by Laurent Guyénot for the Saker Blog
Laurent Guyénot is the author of From Yahweh to Zion: Jealous God, Chosen People, Promised Land … Clash of Civilizations, 2018. ($30 shipping included from Sifting and Winnowing, POB 221, Lone Rock, WI 53556).
The biblical mind of Israel’s founding fathers
The Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) is for the committed Jew as much a record of his ancient origins, the prism through which all Jewish history is interpreted (is not the “Holocaust” a biblical term?), and the unalterable pattern of Israel’s promising future. That is why the Bible, once the “portable fatherland” of the Diaspora Jews as Heinrich Heine put it, remains at the core of the national narrative of the Jewish State, whose founding fathers did not give it any other Constitution.
It is true that the earliest prophets of political Zionism — Moses Hess (Rome and Jerusalem, 1862), Leon Pinsker (Auto-Emancipation, 1882) and Theodor Herzl (The Jewish State, 1896) — did not draw their inspiration from the Bible, but rather from the great nationalist spirit that swept through Europe at the end of the 19th century. Pinsker and Herzl actually cared little whether the Jews colonized Palestine or any other region of the globe; the first thought about some land in North America, while the second contemplated Argentina and later Uganda. More important still than nationalism, what drove these intellectual pioneers was the persistence of Judeophobia or anti-Semitism: Pinsker, who was from Odessa, converted during the pogroms that followed the assassination of Alexander II; Herzl, at the height of the Dreyfus affair.
Nevertheless, by naming his movement “Zionism,” Herzl himself was plugging it into biblical mythology: Zion is a name used for Jerusalem by biblical prophets. And after Herzl, the founders of the Yishuv (Jewish communities settled in Palestine before 1947) and later of the Jewish State were steeped in the Bible. From their point of view, Zionism was the logical and necessary end of biblical Yahwism. “The Bible is our mandate,” Chaim Weizmann declared at the Peace Conference in Versailles in 1920, and David Ben-Gurion has made clear that he only accepted the 1947 UN Partition Plan as a temporary step toward the goal of biblical borders. In Ben-Gurion, Prophet of fire(1983), the biography of the man described as “the personification of the Zionist dream,” Dan Kurzman entitles each chapter with a Bible quote. The preface begins like this:
“The life of David Ben-Gurion is more than the story of an extraordinary man. It is the story of a Biblical prophecy, an eternal dream. […] Ben-Gurion was, in a modern sense, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, a messiah who felt he was destined to create an exemplary Jewish state, a ‘light unto the nations’ that would help to redeem all mankind.”
For Ben-Gurion, Kurzman writes, the rebirth of Israel in 1948 “paralleled the Exodus from Egypt, the conquest of the land by Joshua, the Maccabean revolt.” Yet Ben-Gurion had never been to the synagogue, and ate pork for breakfast. According to the rabbi leading the Bible study group that he attended, Ben-Gurion “unconsciously believed he was blessed with a spark from Joshua’s soul.” “There can be no worthwhile political or military education about Israel without profound knowledge of the Bible,” he used to say. He wrote in his diary in 1948, ten days after declaring independence, “We will break Transjordan [Jordan], bomb Amman and destroy its army, and then Syria falls, and if Egypt will still continue to fight — we will bombard Port Said, Alexandria and Cairo,” then he adds: “This will be in revenge for what they did to our forefathers during biblical times.” Three days after the Israeli invasion of the Sinai in 1956, he declared before the Knesset that what was at stake was “the restoration of the kingdom of David and Solomon.”
Ben-Gurion’s attachment to the Bible was shared by almost every Zionist leader of his generation and the next. Moshe Dayan, the military hero of the 1967 Six Day War, wrote a book entitled Living with the Bible (1978) in which he justified the annexation of new territory by the Bible. More recently, Israeli Education minister Naftali Bennett, a proponent of full-scale annexation of the West Bank, did the same.
Zionism is biblical by ideology, but also in practice. As Avigail Abarbanel wrote, the Zionist conquerors of Palestine “have been following quite closely the biblical dictate to Joshua to just walk in and take everything. […] For a supposedly non-religious movement it’s extraordinary how closely Zionism […] has followed the Bible.” The paradox is only apparent, because for Zionists, the Bible is not a religious text, but a textbook of history. And so it should be obvious to anybody paying attention that Israel’s behavior on the international scene cannot be understood without a deep inquiry into the Bible’s underlying ideology.
Prophecies and geopolitics
Only by taking account of the biblical roots of Zionism can one understand why Zionism has never been a nationalist movement like others. It could not be, as Gilad Atzmon remarked, from the moment it defined itself as a Jewish movement, aimed at creating a “Jewish state”. Jewish exceptionalism is a biblical concept that has no equivalent in any other ethnic or religious culture.
