Jewish psychology without Freud


Professor Mordechai Rotenberg. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Jewish psychology without Freud

By Richard Mather

For over a century, Sigmund Freud has cast a shadow over Western psychoanalysis after developing the theory that humans have an unconscious in which sexual and aggressive impulses are in conflict with the defences against them. Most notable is his hypothesis that a son experiences feelings of jealousy and hate toward his father because of an unconscious desire for the exclusive love of the mother. This is known as the Oedipus complex.

But Professor Mordechai Rotenberg, an Israeli professor of social work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says Freud’s adoption/adaption of the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus is not just erroneous and morbid, but runs counter to the Jewish tradition of mutual responsibility, optimism and teshuvah (repentance, literally “turn”).

Whereas Freud theorised that the past cannot be changed but only killed in order to build a new present upon it, Professor Rotenberg, who has developed a socio-psychological model derived from Hasidic and Midrashic concepts, believes that life is like a text and that the past can be changed or redeemed by rebiographing it.

We all have the capacity to “recompose” our individual biographies by rereading life’s events and finding the interpretation that allows us to integrate the stories of the past in our general life story, says the professor. This re-biographing principle is based on the Jewish concept of midrash, from the root דרש which means “to search,” “to seek,” “to examine,” and “to investigate.”

According to Professor Rotenberg, an individual needn’t be trapped by  past wrongdoings. Rather than trying to eliminate earlier negative  actions, we can integrate the sins of the past by giving them the space to exist in our psyches, while seeking out positive features of the past, and committing ourselves to a better future. This is what he calls teshuvah or repentance.

In rejecting Freud’s Oedipus complex, Professor Rotenberg opts instead for the Hebraic narrative of the Akedah or akedat yitzhak (the binding of Isaac). According to the Torah, God commands Abraham to offer his son Isaac  as a sacrifice. Abraham takes Isaac to the place of sacrifice and binds him (va-ya’akod) on the altar. But the angel of the Lord bids Abraham to stay his hand and a ram is offered in Isaac’s place.

Whereas Freud’s Oedipal hypothesis proposes a dialectic resolution in which the son (the present) prevails only when he kills his father (the past), the resolution of the inter-generational conflict in the Akedah story is dialogical because it favours father-son (past-present) continuity between Abraham and Isaac.

In other words, whereas the Freudian-Oedipal model proposes annihilating the past in order to build a new life, the Akedah model allows the past and present to co-exist.

In language reminiscent of the great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, Rotenberg calls Freud’s theory an example of “I or thou” thinking in which a conflictual dialectical pattern of strong versus weak is created. The Akedah, by contrast, allows for an “I and thou” dialogical mode of thought in which both parties –  Abraham and Isaac, past and present – co-exist despite the tensions between them.

Rotenberg bases his dialogical approach on the Kabbalistic notion of tzimtzum or contraction, a concept made famous by the sixteenth century Jewish philosopher Rabbi Isaac Luria. According to Rabbi Luria, God constricted Himself in order to make room for the created universe.

“In the beginning, a simple divine light filled the entirety of existence,” says Rabbi Luria. “When there arose in His simple will the desire to create the worlds, He contracted His light, withdrawing it to the sides and leaving a void and an empty space in its centre, to allow for the existence of the worlds.”

In Rotenberg’s philosophy, the concept of divine tzimtzum serves as a basis for tzimtzum on the human level.  Tzimtzum may be articulated in psychological terms (what he calls the “reorganising” of one’s psyche) but also on an inter-personal level, between parents and children, between spouses, between colleagues, between nations, between friends.

This brings us back to Rotenberg’s concept of “I and thou” whereby the individual and the Other act in co-existence, with the “I” making space for the “thou.” In the “I or thou” pattern that dominated Freud’s thinking, there are hostile relations between the “I” and the “thou,” and one will always be at the expense of the other.

