edited by David Newman
Croom Helm Publishers
Gush Emunim has beeen a source of controversy in Israel ever since its founding; however, there is no disputing the fact that it is the most dynamic political movement that has been active in Israel during the past decade. While the formal history of the Gush is well rememberedits establishment in 1974, its protests and illicit settlement activities in the West Bank, its conflicts with Rabin's cabinet and its multifaceted relationship with Begin'sits complete political portrait remains largely unknown. This is perhaps the reason why many students of Israeli politics still consider Gush Emunim to be a great enigma. Even today, they do not fully understand how a small group of religious extremists, emerging in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, succeeded in settling the area of Judea and Samaria against the expressed wishes of the Israeli Cabinet. They have no explanation of how the leaders of Gush Emunim acquired tremendous-political power which made it possible for them to accomplish all their controversial goals. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the enigma of Gush Emunim and to identify the sources of its political effectiveness. Following a presentation of its politico-Messianic ideology, a socio-cultural analysis will be used to advance the main thesis of this article. Gush Emunim is only the tip of an iceberg of a broader religious subculture, which started its meteoric development in the 1950's. It is the support of this social and political subculture which made Gush Emunim so effective and irresistable.
Gush Emunim has always been characterised by its spiritual nature and by the commitment of its leaders to a unique world view. It is, however, suprising how little the Gush has published about itself and its views. Even careful research would reveal only a scant ideological harvest. Thus, in its crucial formative years, the Gush did not have its own ideological publication. In those years it associated itself with the journal Zot Ha'aretz ("This is the Land"), the organ of the Greater Israel Movement, but it did not do much, even in this framework. Since the late 1970's it began to publish Nekudah ("The Spot"), a small and basically informative magazine. Thus its other independent publications until today comprise only various settlement plans, mediocre information pamphlets, dry settlement reports and a small number of articles in the various publications of groups close to it.
A clue to the ideology of Gush Emunim is to be found in the fact that the majority of its leaders were all educated in the Merkaz Ha-Rav Talmudical Academy. The founder of this academy was the late Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohen Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of the Jews of Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) during the early twentieth century. Kook was an original religious and national thinker. Interviews with leaders of the Gush reveal the deep impact of Kook's ideas on their beliefs. The following ideological analysis is based on these interviews.1
According to Rabbi Kook, the Jewish people exists today in an era which has heralded the beginnings of the redemption process. This is attested to by the rise of modern Zionism, the political gains of the movement, the Balfour Declaration and the entire Zionist enterprise. Since the Zionist movement in most of its manifestations has been a secular phenomenon, such a concept requires a very broad view of the Jewish people. This view, in stark contrast to the traditional orthodox concept, does not make a fundamental distinction between religious Jews, who observe the Divine precepts, and secular Jews, who do not. But how could an orthodox Rabbi like Kook promote such an idea? The key to it may be found in his unique Kabbalistic Messianic approach, according to which much more is hidden from sight than is seen. The external manifestations we encounter in our world represent only the barest fragment of cosmic existence, and God has his own ways of bringing about redemption even if those who play a Messianic historic rolethe secular Jewsare not fully aware of it. Historically, Rabbi Kook was able to bridge serious differences between secular and orthodox in the pre-state period, a precedent that later helped Gush Emunim in its contact with secular elements.
Rabbi Kook's historical conceptions explains a great deal about Gush Emunim's understanding of the present state of affairs. According to this understanding, the Six Day War, in which the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) were conquered, was no chance turn of events. It was simply another stage in the longsometimes tortuous Messianic process that started with the birth of modern Zionism.2 This is the source of the tremendous confidence Gush Emunim has in its cause. It fits perfectly the grand design of redemption which other Israelis are unable to see. For them the struggle for Elon Moreh3 and their ultimate victory is not just the story of another settlement. It is a real link in the great chain that began at the first Zionist Congress in Basle at the end of the nineteenth century, continued with the Balfour Declaration, the struggle against the British White Paper, the establishment of the State of Israel and the Six Day War. This is also the reason why many Gush leaders display a paternalistic attitude towards the Peace Now Movement. According to the Gush, this latter group (who oppose the settlements in the West Bank) live only for the present, not for history, unaware of the full significance of the era of redemption which is currently being experienced.
