‘Rule of the Rabbis’ Fuels Holy War in Israel

Palestinians, the secular and women all face a harsher environment as theocratic tendencies are entrenched, writes Jonathan Cook.

By JonathanCook
Jonathan-Cook.net

In which country did a senior, state-salaried cleric urge his followers last month to become “warriors,” emulating a group of young men who had murdered a woman of another faith?

The cleric did so with impunity. In fact, he was only echoing other highly placed colleagues who have endorsed a book – again without penalty – urging their disciples to murder babies belonging to other religions.

Where can the head of the clergy call black people “monkeys” and urge the expulsion of other religious communities?

Where does a clerical elite wield so much power that they alone decide who can marry or get divorced – and are backed by a law that can jail someone who tries to wed without their approval? They can even shut down the national railway system without notice.

Where are these holy men so feared that women are scrubbed from billboards, college campuses introduce gender segregation to appease them, and women find themselves literally pushed to the back of the bus?

Is the country Saudi Arabia? Or Myanmar? Or perhaps, Iran?

No. It is Israel, the world’s only self-declared Jewish state.

 ‘Shared Values’

President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in 2017. (U.S. Embassy Jerusalem via Flckr)

President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in 2017. (U.S. Embassy Jerusalem via Flckr)

There is barely a politician in Washington seeking election who has not at some point declared an “unbreakable bond” between the United States and Israel, or claimed the two uphold “shared values.” Few, it seems, have any idea what values Israel really represents.

There are many grounds for criticizing Israel, including its brutal oppression of Palestinians under occupation and its system of institutionalized segregation and discrimination against the fifth of its population who are not Jewish – its Palestinian minority.

But largely ignored by critics have been Israel’s increasing theocratic tendencies.

This hasn’t simply proved regressive for Israel’s Jewish population, especially women, as the rabbis exert ever greater control over the lives of religious and secular Jews alike.

It also has alarming implications for Palestinians, both under occupation and those living in Israel, as a national conflict with familiar colonial origins is gradually transformed into a holy war, fuelled by extremist rabbis with the state’s implicit blessing.

Control of Personal Status

Despite Israel’s founding fathers being avowedly secular, the separation between church and state in Israel has always been flimsy at best – and it is now breaking down at an ever-accelerating rate.

The Haredi “Consul” Rabbi Matityahu Cheshin with former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel P. Shapiro on a tour of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Meah She’arim in Jerusalem. (U.S. Embassy Jerusalem via Flckr)

Haredi “Consul” Rabbi Matityahu Cheshin with former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel P. Shapiro on a tour of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Meah She’arim in Jerusalem, 2012. (U.S. Embassy Jerusalem via Flckr)

After Israel’s establishment, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, decided to subordinate important areas of life for Israeli Jews to the jurisdiction of an Orthodox rabbinate, representing the strictest, most traditional and conservative stream of Judaism. Other, more liberal streams have no official standing in Israel to this day.

Ben Gurion’s decision in part reflected a desire to ensure his new state embraced two differing conceptions of Jewishness: both those who identified as Jews in a secular ethnic or cultural sense, and those who maintained the religious traditions of Judaism. He hoped to fuse the two into a new notion of a Jewish “nationality”.

For that reason, the Orthodox rabbis were given exclusive control over important parts of the public sphere – personal status matters, such as conversions, births, deaths and marriages.

Biblical Justifications

Bolstering the rabbis’ power was the urgent need of Israel’s secular leaders to obscure the state’s settler-colonial origins. This could be achieved by using education to emphasize Biblical justifications for the usurpation by Jews of the lands of the native Palestinian population.

As the late peace activist Uri Avnery observed, the Zionist claim was “based on the Biblical history of the Exodus, the conquest of Canaan, the kingdoms of Saul, David and Solomon … Israeli schools teach the Bible as real history.”

Such indoctrination, combined with a much higher birth rate among religious Jews, has contributed to an explosion in the numbers identifying as religious. They now comprise half the population.

