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Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, once declared: "We are going to win because they love life and we love death." Let's translate this into an Islamic meaning horizon: "We are going to win because infidels love life, something transient, whereas we Muslims love death, something eternal."
Another rendering: "We Muslims are going to win because unlike westerners we do not fear violent death." This rendering would disturb the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes. He thought Englishman, like mankind in general, regarded violent death as the greatest evil. Hobbes, the unknown founder of modern psychology, seems to have been ignorant of Islam.
Be this as it may, fear of violent death has permeated liberal-leftists in America and Europe. This fear, no less than their secular humanism, explains why they abhor war and seek peace. Recall the Cold War, when a leftwing American academic coined the phrase "Better Red than Dead." This servile attitude cannot but encourage Muslims like Nasrallah, who are more cunning than wise. Know this: underlying Islam's love of death is fear of life!
ISLAM'S FEAR OF LIFE IS ROOTED IN PRE-ISLAMIC TIMES, in Arab culture, which was tribal, polytheistic, and shaped by a desert environment where life was "nasty, brutish, and short." One hardly dared sleep in that uncivilized environment. If your throat wasn't slit, your camel, on which your survival depended, was stolen by a rival tribe. Here is where Hobbes' fear of violent death seems to apply. Not so, because Arab culture bred warriors. As in Sparta, manliness or courage was deemed the highest virtue. Fear of violent death would be shameful.
An Arab tribe's survival obviously required tribal loyalty, a strict code of conduct, a suspicious attitude toward strangers. Your tribe was essential to your safety and sense of identity. Arab culture therefore suppressed individuality, discouraged change, novelty, creativity ingredients distinctive of human life and which enabled the West to excel Arab culture.
I have omitted the most important thing: monotheism. Monotheism generated the idea of a rational universe, the presupposition of science, which launched the West's modern project: to conquer nature, to alleviate the human condition, to extend human longevity and, to this extent, to conquer death. Nasrallah is correct in saying we infidels love life, but he sees only the materialistic conception of life fostered by Hobbes and the Enlightenment, which undermined the highest conception of life rooted in monotheism.
Thanks to the influence of Judaism and Christianity, monotheism was superimposed on Arab polytheism. The trouble is that Islam has never fully transcended its pagan substratum.
From a behavioral perspective, Islam should be regarded as a semi-pagan religion despite its monotheism. This is why scholars have trouble classifying Islamic terrorists. Some call them "Islamo-fascists," and attribute suicidal terrorism to "political" Islam or "militant" or "radical" Islam" adjectives indicative of paganism. Few see, and hardly anyone dares say, that Islam is a syncretistic religion ostensibly monotheistic, but culturally pagan vis-à-vis the non-Islamic world. Islam's attitude toward life and death is not quite what Nasrallah believes.
True, Islam does not love life; indeed, it fears life. But fear of life is not unique to Islam because human life is inherently fearful. We know that life may be snuffed out in a moment, and by accident. That you are mortal means that in this vast and seemingly timeless universe you have no necessary existence, no essential purpose, which suggests that your life is meaningless. This is the exoteric teaching of Ecclesiastes: "Futility of futilities ... all is futile" (12:8).
THIS IMPRESSION OF ECCLESIASTES cannot but engender a more or less vague sense of psychological and metaphysical insecurity. One sees this in Albert Camus, The Stranger a man condemned to be free in a meaningless universe. Freedom makes human life insecure. You are free to make choices, hence to err. This freedom is intolerable in Islam, from a political and theological perspective. Allah is not the God of freedom.
The awareness that your thoughts, feelings, and actions are ultimately meaningless can make one hate and fear life. The poet Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811) is said to have committed suicide upon learning from Kant's Critique of Pure Reason that metaphysical truth is not knowable.
Be this as it may, belief in the accidental and futile nature of life might make one more fearful of life than of death. Notice, however, that the Quran is permeated with references to hell. This can arouse fear of life as well as of death. (By the way, the Quran's obsession with hell suggests the influence of Christianity. There is no reference to hell in the Hebrew Bible, which is an apotheosis of life. L'chaim to life is said whenever Jews meet and drink wine or any distilled alcoholic beverage.)
Nothing can be more opposed to each other than Judaism and Islam. The Quran's dismal view of life is the polar opposite of the Jew's love of life. The Quran, which "exalts the Muslim who slays and is slain for Allah" (Sura 9:111), expresses Nasrallah's love of death. Hence, the Muslim must destroy the Jew whose love of life contradicts Islam's fear of life.
Islam's holy book is described by an influential Egyptian Islamic activist in these terms: "The Quran for mankind is like a manual for a machine."
Islamic fatalism contradicts the free will implied in the Book of Genesis. Allah is not the God Who created man in His own image. Alain Bosançon puts it this way:
Although Muslims like to enumerate the 99 names of God, missing from the list, but central to the Jewish and Christian concept of God, is "father" i.e., a personal God capable of a reciprocal and loving relationship with men. The God of the Quran, the God who demands submission, is a distant God; to call him "Father" would be an anthropomorphic sacrilege.
