(see also the excellent detailed Report by Dr. Fouad Moughrabi on this subject)
Human reactions to their surrounding, value systems, and outlook on other humans are shaped by environment including educational systems. Most scientists agree there is very little impact of genetic predisposition. A child raised in a surrounding of a particular culture and value system is bound to absorb these value systems even if they are not formally taught to do so. Thus, the environment children are raised in is manifestly important in the future of the world they will shape as they grow up.
I have always lamented what future the Middle East would have if the early Zionist immigrants were interested in integration and fostering a human and humane society to challenge both the feudal and paternalistic Palestinian society and the European Ashkenazi Zionist separatist society and mold a combined society avoiding the ills of both into a pluralistic society for all its people. I argue in my book ‘Sharing the Land’ of Canaan that this is still the only solution that will bring lasting peace. But given existing reality, we should look at what had happened and why to address how we may create a new environment of tolerance and coexistence.
Palestinians were mostly ‘fellahin’ (farmers) living off the land in extended families with cultural and religious values and heritage evolved over hundreds of years in the land of Canaan. This was a mixture of values, some of them today would be considered negative and some would be highly admired. They include:
– strong family ties and in most cases much stronger than ideological affiliations
– love of the land (people generally lived for generations in the same area)
– a male dominated society (again irrespective of religion), hierarchical structures
– deep religious convictions (three dominant Palestinian religiosn were Islam, Christianity and Judaism),
– great values given to fertility (number of children)
– resistance to ‘the other’ (be it different religion, different tribe, different ethnicity)
– emphasis on group rather than individual needs and desires (Arabic culture encourages individualism as long as it is not directed against the religion, the tribe or the ‘group’).
Ofcourse, history shows us that societies do change and evolve. This change accelerated in the 20th century in various parts of the world. Changes are enhanced by cross-fertilization of cultures, by ease of communication, and by the technological revolution. The past 54 years certainly brought dramatic changes to people of Palestine and also to its new inhabitants (Jewish immigrants). Disconnected Jewish societies were brought together in Palestine to make an Israeli society which later evolved into a thriving Western society but with unique Jewish influences. Palestinian society faced a much more complex set of changes and difficulties. In addition to having to face the onslaught of modernization with all its positives and negatives for the society, Palestinians had to cope and respond to being uprooted from their land, exiled, oppressed and villified by a well organized media campaign. How these societies adapted and responded to the challenges facing them is worth investigating but is beyond the scope of this book. I hope that we understand though and cover briefly the misperceptions about how societies educate their children and why.
Much has been said about schools and education in the nascent Palestinian authority areas. Most of the writing on the subject was by well funded (millions of dollars with large staff) Zionist organizations bereft of ideas about how to suppress the truth of their colonial settler onslaught against the natives. Thus, they are merely trying to ‘score points’ in to dehumanize the native Palestinians. In doing so, they hope to show that the reason for the violence (which kills vastly more civilian natives than colonial settler civilians) is not the oppression, dispossession, or occupation but is simply that people are being taught to hate Israelis (or even Jews). But the facts can be easily determined with close examination of the educational systems. This is the subject of this assay and its accompanying documentation. A more detailed Report by Dr. Fouad Moughrabi should be consulted for in depth analysis.
Between 1994-1999, schools in the occupied areas for Palestinians have come gradually under Palestinian control (after being under Jordanian and Israeli control for decades). The curriculum in these schools are still being examined and evolved. Yet, they have been villified by some Zionist groups established to feed the idea that Palestinians (and even ‘Arabs and Muslims’) are violent and teach their children violence. The Palestinian educational system is rather a new system and much has been said about it. But let us examine first the much more established Israeli educational system (which now had 54 years to evolve).
In Israel the educational system for the most part is segregated into ‘Arab’ (mixed Christian and Muslim) and ‘Jewish’ systems. These two systems are are administered separately. Further, the Jewish school systems are divided into state secular and state religious (Orthodox, Tali, haredi or Ultra-Orthodox). Each separate system receives separate funding.
Segregation into different school systems that are separate and unequal violates Covenant Article 18 (1) and (4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations, to which Israel is a signatory nation. The UN Human Rights Commission emphasized that the convention prohibits discrimination based on religion.