Today, about a quarter of Israeli Jews belong to the Orthodox stream, which reads the Torah literally, and one in seven belong to the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, the most fundamentalist of the Jewish religious streams. Forecasts suggest that in 40 years the latter will comprise a third of the country’s Jewish population.

‘Conquer the Government’

Both the growing power and extremism of the Orthodox in Israel was highlighted in the last week of January when one of their most influential rabbis, Shmuel Eliyahu, publicly came to the defense of five students accused of murdering Aisha Rabi, a Palestinian mother of eight. Back in October they stoned her car near Nablus, in the occupied West Bank, forcing her off the road.

Eliyahu is the son of a former chief rabbi of Israel, Mordechai Eliyahu, and himself sits on the Chief Rabbinical Council, which controls many areas of life for Israelis. He is also the municipal rabbi of Safed, a city that in Judaism has the equivalent status of Medina in Islam or Bethlehem in Christianity, so his words carry a great deal of weight with Orthodox Jews.

Last month, a video came to light of a talk he gave at the seminary where the five accused studied, in the illegal settlement of Rehelim, south of Nablus.

Eliyahu not only praised the five as “warriors” but told fellow students that they needed to overthrow the “rotten” secular court system. He told them it was vital to “conquer the government” too, but without guns or tanks. “You have to take the state’s key positions,” he urged them.

Law-Breaking Judges

In truth, that process is already well-advanced.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who should have been the first to denounce Eliyahu’s comments, is closely aligned with religious settlers. Tellingly, she and other government ministers have maintained a studious silence.

That is because the political representatives of Israel’s religious Jewish communities, including the settlers, have now become the lynchpin of Israeli coalition governments. They are the kingmakers and can extract enormous concessions from other parties.

For some time, Shaked has been using her position to bring more openly nationalistic and religious judges into the legal system, including to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court.

Interior of Israel's Supreme Court building.

Interior of Israel’s Supreme Court building.

Two of its current 15 judges, Noam Sohlberg and David Mintz, are law-breakers, openly living in West Bank settlements in violation of international law. Several more judges appointed to the bench by Shaked are religious and conservative.

This is a significant victory for the Orthodox religious and the settlers. The court is the last line of defence for the secular against an assault on their religious freedoms and on gender equality.

And the court offers the only recourse for Palestinians seeking to mitigate the worst excesses of the violent and discriminatory policies of the Israeli government, army and settlers.

Chosen People

Shaked’s colleague, Naftali Bennett, another ideologue of the settlement movement, has been education minister in the Netanyahu government for four years. This post has long been a critical one for the Orthodox because it shapes Israel’s next generation.

After decades of concessions to the rabbis, Israel’s school system is already heavily skewed towards religion. A survey in 2016 showed 51 percent of Jewish pupils attended sex-segregated religious schools, which emphasise Biblical dogma – up from 33 percent only 15 years earlier.

This may explain why a recent poll found that 51 percent believe Jews have a divine right to the land of Israel, and slightly more – 56 percent – believe that Jews are a “chosen people”.

Those results are likely to get even worse in the coming years. Bennett has been placing much greater weight in the curriculum on Jewish tribal identity, Bible studies and religious claims to Greater Israel, including to the Palestinian territories – which he wants to annex.

Conversely, science and maths are increasingly downplayed in the education system, and entirely absent from schools for the ultra-Orthodox. Evolution, for example, has been mostly erased from the syllabus, even in secular schools.

‘No Mercy’ to Palestinians

Another key sphere of state power being taken over by the religious, and especially the settlers, are the security services. Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh lived for years in a settlement renowned for its violent attacks on Palestinians, and the force’s current chief rabbi, Rahamim Brachyahu, is also a settler.

Both have actively promoted a program, Believers in the Police, that recruits more religious Jews into the police force. Nahi Eyal, the programme’s founder, has said his aim is to help the settler community “find our way into the command ranks.”

The trend is even more entrenched in the Israeli military. Figures show that the national-religious community, to which settlers belong – though only 10 percent of the population – make up half of all new officer cadets. Half of Israel’s military academies are now religious.