Healing or tikkun is achieved in concert with other people. One way of redeeming the past is to go out and help other people. This alter-centric (rather than ego-centric) approach of mutual responsibility echoes the Talmudic dictum, “all of Israel are responsible for each other.” As illustrated by akedat yitzhak and tzimtzum, the individual is not obliterated but “contracted,” thereby facilitating the mutual “I and thou” relationship.

The Talmud (Shevuot 39a), in discussing the domino effect of sin, concludes with the Aramaic phrase, Kol yisrael arevim zeh ba zeh, meaning all of Israel are responsible for each other. There is some uncertainty whether it is actually “zeh la zeh,” which holds that each individual is a separate unit but is responsible for other members of the community, or “zeh ba zeh”, which implies that all Jews form a single entity known as Klal Yisrael.

Professor Rotenberg believes his Jewish psychology can be applied at a socio-political level in Israel. “As a  national movement  of liberation, Zionism means not only collective freedom  from  discrimination and  persecution,  but  the ability to create a  new,  value-oriented national Jewish society in Eretz Yisrael,” he says.

He adds: “Only by being mutually responsible — the individual and  the  group  — can one  feel a sense of belonging. Case histories have  demonstrated  that soldiers  in  the  IDF  whose parents lived abroad,  and  who   contemplated   suicide, reversed  this  self-destructive urge when  they  were  befriended  by  other  soldiers  and  their  families. They  regained  a sense of  belonging.”

To belong  to  the Jewish people and  to  be wanted  by fellow Jews are  major  factors  in one’s mental health, he explains.

In 2009, in recognition of his research into social welfare, Professor Rotenberg was awarded the Israel Prize, which is presented every year on Israeli Independence Day. He continues to communicate his theory of Jewish psychology through books and articles, and also via the Rotenberg Institute, which was established in memory of his soldier-son Boaz Rotenberg who died aged eighteen during an IDF mission in Jericho during the first intifada.











Purim: Where is God in all this?


Purim is a time of merriment. Celebrants are allowed to drink alcohol to the point where they are unable to differentiate between the phrases ‘Bless Mordecai’ and ‘Curse Haman.’ But there is a darker side to Purim. Megillat Esther depicts an existential threat to the Jews. The Jews are saved and their enemies slain, not because God intervenes but because the Jews themselves take decisive action to eradicate the threat. Purim seems to be about the role of Jewish self-reliance in a universe where God has apparently disappeared from the stage.

By Richard Mather

Megillat Esther (the Scroll of Esther) narrates the story of a Jewish girl who becomes Queen of Persia and saves the Jewish people from a genocide decreed by the wicked Haman. The story takes place in 473 BCE. The Persian kingdom is a huge and sprawling empire, and all the Jews are its subjects. When King Ahasuerus deposes Queen Vashti for disobedience, he arranges a beauty parade to find a new consort. Esther is chosen and she becomes the new queen of Persia. However, she does not reveal her Jewish identity.

A wicked man called Haman is appointed first minister of the Persian empire. Haman becomes enraged when Mordechai, leader of the Jews, refuses to bow to him. Spitefully, Haman convinces the King to issue a decree ordering the genocide of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar. The date is chosen by lottery, hence the word Purim, which means “lots,” from the word Hebrew word פור.

Esther takes practical action. She reveals her Jewish identity to the King. Haman is hanged and Mordechai is appointed first minister in his place. A new decree granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies is issued. On the 13th of Adar the Jews kill many of their enemies. On the 14th, they rest and celebrate. The Jews of Shushan wage war on both Adar 13th and 14th, and rejoice on the 15th, which explains the celebration of Shushan Purim in Israel on the 15th.

The holiday of Purim is a time of merriment. Celebrants are allowed to drink alcohol to the point where they are unable to differentiate between the phrases ‘Bless Mordecai’ and ‘Curse Haman.’ Another feature of Purim is the Purimspiel, which is a dramatic retelling of the story of Esther, often involving costumes, masks, music, dance and humour. Traditionally, the Purimspiel was performed by poor students, actors and acrobats. These days, the Purimspiel is often acted out by children who dress up as characters from the story.

