For The Land and The Lord: Preface to the 1994 Edition, by Ian S. Lustick

Preface to the 1994 Edition

In recent years, Americans have become accustomed to the idea that Muslim fundamentalism can impel masses of believers to employ war, revolution, and terrorism to meet their religious and political obligations. What still seems strange to most Americans is that the same fundamentalist phenomenon-defined here as political action to radically transform society according to cosmically ordained imperatives-exists among Jews and is a key element on the Israeli side of the Middle Eastern equation. As among fundamentalist Muslims, so among fundamentalist Jews, actions that Americans and even most Israelis might consider "crazy" must be understood for the profoundly political acts they represent.

Consider first the case of an Israeli named Ami Popper. In May 1990, two years after the original publication of this book, Popper put on his army uniform and asked men waiting at a bus stop in a southern Israeli town for their identity cards. After confirming they were Arabs he lined them up and opened fire, killing seven. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir immediately declared that the killings had no political significance, but were instead the act of a "deranged individual." Popper, however, was found sane and fit to stand trial. He is now serving a long prison sentence for murder and recently married the adopted daughter of Rabbi Meir Kahane's son, Benjamin Kahane, leader of the Kahane Chai (Kahane Lives) movement. Popper's sentence is the subject of regular appeals by settlers and other Jewish fundamentalists who demand his release as a "political prisoner."

Approximately six years later, on February 28, 1994, Dr. Baruch Goldstein woke up early in Kiryat Arba, an Israeli settlement on the West Bank near the ancient Jewish town and contemporary Palestinian Arab city of Hebron. Goldstein was an American Jewish immigrant to Israel also affiliated to Meir Kahane's organization. The previous day he had meticulously updated his patients' files and composed a farewell note to his coworkers thanking them for the opportunity to work with them toward the fulfillment of the "complete redemption." He donned his army uniform, picked up his assault rifle and several clips of ammunition, and went to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the center of Hebron, where Abraham (Ibrahim to Muslims) is believed buried.

With a marksman's headset protecting his ears Goldstein brushed aside the unarmed Arab guard and entered the portion of the site reserved as a mosque. The room was packed with Muslims reciting their prayers for the holy month of Ramadan. Goldstein pointed his gun and began killing the kneeling men and boys. When his gun jammed he was beaten to death by desperate survivors, but not before he had shot twenty-nine people to death, wounded dozens more, and unleashed a torrent of violence that seriously jeopardized the budding peace process.

Taken out of context, both these murderous acts would appear as the deeds of madmen. Indeed in his first reaction to the Hebron mosque massacre, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin accompanied his expressions of shock and shame, and of condolences to relatives of the victims, by echoing Yitzhak Shamir's characterization of the perpetrator as a "deranged person." But perhaps the most shocking and least well understood aspect of these massacres is that they were not the acts of deranged persons, but of psychologically normal individuals-individuals acting, however; in the context of a fundamentalist belief system so radically different from the liberal-humanitarian ethos shared by most Israelis and Americans that it can transform even the slaughter of defenseless people into a virtuous act. Goldstein's widow, for example, strongly objected to characterizations of her husband as deranged. "Don't let anyone say he was a psychopath," she said. "He planned to do this in order to stop the peace talks. He did this for the sake of the people of Israel."

If the motive of stopping the peace process can explain the political intent behind the Hebron mosque massacre, it does not explain how such extreme tactics can be justified in the minds of people who are manifestly not insane. It does not explain how a rabbi speaking at Goldstein's funeral could be applauded for declaring that "one million Arabs aren't worth one Jewish fingernail." Nor can it explain why so many hundreds and even thousands of heavily armed settlers with similar beliefs are living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and why they have as much influence as they do over Israeli politics. The answers to these questions lie in the ideological and cultural cocoon surrounding activist Jewish settlers in the occupied territories. This protective, animating web of unquestioned beliefs-about Jews, gentiles, history, redemption, and the Land of Israel-is the product of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, the single most successful extra-parliamentary movement in the country's history. The beliefs, objectives, and influence of its adherents are the subject of this book.

Fundamentalism, of course, is not the same thing as piety. The overwhelming majority of pious Muslims and Jews do not feel their beliefs impelling them toward ruthless and radical political change. In Israel Jewish fundamentalism includes Gush Emunim (the Bloc of the faithful), the Kach movement, and a wide array of subsidiary organizations whose adherents act, as per definition, under what they believe is a cosmic imperative to radically transform society through direct political action. Historically the movement is a zealous spin-off of Zionism that burst upon the Israeli scene in the triumphant days following the 1967 war. Gathering strength during the 1970s it allied itself with Likud governments under Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, and helped entrench Israel's presence in the territories so deeply as to produce threats of civil war should that presence be removed.

Of decisive importance to Jewish fundamentalists is their belief that contemporary political developments are part of an unfolding cosmic drama that will determine, depending on the willingness of Jews to act decisively on its behalf, whether God's redemption of his people Israel, and of the whole world, will or will not soon reach its completion. Accordingly, specific events and political debates are understood within an idiom of tremendous emotional and ideological power. The massacre in the Hebron mosque on the Jewish holiday of Purim is a tragic, but telling example.

