Origins and Evolution of Jewish-Israeli Terrorism
The world knows well the acts of terrorism by the indigenous Palestinians against Jewish settlers during the period of British colonialism, and hears often of the suicide and rocket attacks of the occupied Palestinian people aimed at the Jewish population of Israel.
Rarely, however, does popular history or mainstream news adequately expose the more numerous and far more severe acts of Jewish terrorism against, not only the Palestinian people, but even their fellow Jews who do not support a sufficiently radical messianic vision of the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.
Nor is it widely acknowledged that, since the days of Roman occupation of ancient Israel, it was the Jewish people – the people with a special covenant with God – who introduced terror tactics to Palestine.
[See: An Illustrated History of Palestine for an overview of the never-ending clash of cultures.]
In Jewish Terrorism in Israel: Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare (2009), Ami Pedahzur and Arie Perliger, two Israeli political scientists, define terrorism: “First, terrorism involves the use of violence. Second, there is a political motive that activates the violence. Third, there is an intention to strike fear among the victims and their community. Finally, the victims of terrorism are civilians or noncombatants.” [This definition, of course, ignores state terrorism which, according to Noam Chomsky, is the more pervasive of the two.]
The book posits that terrorism is more likely to emerge in counterculture communities with dualistic ideologies – worldviews that divide humanity into polarized categories, such as good and evil – whose members feel threatened by external challenges to their values and way of life. Such communities are usually led by charismatic leaders who frame the external threat as catastrophic, thereby helping to justify violence as a legitimate and necessary response. Members of such groups become radicalized through socialization processes involving intensive interactions with family members, close friends, co-workers and neighbors. Within such social networks, members are more likely to resort to terrorism when they identify themselves intensely with the counterculture community.
Prior to the establishment of Israel, Jewish terror against the British Mandatory authority and Palestinian Arabs was carried out by two paramilitary organizations that espoused Revisionist Zionist ideologies: Etzel (Irgun) and Lehi (Stern Gang). Both groups reflected the view of Ze’ev Jabotinsky that a sovereign Jewish state ought to be created on both sides of the Jordan River, through violence. Between 1939 and 1942, Etzel carried out 60 terrorist attacks, killing more than 120 Palestinians and maiming hundreds more. In order to hasten British departure from Palestine, Lehi operatives assassinated Lord Moyne, the Minister Resident in the Middle East, on November 6, 1944, in Cairo. On July 26, 1946, explosives planted by Etzel agents leveled the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the administrative center of the British Mandatory authority, killing 91 Britons and injuring close to 500 people. Lehi’s last terrorist operation ended the life of Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN mediator, on September 17, 1948, after he had issued a plan that significantly altered the terms of the 1947 UN partition resolution.
The motives behind Jewish terrorism changed drastically in the post-1948 era, as violence was increasingly driven by religious, political and nationalistic impulses. In early 1950, the terrorist underground group named Brit Hakanaim (Covenant of the Zealots) emerged in Jerusalem. Founded by rabbis determined to oppose the increasing secularization of the Jewish people, the group consisted of 35 yeshiva (religious school) students who set fires to private cars, public buses and business establishments that were open on the Sabbath. In the mid-1950s, another terrorist cell, the Kingdom of Israel, carried out a series of bombing attacks against diplomatic institutions from Eastern European countries, including the Soviet embassy in Tel Aviv. Consisting of former Lehi members, the group resorted to violence in response to increasing oppression of Jews in Communist-bloc countries. On March 3, 1957, two members of this cell assassinated Dr. Israel Kastner, a prominent leader of Hungarian Jewry, who was alleged to have prevented the rescue of thousands of Jews during World War II.
During the last three decades, Jewish terror in Israel has been aimed almost exclusively at Muslim holy places and Palestinian civilians. From 1980 through 1984, a terrorist network known as the Jewish Underground carried out a series of attacks against Palestinian targets around Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank. Consisting of cliques of settlers from the Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) movement, the group emerged after the 1979 Camp David Accords and relied on terror in order to secure three objectives: to drive a wedge between Israel and neighboring Arab states and thereby prevent further progress in the peace process; to stop the evacuation of Jewish settlements in the Sinai; and to deter Palestinian attacks on Jewish settlers in the Occupied Territories through acts of brutal retaliation. The most notorious terrorist acts of the Jewish Underground included the partially successful booby-trapping of the cars of the mayors of Ramallah, Nablus, El-Bira, Bethlehem and Hebron in June 1980; the eventually abandoned plans to explode the Dome of the Rock mosques on Temple Mount; the attack on the Islamic College in Hebron on July 26, 1983, in which three students were killed and scores injured; and the foiled attempts to detonate explosives on buses of the East Jerusalem Transportation Company on April 26, 1984.