The discrimination extends to higher education with secial governmental allocations through the Ministry of Religious Affairs to Jewish religious schools known as yeshivas. Students in those schools receive living expenses and have no limitations on their years of study. The numbers supported by these programs rose from 50,000 in 1980 to 180,000 in 1997. No similar government programs are available to support either Muslims or Christians in Israel. For years, the support was also limited to Orthodox communities and has also not been extended to Reform or Conservative higher education institutes. Even when the supreme court ordered funds allocated on non-Orthodox Jewish schools, the Religious Affairs Ministry ignored these rulings.
In an article in Haaretz titled ‘Recruiting in the kindergarten’ Orna Coussin reported on a conference examining the militarism prevalent in Israeli schools.
There is nothing out of the ordinary about recent decisions made by Education Minister Limor Livnat – they ride the wind that has been blowing for years from the Education Ministry. Livnat has done away with a history book suspected of advocating post-Zionist views. She is investing in an alleged new subject – Israeli heritage – and is thus implementing the Shenhar Report that advocated more Jewish studies in schools. She has ordered all schools to fly the national flag.
On the other hand, she is not increasing the budget for civic studies, nor is she implementing the Kremnitzer Report that spoke of the urgent need to expand this curriculum. She is cutting teaching hours from the state curriculum and channeling millions of shekels to schools in the settlements.
All these decisions are merely the natural progression of a long-standing trend – the education system imparts more war-oriented values than democratic ideals to Israeli students. Even Livnat’s predecessors – Meretz ministers – did little to change this.
…..On the opposite side of the same coin, the Hebrew University and the Kibbutz Seminar are holding a conference on ‘Militarism and Education – A Critical Perspective.’ Researchers and activists at the conference – which opened yesterday and will close tomorrow – are saying not only is there a lack of education toward civic values and democracy, but that schools are actually teaching militarism.
The escalation in the conflict with the Palestinians and the manner in which it is being accepted, almost without objection or resistance by the citizens, is to a large degree a product of education. Education toward militarism is being implemented in a number of ways, says Hagit Gur-Ziv from the Center for Critical Pedagogy at the Kibbutz Seminar.
….Not everything is done consciously, say the various speakers at the conference. But they say the Israeli education system has accumulated military messages and has almost no pacifist or civic-oriented ideals for balance.
….’The education system,’ she says, ‘is filled with numerous phenomena that we could very easily see as signs of an anti-democratic regime had we heard that they existed in other countries.’ On of the most prominent phenomena in this context is certainly the prevalence of former high-ranking IDF officers in administrative and teaching positions at the schools. The Education Ministry funds the ‘Tzevet’ program, which uses Beit Berl to train retired IDF officers and former members of the Shin Bet security service who wish to work as educators. Over the past 14 years, more than 300 such officers (with bachelor degrees) have been employed at various schools around the country.
….In other words, the incorporation of military personnel into the schools is related to general trends of violence in Israeli society and the weakness of the education system as an educator toward democracy.
In the Hebrew edition of Haaretz, June 28, 2002, Aviv Lavie reported on the increased military indoctrination at Kindergardens.
‘Ms. A., .. watched the teacher parade the children dressed in what seemed like IDF uniform and march them to and fro as they call out ‘left, right left,’ and ‘attention!’ or ‘at ease!’ The military parade was accompanied by children singing at the top of their lungs: ‘Soldiers of Israel, march on and stay on guard, both day and night.’
The kindergarten AÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s daughters attend is not the only one to have chosen to mark the end of the school year in this manner. At another kindergarten, in a small town near Tel-Aviv, the graduation ceremony included storming targets with (toy) swords. There too the children recited texts about their being fighters in the service of the state of Israel. A. says that she did not send her daughters to kindergarten so they will be turned into soldiers by the age of five. …The content of graduation ceremonies is jointly determined by the teachers and the parent association .’
(Up on the Jungle Gym, Charge!’ By Aviv Lavie, HaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢aretz, 6/28/02; http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=181315 )
To be fair, many nations besides Israel and the Palestinians try to inculcate patriotism and militarism in their youngsters. But it is an issue that should worry all human rights advocates especially when this patriotism is about countries with an ethnocentric philosophy that excludes segments of their societies from this patriotism. After all, no one expects Palestinian citizens of Israel to show patriotism to the star of David or to pledge to defend the ‘Jewish state.’ This is especially true when non-Jews are being discriminated against in all spheres of life including the educational system. Human Rights Watch reported in November 2001 on Discrimination in the Israeli Education System against non-Jews (‘Israeli Arabs’).
