by Rabbi Daniel Friedman
(Edmonton) – The recent attacks in Paris were ferocious. We join the world in mourning the loss of life and praying for their families as well as for the recovery of the injured.
The State of Israel was swift to declare, “We feel your pain.” Tragically, the citizens of the Jewish state have spent the last month and more, being killed and maimed, and living in fear of random acts of terror. One can no longer walk down the street without constantly checking over one’s shoulder that nobody in the vicinity is bearing a knife or other weapon. Prime Minister Netanyahu has stressed on many occasions that Palestinian terror and ISIS terror are cut from the same cloth.
And yet, critics of Israel have rushed to condemn the comparison. ‘How dare Israel be so callous at this time of Paris’s woe?’ they ask. ‘The attacks in France were completely unsolicited and undeserved. By contrast, the attacks in Israel are a response to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. If Israel would simply end the occupation, its people would be able to live in safety and security.’
Is Israel right in reaching out to France and mourning in solidarity? Or do the critics have a point that you cannot compare Palestinian terror to ISIS terror?
On the festival of Chanukah, we celebrate our victory over the Syrian-Greek army. “You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves in Your Torah.”
Did Antiochus want us dead? No, he wanted us all the same as them. The Greeks criminalized Shabbat, Brit Milah, and other Jewish rituals. They wanted to see Hellenized Jews. They wanted one contiguous state of Greece that stretched from the north to the south. But the Jews held out. We refused to accept their cultural homogeneity. We insisted on retaining our own rites of worship and cultural uniqueness. They terrorized us: publicly desecrating our religion and forcing their idolatrous practices upon us. If we had simply given in and accepted Hellenism, they would have been satisfied. But Judaism and we as a distinct Jewish people would have disappeared into the annals of history.
What does ISIS want? While their acts of terrorism are indiscriminate, they claim that their ultimate goal is to create a country that lives according to the dictates of a strict interpretation of Islam. To that end, they have been advancing their cause throughout the Muslim populations of the Middle East. As they gain support for their cause, Islamic State’s borders have been expanding rapidly. Their latest attack on France is a call to France’s domestic Muslim population to join their mission and transform the country into a province of the Islamic State. Thank G-d, thus far, their call has fallen on deaf ears and most French Muslims have declared their opposition to ISIS.
That was the goal of the Syrian Greeks. They too wished to export their ideology and build a state that ran contiguously throughout the world forcing their worldview on everyone and wreaking havoc on those who refused to submit. While they hadn’t razed our Temple like ISIS did in Palmyra, they certainly did their very best to defile it, from the tainting of the Menorah oil to the introduction of pig worship.
And that’s exactly the same goal and motivation of the terrorists in Israel. Hamas don’t want to live side-by-side peacefully with the Jewish people; their charter calls for the destruction of the entire State of Israel. They don’t seek a two-state solution; they won’t stop until Israel ends its “occupation” of any “Palestinian” land.
And that’s why the attacks on Paris are exactly the same as the attacks on Israel. Not just biblically, but historically, the Land of Israel is unquestionably the land of the Jewish people. It was occupied by others and we were exiled for close to two thousand years. We are not asking for everything back; we simply want to live in peace with the other residents of the area. We are willing to offer them an independent country in what was historically ours.
But that’s not good enough for them. They won’t stop until they get the whole country under their radical Islamic ideology. Just like ISIS in Syria, Iraq and now, France.
Are all Palestinians radical Hamas ideologues? Of course not. But the terrorists who run around indiscriminately stabbing innocent Jews are most definitely the extreme radicals who are not interested in living side-by-side peacefully with the Jewish people. These terrorists won’t stop until everyone is living according to the dictates of their extremist ideology.
This Chanukah let us remember that a little light dispels much darkness. Good always triumphs over evil. The evil Greeks are long gone, not just from ruling over us, but from their tyrannical attempts at world domination. This evil too shall pass, as decent people – Muslims, Jews, Christians and those of other faiths – rise up together to oppose the terrorists, so that we may all live in peace, in Israel, in France, in Syria, and throughout the world.
Rabbi Daniel Friedman is Rabbi at Beth Israel Synagogue in Edmonton.