The Root of Arab Rage: The Case Against a Palestinian State

November 23, 2012 12:42 pm 0 comments

History has shown that there is no greater threat to the security of Western interests in the Middle East than the emergence of a gaping power vacuum. Photo: James Buck.

With a so-called “cease-fire” between Israel and Hamas, one need not be a skeptic to wonder what this “cease-fire” actually means, and who it applies to. Hamas has been raining missiles indiscriminately on cities across Israel, terrorizing millions. Israel simply reacted as any country would. And now, a cease fire is declared?! Who is meant to cease-fire? The perpetrators or the defenders? And a cease-fire to what end? Did Israel succeed in eliminating the threat?

Does anyone, on a side of the aisle, truly believe that this will hold, and that our problems are resolved?

The only way to understand this latest conflagration is to see it as a series of events that have been going on for over 60 years and perhaps longer — fires that have flared up again and again in a highly combustible environment. At best, Israel has been successful in putting out many of these fires, but never has it eliminated the underlying cause, nor has it changed the volatile ground that breeds and feeds the ongoing threat.

The mighty Israeli military — and the highly acclaimed Jewish intelligence (yiddish sechel) — has thus been rendered into being nothing more than… glorified “fire fighters,” adept at extinguishing blazes, but not at solving the root of the problem: the factors that cause these blazes to ignite in the first place.

Beyond the short-term deterrents, what then is the bigger picture, and what can be done to resolve this at the source once and for all?

*

Let us begin with the big question: What lies behind Arab rage against Israel? Compared to the millions of Muslims slaughtered by other Muslims in Sudan, Syria, Iraq and other countries, Palestinian deaths in Israel are relatively few. Yet the millions massacred and millions more repressed does not evoke Arab outrage as do the events in Israel. Why the double standard? Some argue that this double standard in the Middle East is due to the fact that Arab countries are shame-based societies, and ‘Israeli repression’ of Arabs is seen not just as brutal, but also as humiliating.

They cite Arabs sating that, “Israel is a colonial outpost and that as a result while Israeli Arabs may have ballots and free speech, they have no dignity. The Israeli occupation represents a total humiliation of all the Arab regimes. It’s a continuous reminder of the weakness of the Arabs as people, of their society and political system, as well as an indication of the impotence and corruption of their regimes.”

Arab humiliation seems to have become a mainstay since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The Arab world can simply not get over their lost pride as a people who once ruled and represented the epitome of civilization, and now are relegated to Third World status. Israel and America represent for the Arab world the source of this humiliation – so the argument goes.

Many other speculations are offered to explain Arab rage and frenzy against Israel and the West.

Understanding the underlying causes for Arab sentiments is not academic; it is the only way to get to the bottom of the issues. Understanding their mentality is the true key to help provide us with a meaningful strategy. We can never devise a workable plan as long as we focus on the superficial causes, and do not understand the driving force of our adversary. Does the Arab world just want justice for the Palestinians? Equal rights (rights they do not have under any Arab ruler)? Some land to live peacefully? Or perhaps they want something more that they simply are not telling us?

I submit that the true reason and core root of Arab anger is religious and not political.

The Arab world’s opposition to Israel is not due to any Israeli actions, but rather to the very existence of the Land of Israel and Jewish control over the land. This control is a perpetual thorn in their side, and the root cause for their “shame” and humiliation.

Why? Because Muslims fundamentally believe that Israel’s existence – and Jewish control over Israel – in what they consider to be their ‘conquered land,’ is a desecration of their religious vision.

This is the reason why Muslims have always built mosques on the sacred land of Jews and Christians (e.g. the Temple Mount, Bethlehem) to demonstrate their absolute belief that Muslim control over these lands fulfills and realizes the Divine will.

This religious belief is the true cause for the rage of the Arab/Muslim world against Israel. It is not about human rights, Palestinian sovereignty, Arab dignity, oil, money, harems, or any other issue. No amount of land return, no concessions will satisfy them – other than the elimination of Jewish control in Israel.

As uncomfortable as it may be, we will never be able to resolve the issues until we realize that this is a religious war not a political one.

