This article is an attempt to review the religious and historical textual relationship from its sources. And this relationship ought to be taken seriously, because Israel (as a state and culture) considers itself to be the fulfillment of Judaism, and studied in depth in terms of how it affects the political-cultural life in Israel and has a strong impact on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
Often the usage of the concepts of Zionism and Judaism overlaps; Nonetheless, it is possible to read them as two separate concepts, either totally or relatively separate. It is also possible to combine them. “Israel” was established, in the land of Palestine, by the Zionist movement in 1948; the name “Israel,” whether used as a proper noun or as the name of the state, refers to biblical symbols, and both are indispensable for the political and cultural structure of Judaism and Zionism.
Zionism can be reviewed as a modern Jewish doctrine; this article examines what is shared between these two concepts from five angles:
* The “Promised Land” and the occupation of Palestine
* Purity of race
* Desecration of the property and lives of goyim: non-Jews
* “The Sacred Violence”
1. The “Promised Land” and the Occupation of Palestine
All Zionist literature, whether left or right wing, classical or postmodernist, confirms that Zionism aspired to return to “the promised land,” in accordance with the promise of God to Abraham. In the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible, it is mentioned that “[w]hen Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty;[a] walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you…And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.’”i (Genesis 17:1-10)
The Arab Jewish philosopher Mūsā bin Maymūn/Moshe bin Maimon, also known as the “Rambam,” argued in his famous book Iggeret Teiman, using this biblical text, to prove that the chosen descendants of god are the descendants of Isaac and not the descendents of his brother Ishmael. And, as it is known in the religious thought of the Abrahamic Religions, the descendants of Isaac are the Jews, and the descendents of Ishmael are the Arab Muslimsii.
The Zionist movement used the biblical concept of the 'Promised Land and the chosen people' to occupy Palestine, and to distribute its resources to the colonial Jews. For example, when the term nakhalat avot is used in Israeli sources, it is translated to English as “the patrimony”; However, in practice, what is meant by it is the “fathers of Jews only,” meaning inheritance for the Jews only. In other words, no land and no fathers for the Arabs. And this position extends from the religious texts to political ideology, culture and the law. When the term “public land” tovat hatsibor, (public benefit) is found in the legal text, its practical translation is “land for the benefit of the Jews only,” excluding the Arab citizens. All Arab lands that were confiscated were confiscated under this claim, and they were distributed among Jews only.
The Rambam’s religious thought had a role in the justifications given to occupy Palestine and the expulsion of Palestinian Arabs from it. According to his religious thought, to take control of the “Land of Israel” through war is a religious duty. He explains that there are three cases in which war is a religious duty: first, war of the seven crowds (population groups that inhabited Palestine before the Jews invaded after they were expelled from Egypt); the war of Emites (Anakites), to assist the Jews in every hardship; and third, an optional war to fight for the expansion of the borders of “Israel.”
The “Ramban,” or Rabbi Moses ben Naman Girondi (1194-1270), says that the occupation of Palestine is a religious duty at all times, unlike the Rambam, who said that it is a religious duty, but not at all times.
Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog (1888-1975), who is the grandfather of the current Israeli Labor party chairperson, expands Rambam’s concept of religious war to add that the occupation of Palestine is a religious duty from the Torah and considered, along with the Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (1865–1935), the establishment of the Zionist entity as a divine manifestation.
The Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (1918-2013), founder and the spiritual leader of the Sephardi religious political party Shas, considered the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 as the most important miracle that happened to the Jewish people. Whereas David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973), political “Israel’s secular founding father,” wrote in a letter in 1937 to Yitzhak Tabenkin (1887- 1971): “[B]y our coming here to Palestine, and establishing the Jewish state, we opened a complete new chapter — not a continuation of Warsaw life, Odessa, Kraków; It is a whole new beginning in its essence, a beginning that emerges by itself with the distant past” - with the past of Yĕhôshúa Ben Nun, David, Uziah, and the Hashmonaim. He also said, in front of the Peel Commission 1937, “the Mandate is not our Tanakh, the Tanakh is our Mandate.” In the same year he wrote to Tabenkin: “[T]he Tanakh formed for us a new birth certificate and helped in removing the barrier between the man and the land, and nurtured the feeling of homeland.”
