Truth About Terrorism Is Contained in Encyclopedia Entries
by Isaac Melton
up in a Houston, TX neighborhood with a large Jewish population, I
have been on the fringe of Jewish society since I was seven years
old. In my high school (San Jacinto), many classes were reduced in
size by two-thirds or more on Jewish holidays.
summer I went to Scout camp with the troop from the nearby temple. I
spent a lot of my free time talking with a lovely old Jewish
patriarch named Mr. Mittelman from "the old country. " He
increased my insight into traditional Jewish religion and told me
moving tales of the Nazi persecution he had survived. I continue to
have the deepest respect for and interest in traditionalist Jews and
up assuming that the Jews had a God given right to the land of
Israel. After all, isn't that what the Bible teaches? But in my late
teen years, as an Anglo-Catholic ("high church
Episcopalian"), I learned the traditional Orthodox Catholic
teaching that the Church, not some modern secular political entity,
is the "New Israel."
Testament teaches that through and in Christ, the Church is the
continuation of ancient Israel. Baptized into the Body of Christ, we
Christians become Children of Israel by adoption and grace. This
teaching, also traditionally accepted by Roman Catholics, Anglicans
and Lutherans, is roundly denied by large numbers of fundamentalist
Protestants, who see the secular state of Israel as the fulfillment
of Old Testament Prophecy. That view has contributed significantly
to American foreign policy.
until I was in my 40s, I continued to believe that there was
certainly nothing wrong with the Jewish state of Israel, and I
believed the Jews had every right to it. I couldn't fathom what
those crazy Arabs were upset by. A bunch of fanatic tent dwellers, I
thought. I realize now that this mental image of the Palestinians
was engendered by the American media. It certainly appears the media
bias is pro-Israel, and favors the Palestinians only when their
mistreatment is so blatant it can't be ignored.
still in favor of the Jews having a homeland. The Church's belief
that She is Herself Israel, renewed in Christ, does not imply we
would deny the Jews their rights as a people. And Israel is an
accomplished fact: let it stand. But now that I know in detail the
story of this modern Jewish state, I'm very disheartened by the way
the Israelis have accomplished their purpose.
change in thinking was the result of a dinner party conversation in
1983 with an elderly Palestinian immigrant who attended the same
church I did. Aziz, a fun to be with roly poly Orthodox Christian,
now departed this life, remarked he had once met Yasser Arafat and
thought of him as a great leader. He even showed me a picture of
himself and Arafat together. I was horrified.
he is such an evil terrorist," said I.
more so than Menachem Begin," replied Aziz.
I cried. "But he is such a spiritual man. I remember how
when he met with President Carter at Camp David he prayed in Hebrew
on television. I was very moved by that. How can you call that
beautiful old man a terrorist?" I asked, while thinking to
myself, these Arabs sure are fanatics.
a matter of history, " he replied. "Go to the library and
look it up.”
Looking It Up
started with the encyclopedias, first the Encyclopedia
Britannica. Looking up "Begin, Menachem, " I learned
that Menachem Begin "joined the militant Irgun Zvai Leumi, and
was a commander of that group from 1943 to 1948. "
(Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 2, page 47.)
exactly was the Irgun Zvai Leumi? So I looked that up. The Irgun was
"an extreme nationalist group ... whose policies called for the
use of force, if necessary, to establish a Jewish state on both
sides of the Jordan. Irgun committed acts of terrorism and
assassination against the British ... and it was also violently
anti-Arab. . . " (Encyclopedia Brittanica, Volume 6,
to Colliers Encyclopedia (Volume 3, page 782), "Another
such group was the Stern Group, or Stern Gang, headed by Yitzhak
Shamir. " In Volume 13, page 343, Colliers speaks of
"the terrorist groups, the Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern
In the Encyclopedia
Americana, contributor J. C. Hurewitz of Columbia University
tells us "the Irgunists claimed that their acts of terrorism
against the Arabs and British largely forced Britain's decision to
end its mandate in Palestine. " (Volume 15, page 438.) These
terrorist acts included the murder of the British representative,
Lord Moyne, in Cairo in November 1944 and the murder of Count Folke
Bernadotte, the UN-appointed mediator, on Sept. 17, 1948.