Neither can Zionism be correctly assessed as a form of colonialism, despite Jabotinsky’s effort to do so. For colonialism seeks not to expel the natives, but to exploit them. If Zionism is colonialism, it can only be in the sense of the colonization of the world by Israel, according to the program laid out by Isaiah:
“The riches of the sea will flow to you, the wealth of the nations come to you” (60:5);
“You will suck the milk of nations, you will suck the wealth of kings” (60:16);
“You will feed on the wealth of nations, you will supplant them in their glory” (61:5-6);
“For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you will perish, and the nations will be utterly destroyed” (60:12)
Christians find hope in Isaiah that, some day, all peoples “will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into sickles. Nations will not lift sword against nation, no longer will they learn how to make war” (Isaiah 2:4). But more important to Zionists are the previous verses, which describe these messianic times as a Pax Judaica, when “all the nations” will pay tribute “to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the god of Jacob,” when “the Law will issue from Zion and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem,” so that Yahweh will “judge between the nations and arbitrate between many peoples.”
No wonder Isaiah is the biblical prophet most often quoted by Zionists. In a statement published in the magazine Look on January 16, 1962, Ben-Gurion predicted for the next 25 years:
“All armies will be abolished, and there will be no more wars. In Jerusalem, the United Nations (a truly United Nations) will build a Shrine of the Prophets to serve the federated union of all continents; this will be the seat of the Supreme Court of Mankind, to settle all controversies among the federated continents, as prophesied by Isaiah.”
The launching of the Iraq War was a decisive step toward that goal of a new world order headquartered in Jerusalem. It was the context for a “Jerusalem Summit” held in October 2003 in the highly symbolic King David Hotel, to seal an alliance between Jewish and Christian Zionists. The “Jerusalem Declaration” signed by its participants declared Jerusalem “the key to the harmony of civilizations,” replacing the United Nations that had become “a tribalized confederation hijacked by Third World dictatorships”:
“Jerusalem’s spiritual and historical importance endows it with a special authority to become a center of world’s unity. [. . .] We believe that one of the objectives of Israel’s divinely-inspired rebirth is to make it the center of the new unity of the nations, which will lead to an era of peace and prosperity, foretold by the Prophets.”
Three acting Israeli ministers spoke at the summit, including Benjamin Netanyahu. Richard Perle, the guest of honor, received on this occasion the Henry Scoop Jackson Award.
When Israeli leaders claim that their vision of the global future is based on the (Hebrew) Bible, we should take them seriously and study the Bible. It might help, for example, to know that according to Deuteronomy Yahweh plans to deliver to Israel “seven nations greater and mightier than [it],” adding: “you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them. You shall not make marriages with them…” (7:1-2). As for the kings of these seven nations, “you shall make their name perish from under heaven” (7:24). The destruction of the “Seven Nations,” also mentioned in Joshua 24:11, is considered a mitzvah in rabbinic Judaism, included by the great Maimonides in his Book of Commandments, and it has remained a popular motif in Jewish culture, known to every Israeli school child.
It is also part of the Neocon agenda for World War IV (as Norman Podhoretz names the current global conflict in World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, 2007). General Wesley Clark, former commandant of NATO in Europe, wrote in his book Winning Modern Wars (2003), and repeated in numerous occasions, that one month after September 11, 2001, as he was paying a visit to Paul Wolfowitz, a Pentagon general showed him a memo “that describes how we’re gonna take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia and Sudan and finishing off with Iran.” In his September 20, 2001 speech, President Bush also targeted seven “rogue states”, but included Cuba and North Korea instead of Lebanon and Somalia. The likely explanation to that discrepancy is that Bush or his entourage refused to include Lebanon and Somalia, but that the number seven was retained for its symbolic value, as an encrypted signature. Without question, the neocons who were writing Bush’s war agenda were Zionists of the most fanatical and Machiavellian kind. But the neocon viper’s nest is not the only place to look for crypto-Zionists infiltrated in the highest spheres of US foreign and military affairs. Consider, for example, that Wesley Clark is the son of Benjamin Jacob Kanne and the proud descendant of a lineage of rabbis. It is hard to believe that he never heard about the Bible’s “seven nations”? Is Clark himself, together with the Amy Goodmans who interviewed him, trying to write history in biblical terms, while blaming these wars on the Pentagon’s warmongers? What’s going on, here?
