Many have been appalled by the seemingly mindless orgy of destruction of families, children, homes, streets, shops and orchards in Gaza carried out by the Israeli armed forces. It left me wanting to know what has happened to make ordinary well-educated Israelis think that it is morally right to do this to their comparatively unarmed neighbors?
I perhaps stumbled on part of the answer in the bookstore at Tel Aviv airport on a recent visit to Israel. A map on display marked all the land from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea as Israel: there was no West Bank, no Gaza Strip. A travel book I admired for its photos of a beautiful land also described it all as Israel. Jericho was in Israel it stated, although deep inside the West Bank.
If this bookstore is as typical as I suspect, then most Israelis are convinced they already own the lands now occupied by Palestinians. It is as if they see them, not as a sovereign people, but as a host of unwelcome and unruly tenants squatting Jewish lands. If this is so, then I thought there is little hope for a “Two State” solution.
This view is deeply rooted in an Orthodox Judaism with increasing influence in the Israeli military. A booklet issued by the Jewish Rabbinate to the troops going to Gaza, "Daily Torah studies for the soldier and the commander in Operation Cast Lead," states there is "a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [Israel] to gentiles, though all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses. We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it."
Another publication distributed by the military Rabbinate asks: "Is it possible to compare today's Palestinians to the Philistines of the past?" It cites a Rabbi as answering: "A comparison is possible because the Philistines of the past were not natives and had invaded from a foreign land ... They invaded the Land of Israel, a land that did not belong to them and claimed political ownership over our country ... Today the problem is the same. The Palestinians claim they deserve a state here, when in reality there was never a Palestinian or Arab state within the borders of our country. Moreover, most of them are new and came here close to the time of the War of Independence."
Both of the above quotes are from the "Books of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner," the head of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in an Israeli occupied house within the Muslim quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The IDF rabbinate also quotes Rabbi Aviner’s advice to troops: "When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers. This is terribly immoral. These are not games at the amusement park where sportsmanship teaches one to make concessions. This is a war on murderers.”