By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Speaking on Tuesday night in Jerusalem to introduce his forthcoming book, “Not in God’s Name,” Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of modern Orthodoxy in Britain, argued that sibling rivalry is a fundamental cause of violence, also in religion. The Book of Genesis offers many telling instances – beginning with Cain’s murder of Abel.
As an interesting aside, Sacks suggested that Freud chose the father-son relationship instead of sibling relationships because of his own psychological problems.
Sacks went on to explain violence between religions in terms of sibling rivalry citing Christian anti-Jewish theology as an apt illustration in which the younger (Christianity) claims superiority over the older (Judaism), just as Isaac superseded Ishmael, Rachel was placed before Leah, Joseph before his brothers, etc.
Sibling rivalry seems also to be characteristic of the current violence between different Muslim sects. The Arab Spring has intensified the rivalry between the sister branches of Islam, not only in the Middle East but now also in other parts of the world.
Though, on the one hand, the very unstable neighborhood in which Israel finds itself constitutes a further threat to its existence, the new situation also appears to offer opportunities. Thus, for example, the fear of Iran is said to have prompted Saudi Arabia and probably some of the Gulf States to establish ties with Israel in an effort to withstand their common enemy. Netanyahu hinted as much at the annual Herzliya Conference.
That may be the reason why Israel’s top military brass finds the deal that Obama & Co are about to strike with Iran acceptable – contrary to Netanyahu’s official view on the subject; Iran may be either his irrational obsession or a convenient smoke screen.
Even more remarkable may be possible ties between Israel and Hamas. While the terrorists who rule Gaza call for Israel’s destruction, and Israel rightly describes Hamas as a terrorist organization, the two sides may still be talking to each other, perhaps through intermediaries. The former Israeli intelligence boss Ephraim Halevy argued on television the other day in favor of such talks.
The far-fetched possibility is – and now I’m entering the realm of uninformed speculations – that Israel will turn a blind eye to Hamas running Gaza as a de facto state and thus weaken the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank forcing it to submit to the occupation. This may either compel the president of the Authority to openly negotiate with Israel and thus avoid being left out in the cold, or Israel to continue freely to expand the settlements in the West Bank without peace in sight.
As you go down this page, you’ll find that some of the hints have become speculations prompted by Sacks’ theory. An indication that it may nevertheless be some substance to it is the recent statement by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon that he doesn’t foresee peace with the Palestinians in his lifetime.
Unlike Netanyahu, who said something similar before the elections to please right-wing voters, Ya’alon has no such agenda now. Perhaps that’s his way of telling us that Israel may have irons in the fire.
Even if the hints and the speculations turn out to be, at least in part, factual, it doesn’t mean that Israel’s troubles with its neighbors are over. It may only mean that things are more complex, and perhaps in parts not quite as bad, as they seem.