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Friday, March 7, 2008

On the Yeshiva Shootings and Continued Violence in Israel/Palestine

Let this be ABUNDANTLY CLEAR, the below post is from a service I subscribe to, Jewish Peace News.

NO ONE is condoning the shooting yesterday at the yeshiva in Jerusalem. These articles put in context for the reader here the information that needs to be known.

May we continue to pray for PEACE and mourn all who have died, that the lesson which is learned, is that violence in ANY form begets violence.

As has been widely reported, a gunman in Jerusalem opened fire at the Mercaz
Harav yeshiva yesterday, killing 8 students (most of them children) and wounding
at least 9. At a time like this, there are two different sets responsibilities
to the victims: one is to mourn the brutal deaths of these boys and young men.
At the same time, we need to work to prevent this sort of thing from happening
again, which requires us to understand the context in which this act of
terrorism occurred. Failing to understand this atrocity within the overall
context of the occupation reinforces the right-wing line that Palestinian
violence is motivated simply by anti-Semitism, blood hatred, or Biblical feuds.

Although the gunman’s specific motives are unclear, this killing comes at a
moment that the New York Times somewhat delicately describes as a time
of “tension”. Israel’s latest attack on Gaza has left over 130 Palestinians
dead, half of them civilians. Just yesterday, a 20 day-old infant was buried
after being shot in the head by Israeli soldiers. Another contextualizing
factor is the nature of the yeshiva where the attack took place, a key
institution in the militant settlers’ movement, which has been stealing land
from Palestinians in the occupied territories for decades, believing God
intended the land for Jews.

These horrific killings are utterly unjustifiable, and Hamas’ praise for the
operation is both contemptible and chilling. It is important not to let this
sort illegitimate act of terrorist violence obscure the legitimate and urgent
grievances of the Palestinian people under occupation and in exile. It is
vital to keep this in mind, because whatever the specific motivations of the
gunman might have been, terrorist violence like this is almost always a symptom
of Israel’s expansionist policies and is unlikely to end until the occupation is

Below are the following pieces:

1) A contextualization by Ali Abunimah

2) An explanation about the nature of the yeshiva from Ha’aretz

3) An article reporting the condemnation of the killings by the Organization of
the Islamic Conference

4) A statement by the Coalition Against the Gaza Siege

Judith Norman


By Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 7 March 2008

Compared with the international silence that surrounded Israel's recent
massacres of Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Gaza Strip, condemnation and
condolences for the victims of the shooting attack that killed eight students at
the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem has been swift.

"I have just spoken with [Israeli] Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert to extend my
deepest condolences to the victims, their families, and to the people of
Israel," US President George W. Bush said. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
added his "condemnation" and "condolences," as did EU High Representative Javier

The day before the Jerusalem attack, Amira Abu 'Aser was buried in Gaza. She had
lived just 20 days on this earth before being shot in the head by Israeli
occupation forces who attacked the house of friends she and her family were
visiting. Needless to say, she had not been firing rockets at Sderot when she
was killed. One of the house's inhabitants was found the next day, shot dead and
his head crushed by an army jeep, an apparent victim of an extrajudicial murder
by Israeli forces. (

But confirming their status in the eyes of the "international community" as less
than complete human beings, neither Amira's killing, nor any of the dozens of
Palestinian civilian victims of Israel's onslaught in Gaza have merited
condemnation or condolences.

The fallacy that lies behind the differential concern for the lives of innocent
Israelis and Palestinians is that the massacre in Jerusalem and the massacres in
Gaza can be separated. Israeli deaths are "terrorism," while Palestinian deaths
are merely an unfortunate consequence of the fight against "terrorism." But the
two are intricately linked, and what happened in Jerusalem is a direct
consequence of what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians for decades.

Let me be clear that the killing of civilians, Israeli or Palestinian, is wrong,
repugnant, and cannot bring this one-hundred-year war caused by the Zionist
colonization of Palestine to an end. There will be an Israeli propaganda effort
-- as always -- to present Palestinian violence as being simply motivated by
hatred, and divorced from the context of brutal occupation that Palestinians
live under. What greater proof could you need than an attack on religious
students, devoting their life to the study of the Torah?

We cannot expect much analysis in the media of why the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva
might have been chosen as a target. Was it mere coincidence that the school,
named for Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, and led after his death by his son Rabbi Zvi
Yehuda Kook, is the ideological cradle of the militant, Jewish supremacist
settler movement Gush Emunim?