But there is a darker side to Purim. Megillat Esther depicts an existential threat to the Jews. Genocide hangs over them like the sword of Damocles. The Jews are saved and their enemies slain, not because God intervenes but because the Jews themselves take decisive action to eradicate the threat. Purim seems to be about the role of Jewish self-reliance in a universe where God has apparently disappeared from the stage.

This is why the story of Esther is particularly relevant in our post-Holocaust era. For many people, God’s goodness cannot be taken for granted. Elie Wiesel, the prize-winning writer and Holocaust survivor, has refused to shy away from the difficult subject of God’s absence during the Shoah. Perhaps his most famous book is Night. But for me, one of Wiesel’s most striking works is his play The Trial of God.

The Trial of God, is set in 1649, and is a Purimspiel within a Purimspiel. But it is not the kind of Purimspiel we would recognise. This is a brief outline of the story:

Three wandering minstrels, three Purimspielers, come to a city called Shamgorod in the Ukraine. It is Purim eve, and they want to perform a play in order to get food and drink. The minstrels are unaware that a recent pogrom has killed all of the local Jews except for Berish the innkeeper and his daughter Hanna who was gang-raped and is now in a state of nervous collapse.

But the minstrels insist on performing and finally Berish relents and says, ‘All right. Under one condition – that I will give you the idea. The theme will be a “din torah,”  a trial of God. I want you to indict God for what he has done to my family, to my community, to all these Jews.’ The performers accept. In the first act the decision is made to hold a trial. In the second act there is a problem because there is nobody to play the role of God’s attorney. In the third act an attorney is found and we have the trial itself.

Wiesel’s play is based on an event that occurred in Auschwitz. According to Wiesel, three rabbis – all erudite and pious men – decided one winter evening to indict God for allowing his children to be massacred. The trial at Auschwitz lasted several nights and culminated in an unanimous verdict of guilty. And then, after a few moments of silence, one of the rabbis looked towards the heavens and said “It’s time for evening prayers.”

Given the subject matter, it is not surprising that Wiesel’s Purimspiel rejects the usual carnivalesque atmosphere of Purim. Mendel, one of the Purim minstrels, frequently asks the question, ‘And where is God in all of this?’ To which Berish the innkeeper answers: ‘Why don’t you ask where Berish is in all this? Let me answer you that one. God sought me out and God struck me down. So let Him stay away from me.’

In Wiesel’s text, God is accused of hostility, cruelty and indifference. Over the course of the trial, a number of arguments are made, both for and against God’s guilt. Wiesel’s play ends darkly, with the victory of Satan (who is God’s defendant) and the imminent massacre of the town’s remaining Jews by a mob of bloodthirsty gentiles.

It is well-known that Megillat Esther is the only book in the Tanakh –  except for Shir Hashirim or the Song of Songs –  that does not mention the name of God. The Trial of God, however, makes God the central character, although like Godot in Beckett’s famous play, He never actually makes an appearance. And while Purim is generally a time of merriment, Wiesel’s play plumbs the depth of theological inquiry, asking, ‘Where is God in all this?’

In a world where the Holocaust was allowed to happen, the question of ‘Where is God in all this?’ remains pertinent. Of course, even before the Holocaust, Jewish experience was one of exile, alienation and violence – a sign perhaps that God’s power has rarely been some awesome force. Indeed, for much of history, God has hidden his face from us. The concept of hester panim (“hiding of the face”) is sometimes used to explain the absence or eclipse of God during times of suffering. The concept of divine concealment is based on words from Sefer Devarim: “I will become very angry at them on that day, and I will abandon them and hide My face from them. They will be devoured, and plagued by many evils that will distress them, and will say, ‘Do we not suffer because God has left us?’.”