In a lecture he gave in front of the Israeli Military General Staff on April 6, 1950, Ben-Gurion validated the significance of emulating violence as it was used during the Tanakh period, using the current Israeli army as an instrument. He compared the occupation of Palestine in 1947 to the invasion of Jericho by Bin Nun (according to the Tanakh) as the same victory. He said in the same lecture, in a poetic form while using the Tanakh language, which evoked ridicule among Israeli intellectuals: “[W]e conquered the kings of Lod and Ramla, the kings of Beir Nabala and Deir Tareef, the kings of Kola and Majdal Sadeq, the kings of Sar’a and Ashtol, kings of Artuf and Ein Karem, Kings of Hitta and Hartheya in the south, the Kings of Shafa Amr and Saforya, Kings of Ein Mahel and Kufur Kanna, Nazareth and Namreen, the Kings of Lubia and Kroon Hatten in the Galilee.”
At the beginning of the Zionist project, Hasidic Judaism rejected it, some are still against it, such as the Neturei Karta, and some Orthodox groups joined it but still refuse to do military service. The Hasidic groups are still waiting for the “Jewish Messiah,” and the establishment of the Jewish state in accordance with the Halakha in the “Land of Israel,” i.e., Palestine. And the “Jewish Messiah,” either in the “Tanakh” or in the Jewish literature that followed in both the Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) or Palestinian Talmud, the Talmud Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Talmud), and among the scholars of the Middle Ages up to today, is not far from the interests of the modern Jewish-Zionism. This literature addresses the “Jewish Messiah” from two contexts: In the first, a descendant of man will come, eliminate the goyim (non-Jews) and establish a Jewish Halakha state, the goyim will be conquered and they will be expelled from the “Land of Israel.” In the second — which is bloodier than the first — before or during or after the appearance of the “Jewish Messiah,” the war of Gog and Magog erupts in which the Edomites will be eliminated and all the goyim who harmed the Jews will be killed; The final redemption, ge’ulah, will come in which all the goyim accept the authority of the “Jewish Messiah,” the descendant of David, or are killed. In other words, those who don’t accept the authority of the Jews will be killed. The similarity to today’s politics is that Israel’s violence against us, the Arabs, will continue until we accept their authority over us.
According to the Zionist-Jewish literature, only God knows when the Messiah will come, and the “Jewish Messiah” turns from a dream, hope for salvation, to be replaced by the real savior: Zionism and the state of Israel. Rabbi Kook, said that the establishment of the Zionist entity is a divine manifestation, and the beginning of redemption, both of which are Messianistic concepts, in spite of his reservations about the secular state. Rabbi Kook is considered the spiritual leader of religious Zionism, and his preaching was manifested in the form of the Jewish settlement activities in the West Bank, and among several religious leaders and politicians.
3. Purity of Race
Judaism, represented by the Tanakh, Talmud and various religious scripts, glorifies the Jewish race as “God’s chosen people” (Deuteronomy 2:14), enormous in number (Joshua 1:10), and because of stature among the rest of people, they must live isolated, impetuous of the goyim (Numbers 8:23).
The Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi texts are more ruthless concerning the goyim, as they are described in them as impure; not human; those who perform sex with animals, dead people and pieces of meat; and “snakes, sons of snakes” (Yevamot s, a, a). Their meat is “donkey’s meat” (Yerushalmi Brachot, f.g, h.d), and expressions like these are found in the modern Israeli dialect. A few years ago Rabbi Yosef described Arabs as “snakes, sons of snakes” and, when told that he was racist, said he was only quoting religious scripture.
4. Desecration of the Property and Lives of Goyim: Non-Jews
The position of Judaism will be examined in accordance with the Talmud Bavli and the Talmud Yerushalmi and according to the Rambam, in what is related to the lives and possessions of the goyim in the communities where Jews live.