But if God is not "Father," then, as theologian George Weigel
observes, it's difficult to imagine the human person as having been
"created in the image of God." This not only precludes human freedom,
but also reason. In fact, the Taliban religious police posted
placards bearing the words "Throw reason to the dogs it stinks of corruption." Imagine how a devout Muslim might react to the philosopher-mathematician Alfred North Whitehead who defined reason as "the organ of emphasis on novelty." Novelty is of the essence of life.
ALAS, THERE WAS A TIME IN THE MIDDLE AGES WHEN REASON COMPETED WITH UNREASON for the Moslem's soul. Suffice to mention al-Farrabi (872-950), one of the greatest philosophers and scientists of the Islamic world. However, al-Farrabi was really a Greek in Muslim dress. To avoid persecution and death, he concealed his philosophic kinship with Aristotle and Plato by means of an esoteric form of writing.
The rationalism of the Greek philosophers bore fruit in Christian Europe, not in the Muslim Middle East, where Reason succumbed to irrationalism. The primacy of intimidation, so evident in Islamic scriptures, supplanted the primacy of logical persuasion in Plato and Aristotle.
Reason, which is inseparable from the Biblical concept of man's creation in the image of God, is also inseparable from the idea of the human community. Islam's negation of the idea of human community was made quite clear in 1985, when Iran's permanent delegate to the United Nations, Raja Khorassani, declared that "the very concept of human rights was 'a Judeo-Christian invention' and inadmissible in Islam." I therefore see in Islam's denial of the human community the dubious nature of Islamic monotheism on the one hand, and an atavistic stratum of Arab paganism and polytheism on the other.
Israel's ruling elites will hint nothing of this. They shun the truth, lest they antagonize Muslims and expose themselves to the canard of "racism." But shunning the truth about Islam the most dangerous enemy of Western civilization has not spared Israel from demonic anti-Semitism. Shunning the truth has made Israel the constant victim of unmitigated lies.
Israeli governments are typically on the defensive obsessed with futile information programs called "hasbara." Israel's most powerful weapon is truth, but it has yet to have a prime minister with enough wisdom and courage to employ truth to distract and disarm Israel's enemies. For example, Israel's UN ambassador could submit a resolution calling for Iran's eviction from the General Assembly for having repeatedly violated the UN's anti-genocide convention and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Having failed to do this, Israel has itself been denounced for such crimes.
More important, however, is this: Israel must forge ahead in science and technology, for therein is the key to decodifying the Torah, the key to Israel's knowing itself and being recognized as a wise and understanding nation (Deut. 4:6).
Few people understand why Israel, undefeated in war, is withdrawing to her perilous pre-1967 borders. Let me explain.
Israel has been led by prime ministers whose policy of "land for peace" belies the fact that Israel is engaged in a religious conflict with implacable foes who have said "peace means the destruction of Israel."
It needs to be stressed that the futile and fatal policy of territory for peace contradicts the Torah Israel's raison d'être. This inane and ignoble policy magnifies Arab (as well as western) contempt for the Jewish state, and encourages Muslim despots to wipe Israel off the map. Israel cannot avoid or win this war as long as she is led by prime ministers who omit the God of Israel from the domain of statecraft. Before continuing, let's review the stages of Israel's territorial retreat.
The first step in this retreat was taken by the Likud government of Menachem Begin. Begin, a vaunted nationalist, compromised Israel's retention of Judea and Samaria in the Camp David Agreement of September 1978. This agreement resulted in the Israel-Egypt peace treaty of March 1979, in which Begin signed away the Sinai to a military dictatorship whose tourist maps of the Middle East omit the word "Israel."
The second step was taken in September 1993 by the Labor government of Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin signed the Oslo Agreement which further undermined Israeli possession of Judea and Samaria. Oslo legitimized the PLO, a terrorist organization whose stationery logo depicts Israel as "Palestine."
The third step in Israel's shrinkage was taken by the Likud government of Benjamin Netanyahu, who, between 1997 and 1999, signed away parts of Judea and Samaria to PLO chief Yasser Arafat. Netanyahu lacked the backbone to abrogate Oslo despite daily PLO terrorist attacks. By the way, it was Arafat who said, "For us peace means the destruction of Israel." Netanyahu played the role of a deaf and blind mute.
The fourth step was taken in August 2005 by Likud leader Ariel Sharon, who betrayed the nation by adopting Labor's policy of unilateral disengagement from Gaza, a policy rejected by an overwhelming majority of the public in the February 2003 election.
The fifth step in Israel's self-immolation was taken on June 14, 2009 at Bar-Ilan University, when another Likud government again led by Benjamin Netanyahu betrayed the nation by endorsing an Arab-Islamic state in Judea and Samaria, the goal of the Labor Party. The Likud also abandoned Zionism, having long ago abandoned the God of Israel.
ISRAEL'S TERRITORIAL RETREAT IS UNPRECEDENTED in the annals of history. This territory was not only repossessed by Israel in 1967 in a war of self-defense but eminent American professors of law and jurists also affirm Israel's right to this land on the basis of international law! Yet no Israeli prime minister has emphasized this right against Israel's enemies, and not even with the United States. They have completely ignored the compelling evidence and arguments propounded by Howard Grief's monumental work The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel Under International Law (2008).