That has translated into an increasing role for extremist Orthodox rabbis in motivating soldiers on the battlefield. In Israel’s 2008-09 ground invasion of Gaza, soldiers were issued with pamphlets by the army rabbinate using Biblical injunctions to persuade them to “show no mercy” to Palestinians.

Aggressive Youth Nationalism

Meanwhile, the rapidly growing ultra-Orthodox population has been encouraged by the government to move into West Bank settlements purpose-built for them, such as Modi’in Illit and Beitar Illit. That, in turn, is gradually fueling the emergence of an aggressive nationalism among their youth.

Israeli soldiers in Palstinian city of Hebron, 2004. (Wikimedia)

Israeli soldiers in Palstinian city of Hebron, 2004. (Wikimedia)

Once the Haredim were openly hostile, or at best ambivalent, towards Israeli state institutions, believing that a Jewish state was sacrilegious until the Messiah arrived to rule over Jews.

Now, for the first time, young Haredim are serving in the Israeli army, adding to the pressure on the military command to accommodate their religious fundamentalist ideology. A new term for these hawkish Haredi soldiers has been coined: they are known as the “Hardal.”

Brachyahu and rabbis for the Hardal are among the senior rabbis who have endorsed a terrifying book, the King’s Torah, written by two settler rabbis, that urges Jews to treat non-Jews, and specifically Palestinians, mercilessly.

It offers God’s blessing for Jewish terror – not only against Palestinians who try to resist their displacement by settlers, but against all Palestinians, even babies, on the principle that “it is clear that they will grow [up] to harm us.”

Gender Segregation Expands

The dramatic rise in religiosity is creating internal problems for Israeli society too, especially for the shrinking secular population and for women. Posters for the forthcoming election – as with adverts more generally – are being cleaned of women’s faces in parts of the country to avoid causing offence.

Last month, the Supreme Court criticized Israel’s Council for Higher Education for allowing segregation between men and women in college classrooms to spread to the rest of the campus, including libraries and communal areas. Female students and lecturers are facing “modesty” dress codes.

The council has even announced that it intends to expand segregation because it is proving difficult to persuade religious Jews to attend higher education.

Violence of the Mob

Israel has always been a society deeply structured to keep Israeli Jews and Palestinians apart, both physically and in terms of rights. That is equally true for Israel’s large Palestinian minority, a fifth of the population, who live almost entirely apart from Jews in segregated communities. Their children are kept away from Jewish children in separate schools.

But the greater emphasis in Israel on a religious definition of Jewishness means that Palestinians now face not only the cold structural violence designed by Israel’s secular founders, but additionally a hot-tempered, Biblically sanctioned hostility from religious extremists.

That is most keenly evident in the rapid rise of physical assaults on Palestinians and their property, as well as their holy places, in Israel and the occupied territories. Among Israelis, this violence is legitimized as “price tag” attacks, as though Palestinians have brought such harm on themselves.

YouTube is now full of videos of gun- or baton-wielding settlers attacking Palestinians, typically as they try to access their olive groves or springs, while Israeli soldiers stand passively by or assist.

Arson attacks have spread from olive groves to Palestinian homes, sometimes with horrifying results, as families are burned alive.

Rabbis such as Eliyahu have stoked this new wave of attacks with their Biblical justifications. State terrorism and mob violence have merged.

Destroying al-Aqsa

The biggest potential flashpoint is in occupied East Jerusalem, where the growing symbolic and political power of these Messianic rabbis risks exploding at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Palestinian man with a child holding a fake gun outside the Dome of Rock at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's third most holy site, in 2013, after disturbances that caused the temporary closure to the mosque. (Jordi Bernabeu Farrús via Flckr)

Palestinian man with a child holding fake gun outside the Dome of Rock at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in 2013, after disturbances that temporarily closed the mosque. (Jordi Bernabeu Farrús
via Flckr)

Secular politicians have long played with fire at this Islamic holy site, using archaeological claims to try to convert it into a symbol of historic Jewish entitlement to the land, including the occupied territories.

