Europe’s anti-Zionists must share some of the blame for terror in France, Belgium and Germany

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Terrorism word cloud vector (image by Boris15)

Europe’s anti-Zionist leftists have the sown the wind of Islamic extremism by aiding and abetting the worst elements in Arab Palestinian society, and now Europe is reaping the whirlwind.

By Richard Mather

For decades, Europe’s anti-Zionist leftists have castigated and demonised the State of Israel, urging the Jewish state to relinquish territory to Arab enemies whose refusal to negotiate with Israelis can be attributed to the fact that Islam – and not land – is at the core of their rejectionism.

Anti-Jewish violence in the Middle East has always been religiously-motivated. Documents, news reports and speeches from the 1920s and 1930s clearly show that Arab invective was couched in extreme religious terms. The anti-Jewish rhetoric of Amin al-Husseini is a case in point. A democratic Jewish state, where Jews run their own affairs, is anathema to the supremacist instincts of those Arabs want either a pan-Arab nation or an Islamic caliphate where Jews and other minorities are stripped off their rights and/or murdered.

The West, which has become increasingly secular in recent decades, is blind to the religious warfare being waged against Jews and other so-called infidels. Europe’s left-wing idealists are inept in their understanding of religious conflict. They attribute acts of terror not to religion but to poverty, alienation, mental illness – anything but Islam. They are simply incapable of recognising the Islamist character of terrorism when it occurs in Nice, Paris, London and Madrid.

This is where the Islamists have the advantage. They understand only too well that the war against Jews and the West is an imperial-religious, even apocalyptic, war of conquest. Europe, by contrast, is ignorant of this reality because it is embarrassed by its own colonialist past and has rejected religion as a way of life. The near-total destruction of Jewish life 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 Islamist supremacism.

The situation would not be so bad if Europeans had embraced a robust and confident humanism, which emphasises critical thinking, freedom and progress. Sadly, many Europeans, again mainly on the Left, have become politically-correct automatons who tolerate the intolerable by creating “safe spaces” on campuses and institutions for anti-Semites and Islamists. And anyone who dares to criticise this sordid set-up is branded “Islamophobic,” “racist,” “a neo-con,” “a Blairite war-monger,” “a Zio-Nazi” or “Tory scum.”

But there is one thing that Europeans could do, while it is still possible. And that is to stop cosying up to the Jew-hating, misogynistic and homophobic elements within Arab Palestinian society, and instead stand alongside the democratic, secular and pluralistic Israelis who have enshrined so many things leftists are supposed to care about – workers’ rights, animal welfare, religious freedom, gender equality and equal rights for the LGBT community.

If Europe’s leftists really believe in tolerance, progress and equality, then they should support the Jewish state, not pander to Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which regularly incite violence against Jews, murder gay people and lock up dissidents. But it seems the leftists’ obsessive anti-Zionism prevents them from seeing things clearly.

The Left’s betrayal of Israel is possibly one of the worst ethical missteps since the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact of 1939. By demonising and delegitimising the State of Israel, Europe has not only emboldened Muslim fascists in the region, it has also stiffened the resolve of Islamists around the world who smell the decay of Western moral failure and go on to attack civilians in European schools, cafes, promenades, bars, workplaces, supermarkets, nightclubs, trains and buses.

In other words, by picking the wrong side in what is shaping up to be a global conflict between liberal democracy and Islamism, Europe’s anti-Zionist leftists have helped unleash a very bitter whirlwind, which the rest of Europe is paying for. In other words, they are morally complicit in the Islamist attacks on the people (Jew and gentile alike) of France, Belgium and Germany.

 

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All things are possible: The life of Lev Shestov

 

Eighty years ago, a Jewish-Russian philosopher called Lev Shestov was invited by the Histadrut to give a series of lectures in Eretz Israel. He was warmly received by audiences in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv. But Shestov and his writings are now largely forgotten. Here is his story.

