Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

June 8, 2010

Rising Jewish Extremism

In the media, extremism is often associated with the Muslim world.  Rarely is it ever associated with Jews in Israel.  However, recent events demonstrate not only how extremism is infiltrating Israel, but how such a trend threatens even more the unstable social fabric of the region.

Just today, while trying to appear as if Israel is enforcing a building freeze in the West Bank, security forces clashed with settlers in the settlement of Beit El over the demolition of an illegal structure.  About 100 teenagers tried to block the forces and threw rocks, against the advice of their rabbi. And one officer was injured.  The fact that the next generation is so unyielding in their views that they are willing to fight, even their own people, is very worrisome.

Also this week, Arab Israeli MKs have been receiving death threats.  Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi received a letter from an extremist group that stated he has “180 days to live” and he will have a  “sudden and cruel” death. The group, Pulsa Denura, which means “whip of fire” in Aramaic, targeted him because of his “poisonous stance against Israel and Zionism.”

After United Arab List chairman Talab al-Sana’s reaction to the Gaza flotilla, in which he compared IDF soldiers to Nazis, he also received a death threat through an anonymous fax stating, “‘you’re dead.”  Both Tibi and Sana have lodged complaints with the Knesset security in response to such harassment.  However, with power in the hands of the rightist leaning Likud, it may be unlikely that there will be a substantial improvement in the treatment of Israeli Arab MKs.  Indeed, the Knesset has stripped Hanin Zuabi MK, a participant in the Gaza flotilla, of her parliamentary privileges in a 7-1 decision.  The fact that the government is capitalizing on, or even enhancing the hateful mood of the public is especially perturbing.

In the past, Israeli leaders have also fallen victim to extremism.  Former PM Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a radical Orthodox Jew who opposed the signing of the Oslo Accords.  The assassin justified his actions under din rodef, a fairly new concept in Jewish law, that allows a Jew to kill another Jew if his/her actions are placing other Jews in danger.  Former PM Ariel Sharon also faced death threats for disengaging from Gaza, and some even believed the subsequent stroke that left him incapacitated was punishment.

More recently, clashes on the Temple Mount have become a serious concern, as some fear they may lead to a religious war.  Just last week, the Israeli decision to include two mosques in the West Bank as national heritage sites sparked violence at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  Muslims began throwing stones at worshipers at the Western Wall, and the police subsequently entered the temple mount to halt the violence.  Muslims see the Israeli decision to include the sites as blatant provocation, similar to Sharon’s antics when he sparked the 2000 Intifada by entering the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount itself is a contentious issue, and clashes over control of the site have been increasing over the years.  Though the site is holy to both Jews and Muslims, it is only open to Muslims for worship out of fear of conflict.  And it appears that the site cannot remain without conflict, as Muslims are beginning to fear ultra-Orthodox Jews and their advocacy of rebuilding the Third Temple on the site.  The destruction of the Al-Aqsa mosque would have serious international implications, and the increasing trend of ultra-Orthodox advocacy makes it seem as if a religious war is actually credible.  If the patterns of religion-based violence and hate continue to spread throughout Israel and Palestine, the regional conflict may very well become an international religious one.

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1 Comment »

  1. Extremism is resorted to when those who use it feel desperate and threatened.

    It’s well known that terror was used in the establishment of Israel – ask the British, if not the Palestinians.

    Israel has successfully used the terrorist and extremist label against the Palestinians because Israel has been in a position of power that allows it to avoid such labels itself. Regular armed forces provide any country with a ready means of using force while calling it national defense or the maintenance of order.

    When I consider the many years that the Palestinians have been relentlessly relieved of their lands and rights while the world looks on, I find it incredible that they have been as long-suffering as they have been. They do not have a voter base in the United States, nor do they have here the many eloquent defenders that Israel does. There has been a one-sided conversation going in in the States now for many decades.

    The wonderful thing about your program, Jerusalem Calling, is that you provide an answer to those who would say that a Palestinian is automatically a terrorist and the Palestinians have no ground to stand on for their views (though a literal loss of land is indeed their problem!)

    I refer people to your program archives because they contain a variety of voices that are not screaming and shouting, but quietly stating the awful case of the occupation, one that cannot be denied by sounding alarms on the defense, pointing to Iran or invoking the Holocaust.

    The real and growing problem for Israel is that it is acting in opposition to the very values it used to establish itself and give the new Jewish state legitimacy, giving no sympathy to a people who are suffering in a way that the Jews, of all people, should recognize and identify with. This hypocrisy grows more difficult to hide by the day. All I can say to the Palestinians is – hold on – you’ve held on this long, don’t resort to violence now. Your day is coming, the tide is turning as more and more people learn of your plight and recognize the injustice and inhumanity of your situation.

    Comment by Clif Brown — June 8, 2010 @ 4:23 pm | Reply


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