But their claim that the mosque is built over two Jewish temples, the last of which was destroyed two millennia ago, has been rapidly reconfigured for incendiary, modern political purposes.

The growing influence of religious Jews in parliament, the government, the courts and the security services means that officials grow ever bolder in staking a physical claim to sovereignty over al-Aqsa.

It also entails an ever-greater indulgence towards religious extremists who demand more than physical control over the mosque site. They want al-Aqsa destroyed and replaced with a Third Temple.

The Gathering Holy War

Slowly, Israel is transforming a settler-colonial project against the Palestinians into a battle with the wider Islamic world. It is turning a territorial conflict into a holy war.

The demographic growth of Israel’s religious population, the cultivation by the school system of an ever-more extreme ideology based on the Bible, the takeover of the state’s key power centers by the religious, and the emergence of a class of influential rabbis who preach genocide against Israel’s neighbors has set the stage for a perfect storm in the region.

The question now is at what point will Israel’s allies, in the US and Europe, finally wake up to the catastrophic direction Israel is heading in – and find the will to take the necessary action to stop it.

Jonathan Cook is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth. He blogs at https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/.

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42 comments for “‘Rule of the Rabbis’ Fuels Holy War in Israel

  1. March 1, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    What’s another word for Synonyms. Antonyms. Definitions. Rhymes. Sentences. Translations. Find Words … What is another word for ethnicity? Need synonyms for ethnicity? Here’s a list of words from our thesaurus that you can use instead. Noun Ethnic background. nation. nationality. race. background. culture. customs. identity. origin. traditions. ethnic background. way of life “The report …

  2. February 26, 2019 at 12:41 am

    Abraham came from Mesopotamia, prewent-day Turkey, passed through Canaan and settled in Egypt, and his son Isaac lived in Egypt, while Rebecca wished their son would not marry a Canaan woman…endless research by prof Shlomo Sand has show how recent this nationalism is and how they story of the Exodus was just that, a story with little real archeological back-up for a huge exodus. ALl stories, no science, no real history either as we can read in The Invention of the Jewish People by Israeli scholar prof. Sand. Yet, like all nationalists or oppressors, it all suits them well to believe the most ridiuclous stories. No wonder there was bound to be endless problems in Isreal when they declared their own state in 1948. Psychopathic deeds of murder and terror started it and has continued ever since, which is no surprise when the foundation was little to do with the lovely religious tales, but all to do with greed and oppression. Still, people will continue to ignore science and prefer their stories that suit them and helps to rationalize their cruelty to the Palestinians. The archetype of the Shadow is casting a long dark shade over this God-forsaken country.

  3. February 24, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    Thank you for a fine article. I’d appreciate hearing your opinion on the status of LBGQ Jews in Israel, considering the upswing in Orthodox Jewish power. I remember that Gay Pride parades in Jerusalem were attacked by orthodox Jews a few years back.
    Thank you.

    • grr
      March 1, 2019 at 3:15 am

      Who cares about fags and lezzos.

  4. shaydeegrove
    February 23, 2019 at 5:07 am

    Zionist Doctrine Rejected by Reform Judaism
    The Reform wing of the Synagogue, however, rejects this doctrine; and the Conference of Rabbis that sat in Frankfort-on-the-Main July 15-28, 1845, decided to eliminate from the ritual “the prayers for the return to the land of our forefathers and for the restoration of the Jewish state.” The Philadelphia Conference, Nov. 3-6, 1869, adopted as the first section of its statement of principles the following: “The Messianic aim of Israel is not the restoration of the old Jewish state under a descendant of David, involving a second separation from the nations of the earth, but the union of all the children of God in the confession of the unity of God, so as to realize the unity of all rational creatures, and their call to moral sanctification.” This was re-affirmed at the Pittsburg Conference, Nov. 16-18, 1885, in the following words: “We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community; and we therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning a Jewish state.” (from “Zionism,” Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906)

  5. Tiu
    February 23, 2019 at 1:49 am

    Don’t worry about Al Aqsa mosque, MBS will pay 30 pieces of silver to be rid of it. The Wahhabi’s hate historical objects and wilfully destroy them, and just as MBS’s Wahhabi fighters take succour from their friends in Israel they’re sure to go along with him. I think you’ll find most of the little Muslim children in recent decades have been “educated” in Wahhabi schools donated by SA.
    https://news.artnet.com/art-world/saudi-arabia-destroyed-98-percent-of-its-cultural-heritage-174029
    Then the evangelical end timers and zio-nutter comrades will be able to build their temple v3.0 – won’t that be a sight to behold! (/sarc just in case it needs to be pointed out!)