In the case of Purim, the importance of hester panim is implied by the name of the heroine. Note the similarity between the words hester and Est(h)er. The Babylonian Talmud tractate Hullin 139B states, “From where does the Torah bring the name Esther? From the verse ‘But I [God] will surely conceal my face [“haster astir panai“] on that day for all of the ill that they have done–for they turned to other gods.”

In our post-Holocaust era, it can be difficult to subscribe to the notion of God as a transcendent Supreme Being who intervenes in history. Doesn’t the Esther story, and the story of the Jews in general, suggest that God’s power is not some ‘top-down’ affair but is conducted through the actions of individuals and groups, like Moses and the Israelites or Theodor Herzl and the First Zionist Congress? Isn’t it perhaps the case that God’s power is channelled through the Jewish people themselves?

In 1948 when Palestine’s Jews declared independence, there occurred a unique rupture in the history of colonialism and imperialism. But this declaration also ruptured the long-held hope of a messianic king or priest who would gather the Jewish people and end the exile. It wasn’t God or the Messiah who restored the Jewish nation. It was the Jews themselves. To paraphrase Rabbi Eleazar (Megillah 15a), the moment the Jewish people decide to cloak themselves in royalty and declare independence is the moment in which the Jews cloak themselves in the spirit of God.

This is why I strongly disagree with those ultra-religious Jews in Israel who refuse to serve in the army because it detracts from Torah study, which (they say) is Israel’s best protection. Unfortunately, history shows us that no amount of Torah study or prayer prevents pogroms or genocides; nor will Torah study protect the State Israel from future attacks. Likewise, it’s wrong of anti-Zionist religious Jews to argue that the State of Israel is a usurpation of the Messiah’s role. My answer to them is simple: for too long we waited for the Messiah, but he never came. And he may never come for one simple reason – because the Jewish people themselves already function as a messianic community.

In other words, it is not God or Messiah, but the Jews themselves who determine what to do, and when and how to do it. As Rabbi David Blumenthal says, God “has all eternity to make up His mind. We do not have all eternity; we have now.”  The example set by Esther shows us that God expects the Jewish people to take the initiative, to act for themselves and to rely on their own talents and skills in order to ensure their long-term survival. The success of the State of Israel and the fact that the majority of Jews are prepared to defend themselves in a world full of Hamans is testament to the spirit of Megillat Esther.


Purim: Where is God in all this?

Purim is a time of merriment. Celebrants are allowed to drink alcohol to the point where they are unable to differentiate between the phrases ‘Bless Mordecai’ and ‘Curse Haman.’ But there is a darker side to Purim. Megillat Esther depicts an existential threat to the Jews. The Jews are saved and their enemies slain, not because God intervenes but because the Jews themselves take decisive action to eradicate the threat. Purim seems to be about the role of Jewish self-reliance in a universe where God has apparently disappeared from the stage.

Source: Purim: Where is God in all this?

Jihad for Jesus: Christ at the Checkpoint’s Anti-Israel Crusade


By Richard Mather

Every couple of years the city of Bethlehem, birthplace of Jesus, hosts the provocatively-titled Christ at the Checkpoint (CatC), an anti-Zionist convocation of Arab Christians, Western evangelicals and a handful of Messianic Jews. This year’s conference (March 7-10) is taking place at the Orient Palace hotel in Beit Jala. Ironically, the event is being safeguarded by the Israeli army because the conference organisers fear that the Palestinian Authority is either incapable or unwilling to protect their Christian guests from the perils of Islamist terrorism.

CatC claims to be conciliatory and pro-peace, but almost every speaker will use this year’s conference to blame Palestinian suffering on Israel and they will do so in the harshest terms. CatC holds the belief that the Jewish state is an aberration and an occupying power. If previous years are anything to go by, the derogatory rhetoric about Israel will be vile. When it is couched in the terminology of Christian replacement theology, it is horrifying. When you watch online clips of previous CatC conferences and you see people like Dr Manfred Kohl, a German Christian, referring to Jews as “dummkopfs” (“idiots”) and blaming the State of Israel for undermining the redemptive work of Jesus, you feel physically sick.

