I cannot think of two ideologies that are more opposite than those of Religious Zionism (RZ) and the Meah Shearim types (Edah HaCharedis; Toldos Aharon; Neturei Karta; or even Satmar... take your pick. It’s just a matter of degree. The ideologies are basically the same!)
And yet they have one thing in common that overshadows their extreme differences. Their ideologies have produced zealots that believe that indiscriminate violence against innocent victims is a legitimate method of getting their way.
This is not to say that either of these two ideologies are violent per se. They are not. In fact I understand and respect them both. One is pro Zionist and one is anti Zionist. And I am certain that both ideologies do not condone the violent measures undertaken lately by their zealots in the name of their cause. Nevertheless I blame the leadership and some of the rhetoric used by their leaders in promoting their ideologies while attacking their opponents. We saw how the Meah Shearim ideology was recently translated into action in Bet Shemesh.
The latest of these on the RZ side is an attack carried out by such a group in what they call a ‘price tag’ attack. The Israeli government demolished 3 illegally built homes in one of their West Bank settlements – a place called the Migron outpost. The revenge against the government was carried out against a mosque from the Jerusalem Post:
(The) Ma'an (news agency) quoted the sources as saying the settlers stormed the mosque in the West Bank village of Qusara, smashing glass and setting fire to a number of tires within the mosque.
These miscreants are no better than the zealots of Meah Shearim. And there is plenty of blame to go around in both circles. Zealots are not born in a vacuum. They are bred - not born. When you have a book that permits killing gentiles as collateral damage during a miltary action - it is not too hard to imagine committing the lesser crime of arson and vandalism in support of your cause.
Is that not a military action? They see themselves as the front line soldiers in the battle to keep all parts of biblical Israel in Jewish hands. Anyone attempting by to thwart that goal is an enemy combatant. That includes even the Israeli government.
So what if they burn down a mosque? Who cares? In fact they see it as a plus. One less place of Islamic indoctrination against the Jews. What if an innocent Arab gets hurt? Well… that’s the permissible collateral damage of war!
No matter how strongly their leadership might be in condemning this attack ( and I’m not even sure they have) – it doesn’t matter.
There is a degree of culpability on the part of the religious Zionist leadership. The fault lies in painting a do or die scenario. What is a settler supposed to believe if all they hear is how important it is to hold on to all parts of Israel? …if all they hear is Rabbis telling soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate illegal settlements? …if they read books with mainstream rabbinic approbations telling them that killing non Jews collaterally during battle is permissible?
When there is such strong importance attached to keeping all parts of Israel and doing whatever it takes to achieve it – it should be no surprise that this idea is taken to the next level and a mosque is torched. They take the idea of keeping all parts of Israel seriously. By torching a mosque that is exactly what these zealots are doing.
Of course what they do not realize is how much harm they are doing people they think they are fighting for. Palestinians are not going to sit back and take it the way the Ramat Bet Shemesh residents are when they are attacked by Meah Shearim Zealots. Let us not forget that Palestinian Muslims love death more than we love life. And there are a lot more of them than there are of us. They would rather die for their cause killing Jews than live. And they have the world’s sympathy on their side since they are seen as the underdogs – oppressed by harsh military occupation of evil Jews.
When are Religious Zionist leaders going to stop promoting ideas that leads to this kind of behavior? In my view – even those who are sincerely opposed to this kind of violence share some guilt. Promoting the supremacy of settlements to the extent of violating the law is a major contributor to the mentality that creates these ‘price tag’ attacks. It doesn’t matter that their leaders condemn it. In their hearts the zealots do not believe those leaders mean it. Just like the zealots of Meah Shearim – they see those rabbis as sympathizing with their goals - if not their methods.
It would not surprise me at all if every one of those zealots are followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane who is probably seen as a symbol martyred for their cause. Here is one of his more famous statements:
"The Arabs are cancer, cancer in the midst of us... There is only one solution, no other, no partial solution: the Arabs out! Out!...Do not ask me how...Let me become Defense Minister for two months and you will not have a single cockroach around here! I promise you a clean Eretz Israel! Give me the power to take care of them!"
Is there any real question where these zealots are coming from?