According to the Talmud Bavli, a stranger is not allowed to steal from a Jew, but a Jew can steal from a stranger. If a Jew finds a lost item that belongs to a Jew, he must return it to him; if a stranger finds a lost item that belongs to a Jew he must return it to him; but if a Jew finds a lost item that belongs to a non-Jew, he is not obliged to return it. A Jew may provide false information to others, but non-Jews are not allowed to provide false information to a Jew. A Jew is allowed to defame a non-Jew, but the non-Jew is not allowed to defame a Jew; if a goy defames a Jew, he must compensate the Jew, but if a Jew defames a goy, he is exempted from compensation.. Accordingly, defaming Arabs is very common. A non-Jew is not allowed to cheat a Jew, but a Jew is allowed to cheat a non-Jew. If a Jew causes harm to a non-Jew, he is not allowed to compensate him; if a non-Jew caused harm to a Jew, he must compensate him. (Mesikhat Sanhedrin 57,a)
When it comes to possessions, the Rambam was asked by a Jew whether it is allowed to compensate the goyim for a harm that was caused by a bull owned by a Jew, and answered that he is not allowed to compensate goyim, but if a bull owned by a goy caused harm to a Jew or his possessions, the goy must compensate the Jew. The bull is only an example in general Jews are not allowed to compensate goyim at all, only goyim must compensate Jews. (Mishneh Torah, sefer nezikim, 12)
When it comes to assisting others in time of need or crisis, the Rambam said that Jews are not allowed to give assistance or to save the lives of goyim, but Jews are allowed to receive assistance from goyim to save their lives. (Mishneh Torah, Zemanim, Shabbat, halakha 21), and this is only an example that can be extended to other forms of assistance.
We Arabs, who have to live with Jews in our country and under various state instruments — legislative, judicial and executive — are aware of the discrimination being enforced against us in these institutions and their instruments. In particular, the judicial system, which is supposed to operate according to fair rules, discriminates in favor of the Jews. Mohamad Salim Haj Yehya’s doctoral dissertation, “The Performance of Law Enforcement Instruments on the Minorities in the Country” (1992), confirms, through a comparison between similar legal cases against Arabs and Jews in the Israeli courts, that the judiciary punishes the Arabs more severely than Jews for the same violations.
Hadas Zeif prepared a report under the title “Medicine under Fire” about how medical teams dealt with the injuries during the clashes of October 2000. She recorded violations of the right to medical treatment among the police officers and the demonstrators, and concluded in her study that the medical system discriminates against Arabs.
Nor are the dead exempted from curses, according to the Talmud Bavli, for if a Jew passes by the graves of goyim, they must say, “Shame on your mothers.” (Rambam, Mishneh Tora, halakhut brakhut 11) Today in the state of Israel, violations of graveyards of Palestinians is becoming a “national sport” and sometimes even legalized under justification of opening a road or street, or building a neighborhood.
5. The “Sacred Violence”
Ideas are not born from nothing; maintaining, preserving and reproducing them is not conducted through prayer but through other materialistic tools, one of which is violence.
The rhetorical term “Tanakh violence,” if drawn to the level of ideology, is considered the ugliest, the most brutal and ruthless violence humanity knows. The Tanakh mentions the ten plagues that God punished the Egyptians with, and in our modern age they seem like biological warfare: the Plague of Blood, the Plague of Frogs, the Plague of Gnats, the Plague of Flies, the Plague on Livestock, the Plague of Boils, the Plague of Hail, the Plague of Locusts, the Plague of Darkness, and the Plague on the Firstborn (Exodus 7-11), as well as massacring all inhabitants and every living being in Jericho after it was occupied by the Jews expelled from Egypt. (Joshua 6)
In the Tanakh story of Jacob’s daughter Dinah, who was raped and defiled by Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite, her brothers Simeon and Levi thought that they should punish the entire Hamor tribe by killing all the men of the tribe. (Genesis 34) This story inspired many Jewish scholars and thinkers who stressed its importance by inferring the principle of collective punishment. Here are four examples from religious and secular scholars that show what the religious and the secular in Israel have in common when it comes to hatred of Arabs:
- 1. Judah Loew ben Bezalel (c. 1520-1609), the Maharal of Prague (the MaHaRaL), considered this conflict between the Jacob’s family and Shechem Bin Hamor tribe as a conflict between nations: He justified the killing of all men of the tribe. In other words, he considered the rape case as a conflict between the tribe of Shechem Bin Hamor and the Jewish people.