The conference is organised by the Bethlehem Bible College, whose mission is to “challenge evangelicals to take responsibility to help resolve the conflicts in Israel/Palestine by engaging with the teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God.” The theme of this year’s gathering is the “gospel in the face of religious extremism.” Given the nature of the event and the type of people in attendance, this is laughable. One of this year’s keynote speakers is Mustafa Abu Sway, a Muslim supremacist who served as president of the Islamic Society of Boston in the early 1990s. In 2002 he told an interfaith meeting that he wished the State of Israel “would disappear.” According to investigations by Daniel Pipes, Abu Sway has raised money for several Hamas-related organisations, including the Al-Aqsa Foundation of South Africa. Abu Sway’s ‘scholarship’ is even featured on Hamas’ website.

CatC says the motivation for organising this year’s conference is that “the religious aspect of the conflict, which has not been the primary issue in the past, has become more pronounced” (my italics). Only someone who has spent the last hundred years on another planet could say that religion “has not been the primary issue” in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Anti-Jewish violence in Mandate Palestine, Israel and other parts of the Middle East has nearly always been religiously-motivated. If you look at the documents, news reports and speeches from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, you’ll discover that Muslims in Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt couched their hatred of Jews in extreme religious terminology.

The histrionics of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the father of Palestinian Islamic nationalism, is a case in point. Husseini believed it was a religious impossibility for Muslims to share the land with Jews. Even areas where Jews formed a majority were considered to be a kind of religious defilement. Husseini called on his fellow Arabs to “not forget that the Jew is your worst enemy and has been the enemy of your forefathers.” Not surprisingly, his bombast resulted in various pogroms, massacres and terrorist atrocities. He was a friend to Hitler and a hero to Yasser Arafat, and his legacy of violence is still evident in the twenty-first century.

CatC says that it “condemns all forms of violence unequivocally.” But given Abu Sway’s invitation, it appears that the anti-Semitic violence of Hamas is exempted, which may explain why CatC is also urging Christians to use this year’s conference as an opportunity to come to terms with Islamist extremism. Christians should try to “understand the global context for the rise of extremist Islam,” states CatC.  This is interesting. What exactly is the global context for extremist Islam? Is it American military hegemony? Is it the existence of Israel? Is it the 2003 Iraq War? Is it the conflict in Syria? Or is it the imams and hate preachers who use the Quran and the Islamic commentaries to justify the slaying of unbelievers?

The event organisers say there has been a “marked increase in religious extremism particularly within the Jewish and Muslim communities in our region, and, to a lesser degree, in the Christian community in the West.” Well, there is nothing new about Islam-inspired violence, although I suppose the actions of Islamic State have raised the bar to a new level. As for Judaism, there is little evidence of Jewish extremism. Yes, there have been some isolated outbursts of violence in the Israeli-administered territories, but they pale in comparison to the barbarism of knife-wielding, machete-waving Arab terrorists who roam the land of Israel like wild beasts. As for Christians, there is little evidence of extremism in the West, unless CatC is referring to the fanaticism of anti-Zionist left-wing evangelicals, but I doubt it.

Predictably, CatC says the “occupation” is at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This is nonsense. The core of the conflict is religious anti-Semitism, as well as Islamic supremacism. To the average Islamist, Jews are third-class citizens who have no right managing their own affairs. Jews must be dhimmis or be put to the sword. Likewise, the so-called occupation is used to explain the suffering of Palestinian Christians. I accept that Israeli security arrangements make life difficult for Arab Christians, but relentless terrorism has necessitated these safety provisions. And let’s not forget that many Bethlehemite Christians cooperated with Fatah terrorists during the Second Intifada, so they must shoulder some of the blame for the security restrictions.