    • Tiu
      February 23, 2019 at 1:51 am

      Oops, that was meant as a reply to Zenobia van Dongen below…

  6. Zenobia van Dongen
    February 22, 2019 at 3:47 am

    I see, so Zionist settler officials officials are growing ever bolder in staking a physical claim to sovereignty over al-Aqsa mosque! That sounds really worrying!
    The Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, isn’t that the Islamic holy site where the celebrated spiritual leader Sheikh Umran al-Barq preaches? The one who said that the purpose of jihad is to combat unbelievers in Allah´s name, so that Allah’s word may prevail, and unbelievers are humiliated? At least that’s what he says in the video on You Tube at https://youtu.be/rMJ6ErOcbvo The learned sheikh goes on to say that Muslims are striving to guide mankind by means of jihad, so that people see reason and adhere to Islam.
    I wonder how soon those Zionist settler officials officials will get bold enough to kick that bastard´s butt right out of al-Aqsa mosque.

  7. February 22, 2019 at 2:12 am

    We want the Rapture, Armageddon, and the Crusades! Not necessarily in that order…

    https://opensociet.org/2019/02/12/this-is-why-evangelicals-love-trumps-israel-policy/

  8. Andrew Thomas
    February 22, 2019 at 12:16 am

    Coincidentally, Robert Fiske published a sort-of review (not a knock-it just doesn’t self-identify as a review) of Benny Morris’s new book on the 30- year mass-murder/ genocide of Christian Armenians and Greeks in the Ottoman/Turkish world of 1894-1924. Morris believes that this savagery is a feature of Abrahamic religion, but lets his Jewish brethren off pretty lightly. I hope he sees this article. It appears that the only thing the adherents of the first Abrahamic religion lacked was power. Since 1948, it has proven itself to be as savage as its descendants. With regard to the bizarre and cynical mutual cuddlefest between crazed Israeli Zionists and Christian death cult nut jobs in the US, they both obviously think they’re using each other. The end game for the former is the genocide of the Palestinians; for the latter, the omnicide of the Apocalypse. Makes a fellow proud indeed to be connected to any of it.

  9. Bedros Zerdelian
    February 21, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    I have bad news and good news for you.
    The bad news is: The Jews are not the chosen people.
    The good news is: The Armenians are the chosen nation.
    The proof is: After the flood Noah’s ark landed firm on Mount ARARAT.
    You can ask our Lord Jesus Christ and HE will tell you the truth and the only truth.

    • February 22, 2019 at 5:19 pm

      Nothing is eternal. Now Mount Ararat is in Turkey, so the Turks are the chosen nation.

      • Jacob van Oosterom
        March 3, 2019 at 1:51 pm

        But I have some genuine pieces of the ark itself in my possession. So I am the Chosen One. Nietwaar?

  10. Bedros Zerdelian
    February 21, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    I have bad news and good news for you.
    The bad news is: The Jews are not the chosen people.
    The good news is: The Armenians are the chosen people.
    The proof is: Noah’s Ark after the flood was standing firm on Mount ARARAT.
    Please ask our Lord Jesus Christ and HE will tell you the truth and only the truth.

  11. Jeff Harrison
    February 21, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    Israel was never a democracy. It has always been a theocracy. They are most likely to destroy themselves.

    • OlyaPola
      February 22, 2019 at 5:00 am

      “They are most likely to destroy themselves.”

      Most likely with the help of their friends.