A lesson from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah
To understand how the crypto-Zionists have hijacked the Empire’s military power into proxy wars, a lesson can be learned from Book of Ezra and its sequel, the Book of Nehemiah. At the time of Ezra, the imperial power was Persia. After the Persians had conquered Babylon in 539 BCE, some of the exiles and their descendants (42,360 people with their 7,337 servants and 200 male and female singers, according to Ezra 2:64-67) returned to Jerusalem under the protection of King Cyrus, with the project of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. Thus begins the Book of Ezra:
“Yahweh roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: ‘Cyrus king of Persia says this, Yahweh, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a temple in Jerusalem, in Judah.’” (Ezra 1:1-2).
For acting on behalf of Yahweh, Cyrus is bestowed the title of God’s “Anointed” (Mashiah) in Isaiah 45:1.
“Thus says Yahweh to his anointed one, to Cyrus whom, he says, I have grasped by his right hand, to make the nations bow before him and to disarm kings: […] It is for the sake of my servant Jacob and of Israel my chosen one, that I have called you by your name, have given you a title though you do not know me. […] Though you do not know me, I have armed you.” (Isaiah 45:1-5)
A succeeding Persian emperor, Darius, confirmed Cyrus’ edict, authorizing the rebuilding of the Temple, and ordering gigantic burnt offerings financed by “the royal revenue.” Anyone resisting the new theocratic power backed by Persia, “a beam is to be torn from his house, he is to be impaled on it and his house is to be reduced to a rubbish-heap for his offense” (Ezra 6:11). Then another Persian king, Artaxerxes, is supposed to have granted Ezra authority to lead “all members of the people of Israel in my kingdom, including their priests and Levites, who freely choose to go to Jerusalem,” and to rule over “the whole people of Trans-Euphrates [district encompassing all territories West to the Euphrates]” (7:11-26). In 458 BCE, the priest Ezra went from Babylon to Jerusalem, accompanied by some 1,500 followers. Carrying with him the newly redacted Torah, Ezra called himself the “Secretary of the Law of the God of heaven” (7:21). He was soon joined by Nehemiah, a Persian court official of Judean origin.
The edicts of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes are fake. No historian believe them authentic. But the fact that Persian kings granted to a clan of wealthy Levites legal authority for establishing a theocratic semi-autonomous state in Palestine seems historical. What did these proto-Zionists give the Persian kings in return? The Bible does not say, but historians believe that the Judeans exiles in Babylon had won the favor of the Persians by conspiring to help them conquer the city.
What is of interest in this biblical narrative is the blueprint for the Zionist strategy of influencing the Empire’s foreign policy for its own advantage. In the late 19th century, the empire was British. Its foreign policy in the Middle East was largely shaped by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Born in a family of Marranos converted back to Judaism in Venice, Disraeli can be considered a forerunner of Zionism, since, well before Theodor Herzl, he tried to include the “restoration of Israel” in the Berlin Congress’ agenda, and hoped to convince the Ottoman Sultan to concede to Palestine as an autonomous Jewish province. He failed, but succeeded in putting the Suez Canal under British control, through funding from his friend Lionel Rothschild (an operation which also consolidated the Rothschilds’ control over the Bank of England). That was the first step in binding British interest and fate to the Middle-East. In short, Disraeli was a modern-day Ezra or Nehemiah, capable of steering the Empire’s policy according to the Jewish agenda of the conquest of Palestine, a dream he had cherished ever since his first trip to Palestine in 1830, at the age of 26, and which he had expressed through the hero of his first novel, The Wondrous Tale of Alroy:
“My wish is a national existence which we have not. My wish is the Land of Promise and Jerusalem and the Temple, all we forfeited, all we have yearned after, all for which we have fought, our beauteous country, our holy creed, our simple manners, and our ancient customs.”
A quarter of a century after Disraeli, Theodor Herzl also failed to convince the Sultan. It therefore became necessary that the Ottoman Empire disappear and the cards be redistributed. Zionists then played the British against the Ottomans and, by means now well-documented, obtained from the former the Balfour Declaration (in fact a mere letter addressed by Secretary of State Arthur Balfour to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild). But when the British started to limit Jewish immigration in Palestine in the 1930s, the Zionists turned to the rising new Imperial power: the United States. Today, the stranglehold of Zionists on US imperial policy is such that a few Jewish neocons can pull the US into a series of wars against Israel’s enemies with a single false flag attack.