Opposition to the Camp David Accords spawned another network of terrorist cells under the rubric of the Kach movement led by Rabbi Meir Kahane. The Kahanist counterculture fostered the emergence of religious Jewish terrorism. Its members, mostly American immigrants who settled in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, resorted to violence against Palestinian targets in order to retain Israeli control over the territories and establish a theocratic state based on Jewish religious law in what they regarded as Greater Israel. The Kahanist vision included the building of a Third Temple in East Jerusalem, an unrealized dream that required and justified the destruction of the Temple Mount mosques. Terror instigated by Kach included setting fires to cars and buses owned by Palestinians in Jerusalem and Hebron, killing and maiming Palestinians traveling in buses or private cars on West Bank roads, and spreading fear in refugee camps near Bethlehem. The most notorious act of terror associated with Kahanism was carried out by Dr. Baruch Goldstein, a settler who tossed a hand grenade and opened machine-gun fire in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron on February 25, 1994, killing 29 Muslim worshippers and injuring 125 more.
Vehement opposition to the 1993 Oslo Accords provided yet another impetus for the radicalization of West Bank settlers and their resort to violence. Beginning in late 1993, a cell of Hebron-area settlers known as the Vengeance Underground launched attacks against Palestinians riding in cars on West Bank roads. A desire to punish Palestinians for carrying out terrorist attacks, determination to stop the transfer of West Bank territory to the Palestinian Authority, and deep hostility toward the country’s political institutions and leaders led to the formation of yet another small terrorist cell, headed by Yigal Amir, a 25-year-old law student at Bar Ilan University. Amir’s network of Orthodox students perceived the Oslo Accords as a mortal threat to the existence of the Jewish state and therefore regarded Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as a traitor. Spurred by rabbinical pronouncements that justified the killing of a Jew who endangers the lives of other Jews or hands Jewish property over to gentiles, Amir assassinated Rabin following a mass peace rally in Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995.
The Al-Aqsa Intifada that began in October 2000 served as a catalyst for the emergence of the Bat Ayin Underground. A network of young and religiously observant third-generation West Bank settlers, Bat Ayin activists ignored Israeli authorities by establishing communal farms on West Bank hilltops, hoping to lay the foundation for a theocratic state based on Jewish religious law. Beginning in early 2001, members of the Underground initiated two types of attacks: firing at Palestinians in passing cars and placing explosives in public buildings, especially schools, in Arab villages around Hebron and East Jerusalem. Several of their terrorist actions were foiled by the General Security Services (known as Shin Bet), and the network fell apart after the arrest of its leaders in 2003.
[For a candid look into the role of the Shin Bet and the insights of its leaders, see: The Shin Bet Gatekeepers – The story that everyone who cares about peace and justice needs to hear].
Jewish terrorist networks appear to share similarities with other religious terrorist groups, such as Islamic groups operating in the Middle East and Southeast Asia and fundamentalist Christian groups in the United States. All such communities adhere to ideologies that combine religious, territorial, and nationalistic components. Furthermore, their adherents are driven to violence by a grand vision of a new order. Members of such groups tend to justify terror as a divine duty mandated by a radical interpretation of religious scriptures. Such groups reject reconciliation and tend to recruit members from family and friendship networks that are often embedded in religious and cultural institutions.
The History and Faces of Jewish Terrorism in Palestine
The 1st century Jewish political and religious movement called Zealotry was one of the first examples of the use of organized terrorism by Jews. The Zealots sought to incite the people of Judaea Province to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from Israel by force of arms. The term Zealot means one who is zealous on behalf of God. The most extremist groups of Zealots were called Sicarii, who used violent stealth tactics against Romans. Under their cloaks they concealed sicae, or small daggers, from which they received their name. At popular assemblies, particularly during the pilgrimage to the Temple Mount, they stabbed their enemies (Romans or Roman sympathizers, Herodians), lamenting ostentatiously after the deed to blend into the crowd and escape detection. In one account, given in the Talmud, Sicarii destroyed the city’s food supply so that the people would be forced to fight against the Roman siege instead of negotiating peace. Sicarii also raided Jewish habitations and killed fellow Jews whom they considered apostates and collaborators.
According to the Jewish-Roman historian Josephus Flavius, the Sicarii, who fought the Romans until their defeat and mass suicide at the Siege of Masada, plundered local Jewish villages including En Gedi, where they killed more than seven hundred women and children on Passover.
Masada has become a controversial event in Jewish history, with some regarding it as a place of reverence, commemorating fallen ancestors and their heroic struggle against oppression, and others regarding it as a warning against extremism and the refusal to compromise.
