The Old Testament and the genocide in Gaza
An insight into Israeli identity
By Gilad Atzmon
9 January 2009
At least 763 Palestinians, including more than 200 children, had been killed and 3,121 others wounded since the start of Israel's latest aggression against Gaza on 27 December 2008.
Below, Israeli-born musician and writer Gilad Atzmon, who has renounced his Jewishness and Israeli nationality, examines the deep religious and cultural foundations of genocide, violence and hatred in the Israeli identity.
You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you.
(Leviticus, Chapter 26, verses 7-9)
When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations … then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy.
…do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them … as the Lord your God has commanded you…
There is not much doubt among biblical scholars that the Hebrew Bible contains some highly charged, non-ethical suggestions, some of which are no less than a call for genocide. Biblical scholar Raymund Schwager has found in the Old Testament 600 passages of explicit violence, 1000 descriptive verses of God's own violent actions of punishment and 100 passages where God expressly commands others to kill people. Apparently, violence is the most often mentioned activity in the Hebrew Bible.
The Hebrew Bible’s saturation with violence and extermination of others may throw some light on the horrifying genocide conducted momentarily in Gaza by the Jewish state. In broad daylight, the Israeli armed forces are using the most lethal methods against civilians, as if their main objective is to “destroy” the Gazans while showing “no mercy” whatsoever.
Interestingly enough, Israel regards itself as a secular state. Ehud Barak is not exactly a qualified rabbi and Tzipi Livni is not a rabbi’s wife. Accordingly, we are entitled to assume that it isn’t actually Judaism per se that directly transforms Israeli politicians and military leaders into war criminals. Moreover, early Zionists believed that, within a national home, Jews would become “a people like any other people”, i.e. civilized and ethical. In that very respect, Israeli reality is pretty peculiar. The Hebraic secular Jews may have managed to drop their God -- most of them do not follow Judaic law and are largely secular -- yet they collectively interpret their Jewish identity as a genocidal mission. They have successfully managed to transform the Bible from being a spiritual text into a blood-soaked land registry. They are there, in Zion, i.e., Palestine, to invade the land and to lock up, starve and destroy its indigenous habitants. Accordingly, it seems as if the artillery commanders and Israeli air force pilots that erased northern Gaza two nights ago were following Deuteronomy 20:16 -- they indeed did "…not leave alive anything that breathes”. But one question is left open: why should a secular commander follow Deuteronomy verses or any other Biblical text?
Some very few Jewish voices within the left are insisting upon telling us that Jewishness is not necessarily inherently murderous. I tend to believe that they themselves consider their words as genuine and truthful. But then one may wonder: what is it that makes the Jewish state’s brutality without parallel? The truth of the matter is actually pretty sad. As far as we can see, Zionism is the only secular ideological and political Jewish collective around and, as it happens, it has proved once again this week that it is genocidal to the bone.
As far as genocide is concerned, the difference between Judaism and Zionism can be illustrated as follows: while the Judaic Biblical context is soaked with genocidal references, usually in the name of God, within the Zionist context Jews are killing Palestinians in the name of themselves i.e. the “Jewish people”. This is indeed the ultimate success of the Zionist revolution. It taught the Jews to believe in themselves. To believe in the Jewish state. “The Israeli” is Israel’s God. Accordingly, the Israeli kills in the name of “his or her security”, in the name of “his or her democracy”. The Israelis destroy in the name of “their war against terror” and in the name the of “their” America. Seemingly, in the Jewish state, the Hebraic subject reverts to mass killing as soon as he finds a “name” to associate with.
This doesn’t really leave us with too much room for speculation. The Jewish state is the ultimate threat to humanity and our notion of humanism. Christianity, Islam and humanism came along with an attempt to amend Jewish tribal fundamentalism and to replace it with universal ethics. Enlightenment, liberalism and emancipation allowed Jews to redeem themselves from their ancient tribal supremacist traits. Since the mid-19th century, many Jews had been breaking out of their cultural and tribal chain. Tragically enough, Zionism managed to pull many Jews back in. Currently, Israel and Zionism are the only collective voice available for Jews.
The past 12 days of merciless offensive against the Palestinian civilian population does not leave any room for doubt. Israel is the gravest danger to world peace. Clearly, the United Nations made a tragic mistake in 1947 by giving a volatile, racially-orientated identity an opportunity to transform itself into a national state.However, the United Nation’s duty now is to peacefully dismantle that state before it is too late. We must do it before the Jewish state and its forceful lobbies around the world manage to pull us all into a global war in the “name” of one banal populist ideology or another (democracy, war against terror, cultural clash and so on). We have to wake up now before our one and only planet is transformed into a bursting boil of hatred.