The, second element in Gush Emunim's world view is also derived from the teachings of Rabbi Kook: the belief that the Jewish people and the Land of Israel in its entirety are one. According to this view, the complete Land of Israel is not limited to the post-1967 Israeli borders, but comprises the historic Land of Israel of the Covenant (Genesis, 15) and the promised borders. It obviously includes the occupied territories, and especially Judea and Samaria, the very heart of the historic Israeli nation. It is interesting to note that there is no powerful drive among the Gush Emunim people for expansion beyond Western Palestine. Adhering to the view that we are living in a period of Divine revelation, they are convinced that He who took care that the War of Independence of 1948 and the Six Day War of 1967 would occur, will, when the time comes, make sure that the process is continued. However, after the providential process has already taken place, one is not allowed, in Gush Emunim's view, to let weakness and faintheartedness dictate the needs of the present or relinquish what has already been achieved. It is a sacred duty to stand firm, to oppose pressures from the United States and other countries, to prevent the establishment of any Arab entity within the boundaries of the Land of Israel and to continue to assist the great process of redemption.
In the only comprehensive ideological document it ever produced, the Gush calls itself a "movement for the renewal of Zionist fulfillment".
Our aim is to bring about a large movement of reawakening among the Jewish people for the fulfillment of the Zionist vision in its full scope, with the recognition that the source of the vision is Jewish tradition and roots, and that its ultimate objective is the full redemption of the Jewish people and the entire world.4
Thus, although Gush Emunim was established to a large extent as a single issue movement to promote the extension of Israeli sovereignty to Judea and Samaria (and, if possible, to all the occupied territories), it never confined itself to that issue alone. It is apparent from all of its operations and activities that it sees itself as a movement of revival, whose task is to revitalise historic Zionism, which died out in Israel in the fifties and sixties. According to Gush Emunim's analysis, Israelis now live in a crisis born out of the fatigue that followed the partial implementation of Zionism after the establishment of the State of Israel. This crisis led to a weakening of the pioneering spirit, an unwillingness to continue to struggle against the pressures of the outside world especially against the Arabsto the establishment of a materialistic society and a setting of private ego over and against the national goal and mission. Gush Emunim took it upon itself to fight against these decadent tendencies.5 Since Zionism was different in the past, and was based on self-sacrifice and pioneering, this is not an original approach but a revival of what has already been developed by others. The tendency among Gush Emunim people is consequently to present themselves as the heirs to authentic Israeli Zionism, which actually built the yishuv (the pre-State Jewish society in Palestine), guided by ideas of settlement of the land, manual labour and personal example.
Their settlements are, in this respect, more than simply the colonising of Judea and Samaria. The settlements represent the utmost achievment, the purest Zionist activity in every sense of the term. The Gush people are not socialists but they have attachments to the kibbutz movement. A number of the most prominent leaders of the Gush are, or have been, associated with various religious kibbutzim.
As noted above, Gush Emunim was established in order to prevent a new partition of Eretz Yisrael. The question therefore remains concerning the attitude of the Gush to the Arab population of the West Bank and the other territories. strangely enough, it is hard to find explicit references to this question in the publications of the movement.6 Their position, as set out below, has been clarified through the interviews carried out for this study. It declares essentially that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews by Divine command. As an article of faith and an absolute postulate, this has definite and binding implications. The most important of these is that the universal principle of self-determinationeven if it may have relevance in other placesdoes not hold in the case of Eretz Yisrael. The Palestinian problem or the demand by the Palestinians for national self-determination is, therefore, meaningless. Palestinian nationalism must, if at all, be assessed as part of Arab nationalism in general, and its demand for self-determination throughout the whole of the Middle East. This Arab quest is, according to Gush Emunim, an immoral demand altogether. If the Jews, the Kurds, the Copts, the Maronites and other minorities who live in the Middle East do not deserve, according to Arab nationalism, national self-determination, why should the Arabs be recognised and respected?