tells us, "Shamir was believed to have played a prominent
part in planning the murders of a British minister and a UN
diplomat." (Volume 24, page 665.)
disheartened by the way the Israelis have accomplished their
In the Britannica
Year Book for 1948, page 577, under the entry
"Palestine" I read, "Meanwhile the [Jewish] terrorist
attacks in Palestine continued, taking almost every conceivable
form. Attacks on airfields and radar stations, armories and military
posts, the wrecking of railway lines ... and bank holdups all bore
witness to organization on a larger, dangerous and ingenious scale,
and were by general admission made possible chiefly by the active or
passive support which the terrorists received from the great
majority of the Jewish population [in Palestine]."
to the Britannica (Volume 6, page 382), 1 learned that
"On July 22, 1946 the Irgun blew up a wing of the King David
Hotel in Jerusalem, killing 91 soldiers and civilians ... On April
9, 1947 [remember Menachem Begin was at the time leader of the Irgun],
a group of Irgun commandos raided the Arab village of Dayr Yasin
[also spelled Deir Yassin] killing all 254 of its inhabitants.
" That massacre occurred some 60 years after Wounded Knee,
about which we all know. But how many Americans know about the
massacre at Deir Yassin and its direct contribution to the conflict
in the Middle East today? How many Americans realize that "this
highly publicized act terrorized the Arab villagers, who began a
mass exodus from Palestine"? (Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume
22, page 143.)
minutes of study and I realized Aziz's remark that Begin was a
terrorist was hardly a symptom of Palestinian fanaticism. And not
only Begin, but Yitzhak Shamir, his friend and successor in the
Israeli government. I had to dig to get this information, but there
it was. Why hadn't I ever read about this in the papers? Heard it on
TV or the radio?
tail between my legs, the next Sunday after Liturgy I apologized to
Aziz for not believing him. He laughed and said Americans usually
react the way I did. Now he told me more, about how his family moved
to Ramallah (now in the occupied West Bank) in the l3th century
(!) from Syria. They owned a sizable piece of property upon
which they had established a lovely orange grove which the Israelis
confiscated shortly after moving into the area in 1967. He told me
how after the massacre at Deir Yassin and the consequent Palestinian
exodus, the Israelis simply took title to the real estate of the
fleeing Palestinians as "abandoned property. " When
Palestinians tried to return home, they found they had nothing left
to their names.
along with Bethlehem, Nazareth, and a number of other Palestinian
towns, have long been predominantly Christian. Aziz told me that
some 25 percent of the Palestinians are Christians, of whom half are
Orthodox. I have read that figure in several other places. But you
get the impression from the media that all Arabs are Muslims. Have
you ever seen a documentary or even a news story focusing on the
The Anguish of
me that the Zionist slogan "A people without a land for a land
without people," was sheer nonsense, for a very large
population of Palestinian Arabs had lived there for more than a
thousand years. Arab fury at Israel is based not on some sort of
wild hysteria: it is the anguish of people who have been
systematically and ruthlessly dispossessed from their homeland and
Zionist movement began sponsoring Jewish settlement in Palestine
early in this century. At first the Arabs and the Jews got along
well. But more and more Jews began to move in before World War 11,
and the idea spread among the Arabs that the Jews were planning to
take over Palestine completely for themselves. The rapid influx at
the end of World War 11 increased Palestinian Arab fears. To take
over completely was in fact precisely the plan, and still is. The
actions of Begin and Shamir, now recognized as great statesmen and,
unlike Arafat, welcome in the United States, have made that clear.
course the Palestinians were and are upset! You would be too! The
irony of all this is that the Zionists claim all of Palestine on the
grounds God gave it to them 3,000 years ago, but the majority of
Israeli Jews are "not religious." Probably most of them
are agnostics or even atheists. So it's as if they are saying,
"There is no God, but He gave us this land, and we intend to
take it all."
conflict it takes "two to tango," and there are of course
two sides to this issue Arabs have certainly committed their
atrocities, starting before World War II. The Arabs have made their
mistakes, and in several cases have failed to take responsibility.
Both sides have refused compromises, and at this date, compromise
they must, or we'll all be destroyed in a new holocaust. Also, I
hate "Jew bashing," and I'm at pains that this admittedly
forthright criticism of the state of Israel not be construed as
seems "Arab bashing" is quite okay in this country, and we
only faintly hear the Arab side of the story. It's okay to
caricature Arabs unkindly, but no one would dare so abuse the Jews.