Unlike other sects in Israel which sought exemption of their students from
military service, Gush Emunim encouraged its followers to join the army and
become the armed wing of religious nationalist Zionism. Gush Emunim settlers,
many of them, like Moshe Levinger, graduates of Mercaz HaRav, founded the most
extreme and racist settlements in the Occupied West Bank, including the
notorious colonies in and near Hebron whose inhabitants have made life miserable
for Palestinians in the city and forced many of them out of their homes. It is
the militant settlers of Gush Emunim who still honor Baruch Goldstein who
murdered 29 Palestinians in Hebron in February 1994. It is in Hebron that the
Gush Emunim settlers spray "Arabs to the gas chambers" on Palestinian houses.

It is possible that the Mercaz HaRav gunman did not know or care about any of
this, that any target he could identify as Israeli would have satisfied his
desire to exact revenge.

In 2002, Israeli army chief Moshe Yaalon declared that "the Palestinians must be
made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are
a defeated people." This would be achieved by the massive and constant
application of force until they got the message. The same philosophy was
elaborated in 2004 by Professor Arnon Soffer, one of the architects, with former
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, of the 2005 Gaza "disengagement."

Soffer, an avid supporter of turning Gaza into a hermetically-sealed pen for
unwanted Palestinians, explained that if Palestinians fire a single rocket over
the fence into Israel, "we will fire 10 in response. And women and children will
be killed, and houses will be destroyed. After the fifth such incident,
Palestinian mothers won't allow their husbands to shoot Qassams [rockets],
because they will know what's waiting for them."

Soffer predicted that in a few years' time, "when 2.5 million people live in a
closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become
even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane
fundamentalist Islam." With Palestinians closed in, "The pressure at the border
will be awful," Soffer predicted. "It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we
want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every

To be fair, Soffer did display a human side: "The only thing that concerns me is
how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will
be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings" ("It's the
demography, stupid," The Jerusalem Post, 21 May 2004).

For decades Israel has been exercizing with ever-escalating brutality this
deliberate strategy to crush through force and starvation a civilian population
in rebellion against colonial rule. To Israel's vexation, the Palestinians are
not playing their part. After sixty years of expulsions, massacres,
assassinations of their leaders, colonization, torture, and mass imprisonment,
the Palestinians have utterly failed to understand that they are a "defeated

The vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank endure unprecedented
oppression by the Israeli army and settlers without resorting to violence in
response, but they maintain an inextinguishable determination to endure until
they regain their rights. If the methods the Palestinian resistance has
sometimes used are reprehensible, they have also been typical for anti-colonial
resistance movements throughout time, as William Polk shows in his book Violent
Politics: A History of Insurgency, Terrorism and Guerilla War from the American
Revolution to Iraq, and Robert Pape demonstrated through his study of suicide
bombing in Dying to Win.

Is it not time for the rest of the world to step in and force Israel at last to
understand the same thing, so that the senseless bloodshed can finally stop and
all the people of the country -- Israelis and Palestinians -- can begin to
imagine a future other than an endless parade of funerals?

-- Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country:
A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books,


Mercaz Harav - the flagship of national-religious yeshivas
By Yair Sheleg

The Mercaz Harav rabbinic college is the most prominent yeshiva in the religious
Zionist world. It trained the movement's leading rabbis as well as many yeshiva
heads, city rabbis, and teachers in religious colleges and high schools. The
school was central in shaping the evolution of religious Zionism.

As the flagship of national-religious yeshivas, the religious right is bound to
attribute greater symbolic meaning to a terrorist attack here than anywhere

Founded in 1924 by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, then chief Ashkenazi rabbi during
the British Mandate, it is seen as the first yeshiva to be Zionist in spirit.

Rabbi Kook called it "the central world yeshiva," wishing to set it as a model
for a new yeshiva concept, integrating traditional Talmud studies with Jewish
philosophy, Bible and even Jewish history, geography and literature. The last
three subjects were never actually taught there.

After its founder's death in 1935 it was named Mercaz Harav after him, and
became synonymous with Rabbi Kook's teachings.

In its first decades the college had few students and at times it was not clear
whether it would survive. The turning point came in the '50s, when graduates of
Bnei Akiva religious schools and high-school yeshivas seeking higher religious
education flocked to Mercaz Harav, the only Zionist yeshiva.

