Which perspective do you find more useful? That different groups have different interests or that attacks on Jews are attacks on God?
Let’s be clear.
The attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem was not an attack against Israel. And not an attack against Israelis. It was an attack on Judaism itself — and perhaps even on God. Let me put it this way: I cannot believe that Allah is pleased.
The last time that we saw horror on this level was the Shoah. Despite the contention of many historians, the Shoah was not “the war against the Jews,” to quote the title of Lucy Davidowicz’s famous book. Nor was it even a war against Judaism.
On many levels, the Shoah was a war against the God of both testaments. For the Nazis, the only “true” gods were the ancient Teutonic gods of blood and fire. This explains the Nazi admiration of the composer Richard Wagner, whose son-in-law, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, was a key expositor of German racial theory. It also explains the ultimate Nazi fantasy: a Europe consumed in a bonafide Wagnerian Gotterdammerung — a war of the gods that would ultimately bring an end to the world.
This Nazi war on God also explains something else: the savage glee with which Nazis destroyed synagogues, arks, and Torah scrolls. Who would have expected such a thing? Wasn’t the Torah, aka the Pentateuch, the first past of the Tanakh, aka the Old Testament. At the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, an exhibit of the material remnants of Kristallnacht features the Ark of the synagogue in Essen, Germany. It bears the traditional words that appear before the Ark in a sanctuary: “Know before Whom you stand.” But Nazi thugs scratched those off the defaced, desecrated Ark. In the midst of the chaos of those events, they took the time to do so. It is as if they were saying: “There is no one before Whom you stand, or before Whom we stand, or before Whom the world stands.” It is as if they were saying that the Name of God, also, is a victim – and that, beyond that, God is also a victim.
I understand the power of believing that attacks on your group are attacks on God. It gives you strength and clarity and in-group solidarity.
It does not give you empathy for your enemies, however. Ties bind and blind, notes Jonathan Haidt.
I find it more useful to understand these Arabs as pursuing their group interests, rather than deliberately engaging in a war against God. Their war against the Jewish state is really a war for their own group, a war that all groups fight. If Danes were running this land of Israel according to a Danish model, the Arabs and Muslims would want it destroyed because it would be an outpost of alien values in their midst.
Rather than ascribing anti-Jewish sentiment to a rebellion against God or to an eruption of mental illness, I see these struggles as normal group conflict. As long as there has been human history, there have been different groups with different interests in conflict with each other. During the 1930s and 1940s, Germans and Jews had different interests. The Nazis declared war on the Jews and Jews declared war on the Nazis. The Nazis (with the support of about 90% of the German population until the war against the Soviet Union turned bad) wanted an Aryan state free of Jewish influence. They acted on what they saw as their group interest by encouraging the Jews to leave Germany and Europe for Israel. After 1940, WWII made emigration to Palestine impossible. Other countries did not want to take Jews in. The Nazis had a problem. They settled on the Final Solution to the Jewish Question by killing Jews en masse.
If you look at the slaughter of rabbis in Jerusalem last week and you put yourself in the place of Arabs who believe that Israel belongs to them, you would understand why Arabs were celebrating. What weapons do Palestinians have if they want to take the land? They can’t stand up against the IDF in straight warfare. Aside from demographics, the only weapon they have are attacks on Israeli civilians, aka asymetrical warfare. The number one job of the Israeli government is protect Israelis. If Arab terrorists can disrupt that, then Jews will be more likely to leave Israel. Hamas targets civilians to drive them out of the Jewish state.
There will be tragedy in the Middle East until there is one dominant power who subjugates everyone else. If that dominant power is not Israel, it will be very bad for the Jews.