We all remember how Leon Klinghoffer was thrown into the sea in his
wheelchair by Arab terrorists. But how many remember that Alex Odeh,
a spokesman for the Arab viewpoint, was also murdered that same week
by Jewish terrorists in Los Angeles! Alex also had loved ones; his
murder was as tragic as Klinghoffer's.
the intifada, the media created impression was that the Jews are
always the good guys, and the Arabs the bad guys. Media coverage of
the intifada, however, has brought home to Americans how brutal the
Israeli military very often can be. I sometimes wonder if it has
sunk into the brains and hearts of the American public that most of
the Palestinians killed by the Israeli troops have been teenage
boys. Two I have read about were shot in the head for writing
slogans on the wall! Can you imagine the outcry if American soldiers
were shooting down rock-throwing Black or Hispanic youthful
protesters or gunning down young boys writing antigovernment slogans
on a wall! Ironically, American Jews would be the first to protest,
and justly so!
no negative agenda for the Jews. I do indeed wish them well. But in
the name of integrity and decency, let's have more prominent Jewish
voices raised, confessing the Israeli part in the Middle East mess.
The whining of some columnists, "We're always innocent victims,
first it was Hitler, and now it's the Arabs" is being
consciously used to manipulate public policy, and that is
disgusting. The Jews were innocent in Nazi Germany. But the Israelis
are hardly innocent of great offenses.
some Jewish leaders setting themselves up for backlash, and I wish
they'd take heed. The perception is growing that powerful Jewish
interests wish to control our politicians' votes on, and media
coverage of, Israeli questions. I don't know if that's the truth:
but it would help dispel that perception if vocal and courageous
Jewish leaders would encourage both dissemination of media
information about Israel's dark side and public debate on Israeli
issues. We certainly know plenty about the Arab dark side!
told by Israel that its policy is none of our business, but we
American taxpayers are asked to foot Israeli bills. Israel now wants
more dollars, and I'll be very surprised if that gets debated in
public. What a subtle form of taxation without representation! Why
shouldn't we publicly debate this like any other multi-billion
world can only become filled with rage when virtually every person
in the street knows full well the US has tolerated Israel's
continued incursions into foreign territory and other violations of
international law, but has attacked Iraq, ostensibly for its
violations of international law. For the life of me I don't know how
any of the liberal Jews I knew in the days of the civil rights
struggle and the antiwar movement in the '60s and '70s can stomach
these double standards. Today some have become Jewish jingoists,
saying, "My Israel, right or wrong."
in the Gulf was certainly not simply a long-term result of the way
the Zionist movement has proceeded in the past 50 or 60 years. The
Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not the only serious issue
afflicting the Arabs. But only if you are blind to or ignorant of
history can you fail to recognize the destabilizing effect Israel's
policies have had on the Middle East. In response, demagogues like
Saddam Hussain will continue to emerge unless wrongs are redressed
and apologies offered.
believe that if the Zionists from the beginning had been willing to
share Palestine with the native Arabs, without wanting to take over
completely, there would have been no major strife. Contrary to
popular opinion, at several times in history the Jews and the
Muslims have gotten along very well. The Jews rose to great heights
in Islamic Spain. When, after the Reconquista, Isabella and
Ferdinand exiled the Jews, the Muslim sultan of Turkey sent ships to
bring them to his domain! A Sephardic rabbi in Atlanta once told me
the sultan wrote Isabella thanking her for sending him her crown
believe if Israel today will quit its ruthless expansionism and
begin to respect the God given civil rights of the Palestinians, the
strife will be reduced to the point where there is no physical
violence. I would like to see more American Jews who would like to
see Israel change its tactics speak up openly and loudly, because
their voices will be heard in Israel.
pray for peace in the Middle East, that justice and love will
prevail. Let us pray that the Palestinian-Israeli issue will become
a matter of open discussion in this country.
This article was first
published in Doxa (PO Box 16286, Santa Fe, NM 8 7506), a quarterly
review serving the Orthodox Church, edited by Mr. Mehan.
by courtesy & © 2001 WRMEA & Isaac Melton