The capacity of Israel to hijack the Empire’s foreign and military policy requires that a substantial Jewish elite remain in the US. Even Israel’s survival is entirely dependent on the influence of the Zionist power complex in the United States (euphemistically called the “pro-Israel lobby”). That is also a lesson learnt from Ezra and Nehemiah’s time: Nehemiah himself retained his principal residence in Babylone and, for centuries after, the kingdom of Israel was virtually ruled by the Babylonian exiles. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, Babylon remained the center of universal Judaism. The comparison was made by Jacob Neusner in A History of the Jews in Babylonia(1965), and by Max Dimont in Jews, God and History (1962). The American Jews who prefer to remain in the United States rather than emigrating to Israel are, Dimont argued, as essential to the community as the Babylonian Jews who declined the invitation to return to Palestine in the Persian era:
“Today, as once before, we have both an independent State of Israel and the Diaspora. But, as in the past, the State of Israel today is a citadel of Judaism, a haven of refuge, the center of Jewish nationalism where dwell only two million of the world’s twelve million Jews. The Diaspora, although it has shifted its center through the ages with the rise and fall of civilizations, still remains the universal soul of Judaism.”
In the words of the Zionists themselves, including Herzl himself, Zionism was supposed to be the “final solution” to the Jewish question. In 1947, the whole world hoped that it would be, except for Arab leaders who warned against it. But Israel’s existence has only resulted in changing the “Jewish question” into the “Zionist question”: the question about the true ambitions of Israel. Part of the answer is to be found in the Hebrew Bible. The Zionist question is the Biblical question. Zionists themselves tell us so. Their mouths are full of the Bible.
On March 3, 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dramatized in front of the American Congress his deep phobia of Iran by referring to the biblical Book of Esther (the only Bible story that makes no mention of God, incidently). It is worth quoting the heart of his rhetorical appeal to a US strike against Iran:
“We’re an ancient people. In our nearly 4,000 years of history, many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people. Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we’ll read the Book of Esther. We’ll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies. The plot was foiled. Our people were saved. Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us.”
Netanyahu managed to schedule his address to the Congress on the eve of Purim, which celebrates the happy end of the Book of Esther — the slaughter of 75,000 Persians, women and children included. This typical speech by the head of the State of Israel is clear indication that the behavior of that nation on the international scene cannot be understood without a deep inquiry into the Bible’s underlying ideology. Such is the main objective of my new book, From Yahweh to Zion: Jealous God, Chosen People, Promised Land … Clash of Civilizations, translated by Kevin Barrett.
May those who still want to believe that Zionism has nothing to do with the Bible think twice. Even the nuclear policy of Israel has a biblical name: the Samson Option. And let them read the Prophets:
“And this is the plague with which Yahweh will strike all the nations who have fought against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet; their eyes will rot in their sockets; their tongues will rot in their mouths.” (Zechariah 14:12)
- Dan Kurzman, Ben-Gurion, Prophet of Fire, Touchstone, 1983, p. 17-18, 22, 26-28. ↑
- Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Oneworld Publications, 2007, p. 144. ↑
- Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, Pluto Press, 1994, p. 10.↑
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Png17wB_omA ↑
- Avigail Abarbanel, “Why I left the Cult,” October 8, 2016, on mondoweiss.net ↑
- Gilad Atzmon, Being in Time: A Post-Political Manifesto, Skyscraper, 2017, pp. 66-67. ↑
- David Ben-Gurion and Amram Duchovny, David Ben-Gurion, In His Own Words, Fleet Press Corp., 1969, p. 116 ↑
- Official website: www.jerusalemsummit.org/eng/declaration.php. ↑
- http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/961561/jewish/Positive-Commandment-187.htm ↑
- Wesley Clark, Winning Modern Wars, Public Affairs, 2003, p. 130. ↑
- For example, Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1891 (archive.org), vol. 1, p. 343. ↑
- On Disraeli’s proto-Zionist policy, read my article : https://www.veteransnewsnow.com/2015/02/13/515416tracking-the-roots-of-zionism-and-imperial-russophobia/ ↑
- Quoted in Michael Collins Piper, The New Babylon: Those Who Reign Supreme, American Free Press, 2009, p. 27 ↑
- The first Zionist association inspired by Herzl’s program, the National-jüdische Vereinigung Köln, declared as its goal in 1897: “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question lies therefore in the establishment of the Jewish State” (quoted in Isaiah Friedman, Germany, Turkey, and Zionism 1897–1918, Transaction Publishers, 1998, p. 17). Herzl wrote: “I believe I have found the solution of the Jewish Question. Not a solution, but the solution, the only one,” repeating further that Zionism was “the only possible, final, and successful solution of the Jewish Question” (The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, edited by Raphael Patai, Herzl Press & Thomas Yoseloff, 1960, vol. 1, p. 118). ↑
- “The Complete Transcript of Netanyahu’s Address to Congress,” on www.washingtonpost.com ↑
- Seymour Hersh, The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy, Random House, 1991. ↑
Laurent Guyénot is the author of From Yahweh to Zion: Jealous God, Chosen People, Promised Land … Clash of Civilizations, 2018