God wills it!

Uri Avnery
11.9.04

“God Wills It!”

Two shocking manifestos were published this week. Both call for comment.
One of them declares that dismantling the settlements in the Gaza Strip is a “crime against humanity”. It does not mention that they were set up on the land reserves of a million Palestinians crowded in the tiny strip, and rob them of their scarce water. Their removal, it says, is an “expression of tyranny, evil and arbitrariness”. Officers and soldiers are called upon not to take part in this “ethnic cleansing”.

This manifesto is signed by the father and brother of Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as Meir Har-Zion, the favorite pupil of Ariel Sharon, who became famous in the 1950s for slitting the throats of several innocent Beduins with his own hands in revenge for the killing of his sister. Two former Directors General of the Prime Minister’s office also signed. Most of the signatories are not religious.
The second manifesto declares that the Halakha (Jewish religious law) commands the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians if this helps to save Jews. It is signed by the heads of the “Arrangement Yeshivot”, the West Bank settlement rabbis and other religious leaders. They were later joined by one of the two Chief Rabbis (the Sephardic one).
I was not unduly upset by the first manifesto. People of this kind can be found all over the world. In other countries they are called fascists (but, because of the Holocaust, we do not like to use this term in our country). What unites them is a primitive, atavistic morality that says that “we” are a superior race, God’s chosen people, a master race etc., while “they” are inferior races, untermenschen. We may do to them whatever we please, with a clear conscience; they are not allowed to do to us anything at all. (In the manifesto, the settlers are requested not to bodily harm “their own people” – leaving them free to harm all others.)
In the course of the 20th century, such people have wrought destruction on many nations, including their own. But healthy nations overcame them in the end. I hope that we shall manage to do the same.
The second manifesto is far more dangerous. A religious doctrine that calls for the killing of civilians in the name of God is very serious. Such a decree signed by the rabbis of the “Arrangement Yeshivot” is tenfold worse.
In order to understand this, one has to know that these Yeshivot are in fact military units. They constitute a unique phenomenon in the Israeli army: whole units formed on an ideological-political basis, obeying their own leaders.
When David Ben-Gurion created the Israeli army (officially called the Israel Defense Forces) in the middle of the 1948 war, he was determined to eliminate all its political groupings. So he disbanded the Palmakh, the legendary elite force which was based on the kibbutzim and tended to the left.
The present set-up was created, officially, in order to enable students of Yeshivot (Jewish religious seminaries) to serve in the army without interrupting their studies. In practice, they constitute a militia of the extreme-right wing, especially the settlers. While serving in the army, the Yeshiva students are nominally under the army chain of command, but in practice they are also subject to their rabbis, whose position is reminiscent of the political commissars of the Red Army.
If the orders of the officers and the directives of the rabbis ever conflict, the great majority of the soldier-students will undoubtedly obey the rabbis. And in any case, a great number of the officers themselves now wear kippas, attesting to their belonging to the religious camp.
The chiefs of the religious-nationalistic wing, and especially the settlers, have for years now been engaged in a systematic effort to capture the army from the inside. In the first decades of the IDF, kibbutz members had a decisive influence on the army command, but nowadays the settlers and other religious-nationalist people are taking over. They fill the lower and middle ranks of the officer corps. This development, together with the deepening occupation, has completely changed the face of the IDF. It’s a different army now.
The manifesto of the Yeshivot chiefs, calling for the killing of Palestinian civilians, exposes this situation. Since not one single head of an Arrangement Yeshiva has spoken out against it, we have to assume that they are unanimous on this.
On the face of it, it is just an expert opinion. With the hypocrisy typical for the chiefs of this camp, they say that this is not, God forbid, an operational directive, but only an innocent effort of the rabbis to explain to the leaders of the nation what the Halakha says about this subject.
That is, of course, a tongue-in-cheek explanation. The Arrangement Yeshivot soldiers are daily engaged in situations where they have to decide whether to shoot civilians or not. It is quite clear that the “opinion” of their rabbis will determine their behavior. It is a sentence of death for many people.
Even today, Palestinian civilians are killed every day. Only a small fraction of the incidents are reported in the media. An old handicapped man was recently buried under the ruins of his home by an army bulldozer that demolished it so quickly that his family had no chance of getting him to safety. Only yesterday a 9 year old boy was killed while sleeping at his home by shrapnel from a missile fired by a helicopter at an adjacent building. Almost every day, boys of all ages are killed while throwing stones at tanks and soldiers (whose bullet-proof vests and helmets mean they are in no danger).
It is impossible to know how many, if any, of these civilians – men, women, old people and children – are killed by Arrangement Yeshivot soldiers, or soldiers commanded by kippa-wearing officers. Nobody can be accused without incriminating evidence. But it is clear that the interpretation of the halakha by the rabbis has now put a kosher-stamp on such acts. It puts an end to any pretence of the “pure arms” myth. It negates not only the prohibition of murder, but also the shame for such acts.
The only religious voice raised against this appalling document was that of a small and courageous group called “Rabbis for Human Rights”, which opposes the dirty messianic current that has submerged almost the whole religious camp in Israel. Their statement discloses that the Yeshiva heads have intentionally falsified the Talmud passages “quoted” by them. The actual text forbids a Jew to kill innocents even to save his own life. After all, God created all human beings “in his own image” (Genesis 1, 27)
Unfortunately, this statement will have no impact whatsoever on the IDF’s religious militias, and even less on the settlers, who now set the tone in the army.
Many of the most heinous crimes in human history were committed in the name of religion. The Book of Joshua says that God commanded the Children of Israel to commit a general ethnic cleansing in the land of Canaan. The crusaders carried out horrible massacres in this country (and against the Jews on the way here) while shouting “Deus le volt!” (God wills it). Three years ago today, Osama Bin-Laden sent his people to kill thousands in the New York Twin Towers in the name of Allah.
May God protect us from those who would speak in His name.