  12. Brian James
    February 21, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    July 28, 2014 How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas

    Jan. 24, 2009 Moshav Tekuma, Israel

    Surveying the wreckage of a neighbor’s bungalow hit by a Palestinian rocket, retired Israeli official Avner Cohen traces the missile’s trajectory back to an “enormous, stupid mistake” made 30 years ago.

    https://www.transcend.org/tms/2014/07/how-israel-helped-to-spawn-hamas/

  13. ToivoS
    February 21, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    The most important point here is that the ultra orthodox are slowly taking over the Israeli military. At some point they will assume control over Israel’s nuclear weapons inventory. Today that is estimated to include any where from 100 to 400 war heads, which by the way include the fusion types known as H bombs. This development I believe will eventually solve the Israel problem. Once some fanatical rabbi has his finger on the button of nuclear war I believe the rest of the world will come together as one to eliminate the threat. By that time most reasonable Jews will have long past abandoned Israel (at least physically, if not in spirit).

    So do not despair, there is some light the end of this tunnel.

    • February 28, 2019 at 2:31 am

      Ha ha, I hope so. this would do more for world peace than any political junket.

  14. Yahweh
    February 21, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    These are the people who believe they are chosen for the grand position of “rulers of the world” some time in the future. Do you think they’ll achieve their goal ?…….Lets face it, Jews are different and they insist on being different.

    Newsflash !! They rule over you NOW…..

  15. Maxwell Quest
    February 21, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Besides being bullying autocrats who know how to manage the media, Trump and Netanyahu are both skilled at manipulating their respective religious communities to shore up political power. It’s a dangerous game to play when societies are on a downward trajectory; being assailed from all sides the common man will grab onto anything that will promise him security – traditionally religion. Even a cursory reading of the Old Testament highlighted this phenomenon, Israel continually being forced back to its religious duty by first getting its ass kicked (biblically speaking).

    How to break this cycle I do not know. What broke Roman Catholicism’s stranglehold on Europe but the enlightenment (and Napolean). I suggest that people need more light. Not useless information, but real, meaningful light. For example, lightning is only static electricity, and not Zeus throwing bolts of retribution from Mt. Olympus. Also, unseen germs which can been seen in what’s called a “microscope” cause plagues, rather than a witch’s curse. Etc. What has the common man been given lately to believe in that isn’t contradicted two weeks later?

  16. AnneR
    February 21, 2019 at 11:34 am

    But Mr Cook, Israel has been heading in this direction ever since the Balfour Declaration, not just of recent. It has been a racist (truly anti-semitic, in that Palestinians are semites) endeavor from the moment zionists set foot on Palestinian land determined (as they were from the get go – Ilan Pappe makes that abundantly clear) to “rid” it of its indigenous inhabitants. For a brief while Ben-Gurion toyed with the idea (almost certainly the truth) that the Palestinians were indeed the descendants of the original Jewish inhabitants (who had back those millenia ago themselves displaced many, though not all, of the even earlier inhabitants). But the 1936 Palestinian resistance to zionist encroachment soured him of this.

    My personal experience in Israel revealed to me that the majority of (Ashkenazi) Israelis were/are incredibly racist and spoke about Palestinians, Jews from Arab lands, from Ethiopia and so on in ways that had been deployed toward them in Germany and the rest of Europe: as vermin, snakes and as Schwartzers (blacks). It horrified and astounded me: how could those who had themselves (and I mean former refugees from Nazi Europe) experienced similar racism turn around and be likewise toward others? But then, in truth they were European in every conceivable way, including their view of those of darker skin.

    And Ben-Gurion’s decision to use Judaism was strategic – how else could Israel have become a “Jewish” state on Palestinian land? The intention was always – from Balfour onward – to use Judaism to deny Palestinian rights.

    It is all such a tragedy. Especially for the Palestinians, both those still on their land – sort of – and those in refugee camps.

  17. Alan
    February 21, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Christian zionists must be delirious with joy. As Israel becomes increasingly dominated by Jewish religious fanatics, the cataclysmic end-time conflagration draws nearer, and with it, the second coming of Christ. Praise the Lord.