Actually, it is Palestinians officials, and not Israel, who have made life intolerable for Christians in Bethlehem (and Gaza). In 1948, Bethlehem was 85 per cent Christian. Under Jordanian rule, this fell to 46 per cent. The situation stabilised when Israel managed Bethlehem between 1967 and 1995. But in the twenty years following Israel’s withdrawal, Bethlehem’s Christian population has declined to a mere ten per cent, from 20,000 Christians to around 5,000. Why? Because of persecution and harassment by both the Palestinian Preventive Security Service and various Islamist factions.

I cannot be certain but I think CatC derived its confrontational name – Christ at the Checkpoint – from Naim Ateek’s image of Jesus as “the powerless Palestinian humiliated at a checkpoint.” Ateek, who was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1967, spoke at CatC’s inaugural conference in 2010. His Jesus-at-the-checkpoint image was the central plank of his Easter message in 2001 in which he invoked the charge of deicide by accusing the “Israeli government crucifixion system” of crucifying Palestinians. Perhaps Ateek was inspired by Yasser Arafat who (in a speech made in Bethlehem in 1995) referred to Jesus as “the first Palestinian Christian.”

Ateek and Arafat were wrong in their assertion that Jesus was a Palestinian and/or a Palestinian martyr. He was not. Jesus, or Yeshua as he was known, was a religiously-observant Zionist Jew who quoted from the Tanakh and announced he had “come for the lost sheep of Israel.” As Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes in his book Kosher Jesus, Yeshua or Jesus “was a great political leader who fought for the liberation of his people” and was “concerned with the political freedom of the Jewish nation.”

The Palestinian Jesus myth is a core component of Palestinian replacement theology.  Christian Palestinianists interpret the Bible from an Islamic point of view and do not admit to any historical or theological connection between biblical Israel, the Jewish people and the modern Israeli state. Christian Palestinianists depict Jews as a cruel and oppressive people who merit everlasting exile. Far from turning the other cheek, Christian Palestinianists are committed to a jihad for Jesus, a kind of Chrislamic crusade against Jews and the Jewish state.

An article about CatC would not be complete without mention of Stephen Sizer, the notorious Anglican pastor based in Surrey, England. Sizer, who argues that Christian Zionism has no biblical foundation, is a CatC organiser and speaker. According to Sizer, there is “no evidence that the apostles [of Jesus] believed that the Jewish people still had a divine right to the land, or that Jewish possession of the land would be important, let alone that Jerusalem would remain a central aspect of God’s purposes for the world.” (One wonders whether he’s actually read the New Testament.)

A regular contributor to Press TV and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Sizer has been photographed with Yasser Arafat and has publicly defended Raed Salah, the Hamas fundraiser who accuses Jews of making Passover bread with the blood of Christian children. Sizer is also a conspiracy theorist. On January 20 2015 Sizer posted a link on his Facebook page to a conspiracy theory entitled “9/11 Israel did it.” Sizer was subsequently ordered by his Anglican superiors to desist from posting material on social media for at least six months. He was also banned from commenting on issues relating to the Middle East.

The CatC organisers say they welcome pro-Israel voices. But do they? In December 2010, Israeli tour guide Kay Wilson was subjected to a sustained and horrific attack by Palestinian terrorists, and her American Christian friend Kristine Luken was murdered. When Kay approached CatC about the possibility of relaying her experience to the audience of the 2012 conference, she was told that her story was “not what the Lord wants.” It appears that by excluding the victims of Palestinian terrorism and inviting associates of Hamas to speak at their events, CatC is directly or indirectly approving terrorism. As Kay herself says, “the endorsement of terror by association, at a Christian conference, is obscene.”

