Website of Rabbi Shai Gluskin

Fundamentalist logic

by Amira Hass

Haaretz Op-Ed Piece, Wednesday, December 4, 2002.

Kiryat Arba's settlers, with active assistance from the Civil Administration and the IDF, are keeping their promise to create "territorial contiguity between Kiryat Arba and the Tomb of the Patriarchs." Less than three weeks after the lethal Islamic Jihad ambush killed 12 soldiers and Israeli security officers, the appropriate Zionist response is taking concrete shape in the form of mobile homes and demolition orders - as everyone knew it would. Many Palestinian families no longer live along the route that connects the settlement to the old city of Hebron. They were driven away by fear of the settlers.

Half-destroyed houses that are hundreds of years old, beautiful architectural pearls that the Palestinians were unable to renovate and preserve because they had no civilian control over the area of the old city, will be destroyed. Presumably, some less ancient buildings will also be destroyed. But that's the kind of information that evaporates quickly in a country that is so busy, on the one hand burying its dead from terror attacks, and on the other hand busy with primaries elections in the parties from the left to the right.

The continuation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's settlement plans in the occupied territories with the help of his loyal army of settlers is not "news" - not even when one of those settler leaders, Kiryat Arba Mayor Zvi Katzover, volunteers the geographic-demographic-military vision behind his determination and persistence and that of his comrades.

"When the big war begins and the Arabs run away from here, sooner or later, we'll be back in the houses," he told reporter Benny Liss of Channel One on November 27. It was a very short sentence, but it said a lot. Several things can be understood from it. "The big war," apparently compared to the "little war" we've known in recent years, is no doubt a regional war, or perhaps a war that will be described as the struggle between light and darkness, Islam against Christianity and Judaism, or "between civilizations" - dark Islam versus the enlightened West. It's an event that will no doubt come and there's no reason to try to prevent. In fact, maybe it would be best if it happened (in fact, it should be encouraged) when the results are positive, of course, because "the Arabs will run away."

It's also difficult to believe that Katzover is referring to "only" the Palestinians of Hebron. The "big war," after all, won't sweep only over the ancient town of the patriarchs. According to that logic, it's not only in Hebron but throughout the entire country that foreigners - i.e., non-Jews - are in possession of Jewish land. This catastrophic logic fits neatly with the religious-nationalist beliefs that have guided the settler pioneers for the last 35 years, a faith in the divine promise of the land to the people of Israel. It's a combination of faith in the inevitable, divine intervention on behalf of the Jewish people, according to the religious-fundamentalist interpretations, with belief in the duty of the individuals to act in order to hasten the arrival of the happy ending.

That catastrophic logic does not guide only the religious-political Jewish fundamentalists. It's exactly the same religious-deterministic logic that over and over refills the reservoirs of Palestinian suicide bombers, those who prepare the bombs and throw the Molotov cocktails at the tanks rolling through Palestinian cities, people whose chances of getting killed are much greater than their chances of penetrating the armor of the tanks.

The desire to take revenge may be the motive for each individual who takes the place of another Palestinian captured, interrogated, killed, or wounded in IDF operations. The lack of a desire to live a life that's not worth living might unite a much larger public than those who have already decided to commit a suicide bombing. But the Islamic organizations, which exploit that, operate with their own terminal vision.

They also believe the Land was given through a divine promise, but to Muslims. They also bring forth scripture to prove their point. They also are convinced the divine promise will come true sooner or later, and that "God helps those who help themselves," meaning there should be no waiting around doing nothing until the happy ending. Nowadays, it's not only in Hamas and Islamic Jihad circles that one can hear young people explaining that the day will come and the entire Islamic world will enlist in the cause of war against Israel, and it will be a "big war," terrible and all-encompassing - but it will ultimately "liberate" the promised land. Such religious rhetoric can now be heard from Fatah youths, who are becoming ever more Orthodox as their lives on earth offer them less and less.

The catastrophic Palestinian-Islamic logic grows stronger the more Palestinian society is weakened and vanquished by the ongoing Israeli military operations. And the catastrophic Jewish thinking is, on the one hand, based on a sense of personal hopelessness as Sisyphean military operations fail to fulfill the promise "to eradicate the terror," and on the other hand on a powerful army that increasingly sets the civil agenda, when the borders between the religious and nationalist faith of its ever more outspoken commanders are being continuously erased.