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Nearly one in four of Israel’s 1.6 million schoolchildren are educated in a public school system wholly separate from the majority. The children in this parallel school system are Israeli citizens of Palestinian Arab origin. Their schools are a world apart in quality from the public schools serving Israel’s majority Jewish population. Often overcrowded and understaffed, poorly built, badly maintained, or simply unavailable, schools for Palestinian Arab children offer fewer facilities and educational opportunities than are offered other Israeli children. This report is about Israel’s discrimination against its Palestinian Arab children in guaranteeing the right to education.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The reportÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tables and numbers are very expected but they were never widely exposed:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“10.4% of the Jewish students dropped-out of schools at 1998-1999 by the age of 17, while 31.7% are Arab Palestinian students. 45.6% of all 17 years old Jewish students passed the matriculation examinations (Bagrut) in 1998-1999, while only 27.5% of Arab students. Moreover, 88.6% of Jewish students were qualified for university admission, while only 66.9% of Arab students. 44.7% of Non-Jewish students who applied to universities were rejected, but only 16.7% of Jewish students were rejected. In 1998-1999, when 94.3% of Jewish students received their first academic degree, only 5.7% of Non-Jewish students did receive it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The Ministry of EducationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s commentary was given by Orit Reuvini- spokeswoman of the ministry: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The situation a the Arab education system is a result of policy which was applied over years and it canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be fixed immediately.Ã¢â‚¬Â (Panorama, December 7). The report can be read at: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/israel2/
Other detailed reports on educational systems can be read on the internet and illustrate the rather racist and xenophobic nature of the Israeli education system.
Report by Dr. Fouad Moughrabi
Israel or Palestine: Who Teaches What History? by Elisa Morena published in Le Monde Diplomatique July 2001
On ‘Our country Palestine’ http://www.aaiusa.org/wwatch/070801.htm
Ziad Asali testimony in Congress http://www.cmep.org/Alerts/2003Nov6.htm
Third Submission of the PLO to the Mitchell Committee Excerpts on Incitement. Addresses Palestinian and Israeli textbooks, summer camps and Israel’s failure to prevent anti-Palestinian incitement in Israeli society (April 3, 2001)
What Did You Study In School Today, Palestinian Child? by Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz, January 2, 2001
If You Are For Truth, You Seek the Truth First by Khalil Mahshi. A statement from the Palestinian Ministry of Education December 21, 2000.
Israeli Textbooks and ChildrenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Literature Promote Racism and Hatred Toward Palestinians and Arabs, by Maureen Meehan, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Sept. 1999
Discrimination is not perpetuated merely under Likud governments (right wing) but also when Labor and other supposed ‘peace’ groups run the Israeli education ministry. Thus, a report in Haaretz stated:
‘The left-wingers do not offer a viable alternative to this loathsome process of Israeliness, claims Gur-Ze’ev. They are a part of the system. In 1996, during the time Amnon Rubinstein … served (as Minister of Education), a humanistic history curriculum, written by Yair Oron of Haifa University and commissioned by the Ministry, was buried. (This program) emphasized the need for self-criticism vis-a-vis the Holocaust and creating sensitivity to the suffering of others, through (studying) different examples of genocide (for example, the Armenians and the Gypsies). But several days before it was presented in the classroom and to educators it was torpedoed by the Ministry of Education. The formal argument of the people at the Ministry was that the program simply ‘did not fit.’ The new book that was approved instead was a clear product of the education system. It naturally presented the facts and systematically avoided topics with humanistic implications. ‘The book proves that there is no room for a moralist and humanistic education as part of the study of history,’ says Gur-Ze’ev.’ (Tamar Rotem, Haaretz, February 20, 2000).
Yerah Gover examined the relationship of Hebrew literature to Israeli culture especially in the context of views about self and the other. Her detailed study examines how Israeli society as reflected in its texts (e.g. novels, stories, play scripts) view its own performance and self and view the ‘other’ (especially the Arabs). She concluded that: ‘What we see is a culture whose resistance to criticism is uniquely tied to a need for self-explication that makes criticism itself a constant subvocal presence. Therefor, we see a culture on the edge of self criticism but never quite able to move beyond its own regressive tendencies.’ (Yerach Gover, ‘Zionism: the Limits of Moral Discourse in Israeli Hebrew Fiction’, University of Minneapolis Press, Minneapolis, 1994, p. 189-190).
