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Appeasement from Israel's Religious Right:

This kind of appeasement mentality towards radical Islamist terrorism is usually associated with the more myopic elements of the political Left. In this case, however, it has emerged from within Israel's version of the religious right:

Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Rabbi Yehuda Leib Steinman, a leading Ashkenazi haredi spiritual leader, have given their blessing to a meeting with Hamas aimed at reaching a hudna (Arabic for cease-fire) that could save Jewish lives.

The plan approved by Yosef and Steinman calls for three rabbis representing Sephardi, Ashkenazi and religious Zionist Orthodoxy to meet with Hamas representatives. The three rabbis are: Rabbi Shmuel Jakobovits, son of former chief rabbi of Britain Immanuel Jakobovits; Rabbi Zion Cohen, rabbi of the Sha'ar Hanegev region; and Rabbi Menahem Fruman of Tekoa, a veteran interfaith dialoguer who is the driving force behind the initiative . . .

The proposed hudna would be between Hamas and the Jewish people - not with the state of Israel - to circumvent Hamas's refusal to recognize the Zionist entity . . .

[According to Rabbi Jakobovits], "[t]he Islamic world has deep concerns about the penetration of liberal, secular values and lifestyles into the Middle East. A major factor in the conflict between radical Islam and the Western world is Islam's opposition to secular lifestyle and ideology.

"The haredi community understands their sensitivities and mentality and feels threatened by the same phenomena. The haredi community could play a key role in dialogue between the West and Islam because we live in two worlds, one deeply religious and the other liberal and pluralistic. We understand that the secular mind is different from the religious mind.

"Today in the West the assumption in dealing with Muslim extremism is that moderation and tolerance are the keys. But what the West does not understand is that there is something threatening in that approach, both to the haredi mind and to a deeply Islamic mind. Both haredim and Muslims see multicultural society as an anathema.

"The West, which has the power, needs to assure Islam that no one is going to try to force a multicultural worldview on them. Otherwise the clash with Islam will only get sharper and sharper," Jakobovits said.

For those VC readers who may not know, the haredim are a highly traditionalistic branch of Orthodox Judaism. Some of them do not recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel part because they consider it to be excessively secular, and not governed by their interpretation of Jewish religious law.

These particular haredi rabbis have clearly deluded themselves about the nature of Hamas and other radical Islamist terrorist groups. Among other things, there is absolutely no reason to believe, as the rabbis seem to, that radical Islamists are any less hostile to highly traditional Jews than they are to more secular Jews and Westerners. Hamas and other terrorists have repeatedly made it clear that their goal is to kill all Jew - especially all Israeli Jews - without distinction (see, e.g., here). As the Hamas Charter says:

The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.

Other parts of the Charter blame the Jews (again without distinction as to religiosity) for virtually all the problems of the world, including the French Revolution and the outbreak of both world wars (Article 22), and make clear that Hamas intends to expel all Jews (again without distinction) from all parts of "Palestine," including pre-1967 Israel.

Given that radical Islamists are intolerant even of devout Muslims from sects other than their own, they are hardly likely to warm to the rabbis merely because both "see multicultural society as an anathema."

Finally, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, "liberal values,""tolerance," and a "multicultural society" are among the most important of the principles that the West should be fighting for in the struggle against radical Islamism. Sometimes, even the most shopworn of cliches is appropriate: to sacrifice these values in order to make a deal with the enemy is truly to let the terrorists win.

The misguided thinking of these rabbis would be insignificant were it not for the fact that some of them are major figures in Israeli politics and society. Rabbi Yosef, for example, is a key leader in the Shas Party, which holds 12 of 120 seats in the Israeli parliament and is part of the current Israeli coalition government.

UPDATE: To avoid misunderstanding, I should make it clear that by "multicultural society," I mean a society where people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures can find acceptance and coexistence. I do not mean a radically relativistic society under which any and all cultural practices, including those that go against fundamental liberal principles are considered "equal." I suspect however that the haredi rabbis are opposed to this limited formulation of multiculturalism and not just to the extreme moral relativist version.

te (mail):
The last report I saw said that Olmert has accepted the draft resolution which would call for an immediate "cessation of hostilities." Although Hezbollah would be required to withdraw from Southern Lebanon, Hezbollah would not be disbanded nor disarmed, and its re-supply route from Syria would neither be destroyed nor impeded.

Does this make Olmert and appeaser, too?

(Assuming any of this is true, of course)
8.11.2006 8:02pm
Minipundit (mail) (www):
To parphase Matt Yglesias, appeasement never works, because it didn't work once in the 1930s. Obviously, we shouldn't find common ground with the leading Palestinian party because of a totally distinct political situation seventy years ago. And considering the dramatic decrease in Hezbollah attacks after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, appeasement obviously doesn't work in the Levant!
8.11.2006 8:36pm
DG:
Olmert isnt negotiating with Hezbollah. He's trying to bolster the legitimate government of Lebanon. Many secular Israelis (and Jews in general) aren't thrilled about the haredi sticking their noses into politics. Religion and politics, when mixed, rarely produce good things. Down that path lies...well, Hezbollah.
8.11.2006 9:15pm
Veritas:
If more people used the term "Islamo-Nazis" perhaps the Rabbis would then "get it".
8.11.2006 9:23pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
You obviously know little about Shas -- they are not analogous to the "religious right" in this country, but are a Mizrahi/Sephardic religious party who, while their leadership are ultra-orthodox, has appeal beyond just ultra-orthodox jews, but to many poorer Mizrahi/Sephardic Jews who are, in no way, ultra-orthodox. This is a result of certain feelings among the Mizrahim/Sephardim that they are not a full part of Israeli culture. Furthermore, Rabbi Yosef has always been somewhat in favor of the peace process although he has been quite cautious.

