Israel's Religious Militants and Their Disdain for Muslims and Christians

By Grace Halsell

Originally published in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs , July/August 1990

A few years back when in Jerusalem I visited a so-called "religious school" where militant Jews had been trained, it appeared to their Arab neighbors, in sadistic methods of how best to torment the Palestinians.

After I climbed the steps to the offices of the Jewish yeshiva, located in the heart of the Muslim quarter of the Old City-and in close proximity to the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque- I encountered a Jew who told me his name was Joseph and that he was born in New York.

Like so many of the most militant orthodox Jews I have encountered, the U.S. native was an authority on God as a real estate broker. Joseph said God had given all of Jerusalem and Palestine to him and other Jews, and that all the Palestinians would have to leave.

The Palestinians of course protested the militant Jews being in their midst, there in the Muslim quarters, but the Western world that supports the militant Jews by supplying them with dollars and weapons paid no heed to the confiscation of Muslim property.

It was only last April when the same militant Jews from the same yeshiva moved into the Christian quarter of the Old City, and laid siege to a Christian edifice that Christian voices of outrage were heard.

An Assault by Fanatics

Indeed, the militant Jews, many of them from the United States, had been blatant in laying siege to a church-owned complex-St. John's Hospice-located near one of the most sacred of all Christian sites, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

One hundred and fifty armed Jews moved into the Christian quarter-singing and clapping and accompanied by heavily armed Israeli police. Removing the engraved insignia of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate (that owns the building), the militants installed their own Star of David.

Reflecting on this assault by Jewish fanatics, I have tried to imagine the reaction by the West, including the White House, as well as the Jewish organizations here and elsewhere, had Muslim or Christian militants laid siege to a synagogue, claiming that God told them to do it.

Initially, Shamir and his government denied any involvement. But later they admitted that they had transferred nearly $2 million in Israeli government funds through Panama to enable the Jewish settlers to "reclaim" land from Christian Palestinians.

As for the Israeli government's support of the militants' siege of a Christian edifice, the Jewish-owned New York Times as well as the World Jewish Congress cried "for shame." The outcry brought a removal, at least temporarily, of some of the Jewish settlers from the Christian hospice, although 20 remained behind, and the Israeli police prevented the former Christian occupants from returning.

Tax-Free Donations

Meanwhile, few Jewish-owned media in the U.S. have criticized and few Jewish organizations have investigated the groups that continue to solicit American tax-free donations to send to Jewish militants. Many, such as Menachem Bar Shalom, are dual U.S.-Israeli citizens who regularly shuttle between New York and Jerusalem in their efforts to "reclaim" all of the Old City as their own.

These dual citizens funnel tax-free dollars to a yeshiva, Ateret Cohanim, for use in militant confiscation of buildings and homes in the Old City. They annually hold fund-raising dinners in the United States.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, former ambassador to the United Nations, was guest speaker at a May 23 dinner, at the New York Hilton, where American Jews were urged to write checks for as much as $5,000 for the "Jerusalem Reclamation Project" (now dubbed JRP).

According to published reports in Israel, such dinners last year raised $2.35 million for Jewish acquisition (reclaiming) of Muslim and Christian property in Jerusalem.

The Jewish militants who staged their assault last Easter on Christian property so loudly and blatantly, with an impressive array of armed settlers as well as armed Israeli guards, obviously wanted a "media event," and they got it. But why did these militant Jews stage an event that many analysts would consider counter-productive? After all, it is "Christian America" that supplies billion of the dollars that annually go to the Jews of Israel.

The Jewish militants acted, I believe, to show their disdain, even hatred, for Christians and Christian holy places and Christian symbols.

Israel Shahak, the brilliant Israeli scientist and activist in the cause of justice, told me that militant Orthodox Jews "are taught to hate the Christian." Such militant Orthodox Jews, he said, are enjoined, when passing a nun, whose costume often includes a large cross suspended from a long necklace, to "spit on the cross."

Orthodox Israeli Jews, Shahak continued, "hate the cross so much they have eliminated the universal mathematical 'plus' sign because, they say, it resembles a cross. They have substituted a new one-that does not resemble a cross." Seeing my disbelief, Shahak left me momentarily and returned with a book of mathematics, pointing out the Israeli "plus" sign that bears no resemblance to a cross.

Such extreme measures of disdain and hatred would merit little comment if they were limited to "religious" circles. But the hatred, as we have seen, is manifest in the Israeli government-protected confiscation of property and the torment and murder of Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

The actions by militant Jews seem aimed to demonstrate to the world that so long as the Israeli government controls all of Jerusalem, they can and will act with impunity against Muslims or Christians living in the city. The fact that the Western media said little or nothing about Jewish militants taking Arab Muslim properties in the Old City, but gave at least passing notice to the seizure of a Christian edifice, demonstrates that they are at least half correct in their assessment of Western sensitivities.

The Western world. . . paid no heed to the confiscation of Muslim property.

Professor Noam Chomsky, a noted American Jewish scholar, writes that Israelis act deliberately to provoke such turmoil as we have just witnessed in Jerusalem. Israel's "secret weapon" against the United States is that it may act even more irresponsibly, he maintains, as a "wild country, dangerous to its surroundings, not normal, quite capable of burning the oil fields or even starting a nuclear war."

Perhaps, as first Europeans and now, perceptibly, Americans, tire of Israel's seemingly perpetual war with its neighbors, the deliberate attack by militant Jews on a Christian edifice reflects the "collective version" of Samson's revenge-"Let me perish with the Philistines"-as he brought down the temple around them all.

The Israelis, in using their "secret weapon," seemingly have to keep the U.S. government eternally fearful that they will "go crazy" unless whatever Israel wants, Israel gets. With the Bush administration, after a year of cautious Middle East activism, now seemingly paralyzed in the face of Yitzhak Shamir's open refusal to take any step toward peace with the Palestinians and Israel's Arab neighbors, it appears that this is an Israeli "secret weapon" that works.