This set the pattern for later generations of uncompromisingly zealous Jewish terrorists with a fortress mentality, who attacked both Jews and their ostensible enemies for the same messianic purpose.
The Jewish State is Built on a Foundation of Terror
The Haganah (“The Defense”) was a Jewish paramilitary organization in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948, which later became the core of the Israeli Defense Forces.
The predecessor of Haganah was Hashomer (“The Watchman”) established in 1909, itself a successor of Bar-Giora, founded in 1907. The Bar-Giora consisted of a small group of Jewish immigrants who guarded settlements for an annual fee. At no time did the group have more than 100 members.
After the 1920 Arab riots and 1921 Jaffa riots, believing that they could not rely on the British administration for protection, the Jewish leadership created the Haganah to protect Jewish farms and kibbutzim. In the period between 1920 and 1929, the Haganah lacked a strong central authority or coordination. Haganah “units” were very localized and poorly armed: they consisted mainly of Jewish farmers who took turns guarding their farms and collective communities.
Following the 1929 Palestine riots, the Haganah became a much larger organization encompassing nearly all the youth and adults in the Jewish settlements, as well as thousands of members from the cities. It also acquired foreign arms and began to develop workshops to create hand grenades and simple military equipment, transforming from an untrained militia to a capable underground army.
Many Haganah fighters objected to the official policy of havlagah (restraint) that Jewish political leaders had imposed on the militia. Fighters had been instructed to only defend communities and not initiate counterattacks against Arab gangs or their communities. This policy appeared defeatist to many who believed that the best defense is a good offense. In 1931, the more militant elements of the Haganah splintered off and formed the Irgun Tsva’i-Leumi (“National Military Organization”), or Haganah Bet (“Second Defense”) better known as “Irgun” (or by its Hebrew acronym, pronounced “Etzel”).
During the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, the Haganah worked to protect British interests and to quell Arab rebellion. At that time, the Haganah fielded 10,000 mobilized men along with 40,000 reservists. Although the British administration did not officially recognize the Haganah, the British security forces cooperated with it and gave training and leadership by Colonel Orde Wingate. The battle experience gained during the training was useful in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.
By 1939, the British had issued the White Paper, which severely restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine, and deeply angering the Zionist leadership. In reaction to the White Paper, the Haganah built up the Palmach as the Haganah’s elite strike force and organized illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine. Approximately 100,000 Jews were brought to Palestine in more than one hundred ships during the final decade of what became known as Aliyah Bet (“Second Pilgrimage”).
In September 1940, Irgun member Avraham Stern founded a breakaway militant Zionist group named Lehi, called the “Stern Gang” by the British colonial authorities. Lehi was a Hebrew acronym for Lohamei Herut Israel, meaning Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, and was created in opposition to the Haganah’s policy of supporting the British in their fight against the Nazis.
Stern began organizing his new underground army by focusing on four fronts: 1) publishing a newspaper and making clandestine radio broadcasts offering theoretical justifications for urban guerilla warfare; 2) obtaining funds for the underground, either by donations or by robbing British banks; 3) opening negotiations with foreign powers for the purpose of saving Europe’s Jews and developing allies in the struggle against the British in Palestine; 4) actual military-style operations against the British.
In January 1941, Stern attempted to make an agreement with the German Nazi authorities, offering to “actively take part in the war on Germany’s side” in return for German support for Jewish immigration to Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish state.
[See: Zionism and Nazism – and Israeli Support for War Criminals and Human Rights Abusers for the history of this collaboration and sharing of ideological agendas.]
Terrorism Against Colonialism
In 1940 the Haganah sabotaged the Patria, an ocean liner being used by the British to deport 1,800 Jews to Mauritius, with a bomb intended to cripple the ship. However the ship sank, killing 260 people on board.
On May 14, 1941, the Haganah created the Palmach (an acronym for Plugot Mahatz – strike companies), an elite commando section, in preparation for the possibility of a British withdrawal and an Axis invasion of Palestine. Its members received specialist training in guerilla tactics and sabotage.
In 1944, after the assassination of Lord Moyne, (the British Minister of State for the Middle East), by members of the Lehi (Stern Gang), the Haganah worked with the British to kidnap, interrogate, and in some cases, deport Irgun members. The Irgun (“The National Military Organization in the Land of Israel”), was a Zionist paramilitary group that was an offshoot of the Haganah. The Irgun was branded a terrorist organization by Britain, the 1946 Zionist Congress and the Jewish Agency. Two of the operations for which the Irgun is best known are the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on July 22, 1946 and the Deir Yassin massacre, carried out together with Lehi on April 9, 1948. (The Irgun was a political predecessor to Israel’s right-wing Herut or Freedom Party, which led to today’s Likud party, which has been part of most Israeli governments since 1977. Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt considered Begin’s Freedom Party to be fascist.)
