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Right-wing extremism kills and maims in both America and Israel

Photos of the victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, are shown on a video display at T-Mobile Park Friday, May 27, 2022, during a moment of silence before a baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and the Houston Astros in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
The faces of the children murdered in Uvalde, Texas , from the Times of Israel

You shall love your neighbor as yourself….The strangers who reside with you shall be to you as your citizens; you shall love each one as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I  he Lord am your God. (Exodus, chapter 19.)

I have been spending the last few months in the USA, mostly visiting family and friends. While I have been here, I have been shocked almost daily by the amount of gun violence in this country and the refusal of the extreme right-wing political party (which was once a normal political party), known as the Republican Party, to do anything serious about it! They have become completely beholden to the neofascist Trumpists and the NRA (National Rifle Association) which is the pro-gun (pro-murder) lobby.

It is absolutely unbelievable and totally maddening that they don’t seem to care about the many mass shootings of children, like the one that occurred a few days ago in Uvalde, Texas, and racially-inspired killings of African Americans, like the one that took place last week in Buffalo. Apparently, they will block any attempts at serious gun control in the US Congress in the weeks and months ahead, as well as in state legislatures wherever they can do so, as they have done in the past. In fact, they were meeting this past weekend in Houston, Texas, with the former president with the orange hair as one of their main speakers. In one of his usual loonie speeches, he told the gun-toting audience that the problem is not guns but “mental health”! But what about his mental health?

On the other side of two oceans, in Israel, right-wing extremists were insisting on holding their unnecessary inflammatory “flag” march in the center of “United” Jerusalem, which only serves to prove how divided Jerusalem is (Palestinians in East Jerusalem, which also includes many parts of north and south Jerusalem, and Jews mostly in West Jerusalem). This totally superfluous demonstration of Jewish supremacy (akin to the white supremacists who hold rallies all the time in cities all over the USA) should have been canceled for security reasons, as well as moral ones, since all it did was promote hatred and discrimination in a city in which most Jews and Palestinians try desperately to coexist peacefully on a daily basis despite all the obstacles.

Demonstrators gather with Israeli flags at the Damascus Gate of the old city of Jerusalem on May 29, 2022, during the Israeli ‘flags march’ to mark “Jerusalem Day”. – Jerusalem is bracing for a controversial “flag march” by Israelis that has sparked warnings of a new escalation from Palestinian factions. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

The Republican fanatics in the USA and the ultra-nationalist and so-called “religious” Jewish extremists in Israel actually share a lot in common. They are actually anti-human and therefore anti-religious!  They love demonstrations of power and control and distain for other people who are not part of their tribe, whether it be Palestinians in Jerusalem or minorities in the USA (Blacks, Muslims, Asians, gays, Jews and others). They thrive on violence and indiscriminate killing and maiming — even risking civil war or regional war— which they will conveniently blame on the other side (who are not totally innocent since many of their “leaders”, especially those of Hamas, also love to incite to hatred and violence, but that is the subject for another blog post). Last year the fanatics in Israel ignited a war with the Palestinians in Gaza! This year, they didn’t go as far but they nevertheless made life quite difficult for Palestinians in “united” Jerusalem once again, as they love to do, and they caused great damage to Israel’s reputation in the international community.

In fact, these extreme “nationalists” (tribalists might be a better word) are angry and violent people, who are totally ideologically or theologically driven. Their god apparently is the god of war, violence and conquest (the one that can be found throughout the Bible, not the one of mercy, lovingkindness and righteousness, which can also be found throughout the Bible and certainly in post-biblical religious literature). I believe that many of them are deeply disturbed people who are emotionally unstable –as evidenced by the statements and behaviors of many of their leaders. Moreover, they are all too often the sad and sorry products of racist and regressive educations, in their homes, communities and educational systems, as well as their churches and synagogues, in many communities in America and Israel.

The recent mass shootings in the USA in Buffalo and in Uvalde —and the recent racist and inflammatory Flag March in Jerusalem –were only the latest incidents on the list of incendiary behavior of these fanatics. They are out there every day, creating havoc, destruction and death. The statistics on mass murders in the USA are staggering–there have already been 221 of them in America during the first 5 months of this year! And, the growing number of attacks by Jewish extremists—especially settlers in the West Bank—on Palestinians serves to create more resistance or “terrorists’ every day, thus inflaming the cycle of violence, which is exactly what they want, since their goal is to dispossess Palestinians from their land by force. Yesterday’s triumphalist “Flag March” –which led to much predictable violence in Jerusalem – was just another blatant example of this.

What do those White supremacists learn from their Bibles in their churches in Texas and other states in the USA? And what do the Jewish settlers and other fanatics in Israel learn from their Torah in their synagogues ? Do they learn that God created all human beings in His image? Do they learn that one should love their neighbor as they love themselves? Or does loving one’s neighbor only apply to one’s fellow Jew (there is actually an interpretation like this in rabbinic literature)?. Do they learn that we Jews should love the stranger, i.e., the minority, since “we were strangers in the land of Egypt”? Do they pay attention when they read from the prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah and others—about the need to pursue justice and fairness in the land of Israel?

Perhaps these extremists, both white supremacist Americans and flag-marching Jews in Israel—as well as leaders of Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon–need to be re-educated about the fundamental values of their religions. Maybe this would prevent them from being so hateful and so violent.

In the meantime, it is time for the moral majority (not Falwell’s version of this) to speak up clearly and courageously and say: Enough! Enough of maiming and killing innocent people for the sake of deranged ideologies! Enough of too many guns in America, where it is too easy to buy one, especially semi-automatic rifles. Enough of incendiary flag marches that mar the sanctity of Jerusalem.

Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)

About the Author
Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. Now retired, he is an independent educator, author, lecturer, writer, speaker, blogger and consultant. He is the editor of 5 books, including Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel--Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015). His new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttlefield, in September 2017. He is currently working on a new book about peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine.
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