Many of us would like to conveniently believe that the issues are political ones, because that would make the situation a lot more manageable and the problem a lot simpler. We know how to deal with political challenges. But if this is a religious war, we simply do not have the tools, experience or interest to fight such a war.

Our existing modalities are secular ones. Our political systems and governmental institutions have been built with secular goals in mind, without much consideration to spiritual and religious values, which we have relegated to the private sector. We therefore do not see the world in context of religious and spiritual vision. That’s why we cannot fathom or understand the rage of the Arab world today.

And this is why a Palestinian state is not possible, and for that matter not doable. A state will never satisfy the Arab world. They will simply see it as a step in the direction of their re-conquest of Israel. They do not want a state for political reasons, but for religious ones. That is the key to the underlying issues. As much as we wish to make the Arafats of the world our “partners in peace,” we must realize that our secular notions of peace are not part of their agenda at all.

But what lies beneath and behind – what fuels – this Arab rage and passion? To understand this we need to enter into the secret world of religious passion.

Balance between the sacred and the mundane is a central theme in the Torah and in Jewish literature. We read time and again about passionate souls who are challenged to find balance between transcedence and existence. We are clearly instructed to live holy lives. “Be holy, because I, your G-d, am holy.” But how do we do that in a deeply secular and mundane world, without annihilating our existing institutions and infrastructures?

Sanctifying yourself in the material world is no simple feat. Spirit and matter are dichotomous. Our physical existence consumes us so that it leaves little room (space and time) for spirituality. Our struggle for survival – eating, sleeping, work, shelter – hampers our search for transcendence, the pursuit of our calling and higher purpose. Material life lends itself to corruption, which explains why the scouts sent by Moses to Israel returned with a negative report, arguing that Israel is a “land that consumes its inhabitants.” Who among us does not have the struggle between our own personal higher standards and the temptation to conform to society’s standards, between home and career, between focusing on our transcendental needs when we are so preoccupied with our material ones?

The challenge of creating harmony between body and soul is twofold. When we are immersed in our daily needs it is increasingly difficult to access our souls. When we are inspired by a transcendental experience, we find it difficult to reenter regular life. It seems as if the extraordinary and the ordinary are mutually exclusive, like two different worlds that can never entirely converge.

How often do we find someone caught up in spiritual ecstasy that they cannot return intact? Being burned out by the fire of a passionate high, unable to reenter ordinary life? Case in point the famous Talmudic story of the ‘four who entered the garden,’ three unable to return unharmed. This explains why some mystics have chosen the ascetic path, separating themselves from regular life, so that they can pursue the life of the spirit.

In the book of Leviticus we read how Nadav and Avihu succumbed to this temptation. In their great passion and love for the Divine, they entered the Holy of Holies, and they… ‘burned out’ and could not return. The Torah then proceeds to define the necessary guidelines on how to enter holiness and how to internalize and integrate the experience and not self-destruct.

Of course this fear of being spiritually ‘burned out’ can lead one to argue the merit of the exact opposite position: We should just immerse ourselves in our material lives and forget about our spiritual dreams and fantasies. The argument goes: In our mundane world it is simply naïve to live a life of spiritual and ethical integrity. If we do embrace the sublime, we stand the great risk of ‘burn out’ and being unable to cope with ordinary life. Why take the risk, better to just resign ourselves to a mundane life, as close as we possibly can to ‘animal bliss.’

But that type of resignation is a cop-out. Can we be healthy human beings if we repress our soul’s restless thirst for transcendence? Indeed, we are obligated to sanctify our lives. And this precisely is life’s challenge: To fuse both worlds – matter and spirit, to spiritualize our material existence. This requires a delicate balance – a delicate dance – to synthesize both experiences, without one annihilating the other.

What is sanctity? Sanctity is recognizing that that every aspect of your life is not self contained but meant to become a channel for a Higher presence. Kedusha (holiness) is bittul (humility), suspension of self that allows the Divine to enter. Selfishness and narcissism does not allow anything else in. “Where is G-d?” the future Rebbe of Kotzk was once asked as a child. He replied: “Wherever you let Him in.”