The Irgun, paralyzed by the Saison (Hunting Season, started by the Jewish Agency), were ordered by their commander, Menachem Begin, not to retaliate in an effort to avoid a full blown civil war. Although many Irgunists objected to these orders, they obeyed Begin and refrained from fighting back.
The Saison officially ended when the Haganah, Irgun and the Lehi formed the Jewish Resistance Movement in 1945. Within this new framework, the three groups collaborated to drive the British out of Palestine and create a Jewish state.
After WWII, the Haganah carried out anti-British operations in Palestine, such as the bombing of the country’s railroad network and sabotage raids on radar installations and bases of the British Palestine police. It also continued to organize illegal immigration.
In April of 1948, the Irgun and Stern Gang attacked Deir Yassin, a Palestinian Arab village of roughly 600 people near Jerusalem. The residents resisted the attack, and the village fell only after fierce house-to-house fighting. 107 villagers were killed during and after the battle for the village, including women and children – some were shot, while others died when hand grenades were thrown into their homes. Several villagers were taken prisoner and were shot after being paraded through the streets of West Jerusalem.
Menachem Begin, leader of the Irgun, revealed to a party of foreign correspondents that “Deir Yassin was captured with the knowledge of the Haganah and with the approval of its commander”, as a part of its “plan for establishing an airfield”. When the Irgun and Lehi fighters ran low on ammunition, they obtained thousands of rounds from the Haganah. Haganah squads also provided covering fire, and fired on villagers fleeing south towards Ayn Karim.
Deir Yassin, like hundreds of other Palestinian villages to follow, was wiped off the map. Years later, in 1980, what was left of Deir Yassin’s cemetery was bulldozed by the State of Israel to make way for a new highway. The Deir Yassin massacre became a pivotal event in the Arab–Israeli conflict. News of the killings sparked terror among Palestinians, encouraging them to flee from their towns and villages in the face of Jewish troop advances (hence the revisionist Israeli myth that they left voluntarily), and it strengthened the resolve of Arab governments to intervene, which they did five weeks later in the first of several major regional wars against the new Jewish colonizers.
On May 28, 1948, less than two weeks after the creation of the state of Israel, the provisional government created the Israeli Defense Forces, which would succeed the Haganah. It also outlawed maintenance of any other armed force. The re-organization led to several conflicts between Ben-Gurion and the Haganah leadership, including what was known as The Generals’ Revolt. The disbanding of the Palmach commando unit was particularly bitter.
Famous members of the Haganah included Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon and Dr. Ruth Westheimer (“Dr. Ruth”, who went from sniper to sex therapist).
Mainstream Opposition to Terrorism – Terrorism & Fascism
Leaders within the mainstream Jewish organizations, the Jewish Agency, Haganah and Histadrut, as well as the British authorities, routinely condemned Irgun operations as terrorism and branded it an illegal organization as a result of the group’s attacks on civilian targets.
Irgun attacks prompted a formal declaration from the World Zionist Congress in 1946, which strongly condemned “the shedding of innocent blood as a means of political warfare”.
The Israeli government, in September 1948, acting in response to the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte, outlawed the Irgun and Lehi groups, declaring them terrorist organizations under the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance.
In 1948, The New York Times published a letter signed by a number of prominent Jewish figures including Hannah Arendt, Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook, and Rabbi Jessurun Cardozo, which described Irgun as “a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine”.
Soon after World War II, Winston Churchill said that the Irgun were “the vilest gangsters”.
A US military intelligence report, dated January 1948, described Irgun recruiting tactics amongst Displaced Persons (DP) in the camps across Germany:
‘Irgun … seems to be concentrating on the DP police force. This is an old technique in Eastern Europe and in all police states. By controlling the police, a small, unscrupulous group of determined people can impose its will on a peaceful and inarticulate majority; it is done by threats, intimidation, by violence and if need be bloodshed … they have embarked upon a course of violence within the camps.’
Clare Hollingworth, the Daily Telegraph and The Scotsman correspondent in Jerusalem during 1948 wrote several outspoken reports after spending several weeks in West Jerusalem:
“Irgun is in fact rapidly becoming the ‘SS’ of the new state. There is also a strong ‘Gestapo’ – but no-one knows who is in it. The shopkeepers are afraid not so much of shells as of raids by Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern Gang. These young toughs, who are beyond whatever law there is, have cleaned out most private houses of the richer classes & started to prey upon the shopkeepers.”
Ha’aretz columnist and Israeli historian Tom Segev wrote of the Irgun: “In the second half of 1940, a few members of the Irgun Zvai Leumi (National Military Organization) – the anti-British terrorist group sponsored by the Revisionists and known by its acronym Etzel, and to the British simply as the Irgun – made contact with representatives of Fascist Italy, offering to cooperate against the British.”