For Gush Emunim, the Palestinian question is thus not a problem of a nation, but of individuals, and more precisely one of gerim (non-Jewish residents of Eretz Yisrael) who, according to the Torah are to be treated by the people of Israel with tolerance and respect, but not more. The practical implication of this position is that the Arabs, who either live within the pre-1967 boundaries or in the West Bank, should be presented with three alternatives: to acknowledge publicly the legitimacy of the Zionist doctrine (the Gush Emunim version of it), and to receive full civil rights, including the right to elect and to be elected to the Israeli Knesset (and serve in the army); to obey the laws of the State without formal recognition of Zionism and in return be granted full rights of resident aliens (but not political rights); to be offered economic incentives to emigrate to Arab countries.
The demographic problem, that fear of the numerical strengthening of the Arab population in relation to the Jewish population as a result of annexation of the densely populated West Bank, does not disturb Gush Emunim. They think that under the Jewish political hegemony Arabs could live peacefully with a very low level of national friction, exchanging economic advance for national political realisation.
Just as official Gush Emunim ideology contains no explicit reference to the Arab question, it also says very little about its relation to the Israeli political system. Here too, one must rely heavily on personal interviews with Gush Emunim leadership. The result may come as a surprise: although Gush Emunim views itself as a movement committed to the norms of Torah and Talmud, it has great respect for the secular institutional expressions of Israeli sovereignty the government, the Knesset and the army.
Many of the Gush Emunim people, together with young members of the National Religious Party (NRP) were active in launching the yeshivot hesder scheme (religious academies combining religious study and military service). They played a major role in changing the orientation of the NRP towards the institutions of government in Israel. Whereas over the years the institutions of sovereignty had been basically considered instrumentalone of live and let liveGush Emunim has begun to view them as an end in itself. The Gush insists that these institutions, which are of great national importance, be infused with truly Zionist contentpioneering, self-sacrifice and Messianic purpose.
Our empirical findings do not support the widespread image of Gush Emunim as an anti-democratic political movement. In principle, Gush Emunim accepts the Israeli democratic process as it was shaped over the years.7 The problem that emerges is that Gush Emunim has its own specific interpretation of the conduct of Israel's democratic regime with respect to the one issue that truly concerns the movement, namely Eretz Yisrael. According to its interpretation, the only legitimising principle in whose name the State of Israel, its democratic regime and its legal system, were established is Zionist settlement in all parts of Eretz Yisrael. In this view, democracy is a reasonable regime, provided it exists within a truly Zionist system. Should the two collide, Zionism takes precedence. If the majority, as represented by the Knesset of Israel, rules against them, then it must be a momentary political majority, manipulative and misleading.8 It must be consequently fought against at all costs. It is the right and the duty of every Jew in Eretz Yisrael to struggle against any tendency to compromise on the issue of settlement in Judea and Samaria, even if it is proposed by the majority. When Gush Emunim people are asked how it happens that they are prepared to act against the government's orders and guidelines, they reply that the existing government coalition and its legal framework do not represent the true spirit of the State. Government actions that prevent settlement may be legal but they are illegitimate. A government that prevents settlement undercuts its own legitimacy and places itself in the same position as the British Mandatory government, which undermined its legitimacy by enacting the policy of the infamous White Paper of 1939. During the period of the White Paper, illegal acts of settlement by secular Zionists were altogether legitimate; the same applies today, and that does not imply a general anti-democratic orientation.9
The above spiritual analysis is necessary for the portrayal of the political profile of Gush Emunim and the explanation of its effectiveness. Thus if we relate its Messianic ideology to its extremist and illicit activity in the 1970's, it is obvious that the Gush is first and foremost an extra-parliamentary movement.
The Yom Kippur War of October 1973 was a major factor contributing towards the shattering of the authority of Israeli parliamentary politics, and especially of the central government. The post Yom Kippur War protest movements opened an era of intensive extra-parliamentary politics and paved the way for the crystallisation of a new political style. Many of the obstacles to extra-parliamentary activity that had existed up until the war were pushed aside. The question concerning Gush Emunim is not whether it is an extra-parliamentary movement or not, but rather what type of extremist movement is it? This is problematic since the familiar models explaining Israeli political extremism do not apply to the Gush.10
Thus Gush Emunim cannot be described or presented as a classical protest movement.11 Such a description, which hinges the definition of "extremist movement" on the element of protest, explains the Israeli Black Panther Movement, which arose out of protest against social discrimination of marginal youth and of the disadvantaged. It fits well the protest movements which arose spontaneously after the Yom Kippur War against Moshe Dayan and Golda Meir, and it also applies to the Peace Now Movement. There is indeed some element of protest in Gush Emunimprotest against the non-settlement of Judea and Samaria and against the possibility of territorial concessionbut there are so many other elements in their make-up that the protest factor became marginal. Their transformation in the late 1970's into an officially recognised settlement movement is indicative of this.