By Richard Mather

“Nearly every life can be summed up in a few words: man was shown heaven – and thrown into the mud” – Lev Shestov

Lev Shestov (born Yehuda Leyb Schwarzmann) was a Jewish-Russian polemicist, philosopher, theologian, literary critic and existentialist thinker. He was born on January 31, 1866, in Kiev, which was then part of the Russian empire. In his childhood and teenage years he immersed himself in Jewish and Russian literature. After attending Moscow University and working in his father’s textile business, he temporarily left the Russian Empire and made his way to Rome.

The following year (1896) he married Anna Eleazarovna Berezovsky, a Russian medical student. It was around this time that he discovered the philosophy of Nietzsche, which had a transformative effect on Shestov’s thinking. Very soon he had completed two book-length manuscripts: Shakespeare and His Critic Brandes and Good in the Teaching of Tolstoy and Nietzsche.

Shestov’s interest in Nietzsche prompted a third book, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche: The Philosophy of Tragedy, which was published in St Petersburg in 1903. His next work, The Apotheosis of Groundlessness (published 1905), was a sardonic critique of academic philosophy and scientific positivism, and it was written in an aphoristic style reminiscent of his hero Nietzsche.

The Apotheosis of Groundlessness was translated into English and published in 1920 under the title All Things Are Possible. In the foreword to this edition, D. H. Lawrence said of Shestov: “’Everything is possible’ – this is his really central cry. It is not nihilism. It is only a shaking free of the human psyche from old bonds. The positive central idea is that the human psyche, or soul, really believes in itself, and in nothing else.”

The book contains the assertion that because no grand theory can solve the mysteries of life, everything is questionable. “We know nothing of the ultimate realities of our existence, nor shall we ever know anything,” he writes. In other words, the world does not make sense and philosophers should not hope to find reason in it.

In the years leading up to the First World War Shestov and his family moved between Russia, Switzerland and Germany. In 1915, his illegitimate son, Sergei Listopadov, was killed in action in the service of the Russian military.

In the wake of the Bolshevik takeover of Russia, Shestov and his family moved to Paris where he was to live for the next decade. Although virtually unknown in French literary circles, his 1921 article commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of Dostoevsky’s birth enthused the local literary scene.

During the 1920s he continued his literary endeavours, including a complete edition of his works in French. He taught and he lectured, and he was invited to speak in Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland and the Netherlands. In 1929, Shestov acquainted himself with the work of Kierkegaard, whom Shestov immediately recognised as a kindred spirit.

Shestov struck up a friendship with Martin Buber in the late 1920s, which continued through the next decade. In a conversation with Buber (dated 1934), Shestov proclaimed that sin came into the world when man ceased to be nourished by the tree of life and instead took sustenance from the tree of knowledge.

“The very moment man ate from the forbidden fruit, he gained knowledge and lost his freedom,” he told Buber. “Man does need to know. To ask, to beg questions, to require proofs, answers, means that one is not free. To know means to know necessity. Knowledge means that man is not free.”

To stave off despair and to achieve victory over nature’s law of irreversible necessity (which dictates that certain things are unchangeable and impossible), we must believe that “all things are possible.” But this requires faith – faith that things can be radically different.

As Bernard Martin, a professor of Jewish studies, explains, “Faith, for Shestov, is audacity, the daring refusal to accept necessary laws […] it is the demand for the absolute, original freedom which man is supposed to have had before the fall, when he still found the distinction between truth and falsehood, as well as between good and evil, unnecessary and irrelevant.”

This notion of moving beyond and good evil is intimately tied to God’s groundlessness. According to Shestov, God is not limited by moral sanctions or reasons; God is someone in whom everything is possible. God does not need a reason, a support, or firm ground. He is groundless. He is the personal God of the Bible in whom there is no subordination, no limit; and therefore, once again, all things are possible. (This groundlessness is what Shestov describes as “the basic, most enviable, and to us most incomprehensible privilege of the Divine.”)

Consequently, our moral struggle will bring us to emancipation not only from moral valuations, but also from logic, reason and limited knowledge. “I know that this ideal of freedom in relation to truth and the good cannot be realised on earth – in all probability does not even need to be realised. But it is granted to man to have prescience of ultimate freedom.”