  18. K Lee
    February 21, 2019 at 7:25 am

    “The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved — Judaism, Christianity, Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal — God is the omnipotent father — hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates.

    The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in place not for just one tribe but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good. Ultimately, totalitarianism is the only sort of politics that can truly serve the sky-god’s purpose. Any movement of a liberal nature endangers his authority and that of his delegates on earth. One God, one King, one Pope, one master in the factory, one father-leader in the family home. ~ Gore Vidal?

    • Miranda Keefe
      February 21, 2019 at 11:47 am

      The Old Testament is not a Bronze Age document. A lot of its stories are set in the Brobze Age, but they were written in the later Iron Age.

      The traditional high view about their authority claims the Pentateuch was written by Moses, which would be in the Bronze Age. Scholarship with no faith commitment concludes they were written hundreds of years later in the Kingdon period and during the even later Persian Empire.

      Repeating the trope that they are Bronze Age doesn’t diminish their authority the way it is intended to do. Instead it supports the faith based claims about its antiquity. More important, it isn’t accurate based on the best secular scholarship.

  19. February 21, 2019 at 6:52 am

    Just sick, all of it.

    But it all gets a free pass in our press and with our politicians, despite our centuries of effort in Western enlightenment and political values.

    It is part of the foundation supporting that ugly man, Netanyahu, who actually has never been elected to office.

    It’s almost as though Israel’s political system were designed to sustain injustice and the suppression of rule of law.

  20. Sam F
    February 21, 2019 at 6:52 am

    The disease of Israel is primitive tribalism, as in every isolated community, especially in competition with other isolated tribes. Because “we” believe in good all wrong comes from “them.”. As soon as such tribes develop social and economic dependencies, members are afraid to criticize their leaders. All of the usual bully personalities become demagogue tyrants, demanding domestic power to ward off fictitious monsters from beyond the tribe, accusing their moral superiors of disloyalty, actively provoking tribal incidents to rationalize their demands for power.

    So it is now in the US also, with multiple inconsistent tribes led by the Reps and Dems with no pretense of any humanity or ideal beyond the cameras. The US is unable to counteract the disease of Israel with diplomacy, because it no longer represents its founding principles, and is no longer a democracy, due to the takeover of its mass media and elections by economic power, exploiting the same disease of tribalism among its many tribes.

  21. Sur Geon General
    February 21, 2019 at 2:08 am

    This is the cancerous gangrene threatening the very existence of the world. What is to be done?

    • Tekyo Pantzov
      February 22, 2019 at 4:26 am

      I object to the slanderous term “cancerous gangrene”. I think Islam could be better described as a sort of fungus.

      • February 28, 2019 at 2:39 am

        Islam does not yet have a firm grip on the strings that rule the world.

  22. February 21, 2019 at 12:05 am

    Thank you to Consortium News for having the courage to publish this important article. It is truly amazing that in this day and age the world is still held hostage to the most uber-reactionary and violently extreme members of each of the three great interconnected Bronze Age invisible vengeful patriarchal sky god religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Equally amazing is how swimmingly well these violent religious extremists of every stripe get along with the amoral malignant narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths pulling the levers of empire which unleash unending war, brutal hunger and massive deaths on the poor and innocent. Simply exploring the basic past and current history of this religious terrain would make a rather engaging absurdist theatrical production, terrifying as it might be. However, the truth is that this is all too real.

    One cannot help but wonder how much more human suffering must take place in the name of this shared collective insanity before we move on to embrace more humane and rational “myth systems?” Perhaps with the nuclear arsenals and with the many other weapons systems, including biological and chemical, that we have spent decade upon decade amassing, it is already too late to move on.

    The brains of 21st century digital humanity remain bound to 2,000 year old mythologies of violence, racism, sexism and religious bigotry. What could possibly go wrong one might ask, that hasn’t already gone wrong countless times already throughout history, simply with less destructive weaponry than that available to the “true believers” of today? I can in the midst of dark sardonic humor imagine the last human voice, issuing the last human command: “Alexa, unleash the abyss!” And in only minutes all the fables we have told ourselves about how “special” and “chosen” we humans are will dutifully disappear into smoke and ash upon our godlike command.

