1081 Words

Luther said: “Erasmus claims that the Holy Scriptures may be called into question. That is a lie! There is no religion without complete and devoted faith! Those who question are not Christians, for the Holy Spirit is unquestionable. Jesus said, ‘I came not to send peace, but a sword. The Word of God is a whirlwind, war, ruin, destruction, poison. It meets the children of Ephraim like a bear in the way and a lioness in the woods.'”

With these words, Luther nullified the slow, Sisyphean advances made by Erasmus of Rotterdam in his endeavor to change mankind’s propensity to war in 16th-century Europe.

Jewish writer Stefan Zweig likened the rivalry of Luther and Erasmus to the struggle between democracy and autocracy—because there is no undermining the autocratic ‘truth.’ Such is the way of autocratic regimes: dispute the ruler’s claim and you will die a fiery death. That is why I opted for the peculiar title “1081 Words”; because it is all too clear to me that portions of this essay will be omitted and distorted when cited elsewhere.

I shall explain the connection between Luther and Erasmus and the boycott movement against Israeli institutions. For the past five years, the Middle East has been ravaged by war. Initially dubbed “the Arab Spring”—and later, “the Arab Winter”— the conflict is now referred to by analysts by the harrowing name “the Middle-Eastern Meat Grinder.” The Middle-Eastern Meat Grinder consists of four dead nations—Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya—and has exacted a terrible toll of 350,000 casualties (and counting) and 12,500,000 displaced. In the same time, Israel has been fighting its own battle against the BDS Movement, many members of which are good-willed individuals that have been led astray by Luther’s captivating words and, armed with a newfound faith in the righteousness of their cause, now believe they are facing an apartheid monster. It’s hardly any wonder; those people are shrouded with blinding, paralyzing patter that prohibits the truth from being told. And the truth is, simply, that during Israel’s 60-year struggle for existence against its many enemies, overall casualties have amounted to merely 0.00005% of all casualties in worldwide conflicts during the same period. And still, Israel is a democratic country; and still, Arab judges do preside in the Supreme Court of Israel and occasionally sentence Jews to jail; and still, roughly 11% of members of the Knesset are Arabs; and still, the Arab population in Israel is the most educated of all Arab populations in the Middle East—ever. (Before the Arab Spring, the percentage of Arab students in Israel was more than twice the percentage of students in Lebanon, the most educated of all Arab countries.[1],[2])

Yet what concerns me the most is the same aspect Erasmus wrestled with himself—not the Catholic leadership, but educating the European public to understand how ridiculous their wars are, or, in his words, that “War is sweet to them that know it not”—and I’m referring here to the war of delegitimation against Israel. In the 16th century, members of clergy who spoke up against the war were commonly viewed as impious, while those who abused the Holy Scriptures in order to incite war were considered good and devout Christians: “Gott mit uns”—God is with us. This is echoed in the claims of European liberals today. Erasmus said, “All war is unjust,” and I say, “All boycott is unjust”; Erasmus said, “A man of faith who welcomes war is unjust,” and I say, “A liberal who welcomes boycott is unjust.”

Members of the BDS Movement raise baffling claims alleging that Israel is an apartheid state or that in Israel children are needlessly beaten and killed. The truth is far from it. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, one that must fight for its survival daily because of realities that the Europeans are only now beginning to experience first-hand, the full force of which we have been subjected to for the past 60 years. Israel’s judicial system is sharp and independent. Concepts of democracy and tolerance take center stage in the Israeli education system, and most Israelis don’t purport to hold every solution to the region’s complex political cobweb.

Sheik Iyad Abu Funun delivering his Friday sermon at Gaza’s Huda Mosque on August 29 during which he used the eye-popping prop.
Sheik Iyad Abu Funun delivering his Friday sermon at Gaza’s Huda Mosque on August 29 during which he used the eye-popping prop.


The BDS Movement’s claim that its main purpose is the liberation of Palestine makes me wonder: Are their objections motivated by a genuine liberal sentiment like that of Erasmus, to liberate the Palestinian people from the burden of their Israeli oppressors? Or is it in fact a Lutheran argument masking a desire to ram Israel into submission? I believe the latter to be true. The Meat Grinder nations that crumbled one after another were once strong in both quantity and quality, and some even posed a real threat to Israel. Should the Arab-Palestinian state ever become a reality, it is sure to suffer the same fate, considering it will be exponentially smaller than those collapsed countries and even more idealistically fragmented than Iraq. Among its immediate and highly motivated enemies will be Sunni Hamas, Sunni ISIS, Al Qaeda, or a Shiite-Iranian takeover such as the Badr Brigades. The consequences are clear and written in blood on every corner of YouTube. Concludingly, the hardcore members of the BDS Movement aren’t looking out for the welfare of Palestinian citizens. Their main concern is conducting an assault on Israel, and their foundation for that is beyond me.

“Those who question are not Christian.” Luther goes on to say, “I will go out and fight Erasmus until he is dead and rotting. I will kill that demon with the power of my quill, just as I have killed the leader of the peasant uprising Thomas Müntzer and his blood is on my hands.” And so, the BDS Movement prevents people from exercising thought. Unless you join them in chanting the words “boycott” and “apartheid,” you are not truly a liberal. The elements that finally conquered Erasmus in the 16th century are resurfacing today, after a period of the same Erasmus-esque democracy cultivated so dearly by Voltaire. Meanwhile, the Europeans act as though they are blind, muttering hateful speech instead of Erasmus’s words of peace and democracy.

Egypian cleric salam abd al-Qawi, Al Nas TV 2009

Egyptian cleric Salam abd al-Qawi, Al Nas TV 2009

Good luck to us all.

[1] “A Decade of Higher Education in the Arab States: Achievements & Challenges,” UNESCO ,Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States, Beirut.

[2] “Higher Education for Arab Citizens of Israel: Realities, Challenges and New Opportunities,” Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues, December 2012.

About the Author
Nir Shvalb is a Senior Lecturer at Engineering Faculty at Ariel University, Israel. He is the Head of Kinematics and Computational Geometry Laboratory together with Dr. Boaz Ben Moshe. His main interests are medical robotics, global path planning and theoretical foundations of robotics. He earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the Technion, Israel (2006). He received his MSc in Mathematics at the University of Haifa. He graduated at the Technion in both mechanical engineering and physics departments.
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