Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What’s so bad about Holy War?

The New York Times testifies:
A soldier, identified by the pseudonym Ram, is quoted as saying that in Gaza, “the rabbinate brought in a lot of booklets and articles and their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land. This was the main message, and the whole sense many soldiers had in this operation was of a religious war.”

On which Paul Raushenbush at Beliefnet.com editorializes:
Hmmm, moving from a war of necessity to a war of choice and one viewed through the axis of good vs evil. Sounds familiar to me. I am near despair over the misguided fanaticism of the religious right whether it is Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindu. Enlightened religious communities and secular humanists must join together in Israel, Palestine, America, India, Pakistan, and throughout the world to counter the dogma of war and domination that we see in religious fundamentalists throughout the world.

The Times and Beliefnet articles are both built upon the same assumptions:
1. Holy War means a war fought out of religious belief that I should kill the enemy, and
2. Israeli soldiers motivated by their rabbinate fight for that "Holy War."

But they miss the truth; their anti-Israel jingoism ignores nuance.

To the Iranians, perhaps, religion means an aggressive "Death to the Infidel." To the Jew, though, the religious argument means a religious imperative to remain in Israel. We could do that in peace, if they would let us alone. We don't fight for the sake of religion. We stay for the sake of religion; we fight for the sake of survival.

Israel’s wars, since before 1948 and long before there was any so-called Occupation, have been about that necessary self-defense and survival. Belief motivated Jews to remain in the land; Necessity motivated them to fight back.

When Jews living in Hebron and elsewhere were attacked by Arab marauders in the 1920s, they organized a military response and fought back. Jews chose to stay because of religion, and then to fight so that they could live.

Note that Israel has not launched aggressive wars. If the imperative for Israel's army were religion, they would attack offensively. Instead, Israel only reacts to being attacked.

Contrast this approach with Arab actions, and Muslim actions in Europe, Southeast Asia, and around the world. They do not need to fight against Jews, and against the West. No one is coming after them, no one is trying to harm them, to take away their sovereignty and autonomy. But they go pursuing “the enemy,” the demonic Jew and his Western allies. Their war is built on the foundation of religious belief, without any element of self-defense beyond the claim that the existence of a Jew in dar-al-Islam is an inherent threat to their existence.

What Israel is doing may more fairly be termed “Holy Self-Defense.” Arab aggression, on the other hand, is “Holy War.”

For more in the same ugly vein, see CNN here. But then be sure to see Jack here.

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