13 gedachten over “God wills it!

  1. Using GOD to enforce your will upon others is blasphemous. But what I read above is another example of a single track mind that is only busy bashing Israeli governments en henchmen and completely forgets about the terrible en hiddeous attacks on innocent children en people in market places or busses. Both sides are wrong. Both sides have lost all perspective to peace and when they continue like this, there WILL be war. Guilty party: BOTH SIDES. Not just the Israeli’s or just the Palestines. If you continue to favour Palestinians over Israeli’s, the only thing I can do, besides this comment, is to stop all further comment as there is no way one can talk in a normal fashion about the conflict.

  2. Lieve Lydia, sorry guys when I talk to her in Dutch, it’s easier. Jij bent er absoluut van overtuigd dat er maar één manier is om naar het konflikt te kijken, en dat is dat beide partijen even schuldig zijn. En je wordt er kwaad van als iemand suggereert dat er ook nog een andere visie mogelijk is. Doe de moeite en ga nog even kijken bij een stuk dat ik al eerder schreef, over de paradigmastrijd. Kijk onder het kopje Palestina/Israël. Als je dan nog steeds vind dat er maar één juiste visie is, namelijk de jouwe, tja, dan heeft een gesprek inderdaad weinig zin meer. Maar probeer het even. Uri Avnery,joodse Israëli, die als jonge man nog bij de zionistische ondergrondse zat en in het Israëlische leger heeft gediend, en een van de allereerste Israëli’s was die met de Palestijnen ging praten toen het nog verboden was is echt niet de eerste de beste. Die doe je niet zomaar af als een ‘single track mind’. Of je begrijpt niet wat hij zegt. Of je kunt of wilt de confrontatie niet aan. Dit is zeker geen doorsnee anti-Israël verhaal. Hij weet echt wat hij zegt. Kijk er nog even naar, wil je.