The prominent Beni Akiva rabbi Moshe Zvi Neria, a student of Rabbi Kook's,
encouraged students to go to Mercaz Harav, which was headed from 1952 by Rabbi
Abraham Kook's son, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, until his death in 1982.

The foundations for the religious settlements in the West Bank were forged in
Mercaz Harav, whose student Hanan Porat set out to restore the Jewish settlement
in Gush Etzion immediately after the Six-Day War. The founders of Gush Emunim, a
religious political movement that encouraged Jewish settlement of land they
believe God promised the Jews, came from Mercaz Harav after the Yom Kippur War.

Rabbi Kook encouraged his students to go out and fight for the settlements in
the West Bank. He himself took active part in these struggles.

Rabbi Kook was very strict about modest clothes for women and the separation of
men and women.

After his death in 1982, his successor Rabbi Avraham Shapira, who also served as
chief rabbi, clashed with Kook's favorite student Rabbi Zvi Tau. Tau's people
said that Shapira, who came from an ultra-Orthodox background, was wiping out
the college's unique theological character and turning it into another
run-of-the-mill yeshiva.

The clash led to an official split in 1997, after Shapira introduced to the
yeshiva a teachers' training institute, which Tau and his people saw as an "idol
in the temple."

Tau and his people left and established the Har Mor rabbinic college, which
became quite powerful and dominant. Last year, after Shapira's death, his son
Rabbi Yaakov Shapira succeeded him as yeshiva head.

The yeshiva's well-known graduates include Rabbi Haim Druckman, Rabbi Dov Lior,
Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, Rabbi Zfania Drori, Rabbi Moshe Levinger, Rabbi Shlomo
Aviner, Rabbi Yoel Bin-Noon and Rabbi Hanan Porat. Other graduates include the
Irgun's first commander David Raziel and Maariv newspaper founder Azriel

Today, the yeshiva has about 500 students, including 200 students in the
yeshiva's kollel (post-graduate division).


07/03/2008 16:15 JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, March 7 (AFP) Islamic organisation
condemns Jerusalem attack

The Islamic world's biggest political bloc on Friday condemned the killing of
eight Israeli teenagers in a Jerusalem religious school, saying it abhorred
"violence and terror."

In a rare reaction to an anti-Israeli attack, the 57-member Organisation of the
Islamic Conference expressed "grave concern over, and condemned the recent
killings of students in the west Jerusalem," a statement released here said.

OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu also "reiterated the position of the
OIC against any act of violence and terror anywhere in the world," the
statement added.

The OIC includes Iran, which is steadfastly hostile to Israel.

But Ihsanoglu said he hoped "that this condemnation of the OIC would open up
the eyes of those who remained silent during the violence directed against
innocent civilians, including children of Palestine."

"This vicious cycle of killing must be stopped," the statement said.

He urged "all parties concerned to act with calm and restraint in the face of
this tragic event."

Eight students, most aged 15 and 16, were shot dead late Thursday at the Merkaz
Harav Yeshiva, a theological school in predominantly Jewish west Jerusalem.
Another nine were wounded.

The gunman, a Palestinian from east Jerusalem, was shot dead by police.


The Coalition Against the Gaza Siege
Press Release, March 7, 2008

Bloodshed does not compensate for bloodshed-Ceasefire Now!

The Coalition Against the Gaza Siege calls for an immediate end to the killing
and violence, on both sides of the conflict. Bloodshed does not compensate for
bloodshed, and revenge is no solution.

Any attack on, wounding or killing of unarmed civilians - as happened in the
attack on the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva as during the IDF attacks and bombings of
Gaza and in the shooting of missiles at Sderot, Ashkelon and the Western Negev -
must end forthwith.

It is the civilians on both sides who are exposed to harm and who pay the full
price for the manoeuvres of the political and military leaderships.

We call upon the leaderships, of both sides, including all organizations and
parties, to cease all violence immediately.

We call upon the international community and the world public opinion to firmly
demand an end to the mutual killing and bloodshed.

In order to achieve that, we call for a full and mutual ceasefire, as a first
step negotiating an end to the occupation and an end to the conflict between the
two peoples, to a full peace which is the only hope for our future.

Contact: Adi Dagan 0508-575730, Adam Keller 0506-709603, Angela Godfrey
054-7366393, Yaakov Manor 050-5733276

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