A report (November 2001) from George Washington University Professor Nathan Brown strongly challenges the cliche that Palestinian children are systematically taught to hate Israelis and Jews in their textbooks and school curriculum, and that this ‘incitement’ is a major cause of the current uprising against Israeli occupation. The complete report is found at http://www.nad-plo.org/textbooks/nathan_textbook.pdf The author found significant exagerrations and distortions in media reports (usually based on Zionist sources) and concluded that ‘The Palestinian curriculum is not a ‘war’ curriculum. Neither is it a ‘peace’ curriculum. A real peace curriculum will follow, not precede, a comprehensive peace.’
Cultural and educational systems can produce very negative results for peace and coexistance. They become even more distorted by leaders who get so arrogant with power that they forget basic civility and lose touch with reality. Israeli leader Golda Meir said that ‘there was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed’ (1969). Israeli leaders described Palestinians as ‘crocodiles’ (Ehud Barak, 2000), ‘grasshoppers’ (Yitzhak Shamir, 1988), ‘beasts walking on two legs’ (Menachem Begin, 1982), ‘like drugged cockroaches in a bottle’ (IDF Chief of Staff Raphael Eitan , 1983), and ‘alien…might as well have come from another galaxy’ (future President Katsav).
But we would also be remiss in not mentioning the role of religions. Using religion interpretation to serve political and many times even evil purposes is as old as humanity itself. Joseph Campbell who studied comparative mythology (and religions) and published books on the subject once stated that it is only when people start to think of their religious stories as literal and ignore the transcendent nature of the message, then they get into trouble. He also pointed out the obvious: that in each religious tradition one find mercy, justice, and humanity but one can also find ignorance and racism (interviews with Bill Moyers on Public Broadcast Service). I once witnessed a squabble between two bearded and apparently highly religious men in Jerusalem. The Orthodox Jewish fellow holding his Torah kept insisting that God has given this land to his people (the Jewish people) to which the Muslim fellow kept answering that God’s words in the Quran are very clear. The problem is that interpretations can vary. When we hear ‘I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding’ (Genesis 17:8), what exactly do we understand from them. Are the Christian and Muslims of today who are converts fom Judaism included in this promise. Does this promise include all the Jewish converts (e.g. the majority of Ashkenazi) or Jews who practice today’s Rabbinical Judaism (dramatically different from Judaism practiced before the Rabbinical era)? Does one accept Orthodox Judaism’s interpretation or Reform Judaism. Does one accept Islamic or Christian teachings about who the promised people are and where they live and what exactly where they promised?
These are fairly lengthy topics for which I would hope leaders of the religious communities sit-down in interfaith dialogues and discuss. I will not try to cover these issues in detail and will leave them to scholars to debate. I will however, as a member of the laity (those not considered religious leaders or experts), ask a slightly different question and make some comments on it. Does any interpretation of one’s religious beliefs justify dispossession of a native people or killing of innocent people (non-combatants)? Let us start with the issue that received the most media attention: that of suicide bombings.
Abd Al-Aziz Rantisi, of Hamas (a group that engaged in suicide bombings) stated that ‘suicide depends on volition. If the martyr intends to kill himself, because he is tired of life Ã¢â‚¬â€œit is suicide. However, if he wants to sacrifice his soul in order to strike the enemy and to be rewarded by Allah Ã¢â‚¬â€œ he is considered a martyr. We have no doubt that those carrying out these operations are martyrs.’ (Al-Hayat, London-Beirut, April 25, 2001.) Sheik Yussuf Al-Qaradhawi, of Islamic Jihad similarly stated that such ‘operations’ should not be called suicide bombings but martyrdom operations because they are justified to reap fear into the enemy (Al-Raya, Qatar, April 25, 2001).
But, as Karen Armstrong (a respected scholar on Islamic history) wrote in Time Magazine
In the Koran, the only permissible war is one of self-defense. Muslims may not begin hostilities (2: 190). Warfare is always evil, but sometimes you have to fight in order to avoid the kind of persecution that Mecca inflicted on the Muslims (2: 191; 2: 217) or to preserve decent values (4: 75; 22: 40). The Koran quotes the Torah, the Jewish scriptures, which permits people to retaliate eye for eye, tooth for tooth, but like the Gospels, the Koran suggests that it is meritorious to forgo revenge in a spirit of charity (5: 45). Hostilities must be brought to an end as quickly as possible and must cease the minute the enemy sues for peace (2:192-3).