Nor can the rise of Gush Emunim be understood by conceiving of it as a small ideological group (or groupschule).12 This type of explanation is suited to small leftist groups, such as Matzpen and Siah (the New Israeli Left) that were active on campuses after the Six Day War, and is especially applicable to student political extremism. Gush Emunim, despite the orthodoxy of its members, also cannot be described as a political counter-culture. The Gush, unlike Neturei Karta (the ultra-orthodox who do not recognise the validity of a secular Zionist State) never created a total counter-culture13 in Israel, since it never questioned the legitimacy of the State and Zionist culture at large.
How, then, can Gush Emunim be understood politically? How can we explain the fact that an extremist group, which did not run for the Knesset and refused to institutionalise itself within a respectable political party, the National Religious Party, has managed for the last ten years to cast its shadow over the government of Israel and to get it to do things to which the latter were initially opposed? How can we account for the remarkable political effectiveness of Gush Emunim, and its impact on the Israeli mind?
The explanation offered here is that the only analytical model suitable for explaining this phenomenon is the iceberg model of political extremism. This views its subject as a political iceberg. The tip of the iceberg is the extremist movement, which in this case is Gush Emunim. The base (like that part of the iceberg which is submerged) is a complete social and cultural system broadening towards the (non-extreme) base. It functions in daily life in an altogether normal way. The extremist group is not detached from this base, and when necessary can make use of all of its vast resources. One result of this structure is that the extremist group is limitedmuch more than it at time appearsby the large pyramidical base that is below the waters' surface. When warm weather raises the water temperature, the iceberg melts somewhat and then the tipthe extremist grouploses much of its acuity. That is what happened to Gush Emunim from the beginning of the Likud Government up until the Camp David Accords some two years later. It entered the warm season. It was promised many more Elon Moreh's, and its people came to feel at home in the corridors of power. As a result, its extremism was mooted. It stressed inside work rather than extra-parliamentary action. This role was not played calmly, but in a state of agitation in light of the non-application of Israeli sovereignty to Judea and Samaria. Still, the situation was not one that warranted illegal settlements, demonstrations and protests. On the other hand, the iceberg entered a very frosty period immediately after the signing of the Camp David Accords. All of a sudden, the warm streams were diverted. Everything around froze and the sharpness of Gush Emunim became apparent, to the point of a terrible isolation.
What long-term empirical observation has revealed over the years is that Gush Emunim is not, as many tend to think, a fanatical group made up of a small number of people who, after the Yom Kippur War, were smitten by a Messianic vision and parachuted out of the blue into a stunned Israeli society. Gush Emunim is the tip of a serious cultural and social iceberg which grew quietly over many years until circumstances shaped its extremist tip. For one who seeks to explain the tremendous political vitality of Gush Emunim, a formal analysis of the history and ideology of the exposed portion is not sufficient. One must proceed down towards the vast bulk of the iceberg that is hidden from view beneath the water's surface.