    • Will
      February 21, 2019 at 9:43 am

      It seems that of the bronze age religions, Zoroastrianism the only one that wasn’t twisted into an excuse for killing. Unfortunately, it is/was difficult to bend to the needs of power hungry monsters and thus has not prospered.

      • Tim
        February 22, 2019 at 9:08 am

        > Zoroastrianism the only one that wasn’t twisted into an excuse for killing

        I suspect that this is not true, and if we only knew what Zoroastrian religious leaders and theologians said about the policies of the government when it was the state religion of the Persian empire, it would turn out to be more of the usual whitewashing of war and oppression.

        And newer religions, such as Buddhism and Islam, and non-religious ideologies, turn out to be no better under similar circumstances.

    • Jacob van Oosterom
      March 3, 2019 at 1:59 pm

      Okay; bit heavy though, innit? My history prof would scribble: “Overripe.”

  23. Tom Kath
    February 20, 2019 at 11:39 pm

    The answer to the final question Cook asks is held in the origins of both Islam and Christianity. As Cook points out, acknowledgement of the Old Testament endorses the “Chosen Ones” perception.

  24. February 20, 2019 at 11:27 pm

    God has a plan for religious extremists, it’s laid out in the Judeo/Christian Bible. All the world’s extremists have one thing in common, they all think they are the chosen ones, God’s true followers. (Which is the main reason they feel it is OK to subjugate, mistreat and murder infidels, purifying God’s creation), anyways, God will draw all the religious zealots to the plains of Armageddon and the Jews, Christian and Muslim nut cases can destroy each other, then the rest of us can live a thousand years of peace.

    Nuclear fallout, notwithstanding.

    • Susan Siens
      February 21, 2019 at 3:52 pm

      There is a tiny church in a town of 2,000 in Maine, and the people who attend this church believe they are the only people not going to hell. In a sane world we would recognize religiosity for the mental disease that it is, but in so-called civilization mental disease is the norm and sanity the outlier.

      • Elvad Sharon
        February 22, 2019 at 2:55 am

        Jeez Susan:

        That ‘mental illness’ didn’t stop you from signing an anti-Kavanaugh petition as a ‘person of faith’, now did it?
        Perhaps you are mentally ill?

  25. Joe Tedesky
    February 20, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    To answers Johnathan Cook’s question of, who will find the will to stop Israel’s racist sovereignty, I don’t think it will be anyone from the USA. And why would any American legislator or one from our executive branch do so, when the money is so good?

    I could be wrong but, Israel is certainly taking a risk when it comes to their new way towards their treatment of women. Good luck with that (not) but, really what age do these Rabbi’s think they are living in.

    It’s articles like this that make me even more disgusted to how our USA government treats the Israeli’s with such kid gloves. Case in point was best seen last week when Representative Ilhan Omar tweeted about ‘the Benjamins’ implicating AIPAC and it’s heavy influence on American government of course. It was shameful for how Speaker Pelosi dressed Rep Omar down making this newly elected congresswoman apologize as she so obediently did. Although Ilhan added that there is too much outside influence in our American government and, I thought good on her for saving the thought.

    What is disturbing is, how Jews who don’t agree with the Israeli government are pretty much silenced. And yet you know they are out there. In the end it will need to be these Jews who change what their Jewish brethren’s did in their name.

    • Susan Siens
      February 21, 2019 at 3:54 pm

      Pretty much silenced? I read Phyllis Chesler, who is supposed to be an academic, excoriating the women who run Jewish Voices for Peace. Chesler poses as a feminist, but I truly doubt any genuine (therefore radical) feminist supports Israeli theocracy.

  26. Drew Hunkins
    February 20, 2019 at 9:41 pm

    Israel Shahak’s seminal book on this, “Jewish Power, Jewish Religion” is THEE best work on the topic. It’s a fairly short read too. Don’t miss it.

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