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Blinded by the Right

America stumbled yet further this week into the
ditch of fanaticism, led by its blind President who is led by
Ariel Sharon. With the exit of Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, leader of
the Labor Party, from Sharon’s coalition government, and with
Sharon’s appointment of Shaul Mofaz as Defense Minister, a hardliner
who has directed the occupation of the Palestinians for the past
two years, America’s support for Israel drags it further into
the morass of rabid fundamentalism. Following the exit, Sharon’s
coalition retains only 55 of 120 seats. He will turn to ultra-right
and religious parties to garner the numbers he needs to retain
control. Such a coalition will move Israel even further in the
direction of eliminating the Palestinian right to a homeland.
That in turn will drag the region further and further into chaos.

Mofaz’ appointment already complements
Sharon’s drive to force religious fundamentalism on the people
of Israel. As his cabinet moves to the extreme right, he ineluctably
pushes his people to the fulfillment of ancient myths. More tellingly
for America, President Bush’s continuing capitulation to Ariel
Sharon’s deeply rooted desire to destroy any possibility of a
Palestinian state yokes America’s foreign policy to these same
ancient myths that have tethered ultra conservative Jews together
for over 2500 years. While the Zionist movement can be traced
to 1885 when Nathan Birnbaum edited Selbst-Emanzipation and
promulgated the ideas of the Hovevei Zion movement (The Jewish
Agency for Israel, www.us-israel.org), the belief that God’s
chosen people had a right to “Judea and Samaria,” the
“Promised Land,” goes back to Moses. Indeed, the American-Israeli
Cooperative Enterprise asserts “Some Religious Zionist Jews
see the formation of the secular state as accelerating the process
of redemption, with themselves playing a major role
in doing G-d’s will by serving the state, whose creation is often
seen as
miraculous.” (Emphasis mine) (www.us-israel.org)

As Sharon’s cabinet closes ranks around
the right-wing Likud priorities, and with the entrance into that
cabinet of Effi Eitam, head of the National Religious Party,
the merger of Sharon’s political agenda, the denial that the
Palestinians have a right to a homeland, and the mythological
beliefs of Eitam’s expressed purpose for entering politics, the
return of the Promised Land to God’s chosen, Israeli policy toward
the Palestinian people becomes mired in religious myths more
than 2500 years old, myths that give the Jews authorization to
destroy “… the experts of impurity, cursedness and evil.”
as Eitam characterizes the Palestinians. (LA TIMES, Sunday, 6/30/02,
A11)

According to Eitam, the Palestinians
are not ordinary people, but “uncircumcised,” “little
people,” and “evil,” by contrast with the Jews
who are “the blessed,” and who have “returned
home for our rendezvous with the Lion of the World and the Lioness
that is our nation.” (LA TIMES) This man, who claims to
bring morality back to politics, openly proclaims his policy
toward the Palestinians: “And when we pounce on you (the
Palestinians), and it will happen ­ when we come with vengeance
against your terrible evil, woe will be unto you ­ we will
make a reckoning with you.” (LA TIMES) Here is a prophet
of old speaking in the language of the Old Testament as though
it were truth and the source of domestic and foreign policy in
this new millennium.

Eitam is not alone in his expressed ideology.
Gush Emunim rabbis, another right-wing religious group, have
“reiterated that Jews who kill Arabs should be free from
all punishment.” They have gone further; they claim that
Arabs living in Palestine are thieves because the land was Jewish
and belongs to them. (Prof. Israel Shahak, www.abbc.com) These
beliefs arise from adherence to centuries old myths that have
no relevance in today’s world either politically of theologically,
yet they persist despite our perspective on dramatically similar
events in the past.

Consider our enlightened view of the
ancient “Crusades,” those ushered in by Urban II and
later by Innocent III, as they compare with the conflicts current
in Palestine. Innocent gathered 50,000 troops to destroy the
Cathars in the 13th century, a heretical sect that threatened
the absolute authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The recounting
of the slaughters of the heretics during the “Albigensian
Crusade” by the monk of Vaux-Cernay concludes with the same
phrase after each massacre, “and the pilgrims (crusaders)
seizing nearly sixty heretics burned them with infinite joy.”
(Sismondi 45) They, too, like Eitam, found joy in slaughtering
those God determined to be evil. Indeed, the radical elite tend
to enjoy fulfilling God’s word as they have determined His meaning:
Sismondi declares “The more zealous they were for the glory
of God, the more ardently they labored for the destruction of
heretics, the better Christians they thought themselves.”