Author-researcher Lenni Brenner’s 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis, includes a 1940 letter from Avraham Stern (founder of the Lehi, or Stern Gang) proposing that Jewish militias would fight on Germany’s side in exchange for Nazi help in creating an “historic Jewish state”.
At the end of WWII, a document dated January 11, 1941, by Avraham Stern and proposing a military alliance and an understanding between the Third Reich and the Zionists, was found in the German embassy in Ankara, Turkey. It had been presented to two German diplomats in Lebanon, under Vichy at that time. The document was entitled, “Proposal for the National Military Organization (Irgun Zvai Leumi) Concerning the Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe and the Participation of the NMO in the War on the side of Germany”. The NMO, later to adopt the name Lohamamei Herut Yisrael, or Lehi for short, was known by its British designation as the Stern Gang.
The more grotesque atrocities by the Irgun (the NMO) under Manachem Begin and the Lehi/Stern Gang against both the Arabs and the British – such as the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946 in which 96 mostly civilians were killed, and the massacre at Deir Yassin – involved coordination with the Haganah under the direction of Commander David Ben Gurion, who became Israel’s first Prime Minister.
Yitzhak Yzernitsky – later to call himself Yitzhak Shamir, and to become the longest serving Israeli Prime Minister except for David Ben Gurion (but now exceeded by “Bibi” Netanyahu) – became the operations commander of the Stern Gang after Avraham Stern was killed by the British army in February of 1942. Under Shamir’s leadership, 14 assassinations of British officials were attempted with two being successful: Lord Moyne, the British Minister Resident in the Middle East, and the UN Representative to Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte, who received three bullets in the heart on the order of Stern’s operations commander Yitzhak Shamir.
The Charter of the Stern Gang, or more accurately, the principles promulgated by Stern, included the establishment of a Jewish state “from the Nile to the Euphrates”, the ‘transfer of the Palestinian Arabs to regions outside of the Jewish state, and the building of the Third Temple in Jerusalem. It maintained offices outside of the Middle East – including Warsaw, Paris, London, and New York City, the latter headed by Benzion Netanyahu, the present Prime Minister’s father.
The Marriage of Messianic Religious Zionism with Expansionist Terrorism
Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935) was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandatory Palestine, the founder of Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav Kook (The Central Yeshiva For The Masses), Jewish thinker, Halachist, Kabbalist and a renowned Torah scholar, and one of the most influential rabbis of the 20th century.
Abraham Kook was an ally of Vladimir “Ze’ev” Jabotinsky (1880–1940), a Revisionist Zionist leader and founder of the Jewish Self-Defense Organization in Odessa, and of the Irgun in Palestine.
Jabotinsky was the principal political rival of David Ben-Gurion, the Labor Zionist leader who became Israel’s first Prime Minister. Ben-Gurion labeled him “Vladimir Hitler” and denounced him and his followers as extremists and militarists who “educate their youth to kill” (a common refrain now directed at the Palestinian resistance movement).
Menachem Begin took over the leadership of the Irgun from Jabotinsky. Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt, in their letter to the NY Times of Dec. 2, 1948, said “During the last years of sporadic anti-British violence, the IZL [Irgun] and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, window-smashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute” (somewhat reminiscent of groups today like Boka Haram and the Lord’s Resistance Army).
The Stern Gang (aka Lehi) twice attempted to form an alliance with the Nazis, and declared that it would establish a Jewish state based upon “nationalist and totalitarian principles”. Former Lehi leader Yitzhak Shamir became Prime Minister of Israel in 1983, opposed Soviet Jewish emigration to the US, encouraged Jewish immigration to Israel, and opposed the Madrid Peace Talks. As a member of the Knesset, Shamir abstained in the votes to approve the Camp David Accords and the Peace Treaty with Egypt.
Abraham Kook’s son, Zvi Yehuda Kook (1891–1982), was a leader of religious Zionism and took over as head of his father’s yeshiva. His teachings are largely responsible for the modern religious settlement movement in the West Bank and its most extreme messianic wing. Under the leadership of Kook, thousands of religious Jews campaigned actively against territorial compromise, and established numerous illegal settlements throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, many of which were subsequently granted official recognition by Israeli governments.
Both Kooks were leaders of the messianic Zionist movement which aimed at the rebuilding of Solomon’s Temple and the restoration of the Nation of Israel within all its historic lands. They inspired the Gush Emunim and the Jewish Underground.
