Soldier says rabbis pushed “religious war” in Gaza

March 20, 2009

gazaOur Jerusalem bureau has sent a very interesting report about criticism within the Israeli army of the Gaza offensive in January. What caught my eye was that it brings up the issue of a religious war, a term usually used in relation to Muslims.

(Photo: Israeli air strike near Gaza-Egypt border in southern Gaza Strip, 26 Feb 2009/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

The story starts off as follows:

Rabbis in the Israeli army told battlefield troops in January’s Gaza offensive that they were fighting a “religious war” against gentiles, according to one army commander’s account published on Friday.

“Their message was very clear: we are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the gentiles who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land,” he said.

The account by Ram, a pseudonym to shield the soldier’s identity, was published by the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper on the second day of revelations about the Gaza offensive that have rocked the Israeli military. ( “Shooting and Crying, 2009″)…

The officer felt there was a “huge gap between what the Education Corps sent out and what the IDF rabbinate sent out”.

The corps distributed pamphlets about the history of Israel’s fighting in Gaza from 1948 to the present, he said.  But the rabbinate’s message imparted to many soldiers the sense that “this operation was a religious war”.

Read the whole article here.

It’s hard to know when to use terms like “religious war” for violence such as what we’ve seen in the Middle East, Northern Ireland or Afghanistan. The opposing sides in these conflicts have different religious labels, so there is — at least superficially — a religious angle there. But there is also an underlying political struggle which often plays a far bigger role than those labels. Northern Ireland, for example, is not about religion but has often been presented mostly as a struggle between Catholics and Protestants. By contrast, the unrest in Sri Lanka pits secessionist Tamils (Hindus) against majority Sinhalese (Buddhists), but nobody calls that a religious war. Some seem to evolve — the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has taken on more religious overtones over time while the Taliban are now seen more as insurgents than the Koran students their name signals.

What do you think? When is a conflict a religious war and when is it more a political struggle going on behind those labels? Or is it impossible to disentangle the two?

Here is our video report on the story and the script (including translations).


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All the same, induced by rabbi or educated by somethingelse, innocent lives are fodder feed for the IDF. What jews still propagate about WWar II holocaust of few years in 1940, is exactly what they do to these poor palastinians in these 60+ years. They kill and cry. They enjoy the fruits but call themselves victims. May be this is what happened thro the history. It may not be God’s miracle, since it seems to be History’s tragedy. Because no God would wish this.

Posted by Moh | Report as abusive

can any one agree that some one would not make a statement like this in these circumstances,if i was involved and my son was a soldier in this conflict,how else could you explain it.the jews have their backs against the wall,every battle could be their last,it is fortunate that their state was formed in 1947 can you imagine the same happening today?with middle east oil in the frame.gods timing is perfect, there was a corridor in time and it was used.sadly some of us think that the holocaust was the price that had to be payed,would there have been the same compliance from america and england to assist if this had not happened?even so they still has to sacrifice to get established.whether you agree or not, but if by chance you consider israel,s existence only temporary and ultimately they will be destroyed then so does the christian faith,even though now it considered permissible to select only certain sections of text,with out israel no bible.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

[…] FaithWorld, meanwhile, points to disturbing allegations of a "religious war" mentality among some IDF units. […]

Posted by What happened in Gaza? | Newpapers Collected | Report as abusive

If there is a God that intervenes in the affairs of man why did the twentieth century unfold as mankinds bloodiest and most destructive assault on ourselves and the planet? Has God abandoned humanity? Should that century be considered a warning of our imminent self destruction? Surely no one truly believes that innocent children from Jewish ghettos in the 40s or the towns of Gaza today did anything to bring any wrath of God executed by some worldly military power. Or has man made God in his own image? When we say ” The children shall pay for the sins of the father” we are really talking about the wrath of man. It is time for humans to grow up and stop using any deity as an excuse for our violent and genocidal behavior towards one another. If there is God of the Cosmos, then we were granted the gift of reason. Let us all use it, or go the way of the dinosaur.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

Respectfully you are incorrect Brian Lee. The Old Testament is a retelling of older Sumerian and Babylonian epics. Probably digested by Hebrews during the Babylonian and Persian exiles. Most religious and secular Bible scholars today reject the notion that Moses wrote the Old Testament. They conclude the Old testament had four different writers based on ancient manuscript analysis. Has nothing changed since Cain and Able? And if not what business do any of us have with the power to destroy worlds?

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

the arab-israeli conflict has been religious from day one – islam vs secular zionism (every bit a religion) and now militant islam vs zionistic orthodox judaism. given the outcome of religious wars, one can never expect any peaceful outcome – least of all, for nonmuslims and nonjews, and even non-zionistic jews, disliked by all warring factions

Posted by jd | Report as abusive

The article in Haaretz was written from an anti-religious point of view. For instance, Danny Zamir was sentenced to prison in 1990 for refusing to guard a ceremony involving religious Jews visiting the West Bank city of Nablus. These are not unbiased “witnesses”.

As a matter of fact, none of them *are* witnesses, but making up facts to serve their own agenda. See the article at  /leftists-blaming-religious-soldiers-fo r.html

Posted by Izzy | Report as abusive

with all the recent reports coming out about crimes commited by israel, mainly coming from jewish sources. it is foolish to say this is a religious conflict. it was jewish israeli soldiers who have come out and revealed the crimes commited by the IDF. a more recent report released by the UN which found israel had commited war crimes was reported by david falk who is jewish. you see, the only people who make this into a religious conflict are the zionist extremist who are a disgrace to judaisim and the extremist islamist who are a disgrace to islam. they use god, the torah, the quran and other religious teachinngs to try and justify the killings of innocent people on both sides. however, the world will not take this any longer, the voices of peaceful jews from israel and around the world are slowly coming out. the voices of moderate muslims from palestine and around the world are coming out condeming violence as the method to resolve conflicts. the days os murderes like osama bin laden, ariel sharon, george w. bush, robert mugahbe, omar bashir and others are numbered. humanity and gods believers of all faith will soon prevail.

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive

All wars are about the control of territory. The people, products and taxation of the territory. Of course, if I can justify myself by claiming I am doing God’s work, the Nation’s work, spreading democracy, protecting innocent women and children, I feel good and I might fool you too. Then, I might also tell you the other side are Godless terrorists, rapist, child killers and etc.. Hypocrisy and deceit – it is about the controlling the land and its product.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive


Posted by isiah obriant | Report as abusive

The battle is Religious, in the Bible – Ezekiel 11:17 Therefore say: this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will gather you from the Nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the Land of Israel again. – This was written Thousands of years before the prophecy came true in 1947. This land is Thriving as never before because the people that Belong there are Home. It was nothing but Desert when it was given to the Israeli’s. Think about this.. What if England decided they wanted part of America, then started bombing us, killing civilians, destroying Hospitals and Businesses. Then the rest of the world told us we couldn’t fight back & then sent help to England. What if we fought back & injured their solders..then the World got mad at us for trying to protect ourselves and then they called us Murders? What if the whole world hated the US and told us we had to give up Washington or California or Half of the Country to England. What if the rest of the World threatened us that they would not stand with us in a war – but also join the battle if we didn’t give England the land they wanted? Think about this…that is Exactly what the World is doing to Israel. This is their land, they won the 6 Day War- with the help of GOD & his Angels! Anyone that goes against Israel- goes against GOD. If our President forces Israel to give up any more land, America will be subject to the Wrath of GOD …Our President needs to read his Bible- if he has one.

Posted by Cherie | Report as abusive