If you repeat a lie often enough people begin to believe it. The claim that terror is caused by misery and poverty is one such example. It is so often repeated that a guilt ridden West has come to accept it. But no matter how often a lie is repeated, it remains a lie. Jews suffered poverty and misery for centuries and have not turned to terror. Even when a small group of Jews engaged in terror before the creation of the Jewish state they were roundly condemned by fellow Jews because murder, no matter the circumstances, is never condoned. Others have suffered too, but radical Islam turns to terror.
The canard that if the West supplied them with wealth, their youth would eschew terror has been proven wrong many times. In the 1990s Palestinians were given unprecedented economic opportunity, yet they turned to terror when negotiations failed to drive the Jews from Israel and in the process, willingly surrendered those gains. They chose war over integration, terror over luxury.
When Israel vacated Gaza they left Jewish built greenhouses, a billion dollar horticultural industry, intact as an income source for Gaza Palestinians. Yet, the Palestinians destroyed these resources, not wanting to accept gifts from the hated Jews. Until today, they receive millions of dollars in foreign aid, yet rather than investing it into poverty relief and civic infrastructure, they pour it into weapons of war.
Reports abound of young men from affluent Western families, who abandon their luxurious lifestyles to join radical Islam. When these men are radicalized, they choose freely poverty and terror. Poverty isn’t the root of terror, it is its lifestyle. The root of terror is the glorification of murder and Islam. Radical Islam fights to liberate territory for Islam. They turn to terror not because they are miserable, but because they view murder as a legitimate method of securing their religious objective. The simple truth is this, radical Islam glorifies murder and that, not poverty, is the fertile soil from which terror sprouts. The more your sword drips with the innocent blood of non-believers, the more you are glorified by radical Islam.
Considering the view of radical Islam, it could be enlightening to explore the Jewish view on murder as a means to safeguard, let alone conquer, a country.
In Jewish law, deliberate murder is a capital offense. Inadvertent murder is punishable by an extended prison sentence in pre-designated cities of refuge. Should the murderer venture beyond his refuge city, his life becomes fair game to those who seek to avenge the victim. The Torah declares that the murderer has no blood. He is like the walking dead. Killing him isn’t tantamount to murder because he has forfeited his right to life by taking the life of another. So long as he remains in the city of refuge, he is protected. Once he departs the city, his right to life dissipates.
Now here comes a powerful law that has direct bearing on our question about conquering a land through murder. Jewish law stipulates that under no circumstances may the murderer leave his city of refuge. Even if he is a powerful warier such as Yoav Ben Tzruya (King David’s Chief General) and the nation, embroiled in war, is in dire need of his abilities, he is not released to lead the nation’s war effort. Should he leave even under such circumstances, his right to life is forfeit.
One wonders why a Torah that cherishes life above all, prohibits the release of this inadvertent criminal. If the country falls because the general remains in prison, is justice served? The answer is a resounding yes. Because murder isn’t a trifle. It can’t be overlooked and dismissed. No matter how many lives he might save, this man belongs in prison because he extinguished a life, even inadvertently. No matter the circumstances, murder isn’t forgivable and the murderer isn’t condoned. Radical Islam worships their murderers and hails them as heroes; vanguards of resistance. Judaism abhors murder and won’t pardon the murderer even if the nation’s destiny is at stake. Never will it be said that the Jews were saved by a murderer. We don’t glorify the murderer and want no part of him.
Jews who suffer misery and poverty don’t rage against innocent civilians because the overriding value drilled into us is the sanctity of life. Hamas on the other hand, demands the release of fellow terrorists from Israeli prisons. When released, they receive a hero’s welcome after which the murderers are readmitted to the ranks of terror to “fight for their country.”
The question is what about the country that needs the imprisoned general’s services? Is it right for a nation to fall and allow its people to be slaughtered just to make a point and stand on principle? Should practical need not trump theoretical principle? The question is a non sequitur because it is inconceivable that the survival of G-d’s country should depend on a murderer, even an inadvertent one. G-d is the paragon of peace and there is no place for murderers in the defense of His country.
The analysis that the country is at peril and the murderer alone can save it, is per force faulty. The country is either not at peril or there are others that can save it. The belief and practice in Hamas is the polar opposite. Not only do they expect to reclaim the land through murderers, they expect to reclaim it through acts of murder. The only possible response is to resist them in every way. We must ensure that the West stops funding Hamas and all other governments that support terror. We must remain firm and not cave in to their demands. Their murderers must remain behind bars and their terror infrastructure must be stamped out.
This is for the Israeli government and army. What can we do? The answer is to shine the light of truth. Not by arguing against Hamas, one does not fight against darkness, one simply turns on the light. We must shine a light on the sanctity of life. If we teach ourselves, our children and our neighbors about the sanctity of life, it will have ripple effects across the world. The more we believe in G-d and cherish His gift of life, the less common murder and terror. Will become May G-d grant us the ability to achieve these objectives with a minimal loss of life.
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow, a respected writer, scholar and speaker, is the spiritual leader of Beth Tefilah congregation in London, Ontario. He is the author of Reaching for God: A Jewish Book on Self Help, and his new book, Mission Possible: Living With Higher Purpose will be released this spring and can be pre-ordered by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org