“No trait is more justified than revenge in the right time and place.” – Meir Kahane
Zvi Kook, his protégé Meir Kahane (founder of the radical Jewish Defense League and Kach Party) former Irgun leader Menacheim Begin, and former Stern Gang leader Yitzhak Shamir shared similar expansionist goals, supported one another and sabotaged efforts toward peace (though Begin signed the Camp David treaty with Egypt, he reneged on the rest of the agreement and initiated an aggressive settlement program in the West Bank).
Rabbi Moshe Levinger, a student and protégé of Zvi Kook, established the illegal West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba on the outskirts of Hebron in 1968. Baruch Goldstein, a Kiryat Arba physician, was responsible for the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in which 29 unarmed Palestinian worshippers were shot to death and 125 others were wounded. Goldstein was a supporter of Kach, the political party founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane that advocated the expulsion of Arabs from Israel and the Palestinian Territories. In the aftermath of the Goldstein attack and Kach statements praising it, Kach was outlawed in Israel.
Kahane Park in Kiryat Arba is named for Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of Kach, a far right political party that is considered a terrorist organization in Israel, and founder of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), deemed a terrorist organization by the FBI.
In 1974, Rabbis Kook and Levinger created the Gush Emunim messianic right-wing activist movement. Amana (Covenant) is an Israeli settlement movement formed by Gush Emunim in 1976, whose primary goal is “developing communities in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights, the Galilee, the Negev and Gush Katif [southern Gaza strip]”.
In 1979, Rabbis Kook, Levinger and Kahane, upset that the 1978 Camp David peace treaty with Egypt would mean the relinquishment of territories, decided to sabotage the accords by bombing the Dome of the Rock and by assassinations of Palestinian leaders. In July 1983, Levinger’s son-in-law led a Kiryat Arba team that sprayed the Islamic College of Hebron with machine-gun fire, killing three students and wounding 30 more. Instead of being imprisoned, Meir Kahane got a seat in the Israeli Knesset.
In April 1984, Levinger’s son-in-law and others attempted to blow up Arab buses in East Jerusalem, in order to trigger riots. The attempt failed, and several of the terrorists were arrested. The JDL/Kach movement established a legal defense fund in the United States. Most of the $100,000 that was raised, was contributed by American mobster Meyer Lansky’s former bag-man Charlie Fox. Following their conviction, where the defendants received moderate sentences, Foreign Minister (and recently Prime Minister and former Lehi terrorist) Yitzhak Shamir vowed to work for their early release and described the conspirators as “excellent people who made a mistake” (Jerusalem Post, July 12, 1985).
In 1995, Yigal Amir, another fanatical operative created by this movement, shot and killed Prime Minister Rabin. The murder set the conditions for Likud members Sharon and Netanyahu to return to power and cancel the 1993 Oslo Peace Agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Netanyahu served as Prime Minister from 1996 to 1999 and 2009 to now, and Sharon served in that post from 2001 to 2006.
A former combat soldier who had studied Jewish law, Amir stated that his decision to kill the prime minister was influenced by the opinions of militant rabbis that such an assassination would be justified by the Halakhic ruling of din rodef (“pursuer’s decree”). This Jewish religious concept allows for an immediate execution of a person if that person is “pursuing”, that is, attempting immediately to take your life or the life of another person. According to Amir, allowing the Palestinian Authority to expand on the West Bank represented such a danger. Amir was associated with the radical Eyal movement, which had been greatly influenced by Rabbi Meir Kahane.
Another element of the messianic terror apparatus is the Temple Mount Faithful, founded by Gershon Salomon, a disciple of Jabotinsky and an Irgun veteran who ran the youth department of Menachem Begin’s Herut party until he quit in a dispute over the Camp David peace treaty with Egypt. Solomon helped form the Tehiya party in 1979, at the suggestion of Rabbi Zvi Kook together with Yuval Neeman, former head of Israeli military intelligence, and Geula Cohen, who had first brought Kahane to Israel.
Irgun veteran Stanley Goldfoot began to tunnel secretly under the Dome of the Rock as part of their preparations for destroying the Islamic holy site. Goldfoot’s “expeditions” have been financed out of the United States by a group of Christian evangelicals, who advocate the rebuilding of Solomon’s Temple in order to hasten the Second Coming of Christ.
On October 8, 1990, the Temple Mount Faithful attempted to lay the foundation-stone for “Solomon’s Temple” at the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque. Muslims at the site began throwing rocks at the group, and at Jews praying at the nearby Western Wall. The subsequent riots left 20 Muslims dead and provoked Prime Minister Shamir to close the doors to the mosque for the first time since the Crusades.