“Before the face of eternal God, all our foundations break together, and all ground crumbles under us, even as objects – this we know – lose their weight in endless space, and – this we shall probably learn one day – will lose their impermeability in endless time,” writes Shestov.

II

In 1936, Shestov was invited by the Histadrut (the Jewish trade union organisation) to deliver a series of lectures in Israel. His appearances in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa were met with an enthusiastic response and Shestov was lauded as a great Jewish thinker. This was the fulfilment of a life-long dream for Shestov, whose grandfather was buried on the Mount of Olives.

The following year, Shestov finished the manuscript of his final masterpiece Athens and Jerusalem, in which he rejects the impersonal metaphysics of the European philosophical academic tradition (Plato, Hegel, Kant) in favour of the personal God of the Bible. As Shestov states in Athens and Jerusalem, “to find God one must tear oneself away from the seductions of reason, with all its physical and moral constraints, and go to another source of truth. In Scripture this source bears the enigmatic name ‘faith,’ which is that dimension of thought where truth abandons itself fearlessly and joyously to the entire disposition of the Creator.”

On November 14, 1938, he was taken to the Boileau Clinic in Paris where he died six days later. He was buried in Boulogne-Billancourt, where his mother and brother are also buried.

That Shestov is relatively unknown today is partly because he had no real disciples to continue his work. The exception was Benjamin Fondane, a young Jewish poet who was killed by the Nazis in 1944. Fondane had kept notes of his conversations with Shestov and they were found among his papers after his death.

However, Shestov’s work was influential in his lifetime. The writings of George Bataille, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus bear the marks of Shestov’s influence. And Hillel Zeitlin wrote that “if someone asked me who was the true successor of Friedrich Nietzsche, I would answer without hesitation, L. Shestov.”

Given Shestov’s enthusiasm for Nietzsche’s work, he would have considered this very high praise indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

Operation Protective Edge: A Report

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It is two years since the launch of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, also known as Operation Protective Edge.

By Richard Mather  

On July 7 2014 the IDF initiated Operation Protective Edge (Hebrew: Miv’tza Tzuk Eitan, literally “Operation Strong Cliff”). Since Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, Hamas had increased the size and strength of its rocket arsenal. By July 2014, Hamas and other Islamic terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip possessed around 10,000 rockets including long-range missiles such as the M-302.

The situation was intolerable, especially for Israeli communities near the Gaza border, most notably Ashdod and Ashkelon. In fact, almost 70 per cent of Israelis were within range of Hamas’ rockets, including the people of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The rockets used by Gazan militias varied in range and size. They included the Syrian-made (Chinese-designed) M-302 and the locally-made M-75, which had the range to target Tel-Aviv. Other rockets included the Katyushas and Qassams.

The stated aim of Operation Protective Edge was to stop rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, which had increased after an Israeli crackdown on Hamas in Judea and Samaria following the June 12 kidnapping (and subsequent murder) of three Israeli teenagers by two Hamas members.

As the IDF bombarded targets in the Gaza Strip with artillery and airstrikes, Hamas continued to fire rockets and mortar shells, using populated areas of Gaza to launch their attacks. The terrorist group fired rockets from mosques, school, hospitals and other civilian areas. Hamas did this despite knowing that rocket launching sites would be the targets of Israeli counterstrikes.

Under different circumstances, the IDF would have limited attacks to military targets. Unfortunately, Hamas never ceased to fire from populated civilian areas. In order to target these terror sites and limit civilian casualties, the IDF used precision attacks and provided warnings of strikes in advance.

For example, the IDF made phone calls and sent text messages to civilians residing in buildings designated for attack. The Israel Air Force dropped leaflets over Gaza urging civilians to move away from Hamas targets. The IDF even sent voicemails to civilians in Gaza.

The IDF also engaged in what is called “roof knocking.” Roof knocking is when the airforce targets a building with a loud but non-lethal bomb that warns civilians that they are in the vicinity of a weapons cache or other target. This gives residents the opportunity to leave the area before the army destroys the target.