  3. Lydia

    It is not the way of commenting on the article. You should stand to your way of thinking and try to convince us. It is difficult for me to be convinced that we are wrong and the Israelis are right. We have mistakes and they do, but who has the democratic country and the official army that follows the international moral codes. Lets see it from a soldier’s point of view, how could he shell a house with a big bomb while he knows that there are little children inside it? Did not they teach him the moral codes of the Israeli army, or it says it is oky to kill little Palestinian children because they will become terrorists in the future.

  4. Dear Ramadan,

    I have never said that Israeli’s are right. They aren’t. Neither one of them is right here. That is my firm opinion. Shelling a house full of children is horrible. Blowing yourself up in a bus full of schoolschildren is just as horrible. I have no reason to go into the deep end of the politics. I see violence. Violence is wrong. Of course, I have learned someting about how the State of Israel came to be. I have seen the film Exodus and wondered where the people had to go to who lived there. Both nations have a right to the same piece of land. There were nomads when the Israeli’s moved in some 3000 years ago. Everywhere else in the world this happened. With violence, sometimes not with violence. In effect in the old days the two peoples more or less lived together until the Jews were scattered over the globe and had to live everywhere but in the land they call their holy land. After World War II with the Holocaust (and Shoah) the European Jews were “given” the land by the western nations without looking at the rights of the people who lived there at that time. These people were chased off and put into camps. It was an awful thing to do. The Britains tried to stop the Jews from entering the land. They failed. Since Sharon again triggered the animosity between the peoples by going to the Temple Mount, things have escalated. Whatever the reason, Anja, and Ramadan, all this violence will lead to nothing good. It will get worse and worse. Like I said to Ramadan before: I am a Christian women in a western world with western ideas and ways thinking. From that perspective I react to the situation there. There is, in my opinion no way the problem can be solved with violence. Children on both sides grow up with violence. I call this abuse. Kids should be playing together and be happy, not throw stones or having to be the family provider or carer. Shelling a house full of innoccent people is horrible. Boarding a bus of walking accross a market place full with innocent people with the intention to blow yourself up in the middle of them is just as horrible. And it leads nowhere else but to more violence. I have said it before and do it again: both peoples are wrong. Rabin was close to respect and understanding. He was murdered/ Arafat is not Rabin. Not even close. But I am sure there are Palestinians with the will and the abilities to help end this. It’s just a matter of convincing the peoples and get together again. It is good to listen to Palestians who explain their points of view. It is also good to listen to Israeli’s who want to explain their points of view. One more thing, as soon as people turn to fundamentalism, Christian, Jew, Muslim or otherwise, things will go wrong. I do wish for all the people there that they will find peace and respect and understanding. And I wish the children to be happy and playfull with a care in the world. All the children.

  5. You know what Lydia, you give me the impression that you believe that I am a violent person or I like violence and stand for it. In the contrary, I am a very peaceful non violent person and the people who know me know that. It is only what is going on in the surrounding. Arafat is not Rabin or even not close to be, you know what, Mr. Rabin had things to give for the Palestinians, but what alternatives does Arafat has to be given to the Israelis. They already have everything and left us nothing. It is only our life we own and they started taking it away, shall we start negotiating them over our lives. I understand your point of view and you are totally right, neither of us is doing the right thing and it is not going to end as neither of us wish. It is like the matrix difficult and complicated.

  6. Ramadan, please don’t jump to your own conclusions when I say that both sides do things wrong. They use violence. I have never favoured Israel nor Palestine. It seems to me that you are a nice person but due to circumstances overthere rather one track minded. Maybe I could understand this. I do try and this conversation should prove that. When you keep saying that I am not seeing it right and that I don’tseem to say that Israel is wrong, I better stop this conversation.

  7. Lydia, as I’m reading your writings a question popped up in my mind. Do you acknowledge that Israel is an occupying power?

  8. I think; that Lydia tries to say, that we can consider it both as a kind of terrorrism. I think she was quite clear about that subject.