In words quoted by Muhammad in one of his last public sermons, God tells all human beings, ‘O people! We have formed you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another’ (49: 13)–not to conquer, convert, subjugate, revile or slaughter but to reach out toward others with intelligence and understanding.
Every fundamentalist movement I have studied in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is convinced that liberal, secular society is determined to wipe out religion. Fighting, as they imagine, a battle for survival, fundamentalists often feel justified in ignoring the more compassionate principles of their faith. But in amplifying the more aggressive passages that exist in all our scriptures, they distort the tradition.
It would be as grave a mistake to see Osama bin Laden as an authentic representative of Islam as to consider James Kopp, the alleged killer of an abortion provider in Buffalo, N.Y., a typical Christian or Baruch Goldstein, who shot 29 worshipers in the Hebron mosque in 1994 and died in the attack, a true martyr of Israel. The vast majority of Muslims, who are horrified by the atrocity of Sept. 11, must reclaim their faith from those who have so violently hijacked it
(The True, Peaceful Face Of Islam Time Magazine October 1, 2001 Vol. 158 No. 15).
In the Christian tradition, it is also noted that the Crusaders took the call of fanatic leaders to travel to the ‘Holy Land’ and liberate it from infidels who have corrupted the land of Jesus. In doing so, massacres of civilians (Muslims, Jews, and even Christians of Eastern Denominations) were executed. However, as many who read the New Testament can clearly discern, there are passages after passage of statements and actions by Christ that speak of non-violence, pacifism, ‘turning the other cheek’, loving your enemy, mercy, and kindness to strangers. But ofcourse, one could take certain things out of context and make them into excuses for violence.
Such twisted interpretations of religion are found in all religions including Judaism. The fanatical Zionist notion that Israel was a 20th century return to the promised land which is given to the Jews (exclusive of its current native inhabitants) has gained support among devout Jews and Christians. But as Jon Zens writes:
‘It is clear from a number of Old Testament statements that the land-promises to Abraham was indeed fulfilled. The land was given as delineated in Genesis 15, and several verses in Joshua are especially forceful in this regard: So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and He gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions (Josh. 11:23) . . . So the Lord gave Israel all the land He had sworn to their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as He had sworn to their forefathers . . . Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled (Josh. 21:41-45). There are many other Old Testament scriptures that echo this fulfillment theme (Gen. 28:13-15; 1 Kings 4:21, 8:56; Deut. 28; Exodus 3:17, 6:8; Deut. 30:20, 1:8, 7:2, 11:23, 34:1-4; Joshua 23:13-16; Neh. 9:8, 21-25). If the territorial dimension of the Lord’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled, as these scriptures assert, this raises serious questions about the propriety of suggesting that twentieth-century ‘Israel’ has a divine claim to this land. The Lord accomplished His word: He gave the descendants of Abraham the land described in Genesis 15:18-21. To purport that God has somehow not yet fulfilled the land-promises, or that they actually came to fruition in 1948, is to stretch the original prophetic word to Abraham beyond recognition.’ (Searching Together, Winter 1991 Volume 19:4 PO Box 548, St. Croix, WI 54024).
Reverend Michael Prior wrote this about the issue:
‘There is virtual unanimity among scholars that the model of tribal conquest as narrated in Joshua 1-12 is unsustainable. Leaving aside the witness of the Bible, we have no evidence that there was a Hebrew conquest. Evidence from archaeology, extra-biblical literature, etc., points in an altogether different direction from that propounded by Joshua 1-12. It suggests a sequence of periods marked by a gradual and peaceful coalescence of disparate peoples into a group of highland dwellers whose achievement of a new sense of unity culminated only with the entry of the Assyrian administration. The Iron I Age settlements on the central hills of Palestine, from which the later kingdom of Israel developed, reflect continuity with Canaanite culture, and repudiate any ethnic distinction between Ã¢â‚¬Å“CanaanitesÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Israelites.’ Israel’s origins, then, were within Canaan, not outside it. There was neither invasion from outside, nor revolution within.’ (Americans for Middle East Understanding, December 2000 issue).