Furthermore, Rabbi Yosef and Shas, in no way, are associated with those ultra-orthodox jews who do not accept the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Those Jews, by the way, do not reject the State of Israel because it is not sufficiently religious, but reject it because they believe, consistent with traditional Talmudic interpretations of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, that the Jews are not to have a state until the Messiah comes. They thus see the State of Israel as an abomination (although some are happy to live off it) regardless of whether it was a religious state or not.
8.11.2006 9:44pm
Erasmussimo:
Do I understand Ilya correctly in his equation of meeting with appeasement? The proposal made by the rabbis, according to Ilya, is:

The plan approved by Yosef and Steinman calls for three rabbis representing Sephardi, Ashkenazi and religious Zionist Orthodoxy to meet with Hamas representatives.

The obvious conclusion is that Ilya thinks that meeting people is the same as appeasement. Is this really true?
8.11.2006 9:53pm
Ilya Somin:
Do I understand Ilya correctly in his equation of meeting with appeasement? The proposal made by the rabbis, according to Ilya, is:

The plan approved by Yosef and Steinman calls for three rabbis representing Sephardi, Ashkenazi and religious Zionist Orthodoxy to meet with Hamas representatives.
The obvious conclusion is that Ilya thinks that meeting people is the same as appeasement. Is this really true?


The main problem with the rabbis' stance is not the meeting per se (though that too is problematic so long as Hezbollah continues to advocate genocide and the destruction of Israel), but the fact that they claim that they can find common ground with Hamas based on mutual opposition to secular liberalism, "tolerance," etc.
8.11.2006 9:58pm
Ilya Somin:
You obviously know little about Shas -- they are not analogous to the "religious right" in this country, but are a Mizrahi/Sephardic religious party who, while their leadership are ultra-orthodox, has appeal beyond just ultra-orthodox jews, but to many poorer Mizrahi/Sephardic Jews who are, in no way, ultra-orthodox. This is a result of certain feelings among the Mizrahim/Sephardim that they are not a full part of Israeli culture. Furthermore, Rabbi Yosef has always been somewhat in favor of the peace process although he has been quite cautious.

Furthermore, Rabbi Yosef and Shas, in no way, are associated with those ultra-orthodox jews who do not accept the legitimacy of the State of Israel.


The fact that Shas also appeals to some non-religious Sephardic Israelis does not prove that it isn't a "religious right" party. Shas was, however, formed in the 1980s explicitly for the purpose of appealing to highly Orthodox Sephardim and that is still its main constituency. Religious right politicians in the US also have appeal to some relatively secular voters.

And I did not claim that Shas is "associated" with those ultra-orthodox Jews who deny the legitimacy of the State of Israel, merely that "some" haredim fall into that camp. Some does not mean "all" or even "most."
8.11.2006 10:03pm
Ilya Somin:
Obviously, we shouldn't find common ground with the leading Palestinian party because of a totally distinct political situation seventy years ago.

No, we shouldn't find "common ground" with such a party because there isn't any acceptable common ground to be had with genocidal terrorists - at least so long as they stick to their ideology, which they show every sign of doing.
8.11.2006 10:05pm
Erasmussimo:
Ilya, perhaps you should re-read the Hamas Charter that you link to. I dug through all 36 articles of it and it does not once say anything about genocide of Jews. It says a great many objectionable things. For example, it is adamant that the entirety of Palestine must fall under Islamic rule, and that it will never compromise on this. It also has some very strange components: it singles out Rotary Clubs for special abuse in three different places. It is sprinkled through with many quotations from Islamic Scripture, including one source referred to as "The Cow". So yes, it's an alarming document clearly demonstrating that Hamas wants total victory, not peace or compromise. The one specific comment it has to make about its treatment of Jews is this:

Under the wing of Islam, it is possible for the followers of the three religions - Islam, Christianity and Judaism - to coexist in peace and quiet with each other. Peace and quiet would not be possible except under the wing of Islam. Past and present history are the best witness to that.

I'm sure that there are lots of genocidal statements from lots of Islamic sources. But let's get this straight: no such statements exist in the Hamas Charter.
8.11.2006 10:50pm
Ilya Somin:
I'm sure that there are lots of genocidal statements from lots of Islamic sources. But let's get this straight: no such statements exist in the Hamas Charter.