Now we have Eitam and Likud coupled with
Sharon’s personal drive to ensure that only the Jews possess
what used to be Palestinian land. How similar the cries of praise
to God of the Crusaders, “How glorious are the victors who
return from battle! How blessed are the martyrs who die in battle.”
Compare this response to the conquering Jews after the 1982 war,
“Oh Lord, Oh Lord, You have chosen us for conquest!”
(Chomsky 96) All ruling elites use ancient myths to move their
people to “take up the cross” against the impure so
that sacred land given to them by God can be cleansed and returned
to its rightful owners.

These myths lie deep in the psyche of
the ultra-right and the National Religious Party that Eitam heads.
Perhaps the article by Mordechai Nisan, “Judaism and Politics”
in the Jerusalem Post of Jan. 18, 1983, captures the thinking
most graphically: “At the 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
Dwelling in the Land is the Jewish priority and it is no way
restricted, let alone nullified, by a non-Jewish majority population
in any given part of the Land” (Chomsky 444).

Nisan understands the dilemma this position
causes in a democratic age since it appears to be a non-democratic
position. But his response is blatantly pro-Jewish: “it
is nowhere provided that non-Jews will enjoy full equal rights
as a national community. The fact that “the Land is in the
eternal possession of the Jewish people alone” is not fully
understood by other people because they have not recognized that
Western liberal ideas are no longer sustainable in this modern
age! Chomsky offers this quote that references Maimonides thinking:
“There is no relation between the law of Israel [Torat
Yisrael
] and atheistic modern humanism in a divinely-commanded
war one must destroy, kill and eliminate men, women, and children.”

Gush Emunim thinking and its counterparts
among the growing elite that seem to have gained power in Israel
in this last year fall prey to the malaise that inflicted Kurtz
in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”: the acceptance in
themselves of absolute righteousness and self-perceived fulfillment
resulting in the unquestioned need to wantonly slaughter innocents
to achieve their own conception of their eminence despite behavior
that is barbaric, bestial, and inhumane. Reaching this level
of behavior requires dissembling rational thought, indeed a total
rejection of it, blind adherence to beliefs that have no justification
outside of the fanatical zealots own cult, and an abhorrence
of normal morality that applies to humans in favor of a morality
that fulfills the cults own perceived destiny. Ultimate depravity
becomes the end product of God’s commands.

The belief in the “unity of man,”
in the natural rights of men and women, has given way to the
“unity of nations,” specifically in this instance to
the Israeli nation, the homeland of the Jewish race. This understanding
places the elite, who interpret the Biblical stories, in a position
of immense power since they have not only determined that God
speaks, but that God has given a specific piece of geography
to a specific people regardless of conditions that have existed
for thousands of years. This understanding allows for, indeed
demands, that international law, internationally determined human
rights provisions, and the philosophical foundations of Western
thought be abandoned in favor of God’s directives as determined
by a small segment of a small population as though they alone
possess truth.

The President, a known born-again Christian, has ties to those
fundamentalist denominations that support the Zionist aspirations
to create a Jewish state, not because they favor Judaism, but
because they believe in ancient myths as well: the necessity
for the Jews to reoccupy Judea and Samaria if the Second Coming
is to happen. Bush’s linkage to these denominations and his dependence
on the Israeli lobbyists in this country have governed his policy
toward the conflicts in the mid-east. His recent “vision”
statement (an apt mythological appellation) on the conflict unites
him ineluctably to Sharon. Nothing that he said forestalls or
even minimizes the likelihood of complete Israeli control and
occupation of the land formerly owned by the Palestinians. In
short, the President has linked America to those ancient myths,
stories that compel one people to slaughter another because their
God has given them the right to act. This thinking is no different
than that used by Hamas authorities when they inculcate into
their members the God given right to destroy the Jews because
that is what God demanded in the Koran.

Would anyone have believed that in the
year 2002 America would join ranks with fanatics driven by fabricated
stories more than 2500 years old as the basis for foreign policy?
Our acceptance of Sharon’s administration and its savage policies
also means we have accepted the fanatics of Islam who use the
same God as the Israelis to justify their atrocities. These mythologies
become the motivating tools of those in power to justify their
purpose. They grab at the opportunities present — fear inflicted
by enemies of the people, righteous behavior demanded by their
God, promise of rewards in the hereafter for those joining against
the forces of evil, and ultimate victory for the myths that gave
them purpose to carry out their desires. It is unfortunate that
America has been hoodwinked into supporting beliefs that should
have died a quiet death years and years ago. What a mockery of
international law, of the Geneva Convention on Human Rights,
and America’s proclaimed belief in Democracy and the inherent
rights guaranteed to all people is our obeisance to the whims
of those who would find recourse to oppression in the pages of
a mythological text.

William Cook
is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern
California. He can be reached at: cookb@ULV.EDU

More articles by:

William A. Cook’s latest book is Decade of Deceit.

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