On several occasions, the IDF aborted aerial strikes seconds due to civilians being present at the site of the target.

Despite the IDF’s efforts to avoid civilian casualties, Hamas continued to operate from within civilian areas. In fact, Hamas encouraged Gazans to ignore IDF warnings in a deliberate attempt to create civilian casualties and to whip up international sympathy.

Ten days into the operation (July 17), the IDF saw thirteen armed Hamas terrorists emerging from a tunnel on the Israeli side of the Gaza border (near Kibbutz Sufa). It quickly became apparent that Hamas had invested millions of dollars building a sophisticated tunnel network, which was being used to hide rockets and munition stocks, to conceal militants, to enable the launch of rockets by remote control, and to facilitate hostage-taking and mass-casualty attacks.

The Israeli government ordered a limited ground operation into the Gaza Strip, where the openings to each cross-border tunnel were embedded within the urban civilian environment. A large IDF force of infantry, tanks, artillery, combat engineers and field intelligence (with the support of the navy and airforce) entered the Gaza Strip on July 17.

Their mission was to target Hamas’ tunnels that crossed under the Israel-Gaza border. Such a goal required intensive operations inside the Hamas-run enclave. In the ensuing weeks, the IDF destroyed dozens of cross-border terror tunnels, some of which had penetrated Israeli residential areas. On at least four occasions during the conflict, Arab militants emerged from tunnel exits located between 1.1 and 4.7 kilometres from civilian homes in Israel.

On August 5, Israeli ground troops withdrew from the Gaza Strip. They did so despite continued rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli civilians and the absence of a ceasefire. Israel continued targeted airstrikes, while simultaneously attempting to reach a ceasefire.

Hamas, along with other Gaza-based terrorist organisations, were keen to prolong the hostilities by either rejecting ceasefires or violating them. However, an open-ended ceasefire came into place on August 26, seven weeks after the start of the war. Had Hamas accepted the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on July 15 (which featured the same terms as the ceasefire offer to which Hamas ultimately adhered), then approximately 90 per cent of the casualties incurred during the conflict could have been avoided.

During the course of the conflict, the Israeli military attacked 5,263 targets in Gaza, including 1,814 rocket and mortar launch sites, 191 weapon factories and warehouses, and 1,914 command and control centres. It is estimated that two-thirds of Hamas’s 10,000-strong rocket arsenal was used up or destroyed during the fighting.

Artillery used by the IDF included Soltam M71 guns and US-manufactured Paladin M109s (155-mm howitzers). The aerial weaponry included drones and F-16 fighter jets. The IDF fired 14,500 tank shells and 35,000 other artillery shells during the conflict.

By the end of the conflict, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups had fired 4,564 rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel, with over 735 intercepted in flight and shot down by Iron Dome. More than 280 Hamas rockets fell short of their target and landed within Gaza. Many of these rockets landed in civilian areas of Gaza.

On the Israeli side, sixty-seven IDF soldiers and six civilians were killed during the conflict. A further 469 soldiers and eight-seven civilians were wounded. In the Gaza Strip, approximately 2,125 Gazans were killed, half of whom were either Hamas fighters or militants from other Gaza-based terrorist organisations.

A final note: Two years after Operation Protective Edge, Hamas continues to manufacture rockets and dig tunnels towards (and under) the Israeli border. In May this year, there was a flare-up of violence on the Israel-Gaza border when Hamas targeted Israeli soldiers in several mortar attacks. And in June, Hamas test fired more than thirty short-range rockets as part of its efforts to advance its domestic rocket arsenal.

It has also been reported that Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah are carrying out joint research and development of rockets, which some Israeli experts believe is the prelude to a massive and multifaceted air assault on Israel.

“We need to prepare our units. I really don’t know when next war will occur,” says Israel’s air defence chief Brigadier General Zvika Haimovich. “It’s a kind of race between us and the other side. Our challenge is to always be in front, and to be one step ahead of our enemies and neighbours.”