Jewish Terror, Anti-State Zionism & Terrible Torah (Yehuda Etzion)


An important profile on Jewish terrorist Yehuda Etzion, which you can read here in the NYT. Apprehended by the state authorities in the 198os, Etzion was part of a/the Jewish Underground convicted for attempting to assassinate Palestinian mayors in the occupied West Bank, the shooting of students at the Islamic college in Hebron, and for plotting to blow up the Temple Mount. He rejects the recent murder of Ali Darawshe and his father and the larger phenomenon of “price tag attacks” by a new breed of Jewish terrorists from his own ideological camp. Mostly because the violence is random, he rejects these killers, the so-called Hill Top youth, and their milieu as an ideological perversion or distortion.

But how far does the apple fall from the tree? And from which tree did Etzion drop? The article makes note of the biographical fact that Etzion grew up on a kibbutz. More significantly is his ideological debt to an old fighter of the Lehi, a pre-state terrorist militia from the 1940s, named Shabtai Ben-Dov. Ben-Dov left behind some 2800 manuscript pages that Etzion is editing. This kind of terrorism is a historical legacy that threatens to overwhelm the state. Violent and messianic, Etzion wants to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount. That’s the devotion.

Note the privilege accorded to religion and the negative attitude towards the state, nay the spirit of rebellion, that Etzion shares with the Hill Top Youth, and which surely they must have learned from him. “‘Even at my advanced age, I have not learned to respect and obey and say, ‘Yes, of course,’ to every law that Israel creates,’ he said. “My criteria is the Torah of Israel.” Is this even Zionism anymore? In its rejection of the state, it’s no longer political Zionism. You could call it post-Zionism, which might be sort of true but not quite correct. Perhaps it’s best to describe it as a non- or anti-statist form of religious Zionism that has placed a terrible Torah at its center.

Flesh of their flesh, Etzion clearly understands the younger generation’s negation of the state, “The young people ask themselves, ‘Who is the state?’ Is the state on the side of the house that was built in the land of Israel, or on the side of the bulldozer that has come to destroy it?” he said. “The more the youth decide the state is the bulldozer, they say, ‘I’m against,’ and ‘I’m ready to throw a firebomb at the bulldozer.’”

“With a biblical white beard and ruddy cheeks, Mr. Etzion wore sandals and a work shirt over his prayer fringes. He spoke in nuanced paragraphs as his wife of 40 years cooked for the Sabbath, at one point ducking in to apologize for a forthcoming noise. ‘That noise will soon be a cake,’ he noted with an eye-twinkle.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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