- 2. The Rabbi Azaryah Ariel considered the crime that the brothers of Dinah committed against the tribe of Shechem Bin Hamor legitimate collective punishment.
- 3. Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, the brother or Rabbi Azaryah Ariel, legitimizes, too, the collective punishment in this case.
- 4. The Israeli poet Shaul Tchernichovsky (1875-1943), wrote a poem in which Dinah praises her brothers for the crime they committed against the tribe of Shechem Bin Hamor, saying maybe there are more like them among the descendants of Jacob and all Jews.
It is mentioned in the Talmud Bavli: If a Jew accidentally killed a goy, the Jew is not punished, but if a goy accidentally kills a Jew, the non-Jew is killed. (Mishneh Torah, sefer nezikim, Parasha 4)
Some might say that what is mentioned in this article doesn’t go beyond the various religious texts, is only something from the ancient past. Well, the Rabbi Shlomo Goren (1917-1994), who was Rabbi of the Israeli Army (1948-1968) and the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel (1972-1983), explains the meaning of one of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt not kill” in his famous book on the theory of state, Moadey Israel (1996, pp 28-35). He asks: “Are you allowed, according to the Jewish halakha, to kill Arabs while knowing that you jeopardize the lives of Jews in the process, in order to maintain Israel’s control over the West Bank and Gaza?” He answers yes. He justifies it by quoting the Rambam, who said: “When the Jews have the power/stronger hand, they shouldn’t leave any goyim among them.”
Rabbi Goren added that, in order to fulfill this task, it is clear that Jewish Israelis have to use all force against the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and the Arabs, too. This is what the Rambam says, according to Goren, who then quotes from the Talmud Bavli that if the lives of 6% of Jews are jeopardized, those who use force against the threat are not punished. These words were said by an influential personality in the state of Israel, a person who had religious credibility in the state.
While Israel avoids explicitly talking about the extermination of all the Arabs in “the Land of Israel” — because they fear the world’s public opinion, which doesn’t tolerate these concepts — they do not object if an Israeli group calls for it. Rabbi Yossi Elitzur, head of the religious school Od Yosef Chai in the Yitzhar settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, has written in The King’s Torah, co-written with Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, under which circumstances he considered it legitimate to kill Palestinians, whether they are political activists, innocents, civilians, elderly, women or children.
All of the examples that I have cited in this article should be given serious consideration, given how they appear to influence the attitude in Israel toward Palestinians and Arabs in general.Endnotes:
i h t t p s : / / w w w. b i b l e g a t e w a y. c o m / p a s s a g e / ? s e a r c h = G e n . + 1 7 % 3 A + 1 - 10&version=ESV “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty;[a] walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram,[b] but your name shall be Abraham,[c] for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” i Genesis 17:1-10 English Standard Version (ESV) ii https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Epistle_to_Yemen/VIII There is no question that the Divine assurance to Abraham to bless his descendants, to reveal the Torah to them, and to make them the Chosen People, refers only to the offspring of Isaac. For Ishmael is mentioned as an adjunct and appendage in the blessing of Isaac, which reads “and also of the son of the bond-woman will I make a nation.” (Genesis 21:13). This verse suggests that Isaac holds a primary position and Ishmael a subordinate place. This point is made even more explicit in the blessing which ignores Ishmael entirely. “For in Isaac shall seed be called in thee.” (Genesis 21:12). The meaning of God’s promise to Abraham is that the issue of Ishmael will be vast in numbers but neither pre-eminent nor the object of divine favor, nor distinguished for the attainment of excellence. Not because of them will Abraham be famed or celebrated, but by the noted and illustrious scions of Isaac. The phrase “shall be called” simply means, shall be renowned, as it does in the verse, “Let thy name be called in them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac.” (Genesis 48:16).