Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

Antireligious mania

Posted by Ron Coleman on July 12, 2007

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In an article trying to explain the involvement of doctors in the London / Glasgow plot, Christopher Hitchens, attempting to show that doctors can be terrorists as long as they’re religious enough, writes:

You may recall the case of Dr. Baruch Goldstein. On Feb. 25, 1994, this Israeli army physician stalked into the so-called “Cave of the Patriarchs” in Hebron, unslung his automatic weapon, and fired into the crowd of Muslim worshippers, killing 29 people of all ages and both sexes before being killed himself. … In Goldstein’s view, Hippocratic precepts were overridden by Orthodox teaching, and there were a number of rabbis ready to support his stand on the matter. There were also a number of rabbis who decided to consecrate his tomb as a shrine to a brave Jewish martyr, and the children of ultra-Orthodox settlers were seen wearing buttons reading, “Dr. Goldstein cured Israel’s ills.”

Hitchens is one of my favorite writers; but on the subject of religion, he’s not only wrong, he’s — quite ironically — irrational, a true believer. Phrases like “a number of rabbis,” used twice, are telling. How many? Answer: Not too damned many — essentially a Kahanist fringe. Goldstein was a mass murderer, as well as one who caused much subsequent loss of Jewish life. He was motivated by an offshoot of religion called Religious Zionism which infuses political, nationalistic action with religious themes and justifications. (For a good, sincere and intelligent discussion of Torah law and Baruch Goldstein, see here.)

If Hitchens were right and religiosity were proportional to a propensity to violent extremism the more “right-wing” a religious Jew may be, the more supportive he would be of Goldstein’s actions. This is true — on the political left/right spectrum.  But not on the religious one.  The “ultra-orthodox” Jews in Israel may be many things, but dangerous to others, as a statistical matter, they certainly are not.  It is the more religiously “centrist” but politically reactionary “National Religious” that get us Baruch Goldstein and the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin.

That is a tragedy of Religious Zionism — it has no real response to Kahanism, which is merely its nationalistic and bigoted tenets taken largely to their logical extreme. It’s complicated.  But if Christopher Hitchens is going to write about religion, though, he should get it right.

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8 Responses to “Antireligious mania”

  1. Dr. Baruch Goldstein heard that Arabs were planning on a major attack over Purim to those Jewish worshippers at the Cave of the Patriarchs, so in order to dissuade them from doing so, he pre-empted them by killing some Arabs and showing that one does not mess with the Jews. In doing so, Goldstein saved the lives of many Jews and therefore should be considered a hero, for he had noble intentions and was obviously unaware of the fact that the Arabs would merely have used this incident to fuel their agression against Jews.

  2. Not just any Good Book, either

  3. Bob Miller said

    Kahanism is not the only “logical” outcome of Religious Zionism. I’m not RZ but I’ve met enough who are RZ to know that. If you always take the fringe group of a movement to represent the true tendency of the movement, you’ll be wrong more often than not.

  4. Gosh, R’ Chaim, who paskened that shayla for Baruch Goldstein? (To the unitiated: On which Jewish legal authority did he rely before taking such a monumental task as his killing people before he acted?) Read the discussion at the link.

    I promise you he cost far more Jewish lives than he saved.

  5. By definition, religious Zionism is an oxymoron because Zionism is a purely secular movement, while religion (at least Judaism) calls for proper adherence to the Torah’s laws. All brands of Religious Zionism are either a corruption of Religion, of Zionism, or of both. Of course, having read the works of Rabbi Meir Kahane and of the Satmar Rebbe (a religious anti-Zionist) it is difficult to ascertain whose stance is the most consistent with the proper Torah outlook. But, Kahanism is not a radical Zionist concept, it is a radical religious concept and of course Kahanism itself is not what drove Goldstein to do what he did. Goldstein committed his acts to save Jews from an Arab strike. Any non-self-hating Jew would do the same actions if it meant being able to save the lives of other Jews. Remember, he was not a racist against Arabs or against gentiles as many claim Kahanism actually is, he even treated non Jews. (See this post by Ron). I suggest everyone should look at the wikipedia article about this here because wikipedia is always fair and balanced.

  6. I’m not condoning what Goldstein did, but in his mind he was doing it to save the lives of Jews, obviously it has had the opposite effect, but obviously if he knew that that would have occurred he would not have done it. I do not know know whether he consulted with any halachik authorities before doing what he did, but I’m sure the way he looked at it, he was saving the lives of other Jews and his quick actions could have been stalled by posing an halachik inquiry.

  7. He didn’t consult, and before you kill 23 other people, you don’t rely on your own judgment, unless they’ve got guns or bombs and there’s no alternative but to act. Hearing a rumor about what some Arabs intend to do does not amount to a license to find a couple of dozen sitting ducks of the same nationality and killing them.

    What a chillul Hashem (desecration of God’s name).

  8. It’s very easy for us to bash Dr. Goldstein, but we don’t really know everything that happened, so I would say we should judge the man favorably.

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