We have already noted that the leadership of Gush Emunim emerged almost exclusively from the Merkaz HaRav Talmudical Academy and was influenced by the teachings of Rabbi Kook, as interpreted by his son, Rabbi Zvi Yehudah Kook. No less important is the fact that most of the leaders of Gush Emunim came to Merkaz HaRav from the world of the so-called "knitted skullcaps," of the Bnei Akiva youth movement, the Hapoel HaMizrachi political party, all adherents of the religious Zionist notion of Torah VeAvodah (Torah and Labour together, each complementing the other). It is important to note the spiritual underpinnings of these roots because the process under consideration pertains not only to Gush Emunim, but also to one of the central transformations that have taken place in Israeli society, and which has not yet been adequately studied. Although there was no outright "kulturkampf" in the fifties and sixties, there was nevertheless a a powerplay in which the victors were the religious educational system and the sub-culture of the religious Zionist groups mentioned above.14 In contrast to the other sectors of the Zionist educational system, which in the course of being nationalised lost their normative character and underwent an astonishing dilution, the religious Zionists developed an educational system which created norms of life and behaviour of the highest order for a quarter of the school population. Thus, the religious Zionist public was spared the general decline that beset the country's secular educational system, and indeed may even have been consolidated by it. Around that educational system, totalistic life patterns were created for an entire public, which reinforced its life not only at home and in the synagogue, but also (for its children) in the neighbourhood kindergarten, in the ulpanah (religious academy for girls) or yeshiva (religious academy for men).
Within this slow but massive cultural process of educational transformation, emerged the unique revival of the Merkaz HaRav Institute. After the death of its founder in the 1930's, it fell into decline until the end of the 1950's, when a new generation of students revitalised the old school. This new generation listened eagerly to the interpretations of the son of Rabbi Kook of the teachings of his father, and infused it with nationalistic meaning. When the war of June 1967 broke out, these youngsters were ripe and ready to formulate a new religious Zionist ideology, but not, however, before witnessing a unique, almost miraculous, event.
On the eve of Independence Day, 1967, a group of graduates of the yeshiva met at Merkaz HaRav for an alumni get together. As was his custom, the erstwhile Rabbi Zvi Yehudah Kook delivered a festive sermon, in the midst of which his quiet tone suddenly rose to crescendo, bewailing the partition of historic Eretz Yisrael. His faithful students were led to believe that this situation was intolerable and could not last for long. When three weeks later, in June 1967, they discovered themselves to be citizens of an enlarged State of Israel, the graduates of Merkaz HaRav were convinced that a genuine spirit of prophecy had come over their Rabbi on Independence Day.
They, his faithful students, became holy emissaries equipped with unshakeable confidence in the rightness of their mission and in the Divine backing for their activity. At one stroke a flame was lit and the conditions were ripe for imparting to the entire subculture of the "knitted skullcaps"the submerged part of the icebergthe new political ideology of a greater Eretz Yisrael. Today it is clear that from being a social and spiritual subculture, most of the "knitted skullcap" community has become a public with a political consciousness. According to the new ideology, the historic Land of Israel must now pass into the hands of the Jewish people, not only by military actions, but also by settlement and political activitythat is, by imposing Israeli sovereignty.
Not all the religious public was swept by this new spirit. The Religious Kibbutz movement and its most prominent leaders have retained deep reservations about this revolution in thought. So too has the Oz VeShalom (Strength and Peace) movement of religious intellectuals, and more recently the Netivot Shalom (Paths of Peace) group who came together in the wake of the Lebanon War of 1982. But it is clear today that between 1967-73 most "knitted skullcaps" went through a process of Eretz Yisraelisation. This ideological maximalisation was affected not only by people from Merkaz HaRav. A sizeable role was also played by the "Young Guard" of the NRP as well, of course, as the Greater Israel Movement.
The iceberg model is useful in its ability to provide an answer to our central question concerning Gush effectiveness. This can be broken down into four sub-questions: How did Gush Emunim manage to get so many participants for demonstrations and its extra-parliamentary activities? How did Gush Emunim manage, and how does it continue, to recruit members for its settlement core groups? How did it manage to mobilize the considerable material resources required for its settlement effort? And finally, how did Gush Emunim manage to acquire so much political influence in the government, the Knesset and other executive bodies?
The link with the educational institutions of the "knitted skullcap" culture and with other organisational networks affiliated with it also explains the question of the funding of Gush Emunim's large scale operations. Many of its opponents have raised the question, very suspectly, about how a small and fanatical group could manage to raise the considerable funds needed for its activities. The question was especially relevant with regard to the repeated settlement attempts at Elon Moreh, when Gush Emunim acted in clear contravention of the government's decisions and managed to outwit whole army units as well as the military government. Gush people succeeded in getting through large convoys of equipment and supplies without official assistance. When it is realised that the Gush is not merely a fringe group, but that underlying it there exists a vast and legal infrastructure which commands sizeable resources, this no longer remains problematic. It is clear, for example, that most of the organised transport and equipment for the early operations were contributed by the official institutions such as yeshivot, youth centres and settlements. They credited all of these expenses to their official budgets, without having to provide an accounting to anyone, or having to distinguish between their expenses for legal and illegal activities. Since Gush Emunim was later recognised by the World Zionist Organisation as a settlement movement, considerable funds began to stream to their settlements through this channel. These settlements were naturally not intended to finance illegal or anti-government activities, but when illegal operations did take place, nobody was in a position to distinguish them from legal ones.