If Grief's masterpiece of legal reasoning were not enough for Israel to retain possession of Judea and Samaria, recall that shortly after the 1967 war, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged that the Judean and Samarian hills, the Golan Heights, and even parts of the Sinai are essential to Israel's security a strategic assessment valid to this day.
Why, then, have various Israeli prime ministers regarded this land, which so many Jews yearned for, fought and died for, as expendable? What induces them to yield the patrimony of the Jewish people to Arab despots whose state-controlled media constantly spit out the most obscene hatred of Jews and Israel obviously intended to prepare Muslims for the next war?
The conventional answer is that Israel's territorial withdrawal results from her desire for peace on the one hand, and from American pressure on the other. Too simple. Anwar Sadat had a more realistic understanding. Shortly after his Jerusalem visit of November 1977, Sadat scornfully declared: "Fear is the second layer of skin of every Israeli or Jew."
This suggests that Israel is retreating to her pre-1967 borders because her ruling elites are dominated by the fear of war, meaning violent death. If so, their professed desire for peace is merely a façade for cravenness as may be said of their yielding to American pressure. Let's go deeper.
Almost any normal person fears violent death. But for Israel's elite to surrender part of their people's homeland to avoid violent death suggests they regard violent death as the greatest evil the teaching of Thomas Hobbes. Those who deem violent death the greatest evil will seek peace at any price.
And yet, only fools would expect genuine peace by surrendering strategic territory to Arabs, who cannot live in peace with each other, much less with Jews. Indeed, most of Israel's own Arab citizens openly reject Israel's right to exist as a sovereign state!
This being the case, to say fear of violent death underlies Israel's withdrawal to her pre-1967 "Auschwitz" lines, is not sufficient. Also operative among Israeli prime ministers is a mode of thought that induces them to obscure the enormity of evil confronting the Jewish state. This obscurantism results in self-induced stupidity. I see this in Prime Minister Netanyahu's belief that the Arabs can be pacified by fostering their economic development. He apparently believes that modern technology and wealth-making will induce Muslims to forsake their Quran and overcome their 1400-year tradition of war!
In fact, some ten years ago, I attended a meeting in which
Netanyahu predicted that the influence of the Internet on Arab culture would eventually lead Arabs to peace! Since few people would accuse Netanyahu of stupidity, something deeper must be at work here.
IT SEEMS TO ME THAT NETANYAHU HAS UNWITTINGLY ADOPTED, or has been infected by, the Marxist doctrine that ideologies are merely reflections of economic development. Marx put it this way in The German Ideology:
We do not set out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated, thought of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the flesh. We set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process. The phantoms formed in the brain are also, necessarily, sublimates of their material life-process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material [meaning economic] premises. Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. (Emphasis added.)
From this it follows that by changing a society's economic development or "material life-process," one can change its political and religious ideology. Thus, in addition to fear of war and self-induced stupidity, a soft Marxist mentality underlies Netanyahu's adoption of the "two-state solution" to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Now, I must emphasize that Marxism is a form of idolatry, one that deifies the primacy of physical or material forces in the history of mankind. Not that Netanyahu is a hard core atheist. We do not expect logical consistency from non-philosophic statesmen. However, Netanyahu's willingness to abandon Israel's heartland indicates that the God of Israel has been eclipsed by Bibi's naïve materialistic politics.
This is the basic reason for Israel's territorial retreat. To be fair, however, not a single Israeli prime minister has come to grips with the one thing needful in Israel: to bring God back into the domain of statecraft. The silence about the Sinai Covenant so often emphasized by the Prophets of Israel is precisely why Jews today are so confused, fearful, and politically stultified. Nothing else can rationally and adequately explain Israel's insane withdrawal from the Promised Land.
In his commenting on Exodus 23:20, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that the Jews did not merit this land because of their virtue or valor. Rather, it was entrusted to them by God on condition of their living by the laws of the Torah.
Juxtapose the Malbim's commentary to Exodus 23:31-33, which refers to the land's foreign inhabitants: "If you drive them out little by little and allow some to stay, you will be tempted to make peace with them, to avoid the burdens of war." The Torah warns: "Do not make a treaty with them ... Do not allow them to reside in your land ... for it will be a fatal trap to you."
Isaiah 28:15 indicates that Israel's treaty with the PLO is a "covenant with death," which Targum Yochanan translates as a covenant with "terrorists"!
Therein is the Torah's explanation of why Israel is shrinking and will continue to shrink so long as its government betrays the God of Israel.
Professor Paul Eidelberg is an internationally known political
scientist, author and lecturer. He is President of the Foundation For
Constitutional Democracy, a Jerusalem-based think tank for improving
Israel's system of governance. Contact him at
Thanks are due to Yaacov Levi for sending in the essay that is
Part 2 is an edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel
National Radio, March 15, 2010. It was sent in by Aryeh Zelasko.
Thanks are due to Yaacov Levi for sending in the essay that is Part 1. Part 2 is an edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, March 15, 2010. It was sent in by Aryeh Zelasko.
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