Monday, January 30, 2006

What We're Up Against

This is the face of the religious right in Israel. The ultra-orthodox. Men who live out their days praying to God in the name of Israel. Studying Torah so as to protect the covenant. Religious zealotry at its best. God gave Israel to the Jews, and it therefore shall it remain under the protectorate of the Jews alone.

They are a burden to the economy because they are not obliged to get a job, the government subsidizes their lifestyle so they can supposedly protect the faith, and as the major force behind bigotry and dogmatic reasoning they effectively shift the entire range of the conversation to the right. It is amazing the way people can find a way to make religion, a force when used benevolently is merely a conductor for spirituality, into a means of writing off responsibility. At its best, shouldn't religion be a tool used to teach people love and harmony? A lesson in commonality, that at the end of the day we are all just human beings so we might as well get along. Judgment shall be left to some sort of unfathomable higher power, faith means understanding that it is not our job to determine who is right and who is wrong, our only job is to create peace and brotherhood in this life. Forgiveness and redemption... holy moly.

Fanaticism is a tricky beast. To a fanatic, the world revolves around fate and the will of God. Jews and Muslims on both sides of this conflict are guilty of this sin. Somehow, they have dissociated themselves from all responsibility. If it is the will of Allah, then it shall be...

The book is the driving force, they have read it so many times, it begins to speak. Interpreting from the Holy Scriptures becomes a game of inventing the connections needed to prove any conviction. Rather than using the ancient writings of wise men past to learn how to heal the world, the motivation has become a desperate effort to justify a course of narrow-mindedness.

It becomes particularly upsetting when you realize that the most combative and uncompromising people with regards to the conflict are unfailingly devout. When I hear Americans praise Arik Sharon for his unilateral course of action, I wonder whether they make any connections between Hamas' recent victory on behalf of religious fundamentalism. The wall, territorial expansion, and aggressive military tactics effectively destroyed whatever semblance of authority Fatah retained. Yes, Fatah is extremely corrupt, as are all governments in war-torn developing nations. Ehud Olmert today announced that Israel will be withholding somewhere around $45M dollars in monthly tax revenues it has collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, until it hears that Hamas has acknowledged Israel's right to exist.

Granted, it makes no sense that Israel support a government which refuses to recognize its sovereignty, but there is absolutely no reciprocal acknowledgement on behalf of the Jewish state. Never mind the fact that no one is bothering to ask why Israel is collecting taxes from people they refuse to accept as citizens. Hamas has its hands tied, Israel says grovel.

In the opening scenes of a war film depicting ancient war, directed by Ridley Scott, two soldiers stand in preparation for battle.
Quintus: People should know when they're conquered.
Maximus: Would you, Quintus? Would I?
This scene depicts a Roman war, the ultimate example held of empire building in Western popular culture. This is symbolic of the line of thought dominating the mind of a conqueror. And we beg to ask it of the Palestinian people. When will they just give up? Count your losses and call it a day.

I spent my 7th and 8th grade years at Brandeis Hillel, a Jewish day school in San Francisco. I will never forget the day our Judaic studies teacher, a conservative rabbi, threw one of my classmates out for suggesting that the 1967 war was used as an excuse for aggressive territorial assertions on Israel’s behalf. As he sent Tory out of the classroom that day, he bellowed furiously at the boy that Israel military, had never engaged itself aggressively. This memory is embedded in my mind due to the conviction of a man whom I still hold in high respect. As I begin to unravel my education, and decipher the things I learned under the circumstances of being highly impressionable, it’s easy to see how we become indoctrinated. What also comes to mind, sitting in political science classes during the onset of the most recent Iraq war, and hearing my professors explain that this war is not in fact a preemptive war. It’s actually a response to the imminent threat of Iraq’s nuclear weapons program.

I went to the Israeli Holocaust museum here in Jerusalem a couple of weeks ago, Yad Vashem. One of the many breathtaking exhibitions displays a quote I will paraphrase because I don’t remember who said it, but the general gist of it I will never forget; “A nation is not just what it does, but what it tolerates.” This quote, of course is in reference to Germany and the rise of the Third Reich.

Yad Vashem sits atop one of the tallest most scenic hilltops in all of Jerusalem. It is a highly coveted piece of real estate. It is also the site of one of the bloodiest massacres from the 1948 Israeli war of Independence. The massacre which took place in the Palestinian village that used to be there served as a major trauma to the Palestinian people, driving the flight from their historic villages in seek of refuge and safe haven.

Oh, but don’t forget, they all left on their own volition. Finders keepers, right? They should know when they are conquered.


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Blogger mordechai said...

Pathetic and racist post. The chassidim you show are not the religious right. The group you show and described are haredim whose rabbinic leadership all support territory for peace, whose votes passed the Oslo accords and keep Olmert in office.

But if your goal is to demonize religious Jews then you suceeded. Being a Judaism hater is no more moral than being a Jew hater

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