Even when an Israel-friendly personality is permitted to address the CatC conference, it can be counter-productive. Back in 2014, Daniel Juster, an author and an advocate of Messianic Judaism, used his address to the CatC audience to challenge replacement theology. But as the pro-Israel Messianic Jewish website Rosh Pina Project points out, Juster pandered to the audience by claiming Israel was the product of a “Jewish intifada” and that Christian Palestinian replacement theology may  be an understandable response to the perceived “evil” of the “chosen people.” Juster also glossed over the issue of Palestinian terrorism and rudely disparaged the secular Jews of Tel Aviv. Not only was it a wasted opportunity, Juster’s appearance gave succour to Israel’s enemies.

All in all, CatC’s bias against Israel and its ridicule of Jewish national identity should be seen in the context of two millennia of anti-Jewish persecution by Christians exasperated by the continued existence of Jews and Judaism. Perhaps this religious exasperation explains why CatC organisers and speakers use Christian motifs to agitate the feelings of Christians. To quote the words of the Israeli foreign ministry (which cautioned Christians to stay clear of the 2014 conference), the use of religion “for the purpose of incitement in the service of political interests stains the person who does it with a stain of indelible infamy.”

Indelible infamy indeed. It is sad and tragic that despite the horrors of the Shoah, some sections of the Christian community have warmly embraced this new replacement theology in which Christianity supplants Judaism and Palestine supersedes Israel. It ought to be of grave concern to all right-minded people that a sizable number of unethical evangelical and Arab Christians are busy rekindling the same kinds of prejudices that underscored centuries of anti-Jewish prejudice – the same prejudice that culminated in the gas chambers and the near-total destruction of European Judaism.

By pandering to the Palestinians, the West is harming itself


By Richard Mather

For decades the West has lectured Israel on the need to partition its territory in order to placate Arab terrorists. Under pressure, Israel has pursued the narrative of land-for-peace, but without success. This has not stopped France from calling for an international peace conference “to preserve and achieve the two-state solution.” Everybody knows that the plan is without hope. The Arabs have rejected a two-state solution on seven occasions since the mid-1930s. Nothing is going to change. Why? Because religion – and not land – is at the core of Arab rejectionism.

Anti-Jewish violence in Mandate Palestine, Israel and other parts of the region has always been religiously-motivated. If you look at the documents, news reports and speeches from the 1920s and 1930s, you’ll see that Arab hatred of Palestinian Jews was couched in extreme religious – i.e. Islamist – terms. The anti-Jewish histrionics of Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini (who sought assistance from Hitler) is a case in point. So it is not surprising that a democratic Jewish state, where Jews run their own affairs, is anathema to the racist supremacism of the Islamist Arabs.

Unfortunately, France and the rest of the West are blind to the religious warfare being waged against the Jews. Having discarded much of their Christian heritage, Europe and America show little understanding of religious conflict. Policymakers tend to misread the Israeli-Arab dispute as a clash over land or the so-called settlements. So it is no surprise that that the same policymakers in Berlin, Washington and Brussels are simply incapable of recognising the fact that physical and sexual attacks by Muslims on Western women and children are shaped by deep-seated Islamic contempt for “unbelievers.”

This is where the Islamists have the advantage. They understand only too well that the war against Jews and the West is a religious, imperialistic, even apocalyptic, conflict. The West, by contrast, is ignorant of this reality because it is embarrassed by talk of colonialism and has rejected religion as a way of life. The near-total destruction of Jewry in the 1930s and 1940s, combined with the post-1945 deChristianisation of Europe, has left the continent without a religious counter-ideology on which to base a comprehensive response to Islamic supremacism. America, while still more religious than Europe, is also prone to fits of embarrassment when it comes to talking about colonialism and how religious faith shapes people’s lives.

The situation would not be so bad if the West had replaced the Christian religion with a robust and confident humanism that emphasises critical thinking, freedom and progress. Sadly, many people have become inhuman politically-correct automatons who tolerate the intolerable by creating “safe spaces” on their campuses and institutions for a whole host of unsavoury people who wish to kill Jews and undermine hard-won civil freedoms. And anyone who dares to criticise this mindless set-up is branded an Islamophobe, a racist, a Zio-Nazi or Tory scum.

