Politics of Religious Terrorism In Israel Today (The Problem is “Judaism”)

terror

In the United States many people tend to have a benign, warm and fuzzy view of “Judaism.” Even on the anti-Zionist Jewish left, Judaism is let off the hook, as if the political task was to free Judaism by separating it from Zionism. To be sure, there are toxic combinations of the two today in contemporary Israel, and it would be a grave mistake to ignore that larger supporting nexus. But the first source of the political murder and mayhem rests securely on the side of Judaism, on rightwing religious Jews acting under the umbrella of “Judaism.” It’s not secular Ashkenazi Israelis, secular Ashkenazi Likudnikim, traditionalist Sephardi working class people, Ethiopian Jews, or Russian immigrants but rightwing religious Jews who are responsible for the recent murder of the Palestinian baby in the West Bank village of Duma, the attempted murder at the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, or the arson attack at the Church of the Multiplication, or the so-called Price Tag attacks, or the burning every year of olive trees throughout the West Bank, or the riots at Beit El, or the organized move to upset the delicate balance on the Temple Mount. Aiding and abetting, the State and its organs are all complicit, and so too are secular Israelis who do nothing to contain and arrest this dangerous phenomenon. But it’s Judaism, the Judaism of the religious settler community that entrenches the Occupation, makes territorial compromise impossible, and foments not just garden-variety racism, but blatant anti-Arab incitement. Maybe “responsibility” is the wrong word. The government is responsible. The right word is “motivation,” religion being the force that directly drives these explosive types of political violence. The political violence is not just political. Given its demographic, the racial animus and violence have their first base in religion, religious ideas and ideologies, religious communities and institutions, religious texts and traditions. It’s “Judaism,” rightwing Judaism that bears the direct and immediate onus for the political violence in Israel that goes back to the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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