But these rather logical arguments can have strong opposition from those with a mission. Israeli settlers, Rabbis, and, in many occasions, the Israeli state claimed support by religion in committing atrocities and conquering the land from the natives. The Daily Telegraph reported (quoting Reuters) that:
‘Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, head of the Joseph Tomb Yeshiva (religious seminary), said yesterday that seven of his students who have been remanded in custody over the shooting death of a 13-year-old West Bank girl should not be prosecuted. Rabbi Ginsburg said after the seven were remanded for a further five days in the Israeli town of Kfar Sava, that Jewish religion made a distinction between Jewish and Goyim (gentile) blood.’ (The Daily Telegraph, June 3, 1989, reporter Ohad Gozani).
Rabbi Ginsburg also declared, ‘We have to recognize that Jewish blood and the blood of a goy are not the same thing.’ (NY Times, June 6, 1989, p.5). Rabbi Yaacov Perrin once said, ‘One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.’ (NY Daily News, Feb. 28, 1994, p. 6).
Agence France Presse reported July 27, 2001 that rabbi Ovadia Yossef (spiritual head of the influential Shas party in Israel) said that ‘they Arabs were reproducing like insects and were destined to end up in hell.’ According to AFP, the Rabbi added, ‘In the old city of Jerusalem they’re swarming like ants. They should go to hell — and the Messiah will speed them on their way.’
The Talmud has passages that could be interpreted to allow the killing of future enemies and distinguish Jewish blood as unique. English translations of the Talmud and Jewish reform movement has tended to make a more humane interpretation and translations of the texts. On Purim, Feb. 25, 1994, Israeli army officer Baruch Goldstein, an orthodox from Brooklyn, massacred dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, while they knelt in prayer in a mosque in Hebron. Goldstein was a disciple of the late Rabbi Kahane who has stated that his view of Arabs as ‘dogs’ is ‘from the Talmud.’ (Cf. CBS 60 Minutes,’Kahane’).
University of Jerusalem Prof. Ehud Sprinzak described Kahane’s and Goldstein’s philosophy: ‘They believe it’s God’s will that they commit violence against ‘Goyim,’ a Hebrew term for non-Jews.’ (NY Daily News, Feb. 26,1994, p. 5). Rabbi Israel Hess, writing February 26, 1980, in Bat Kol, the student publication of Bar-Ilan University, explained the commandment in Deuteronomy 25:17 to ‘obliterate the memory of Amalek.’ Rabbi Hess stated that the commandment allows the killing of infants, and forbids the showing of mercy to any group or people who declare war on Jews. This he explains is a milchemet mitzvah (a war of religious duty). There were no expressions of protest to this article (titled ‘The Mitzvah of Genocide in the Torah’) from the Bat Kol editorial board, Bar-Ilan students, or the university administration, and it was later reprinted in other newspapers (Eric H. Yoffie, ShÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ma 13/252, April 15, 1983).
More recently, Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, head of the Tzomet Institute in Gush Etzion, stated:
‘The value of rights of the individual is not as high in Judaism as it is in the Western world, and the needs of the public and of the state therefore supersede the needs of the individual. Without a doubt, Judaism has a national and even nationalistic approach, certainly when it comes to the needs of the individual, and particularly so when referring to an enemy population. … when we are speaking of releasing our soldiers, I believe it is possible to abduct even a thousand innocents if this provides an incentive for release of the captives. It is permitted, just as there is no reason not to blow up buses in Ramallah if it helps quell terror. Obviously, this task – if we think it is effective – is entrusted to the state, not to individuals.’ (Haaretz English Edition, June 25, 2002, ‘Hostages to the good of the realm’).
Extremism among some Israeli Jews has not received as much publicity as extremism among some Palestinians. In all such cases one has to distinguish between the majority practice of religion and a minority bent on certain interpretation of their religious texts. Amnon Rubinstein, a law professor at Tel Aviv University tried to record these outrages and battle them. He was a member of the Israeli Knesset in the early 1980s. The settler movement of Gush Emunim branded him a self-hating Jew and an ‘Arab-lover.’
Even some highly respected Jews fell into this trap of tribalism and hatred and refused to condemn Jewish racism. Elie Wiesel, for example, wrote that ‘every Jew, somewhere in his being, should set apart a zone of hate – healthy, virile hate, for what the German personifies and for what persists in the German.’ (Legends of our Time, Page 142). Wiesel also never condemned any of the racist and violent attacks on Palestinians by Israeli Jews.
