• Israel’s Religious Inspired Violence Exposed

    Glenn Greenwald has written a very good piece about the recent attacks upon the Gaza strip by Israeli forces. It mainly focuses on the US’s response (and disgraceful support) for the attacks. To gain some background on the reasoning behind the attacks this is a very good piece (cited by Greenwald).

    This article reminds me of everything I learned when I read a few books about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    Regarding the current crisis, as with nearly every example of Israeli and Palestinian violence, the Israelis are to blame. The Israelis harm some innocent Palestinians which cause them to fire rockets in retaliation that rarely do any damage, let alone harm to kill anyone, into the Israeli “settlements” (more like entire towns and cities). Israel responds with brutal force, often using its vast military arsenal, killing many innocent men, women, and children. Even taking into account Israel’s “right to self-defense” (which wouldn’t even be the case since more often than not they are the ones who instigate such actions by the Palestinians, which would rule out any argument of self-defense) their use of force is overwhelmingly excessive and unnecessary.

    I am appalled how anyone could support these actions. I’ve since learned that many support Israel for mainly religious reasons. For example, “a 2008 poll taken in the US, more than 80 per cent of Christians stated that they had a ‘‘moral and biblical’’ obligation to love, pray and support Israel, while 62 per cent of evangelicals said that Jerusalem should remain Israel’s undivided capital.” Another 2003 poll by the Pew Forum found that “white evangelical Protestants were more sympathetic to Israel than to the Palestinians – 55% sympathized more with Israel, only 6% with the Palestinians (versus 41% and 13%, respectively, of all those surveyed).” They were “significantly more likely to say that religious beliefs were the single biggest influence in leading them to sympathize more with Israel – 46% versus 26% of all those surveyed.” Finally, they were “significantly more likely to believe that God gave the land of Israel to the Jews – 72% versus 44% of all those surveyed.”

    While the conflict has often been said to be purely political, the fact is that religion plays a large role. For instance, here are a few quotes from influential Israelis and their motivations:

    Ariel Sharon, the former Prime Minister of Israel, said during an “off-the-record speech to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in June 2002” that “the ‘Land of Israel’ are guaranteed to the Jewish people by Holy Scripture.” [1]

    Shimon Peres, the current President of Israel, once wrote in a 1978 opinion piece when he was still leader of the Labor Party, “There is no argument in Israel about our historic rights in the land of Israel. The past is immutable and the Bible is the decisive document in determining the fate of our Land.” [2]

    Mordechai Nisan, an Israeli scholar of Middle East Studies at the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has written, “At the very dawn of Jewish history, contact with the Land of Israel established the principle that the presence of non-Jews in the country is morally and politically irrelevant to the national right of the Jews to settle and possess the Land… The Bible states the Jewish right regardless of non-Jewish presence.” [3]

    Rabbi Isaac J. Bernstein, who was an executive member of the Rabbinical Council of America, said, “As long as the war which initiated the conquest was conducted under instructions from the Israeli government, who halachicly [by religious law] possesses the same powers as the biblical king, all territories captured as a result of this war belong to Israel.” [4]

    I find it horribly depressing that such a large group would defend the needless slaughter of innocent men, women, and children. It’s even more unbearable given the fact that so many defend their actions by citing their religious beliefs! Perhaps I might be able to change some minds if I report a few of the acts of violence, suppression, and brutality perpetuated by the Israelis against the Palestinians.

    Some of the only times when acts of brutality are brought to light is when military trials take place and some of the Israeli’s acts are exposed. To quote Noam Chomsky,

    A number of reserve officers connected with the Peace Now movement threatened to make charges against soldiers public unless there was an investigation, leading to a trial that “brought forth evidence of methodically brutal treatment of the local townspeople last spring” (1982), at the peak of the atrocities carried out under the Milson-Sharon administration. Reuters reports that at the trial, Maj. David Mofaz, the deputy military governor of Hebron at the time of the alleged atrocities, testified that “Israeli soldiers were given orders to harass and beat up Palestinian residents” and that they “viciously struck and kicked defenseless young Arab prisoners.” He testified that “he personally was ordered to beat up Arabs by the West Bank military commander,” but he knew that “the orders came from higher up, from the chief of staff.” He said that “the army had orders to harass the West Bank population in general, not just those involved in anti-Israeli demonstrations,” giving examples. An Israeli captain testified that he had personally beaten Palestinian detainees and that “Israeli soldiers routinely beat up Palestinian detainees on the occupied West Bank with the knowledge of senior officers.” [5]

    In addition, “The Hebrew press reports the testimony of the vice-commander of the Judea region, who reports that in a meeting with Civilian Administrator Menachem Milson, General Sharon gave instructions as to how to deal with demonstrators: ‘Cut off their testicles.’ The Chief of staff went a step further, telling soldiers on the northern front that ‘the only good Arab is a dead Arab,’ as reported by Abraham Burg, son of the Minister of Interior.” [6]

    Not only have the Israelis resorted to outright violence against the Palestinians, but they routinely harass students and members of the universities. Noam Chomsky writes,

    [T]he Arab intelligentsia have been a particular target of attack, in accordance with “the clear plan of Sharon to drive out and destroy any sign or element with an Arab national character, to bring about full Israeli control in the territories.” Bir Zeit university in the West Bank has been one of the favorite targets, with “night raids on women’s and men’s dormitories, and on students and faculty apartments,” disruption of classes by military checkpoints, confiscation of students’ ID cards making it illegal for them to travel, and in general, “daily humiliation inflicted on students [which] placed them under psychological pressure that made normal functioning of the University difficult” – an understatement, as more detailed reporting shows. [7]

    This hatred and violence perpetuated by the Israelis is bad enough, but the fact that it largely stems from their religious convictions, beliefs based upon fanciful fairy tales, makes it even more despicable.

    1. Terrorism and Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice, and Peace to Rid the World of Evil, by James Bovard, Palgrave, 2003; 287

    2. Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel & The Palestinians, by Noam Chomsky, South End Press, 1999; 54

    3. Ibid.; 444

    4. Ibid.; 153

    5. Ibid.; 128

    6. Ibid.; 129

    7. Ibid.; 134

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    Article by: Arizona Atheist