By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Many evangelicals are said to be Zionists for theological reasons: they believe that if all Jews will come together in the Land of Israel, they’ll see the light, Jesus’ second coming will become a reality, and the world will be redeemed.
Abbas Zaki, a member of the Central Committee of Fatah and presumably a Muslim, seems to have used his own tradition for a version of this evangelical teaching. He’s reported to have said on Palestinian television that “Allah will gather them [the Jews] so that we can kill them.” In this version, not spiritual annihilation but physical destruction awaits Jews as the price they have to pay for their Zionism.
Zaki is said to have based his statement on Surah 17, verse 8 in the Quran: “We have made Hell a prison for those who deny the truth.” It’s, of course, by no means clear that it suggests the extermination of the Jews because they want a state of their own, but that’s how this Palestinian politician chose to interpret it.
Our “friends” seem to want an end to Judaism, our enemies an end to Jews. Is there really much difference between them?
In the same way as the evangelical vision of the Second Coming isn’t the only way Christians look at the world – many are Zionists, or at least supporters of the State of Israel, on intrinsic merits, not for theological reasons – so I assume that Zaki’s interpretation of the verse in the Quran is by no means the only one that’s current.
People of all religions can use their holy scriptures to “prove” whatever they want. That includes Jews, Thus recently, Jewish Orthodox fanatics vandalized the Reform synagogue in Ra’anana by defacing outer walls with references to Jewish sources as “evidence” of their legitimacy. Other Jewish thugs deface churches and mosques with quotations which in their context become vile anti-Christian and anti-Muslim slogans.
Many sane and seemingly sensible women and men belong to, or support financially and morally, extremist organizations of the kind alluded to above. The reason may be the human quest for certainty. Truth is invariably more complex and open to several, at times contradictory, interpretations that make for uncertainty. Some theologies and ideologies give the impression that their answer, and their answer alone, is the correct one. A lot of people seem to find comfort in that.
That’s why liberal manifestations of religion are doing badly while religious groups holding outrageous views are thriving. In Israel, for example, though almost half of the sample in a recent poll believed that non-Orthodox Judaism should have equal status in the country, those who actually run it – almost irrespective of whether they’re on the “right” or on the “left” of the political spectrum – continue to favor extremism both politically and religiously, often by paying for it through subsidies and grants.
Similarly, Christians who wouldn’t want to be seen in an evangelical church nevertheless say that they admire the sincerity and fervor of worshippers there; peace loving Muslims often sort-of approve of the Zakis of their world; and law enforcers in Israel too often turn a blind eye to Jewish extremists and rarely prosecute them.
Instead of raging against fanatics yet doing nothing to stop them, we need to look into ourselves to find out what it is in us that makes us admire and condone extremists while being lukewarm toward religious organizations that actually reflect our views.