Today, nobody in Israel can prevent the large iceberg and its legal organisational and financial instrumentson both sides of the Green Linefrom acting on behalf of Gush Emunim if and when its leaders decide on some illegal operation. Almost all of the leaders and activists of Gush Emunim enjoy the legal status of settlers. The settlements in Judea and Samaria are consolidated into recognised administrative frameworks, on the one hand Amanah (the settlement movement of Gush Emunim), and on the other the Council of Settlements in Judea and Samaria. These are financed in one way or another by a long list of government agencies, and there is no chance that the state comptroller or any internal auditing body will require the settlements to distinguish between legal and illegal activities.
The next question concens the manpower for the new settlements. Here it is not a matter of a large number of people for demonstrations, lasting a few days, but the development of a deep commitment on behalf of groups, families and unattached individuals, for the decisive act of settlement, or in the classical Zionist language of "self-fulfillment." Here Gush Emunim developedor more precisely continuedthe traditional Zionist course. After a few individuals, whose identification with the world view of Gush Emunim is total, formed a core group for settlement, they embarked on a campaign of persuasion. Using personal ties, inside information about potentially interested people, networks of social acquaintance, they succeeded in recruiting people for their settlement groups.
The iceberg model proves most apt in answering the fourth question raised above: namely, how did the Gush succeed in getting the government to decide in its favour, even at times when the heads of government were infuriated with Gush activities and intransigence? This can be explained by the fact that not only was the "knitted skullcap" subculture the social and cultural base of Gush Emunim, but it was also an integral part of the social and political base of the NRP, which has been a senior partner in every coalition government to date. The powerful impact of Gush Emunim on the infrastructure of the NRP is what accounted for its ability to influence the government. Nobody understood this better than the heads of Gush Emunim themselves, and this is the only explanation for the "Kaddum compromise" in 1975/76, when the Labour government allowed the Gush squatters to maintain their first foothold in Samaria. This is also the logic that allowed the members of the Elon Moreh settlement to wear down the nerves of the Likud government during their long passage to Mount Kabir, near Nablus. The option of using sheer physical force against Gush Emunim was, practically speaking, never available to the Prime Minister. Any exercise of that option would have resulted in a major government crisis. No extremist movement in Israel's history has ever had such leverage with respect to the government, and that is why no such movement has ever even approached the achievments of Gush Emunim. Paradoxically, this also explains why there is little chance that Gush Emunim will become an adventuristic movement.
In attempting to evaluate what path Gush Emunim will take in the future, we are struck by one outstanding fact. From whichever angle viewed, the growth of this movement has been a success story. Its leadership, after ten years of existence, has achieved much of what it set out to do. It appears that the deep religious commitment of these people would have driven them to the settlement of Judea and Samaria at any cost. Success, however, is a great catalyst for boosting self-confidence. Consequently, there is little chance of Gush Emunim disappearing from the map of public activity in the coming years. The Gush is not merely a movement deeply rooted in present day Israeli political culture, but it has also created a new reality for thousands of people who now live in Judea and Samaria, ready to protect it at virtually any price. For tactical reasons they may not affiliate themselves with the extremist Gush Emunim, but rather claim to be ordinary members of the legitimate settlements in the West Bank. Intellectually, spiritually and ideologically, however, they remain Gush people.