But there is one thing that Western policymakers can do, while it is still possible. And that is to stop sending out mixed messages over the Israeli-Arab conflict issue and wholeheartedly support the Jewish state, which is on the frontline in the war against Islamism. If the West is not prepared to divide its own capital cities, then it shouldn’t pressure Israel into dividing Jerusalem which is of more religious, cultural and historical importance to the Jewish people than Brussels is to the Europeans. Moreover, the English, Danes, French, Germans and Italians have to ask themselves whether they have more in common with a democratic and pluralistic society like Israel or with an anti-democratic, gay-bashing, Islamist quasi-state such as Gaza? Of course, unless Western nations get their act together and stop the creeping Islamisation of their societies, they will become less like Israel and more like Gaza.

Western support for the Palestinian Arabs is possibly one of the worst collective foreign policy decisions ever made. This is true on several levels. Propping up the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA has cost the international community billions of dollars and yielded zero returns. European anti-Semitism is now at levels unseen since the 1940s, which illustrates the very high price Europe has paid for its unethical support of Palestinian nationalism. Moreover, singling out Israel has emboldened Islamists around the world who smell the decay of Western moral failure and attack civilians in schools, cafes, bars, workplaces, supermarkets, nightclubs, trains and buses. As long as Western policymakers continue to be duped by Ramallah into believing that the ‘Palestine issue’ is the key to unlocking the problems of the Middle East, they will continue to be wrong-footed in what is shaping up to be a global conflict between liberal democracy and Islamism.

Ultimi barbarorum: You are the greatest of barbarians


By Richard Mather…

In colloquial usage, a barbarian is someone who is brutal, cruel, uncivilised and warlike. The term originates from the Greek barbaros. The Oxford English Dictionary defines five meanings of the noun “barbarian.” The third definition is “a rude, wild, uncivilised person.”

This sounds familiar. It reminds me of Ishmael and his descendants. According to the Torah, Ishmael is said to be a “wild ass of a man.” Targum Onkeos translates “a wild man” as “one who kills people.” Regarding Ishmael, the Torah tells us that he will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.

Again, this strikes a familiar chord. It calls to mind the Arab terrorists who attack Jewish bystanders with knives, who murder rabbis with meat cleavers, who drive cars into pedestrians. It reminds me of the barbarians who incite anti-Semitic violence in mosques and in the media. It reminds me of the lynching, murder and mutilation of Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami, two IDF reservists who accidentally entered Ramallah on October 12, 2000.

Such wild-ass barbarism, especially the horrifying events in Ramallah, recall a terrible event that took place in the Dutch Republic in 1672. On August 20 of that year, an organised mob murdered, mutilated and literally ate – yes, ate – a well-known politician called Jan de Witt (his brother Cornelis also suffered the same fate). When the Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza heard about the murders, he prepared a placard stating ultimi barbarorum (“you are the greatest of barbarians”).

Fellow philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz visited Spinoza four years after the bloody murders. He wrote:

“I have spent several hours with Spinoza, after dinner. He said to me that, on the day of the massacres of the de Witts, he wanted to go out at night and post a placard near the site of the massacres reading ultimi barbarorum. But his host locked the house to keep him from going out, for he would be exposed to being torn to pieces.”

That was in the late seventeenth century. But even in 2016, in our supposedly enlightened age, Jewish men, women and children face the very real possibility of being torn to pieces by bloodthirsty barbarians who believe that such brutality is somehow a virtue. To me, such people are inhuman.

More than three hundred years after the horrible murders in the Dutch Republic, Spinoza’s well-aimed Latin insult seems cannily appropriate. His words apply equally to the likes of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Fatah and Hezbollah, and to anyone who supports or legitimises the murder of Israeli Jews.

Yes, to all these people, I say: ultimi barbarorum. You are the greatest of barbarians.

By Frank H Art

Baruch Spinoza by Frank H Art