Preceded by a rash of killings of Jewish settlers by Muslim fundamentalists opposed to the peace process, it is not in the least a coincidence that the massacre took place on the Jewish holiday of Purim. For most Jews Purim means listening to the megillah-the Book of Esther, the story of Jews saved from persecution in ancient Persia by a beautiful Jewish queen and her brave and upright uncle. It is an occasion for merry-making, games, charity, and the exchange of gifts. But as Goldstein sat reading that same book on Purim eve 1994, it is almost certain he identified Yasir Arafat with Haman, the arch-enemy of the Jews of ancient Persia, and the killing of Jewish settlers over the previous months with Haman's murderous designs. Accordingly, he focused on often-ignored verses at the end of the book which, for Jewish fundamentalists, capture the essence of the story under contemporary circumstances and contain a divine imperative to act.

According to the Book of Esther the Jews are saved by the king who reverses Haman's evil decree and declares instead that Jews may do unto their enemies what their enemies had intended to do unto them: "to stand up for themselves, to destroy, to slay, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might assault them, with their little ones and women" (Esther 8:11). Indeed, according to the Bible, "the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and with slaughter, and destruction, and did as they pleased to those who hated them," killing eight hundred of their enemies in the capital city and 75,000 in the provinces of the Persian empire (Esther 9:5-16). By mowing down Arabs he believed wanted to kill Jews, Goldstein was reenacting part of the Purim story.

Purim could not have served as the occasion for the Hebron massacre were it not for the larger cultural and ideological environment of Jewish fundamentalism. Goldstein understood himself to be acting within this larger context, not only to save Jews but to save the redemption process itself from the fatal interruption of a premature "false peace"-a peace based on less than total Jewish rule over the "completed" Land of Israel. This outlook and the beliefs associated with it are as pervasive as they are unquestioned in the West Bank and Gaza fundamentalist settlements, which have served as hothouses for political extremism and the ruthless use of violence. They also form the basis for what proved to be this book's most controversial assertion: that the Jewish fundamentalist movement, and the settlers in the territories who have been its spearhead, have "emerged as the greatest obstacle to meaningful negotiations toward a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement."

Only by recognizing the full extent to which the opposition of these groups is based on ideology, not security, and the degree to which that ideology is alien to most Israelis, can the American government promote a more sensible approach in Israel to the compromises necessary for any peace agreement. To their credit, President George Bush and Secretary of State James Baker strongly and effectively criticized the settlement policies of the Shamir government, backing up their criticism with the decision to withhold ten billion dollars in loan guarantees. This policy was precisely consistent with that recommended in the conclusion of this book, and it worked. Faced with the real cost of the redemptionist extravaganza of the settlers, Israeli voters chose a government ready to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians.

But as they were always meant to be, the settlements planted in the territories by a succession of right-wing/fundamentalist governments have proven to be dangerous obstacles to the consummation of a peace agreement. In the months and years to come Israeli governments will be faced with exceedingly painful choices. Only if they are ready for a showdown with the settlers can real progress toward peace with the Palestinians be made. But a showdown runs the risk of more anti-Arab provocations and an internal crisis of frightening dimensions, including even civil rebellion and intra-Jewish bloodshed. Elsewhere I discuss this choice in some detail (see Ian S. Lustick, Unsettled States, Disputed Lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank/Gaza, Cornell University Press, 1993). Here I simply try to explain the deep rift inside Israel and the high stakes of the struggle between those Israelis for whom the territories are either an asset or a burden, depending on circumstances, and those for whom Jewish sovereignty over these areas is the decisive ingredient in a messianic/redemption process so cosmically important that virtually any act is justified to prevent its failure.

I am grateful to the Council on Foreign Relations for reissuing For the Land and the Lord: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel. This book originated in a research paper written under contract for the Defense Academic Research Support Program of the United States Department of Defense. I wish to thank Robert Slater, director of the program, and his staff for their encouragement and support. It is important, however, to stress that no constraints of any kind regarding the conception, preparation, conclusions, or publication of the original manuscript, or of this book, were imposed as a result of that contract. Nor, of course, do the argument and conclusions presented here reflect the views of the Department of Defense or the United States government.

With the advice of a group assembled by the Council on Foreign Relations, the original paper, broadened in scope and deepened in analysis, developed into this book. The members of the group Myron Aronoff, Peter Grose, Rita Hauser, Arthur Hertzberg, J.C. Hurewitz, Paul Jabber, Paul Kreisberg, David Lowenfeld, and Yoram Peri-gave generously of their time and critical attention. I also benefited greatly from comments made on earlier drafts of this book by David Biale, Jerrold Green, Don Peretz, Gershon Shafir, and Israel Yungher. I am appreciative as well of the guidance and editorial assistance provided by members of the Council's staff; including William Gleysteen, David Kellogg, Dore Hollander, Jeremy Brenner, David Haproff, and Miriam Familia. At Dartmouth College, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to explore key conceptual issues in a course on comparative fundamentalism funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation that I cotaught with Professors Gene Garthwaite, Rob Oden, and Charles Stinson. Also at Dartmouth, Lawrence Levine and Professor David G. Becker were more than generous in the assistance they gave me in the production of the manuscript.

In acknowledging the assistance I received from so many, I help explain whatever merits this book may have. No one but myself is responsible for the flaws it contains and the conclusions it reaches.

Finally, I want to thank my wife, Terri, for her love, her patience, and her steadfast support of my work on this project over several years.

For the Land and the Lord