I think that the statement I quoted in the initial post from Article 7 of the Charter certainly counts as one such. Moreover, given that the rest of the charter calls for the expulsion of Jews from all of Palestine and that the so-called "coexistence" advocated in the passage quoted by Erassmussimo is to take place "under the wing" of Muslim domination, I don't think that passage about "coexistence" refutes Hamas' genocidal itent. It merely suggests that Hamas is willing to accept a period where some remnant of Israel's Jewish population is allowed to live as second class citizens prior to "The Day of Judgment" that Article 7 of the Charter says will result in the extermination of the Jews who are to be "killed" by Muslims.
8.11.2006 11:50pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I'm sure that there are lots of genocidal statements from lots of Islamic sources. But let's get this straight: no such statements exist in the Hamas Charter.
Evidently you didn't read the very part of the Charter that Prof. Somin quoted.

Hint: it doesn't say "Zionists."
8.11.2006 11:51pm
Erasmussimo:
Ilya and David, I believe that you have misread the Charter. Here's the statement that you are quoting:

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).

This is not part of the Charter's intrinsic wording, it is instead a quotation from Islamic scripture. Now, you can argue that, by including it, Hamas has made it part of the Charter. Such an interpretation runs afoul of some logical problems. It requires that Hamas also makes part of its Charter the declaration that stones and trees can talk. It further requires the belief that Hamas wrote into its Charter the declaration that the Gharkad tree would not speak even though it has the ability to do so.

But even if we accept it as an intrinsic and literal part of the Charter, there remain other problems. It clearly says that the Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews). Here we get into some very tricky issues. You interpret this as genocide: killing all the Jews they can. I see no basis for that interpretation. It could just as easily mean that the Day of Judgement will not come until there is some fighting and killing of Jews.

You will also find this quote: "The Islamic world is on fire." Now, if we take this literally, then Hamas is obviously including a falsehood into its Charter, and they know it to be a falsehood. The sensible interpretation is that they are using it metaphorically. But if they accept quotations from their scriptures metaphorically (as Christians also do), then how can you insist that the other scriptural quotation be taken literally?

I consider this scriptural hair-splitting to be silly. If Hamas had wanted to make genocide part of its Charter, they would have written it in explicitly. You are relying on a literal interpretation of a scriptural quotation that, taken literally, is patently nonsensical. There are lots of bloodthirsty quotes from lots of nasty people advocating genocide of the Jewish people -- why don't you rely on those? You're stretching the Hamas Charter very hard to justify your claim.
8.12.2006 12:44am
marc:
"I consider this scriptural hair-splitting to be silly. If Hamas had wanted to make genocide part of its Charter, they would have written it in explicitly."

I agree, too, that there are silly sorts of hair-splitting.
8.12.2006 1:47am
Big Bill (mail):
I think you are a bit harsh on Rabbi Ovadiah. First, you minimize his importance. He was the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel for thirty years and thus the ultimate judge over many Israelis on a host of personal legal issues under Israel's millet system. Second, he is not the gutless appeaser you suggest. He hates Arabs just as much as the next Israeli Jew.

As the Rabbi said to Barak in other circumstances, "Why are you bringing them [Arabs] close to us [Jews]? You bring snakes next to us. How can you make peace with a snake? ... The Ishmaelites [Arabs] are all accursed evil people. They are all haters of Israel. God regrets having created these Ishmaelites."

Hardly the language of an "appeaser". He hates Arabs -- all Arabs -- with the best of the Israeli hardliners and doubless would exterminate them if he could do so without risking Jewish lives. There are more secular [Russian] appeasers on this site than in Rabbi Ovadieh's flock.

As a religious Jew he does value Jewish life above all others and would bend over backward to save any Jew in danger. That is all he is doing now. So please don't lead your politically/religiously ignorant readers to believe he is an Arab-lover.

(He also preaches that Reform Jews are snakes, heretics, neo-Christians, and a threat to the Jewish race, God love him, but that is another story.)
8.12.2006 9:19am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I consider this scriptural hair-splitting to be silly.
I agree. Religious fanatics explicitly quote the portion of their bible that talks about killing Jews, and you want to split hairs and try to argue that they only want to metaphorically kill Jews. That's pretty silly.
8.13.2006 3:49am
markm (mail):

Religious fanatics explicitly quote the portion of their bible that talks about killing Jews, and you want to split hairs and try to argue that they only want to metaphorically kill Jews.


...while they are actually trying to kill Jews, for instance by firing rockets at residential areas. Very silly indeed.
8.13.2006 11:26am
Milhouse (www):
The fact that Shas also appeals to some non-religious Sephardic Israelis does not prove that it isn't a "religious right" party. Shas was, however, formed in the 1980s explicitly for the purpose of appealing to highly Orthodox Sephardim and that is still its main constituency.
You're mistaken there, Ilya. A large majority of Shas voters are not particularly observant. A large majority of Shas voters are also far more hard-line about the territories than is Rabbi Yosef. He has long supported territorial compromise, at least in principle, while most Shas voters strenuously oppose it.
He was the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel for thirty years
A Chief Rabbi's term is only ten years.

Meanwhile the other rabbi mentioned, R Steinman, is a rather controversial figure in the Ashkenazi haredi community.
8.14.2006 9:53am