The command “be holy” instructs us to sanctify all aspects of existence – time, space and human. We must sanctify our personal behavior, through kindness and love. Then we sanctify time – we realize the preciousness of each moment and fill it with meaningful and Divine activities. Shabbat and the holidays are sacred days. Yom Kippur – the holiest day of the year, the Holy of Holies – is the epitome of time sanctification, serving as the source of sanctity for all days of the year.

Finally we sanctify space, the homes, land and countries in which we live. The Holy Land of Israel is the epitome of space sanctification, serving as the source of sanctity that spread to the entire globe. [This is one reason why Jews pray facing the East – Israel, Jerusalem, the Temple Mount].

Jerusalem – especially the Temple Mount and specifically the Holy of Holies on the Mount – is the center and nucleus of Holiness on Earth. No wonder everyone always wanted to control Jerusalem. Not just today but throughout history. How many battles have been waged over that holy real estate?

So, Jewish control of the Holy Land and particularly of the Holy of Holies is no small matter. Arab rage against Israel may have many ostensible causes. But at its core root, it stems from the Holy of Holies – from the need and will to control that vital region. As long as Jews control it, they feel utterly weak.

The Talmud gives us a profound psychological insight. At times your unconscious – your mazal – may sense something that causes a strong physical reaction. The holiness of Israel and Jerusalem is the cause for the profound enmity of the Arab world, even if there are other perceived causes and not everyone may be conscious of the true cause.

But to devise a successful strategy requires a true diagnosis of the problem. And sometimes (more often than not) the truth is something no one wants to hear or acknowledge. The war against Israel is rooted in religious belief (albeit distorted). And this is very difficult for us to accept. Why? There are many reasons. One compelling reason is this: After all, our modern secular world still lingers in the long shadow of the war between science and religion, a war many thought was won long ago by science and secularism. Suddenly religion comes back on the scene, and is threatening not just the Middle East but New York and Washington – mighty secular America.

That is too much to absorb in one shot. That’s why people are in such shock. We need to get accustomed to this new reality — a religious global war being fought, a war that will determine what G-d really wants of us, a war that will define and crystallize once and for all what is true Islam, what is true Christianity and what is true Judaism. We need to learn to reintroduce a long forgotten G-d into our lives, to reacquaint ourselves with G-d after a long hiatus, fueled by prosperity and its inevitable complacency and spiritual lethargy.

As a Jew, I know that our role is to use every platform available to us today to advocate the universal message of Torah – what Abraham taught to all his children, how G-d wants all of us to live, Jew, Muslim, Christian and all people.

The Torah’s essential message is that we can and we must sanctify the material world. We need to integrate the sacred with the mundane. One extreme or the other is simply not acceptable: Violent passion – even in the name of G-d – is destructive and therefore un-G-dly. Too much untempered chesed (kindness) annihilates the universe. Conversely, overabundant gevurah (harshness) and immersion in the material, or its antithesis, radical disassociation with the physical (as in celibacy), is equally destructive.

The holiness of Eretz Yisroel (Israel) is complete when it creates harmony between the physical land (Eretz) and the Divine (Yisroel, meaning “You have battled with the Divine and with man and you have prevailed”).

We are now experiencing perhaps the greatest ‘market correction’ in history – in defining the truth of the world’s religions; a reality check of the vastest proportions – the final battle – and ultimate reconciliation – between the sublime and the secular, between spirit and matter.

Truth or consequences is not a game today; it has never been so apparent. The consequences of living a lie are becoming more obvious by the day. Lies and deception work well in shadows, where it is difficult to discern true from false. But as the dawn breaks and we can begin to clearly see the price we pay for our falsities, the truth emerges in direct proportion to the exposed lies.

Are we really surprised that Hamas is declaring victory after the so-called “cease-fire” and calling for a third intifida?

Sometimes the most obvious truths are not stated and acknowledged because we fear the unknown. But then when we do acknowledge them we begin to realize that we have the power to face the challenge.

Let us hope and pray that we do not have to pay with any more lives to realize the truth of our situation and act accordingly.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.