Gush Emunim will thus inevitably play a role in any future process of war and peace, and remain a dynamic permanent focus around which the maximalist territorial camp in Israel will crystallise. At present, there are no indications that the Gush is likely to take a very adventurist path that would cut it off from the broad stratum of its supporters. There is, in fact, no need for such a course as long as a Likud government contnues to have such Cabinet ministers as Professor Yuval Ne'eman of the ultra-nationalist Techiyah party. Professor Ne'eman is a staunch supporter of the Gush and their activities. Nevertheless, the Gush will continue to offer spiritual inspiration to its supporters and to provide a focus for political action when necessary, despite the setback suffered by its association with the Jewish terrorist activity discovered in 1984. A precedent for such political activity was seen in the evacuation of the Yamit region in Northern Sinai. Although Gush Emunim failed in its attempt to prevent the final Israeli retreat from this region, it was, from its point of view, a glorious failure. Only after a tremendous political and military (though mostly non-violent) struggle, did Israel's Minister of Defence, Ariel Sharon, succeed in pulling the intransigent members of Gush Emunim, and their supporters, out of Yamit. The evacuation was not completed before it was made clear to Israelis and foreigners alike that no future renouncement of Eretz Yisrael would ever take place without total resistance and possible bloody fights.
Both supporters and detractors of Gush Emunim are aware that it has become a fact of Israeli life and that it is there to stay. If this implies that political life will heneceforward contain a permanent extra-parliamentary element, then this seems to be the case. Gush Emunim has undoubtedly altered the rules of the game in Israeli politics, and today it is included amongst the players. It would appear, therefore, that pre-Gush politics belongs to the past, never to return. Though extra-parliamentary action was not introduced into Israeli politics by Gush Emunim, the Gush has greatly increased its role there and is likely to hold its place for the foreseeable future.
On Friday April 27, 1984, Kol Yisrael, the Israeli radio service, broadcast a shock news report. A sabotage act of great magnitude, aimed at the blowing up of six Arab buses, full of passengers, had just been exposed and prevented. During the following week, more than twenty men, suspected of forming a major terrorist network, were arrested. To the great surprise of many people, most of the arrested were soon identified as hard core members of the Gush Emunim settlements. In the following weeks, it was further disclosed that the suspects accepted responsibility for the two most spectacular, anti-Arab, terrorist actions to have taken place in the West Bank the assasination attempts on the Mayors of Nablus, Ramallah, and El Bira on the 3rd June, 1980, and the murderous attack on the Islamic College in Hebron on the 26th July, 1983. A score of smaller acts of similar nature have also been attributed to the suspects in addition to a suspected project aimed at blowing up the Moslem mosques on the Temple Mount. This was followed by the arrest, and interrogation, of Rabbi Levinger, the founder of Jewish settlement in Hebron, and a long investigation of Rabbi Waldman of Kiryat Arba.15 It was now clear that a small, but significant number of hard core Gush Emunim members, did either participate in the terrorist activities, supported it indirectly or lent it at least a spiritual legitimacy. Many students and observers of Gush Emunim, including this writer, were forced to make a reevaluation of the Gush in the light of the violent turn of events. [web editor's noteplease see the author's Fundamentalism, Terrorism, and Democracy: The Case of the Gush Emunim Underground 1986.]
A close analysis points to a sociological and behavioural explanation, rather than an ideological one. Unlike Meir Kahane,16 the spiritual leader of Kach (The Israeli version of the Jewish Defence league), who developed an aggressive and racist ideology towards the local Arab population, including the idea of T.N.T. (Jewish terrorism against Arab terrorism), the leaders of Gush Emunim had never spoken this language. Neither had the Gush adopted a military posture or referred to violent means as a solution to the Palestinian problem. The cases in question seem to have evolved out of a response to Arab hostility to the West Bank settlers. Since 1976, Gush Emunim settlers resorted to occasional vigilante violence and punitive actions. In Hebron, as well as in other densely populated Arab areas, the aggressive settlement process has provoked great Arab hostility, including acts of stone throwing and other major terrorist incidents. To the great dismay of the settlers, who considered themselves the legitimate masters of the land, ten Jews, in the last four years, have lost their lives and others were wounded.