    Another thing popped up in my mind: There are some common-shared values when people say: Crime never pays.
    Can we all agree; when many people and governments say: Terrorism never pays?

  9. Yes ReneR;

    We agree, but what I want to know is the definition of terrorism, what does it mean for you people who are living in a free country and never lived under occupation. Could any of you define the term occupied country and define what does it mean living under a pressure all your life. Would you imagine what does trauma mean to us.
    For Lidya;
    I agree with you that I am a one tract mided, on the other hand I think you are not. In addition, what I know that Mr. Ghandi gave it all the time it needed to convince the warld with his way of thinking. You are a big believer of his way. So don’t stop right there. Give it the time it needs to convince me, I might turn to be one of Ghandi’s way of thinking supportes.

  10. Ramadan, my country was occupied. Several times over the last centuries. By the Spanish, the French and the Germans. But to days youg people up to about 45 years of age haven’t learned enough about it or haven’t learned anything about it. Do not worry that I am a complete ignorant person. There is occupation and oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli’s. I do see the water issue to which I can only react with bewilderment. I also see a wall being built to which I react with disbelief. I know how it can be at checkpoints. There were quite a few documentaries about it on TV. Israel is committing war crimes and having a rather facsistic government. I am even more bewildered as I have also learned about the Holocaust and the Shoah. If any people in this world SHOULD know about oppression and “Endlösung” it are the Israeli’s . Yet they act similar towards the Palestinians. Yes, I think I do understand, Ramadan. But even so, violence is not the solution. What is, I don’t have an answer for. I see a bus being blown to pieces with the people inside also blown to pieces and I see the reaction of Israel: blowing up houses, sometimes with occupants still in them or shooting randomly at people in the streets. This makes my statement clear: violence doesn’t solve the problem. It enhances it. And on top of this, Ramadan, I cannot give you any solution other that non violent actions. Why not have a picknick for a thousand Palestinians at a safe distance of a checkpoint and do not move an inch but also, do not scream or say anything at all. Leave one hour later. The following week the same people are back again. This time for two hours. After a month it should be known that this group will keep coming back every week and stay an hour longer than the previous week. Invite the World Press to cover the picknicks. It is kind-a same kind-a demonstration as in Germany where former East germans demonstrate by the tens of thousands each Monday of the week. It’s the repeating action that could help change minds. But it will be hard and people will need to stick to it for a couple of months. Each time you can get the journalists and foreight TV reporters there, you will be gaining trust and respect throughout the world. Would this be an idea?

  11. @Ramadan
    Thanks a lot for your comment. I agree; that we or the world must find a way to find a water-proof definition of terrorism. I suggest, that anyhow this must lead to a way to protect innocent people; who have nothing to do with the struggle of their government with another or just a faction of people. The situation in Darfur nowadays shows us also; that we need such a definition. It can be placed in some U.N. manifest.

    I am open minded towards any suggestion about this matter

  12. Ramadan, today I heard a shocking remark which is said to have been made by an Egyptian writer:

    Not all Muslems are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslem.

    Now, this is not true, of course, but quite a lot of them are. I have also read an article in The NRC of last Saturday by Jose Joffe who says that Muslems hate the West, because “it exists”.
    I think this is very shocking indeed. It would mean that some Muslems hate us because of the fact we exist. Shocking. I don’t hate people for their existance. in fact, I am in a luxurious position: I do not know real hate. I know dislike but thank GOD, no hate. Why can;t people be friendly and respectful toward eachother? Besides the way we look and our backgrounds and religions, we are so alike. I have bloodtype B positive and I could help anyone in this world who would be needing it. I couldn’t care less who this person is as long as this person will be helped. Maybe I am a dreamer, Ramadan. I do wish you Good Luck, my friend. And strength and courage and wisdom.

  13. May God protect us from those who would speak in His name.

    The statement above is exactly the reason why I don’t follow any organized religions at all: my mind is my own church (Thomas Paine). 😉

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