The Messianic Revival & The New Terrorism
Gush Emunim was an Israeli messianic, right-wing activist movement committed to establishing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. While not formally established as an organization until 1974 in the wake of the Yom Kippur War, Gush Emunim arose out of the territorial expansion of the Six-Day War in 1967, encouraging Jewish settlement of the land based on the belief that, according to the Torah, God gave it to the Jewish people. While Gush Emunim no longer officially exists, vestiges of its influence remain in Israeli society.
Gush Emunim was closely associated with, and highly influential in, the National Religious Party (NRP). Today they refer to themselves – and are referred to by the Israeli media as – Ne’emanei Eretz Yisrael (“Those who are faithful to the Land of Israel”). It also had a close relationship with the Jewish Agency (previously called the Palestine Zionist Executive, it was designated in 1929 as the “Jewish agency” provided for in the League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate to encourage immigration and settlement).
The Jewish Underground, that existed from 1979 to 1984, was a Jewish terrorist organization formed by prominent members of Gush Emunim. The group’s highest profile plot was to destroy the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in order to instigate a climactic war between the Islamic world and the Jews and usher in the age of the Messiah and the victorious Nation of Israel (very similar to the apocalyptic visions of America’s messianic Christians).
In 1980, the Jewish Underground carried out a series of terror attacks, including car bombings, against Palestinian officials. As a result of these attacks, Bassam Shakaa, the mayor of Nablus, lost both of his legs and Karim Khalaf, the mayor of Ramallah, lost one of his legs.
In 1983, three of its members were involved in a retaliation attack following the murder of Aharon Gross, a yeshivah student in Hebron. In broad daylight, two men entered the Islamic College of Hebron, spraying bullets and tossing a grenade. They murdered three students and wounded thirty more.
On April 27, 1984, Shin Bet agents arrested 15 people with ties to Gush Emunim. The suspects were taken into custody immediately after placing bombs under six Arab-owned buses in Jerusalem in the hope of killing hundreds of Palestinian civilians and tourists. The arrests followed an extensive two-year investigation led by the head of the Serious Crimes Division and employing 90 officers. The bombs were set to detonate on Friday afternoon as Muslim worshipers returned home from celebrating Isra and Mi’raj. A week later security forces raided the settlement of Kiryat Arba, finding a cache of stolen regional defense program weapons and explosives linked to the bomb plot.
A string of arrests followed with police bringing in a number of settlement and political leaders, including future Knesset member Eliezer Waldman and Rabbi Moshe Levinger. Twenty-five of the arrested Gush Emunim members were tried on a host of charges relating to the plot to destroy the Dome of the Rock, the 1983 attack on the Islamic College, the attempted assassination of West Bank mayors, the aborted bus attacks and a few other incidents. Three of the men – Menachem Livni, Shaul Nir and Uzi Sharbav – were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the Islamic College attack and attempted assassinations.
Their sentences were controversially commuted three times by then President Chaim Herzog and they were released after serving less than seven years. After the 1990 release, the three were hailed as “heroes” by leaders of the Gush Emunim movement. The Jewish Underground caused a rift in the Gush Emunim movement. The existence of a violent underground had, until the mass arrests, been dismissed by most Gush Emunim members as falsehood circulated by Peace Now to discredit the movement. Reports after the terrorists’ release suggested tremendous support for them by their fellow settlers.
Yehuda Etzion is an Israeli right-wing activist and the founder of Hai Vekayam, a group dedicated to allowing Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. He was a member of the Jewish Underground and participated in the plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock, for which he was arrested and imprisoned in 1984.
Following the 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty, Etzion began to lose faith in the Israeli government’s commitment to Greater Israel. Inspired by the deathbed request of his mentor, Shabtai Ben-Dov, he hatched the plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock. He and co-conspirator Menachem Livni hoped that destroying the Dome of the Rock would trigger a war between Israel and her Arab neighbors, from which only Israel would emerge victorious. This would trigger the building of the third temple and the recreation of the Kingdom of Israel.
His mentor, Shabtai Ben-Dov (1924-1978), was a member of Irgun and then the even more radical Lehi (Stern Gang) who moved from Poland to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1935. He was caught, imprisoned, and eventually exiled to Africa by the British, but returned to Israel after the establishment of the state in 1948. After the six day war, in which Israel captured the temple mount but allowed the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf (which has governed access to the holy sites since the Muslim re-conquest in 1187) to control it, Ben-Dov sued the government, demanding that the temple mount be controlled by those who would “protect it as a Jewish holy place”. Ben-Dov believed that the messiah would come only through a bloody national conquest, that Israel should be a theocratic state instead of a democratic one, and that the establishment of the third temple would bring about a world government by a Sanhedrin (high priesthood) and based on Jewish values.
