no matter how convoluted, of justifying their violence.

ReferencesIsrael's Next War? 2005. Pbs.Org. 17 Sept. 2007 .

Stern, Jessica. Terror in the Name of God. New York: Harper Collins, 20