A book on the subject details the marriage of religious fanaticism with military might (Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, ‘Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel,’ Pluto Press, 1999). Yet, this information has not filtered to the US Media which seems to concentrate solely on Islamic fundamentalism and ignore Jewish fundamentalism for fear f being labeled ‘anti-Semitic’. This may be slowly changing though. The USA Today quoted a Jewish settler who goes out nightly with other settlers to terrorize the Palestinians in the occupied areas:
‘We are doing what (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon promised but has failed to do: drive these sons of Arab whores from the Land of Israel’ said Shapiro, 42, who moved here with his wife and four children 3 years ago from Brooklyn. ‘If he won’t get rid of the Muslim filth, then we will.’… As they crouched in a ditch beside the road, Shapiro, the leader of the group, gave the settlers orders: Surround any taxi, ‘open fire’ and kill as many of the ‘blood-sucking Arab’ passengers as possible.
(Vigilantes take up arms, vow to expel ‘Muslim filth’ ‘ by Jack Kelley, USA Today, September 4, 2001)
The article fails to point out is that these settlers were nurtured, funded, and supported by every Israeli government (Labor and Likud alike) using US tax money and actually increased their support following the start of the so called ‘Oslo Peace Process’ (doubling their population in 7 years of land grab after 1993).
These settlers are trained in the military by the Israeli army as are all Israeli Jewish citizens but also are given excess to weapons exceptionally because they live in the occupied territories in settlements. They are the ones who gave us Baruch Goldman, a settler from Brooklyn who massacred 29 worshippers as they kneeled to prayer in Hebron (injured over a hundred). They are the ones who inspired the Yeshiva student Amir who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin because he was giving the promised land of Israel back to gentiles.
How we educate our children should ideally advocate inherent plurality and respect for human rights. Unfortunately, neither Israeli nor Palestinian societies have lived-up to this ideal. The Zionist movement was more interested in ‘Jewish cohesiveness’, establishing a ‘Jewish state’ and this entailed defending against integration rather than promoting it. This fostered development of attitudes among Israelis in different walks of life that creates a siege mentality. In some surveys, a majority of Israelis believed Arabs are not capable of peace. For many the distinction between an Arab and a terrorist is obliterated.
Similarly perhaps, some Palestinians fail to distinguish Jews from Zionists who oppressed them. One has to remember that in the US during the rise of Nazism and certainly in most of Nazi-occupied Europe, the term Nazi and German were interchangeable. For many living in Nazi-occupied Europe the brutality, violence, arrogance, and racism of the invaders became the defining German experience. And this was reinforced by the accurate perception that the Nazis enjoyed popular support from the majority of the German people from the mid 1930’s through the end of the war. While there were periodic acts of resistance by Germans living inside the Third Reich throughout the war, these really only came to light after 1945, and those living under German occupation rarely heard about these incidents, which were certainly never reported in the censored press. All mass anti-fascist, labor and left opposition to Hitler had been completely crushed by the Nazi security services well before the war began in 1939.
In Isaiah, we find these prophetic words: ‘Justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. Peace will be the fruit of justice, and the result of justice, quietness and trust forever ‘ (Isaiah 32:16-17). Isaiah is venerated by Christians, Jews, and Muslims and we should all heed his words. Justice is indeed a prerequisite for peace. And justice, we have shown and will document more in the next few chapters is very easy to understand and comprehend in this land of Canaan. Misinterpreting one’s own religious texts to justify injustice or violence is, or at least should be, condemned by all peace-seeking people.
The following statements from a Palestinian Christian center (http://www.sabeel.org) I think summarizes what in my opinion is a fair and just theological statement:
God, creator and redeemer, loves all people equally (John 3:16, Acts 17:24-28).
God demands that justice be done. No enduring peace, security, or reconciliation is possible without the foundation of justice. The demands of justice will not disappear; and the struggle for justice must be pursued diligently and persistently but non-violently (Jeremiah 9:23-24, Isaiah 32:16-17, Romans 12:17-21).
The Holy Land is GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gift to Palestinians and Israelis. They must live justly and mercifully and be good stewards of it (Micah 6:8).
‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ is an inclusive principle that must be honored and sought after (Mark 12:31). The Golden Rule continues to apply, ‘Do to others what you want them to do to you’ (Matthew 7:12).
Faithfulness to God obliges us to work for justice, peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing (Matthew 5:9, 43-45).
My only note to add is that each of these statements is also supported in the Holy Quran and in many other religions. It is thus worth repeating: ‘Peace will be the fruit of justice, and the result of justice, quietness and trust forever.’
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