Jewish Underground Resurfaces
As reported in Haaretz, July 24, 2004:
Likud Member of Knesset Ehud Yatom, who as a former Shin Bet official was one of the commanders of the operation to seize the members of the Jewish Underground terror group, said in July 2004 that the group had been “very close” to carrying out a planned multiple bombing against Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount in 1984 (they had acquired Semtex high-powered military explosive, and devised a plan to destroy the supporting structure, much as the three World Trade Center buildings were destroyed in 2001 – see: America was Born of Conspiracy Theory – From the Declaration of Independence to 9/11).
Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi confirmed that the security establishment had identified rising intent among current right-wing extremists to carry out a Temple Mount attack to derail Israel’s planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Security sources have said possible actions included an attempt to crash a drone packed with explosives into the Temple Mount, or a manned suicide attack with a light aircraft during mass Muslim worship on the Mount. Other possibilities included an attempt by right-wing extremists to assassinate a prominent Temple Mount Muslim leader, perhaps from the Waqf Islamic Trust.
Yatom, a member of the hawkish wing of the Likud and a strong opponent of the Gaza disengagement plan, said that in the wake of warnings by Hanegbi and the Shin Bet of potential Jewish extremist activity, “I am indeed fearful, and I do not wish to return to those terrible, tense days of 1980-84 in which the Jewish Underground was active with its wicked plans.”
Had an attack succeeded 20 years ago or in the current period, the effect would have been similar, and “horrible, terrible,” he said. “It would have meant the entire Muslim world against the state of Israel and against the Western world, a war of religions,” Yatom said. “With all of their pain and suffering, today’s terrorist attacks would be nothing compared to what could happen – even World War III.”
Yehuda Etzion (whose father was part of the Stern Gang of Jewish terrorists), the mastermind of the 1980s plot to blow up the mosques on the Temple Mount, called the current plots a “worthy” goal, during an interview on Army Radio.
Israeli security sources speculated that the assassination of a Waqf official might be chosen even though it would not cause mass injury or damage to the Al-Aqsa mosque or the Dome of the Rock. The aim of the Temple Mount attack conspiracy, they said, would be to carry out a visible provocation that sparked violent confrontation in the occupied territories and to undermine any movement toward peace, reconciliation and mutual co-existence.
State Terrorism and War as the Health of the State
In 1918, Randolph Silliman Bourne wrote War is the Health of the State, in which he described the power of the martial state to exploit the herd instinct of its members. Nothing coalesces a national population like an external enemy, and none moreso than an existential threat – which has been the constant drumbeat of Zionist leaders since the State of Israel was little more than a dream and a hope of a displaced people.
Even today, with one of the most capable military forces in the world, and perhaps 200 nuclear weapons, Israel has never ceased cultivating its enemies and avoiding peace at any cost.
Israel claims an inalienable “right to exist” while denying the right of a Palestinian state to exist (see: Israel and Palestine – No Right to Exist).
After the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, which remains a desolate open-air concentration camp under total Israeli control, and after three wars with Gaza’s resistance movement (see: Israel’s War on Hamas – Israel’s War against Peace), Israel merely shifted its expansionist tendencies toward the far more important regions of the West Bank and Jerusalem (Judea and Samaria).
Continued West Bank settlement, which the international community condemns as illegal, is one of the most profound acts of state terrorism, intended to permanently undermine any Palestinian hopes for a state. Fostering desperation in a people is cultivating violent resistance.
In The Shin Bet Gatekeepers, six former commanders of Israel’s secretive internal security apparatus, address the failures of right-wing intransigence, the futility of the intensifying military occupation of another people who also seek self-determination and a homeland, and the lack of will on the part of Israel’s leadership to engage in honest negotiation towards a mutually-beneficial political solution – the only true definition of victory.
Navy Admiral & Shin Bet Chief Ami Ayalon said, “The tragedy of Israel’s public security debate is that we don’t realize that we face a frustrating situation in which we win every battle, but we lose the war.”
In November 2003, four former heads of Shin Bet – Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon and Ami Ayalon – called upon the Government of Israel to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Yuval Diskin, a Shin Bet intelligence officer since 1978 and head of Shin Bet from 2005-2001, along with former Mossad Director Meir Dagan and former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, have been highly critical of the diplomatic positions of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition. Since his retirement from the Shin Bet, Diskin has spoken on a number of occasions on his view of the need for diplomatic progress with the Palestinian Authority and the wider Arab world.
Yet, on the eve of another Israeli election, on March 16, 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a highly contested struggle for a third consecutive term, appeased his fellow hard-liners by announcing that, if re-elected, there would be no Palestinian state, and settlements in East Jerusalem would continue unabated – thereby reaffirming that War is the Health of the State, even if it leads ultimately to mutually-assured annihilation of every human hope.
by Robert Riversong: may be reproduced only with attribution for non-commercial purposes and a link to this page