Had the Gush Emunim people developed a guilt feeling about the moral and psychological damage that their settlements have inflicted upon the local population, we might not have witnessed their radicalised attitude vis a vis their new neighbours and the resulting terrorism. But this never happened. Gush Emunim, as shown earlier, does not have the slightest doubt regarding the exclusive Jewish right to Judea and Samaria. It has no universalistic message of equal rights to all and it expects the Arabs to behave accordingly. The local Palestinians who dare to oppose the Israelisation of Judea and Samaria, are consequently held as criminals and terrorists of the first degree. It is, of course, the job of the government to maintain security in the West Bank, but if it fails to do so either because of mere negligence or because of international pressure, then, the settlers argue, they have a full right to defend themselves and to police the area.
In retrospect, we can now see that for years there has been no serious and open discussion of the vigilanteism of Gush Emunim. It was convenient for most of the parties concerned, including government ministers and officials, to ignore the ugly side of the settlement process, and to focus attention only on Arab violence and terrorism. This silence encouraged key people amongst the settlers to prepare for more violent counter actions. They stockpiled guns, ammunition and explosives and resorted to a number of operations. Since they never questioned the legitimacy of the Likud government, they did not consider themselves a declared underground, and rather than the term terrorists, they saw themselves as the "true" defenders of the settlements. Seen from the above perspective, however, there is no question that in their deeds they have gone far beyond the original "Emunist" ideology; they have made it all the way from "Emunism" to "Kahanism."
1. The interviews on which this research was based were with the following leading Gush Enunim personalities: Yoel Ben-Nun 4/29/76; 5/7/76; 7/21/76; 2/26/78; 4/14/80: Rabbi Eliezer Waldman 4/6/78: Yoram Adler 6/7/79: Gershon Shafat 7/1/79: Rabbi Yochanan Fried 3/21/80: Rabbi Moshe Levinger 4/27/80: Benny Katzover 5/1/80.
2. Gush Emunim: Movement for the Renewed Fulfillment of the Zionist Ideal: The Movement Programme, (Jerusalen, n.d, Hebrew), part 1, p. 3.
3. Elon Moreh: Renewal of Jewish Settlement in Samaria, (Jerusalem, n.d, Hebrew).
4. Gush Emunim Programme, p. 1.
5. Ibid, p. 3.
6. In the manifesto of six pages with many sub-paragraphs, only one sub-section of two sentences is devoted to this issue.
7. See Y. Fried, "The Struggle Over Hitnachalut of Gush Enunim," in Ben-Ami, A. (ed.), The Greater Israel Book, (Jerusalem: Movement for a Greater Israel, 1977, Hebrew), p.137.
8. For a long time, the leaders of Gush Emunim claimed that the majority of the Israeli public and members of the Knesset supported their settlenent policy, and just a minority of labour "doves" were preventing its implementation. This argument was no longer used following the Knesset endorsement of the Camp David Accords.
9. See, Y. Ben-Nun, "What Stands Above the Law?", Gush Emunim Journal, No 1, (1978, Hebrew), p. 38.
10. Ehud Sprinzak, "The Danger of Appealing Against Parliamentary Politics," Davar (10/20/78), (Daily Hebrew newspaper).
11. For a summary of protest rovenent literature, see J.H. Skolnick, The Politics of Protest, (New York: Ballentine Books, 1969).
12. This concept appearred in France in the second half of the 1960'scoined by the Communist party to describe a group of students who had left them. See, Ehud Sprinzak, "France: The Radicalisa tion of the New Left," in M. Kelinsky & W. E. Paterson, (eds.), Social and Political Movements in Western Europe. (Lonndon: Croom Helm, 1976).
13. See, T. Roszak, The Making of a Counter Culture, (New York: Doubleday, 1969).
14. M. Samet, The Conflict of the Institutionalization of Jewish Values in the State of Israel. (Jerusalen: Religion and state in Israel: Papers in Sociology. Hebrew University of Jerusalen, Department of Sociology, 1979, Hebrew), chapter 7, pp. 86-92.
16. Meir Kahane was elected to the Israeli Knesset as a one man faction for his Kach party in the elections of July 1984. He initially announced that he would only join a coalition government of the right if the suspected terrorists would be immediately released. Kahane's election brought about widespread denounciation of him and his activities from both the left and right of the Israeli political spectrum. [Please see "Kach and Meir Kahane: The Emergence of Jewish Quasi-Fascism" by Ehud Sprinzak for further information on Kahane by this authorweb editor]
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