Messianic Judaism, the Terrorist Settlers

Rabbi Moshe Levinger in 1968. (Agencies, file)

By Hasan Afif El-Hasan

Arrogant militant fanatic Israelis embracing rapacious Messianic Judaism have been used by the Israeli government as the ideological advanced troops for colonial invasion in occupied Palestine. Their members follow the tradition of the secular Jewish pioneering Labor movement that had established the Kibbutz and the militias of the early settlers in Palestine under the British Mandate, created the State of Israel and cleansed it from its indigenous population. The Messianic Jews are trying to move religious Zionism from the fringes of the Zionist narrative to its center.

After the 1967 war, a Zionist native culture of extreme nationalism among the Israelis and within the governing elites has taken roots. Instead of exploring the prospects for peace with the Palestinians or their Arab supporters, they decided to create facts on the ground, to draw a new map for Israel. They expressed themselves in opposing the return of the occupied lands, “the biblical homeland” as the Israeli settlers call it, to its Palestinian population. Settling the occupied lands has been embraced by the Zionist elites, the religious and the secular, from day one.

Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres, Yisrael Galili, Yigal Allon, and the National Religious Party (NRP) activists were outbidding each other in their plans for taking over conquered Palestinian’ territories. Dayan came to favor Jewish settlements throughout the occupied areas. In 1969, he proposed the building of four Jewish cities along the mountain ridge that stretches the whole length of the West Bank. Yisrael Galili published a statement on proposed policy in the occupied territories known eventually as the “Galili Document.” It called for reinforcing existing Jewish settlements, and for building new ones, and for giving incentives to Israeli industrialists to build factories in the occupied territories. Under the Allon plan, the government encouraged Jewish settlements in the essentially unpopulated Jordan Valley, to form a defensive line of settlements between Israel and Jordan.

Zionist nationalism spawned Gush Emunim (Block of the faithful), a militant neo-messianic Judaism settlement movement, created by Rabbi Moshe Levinger. For Gush Emunim, the Palestinian Arab presence in the West Bank, that predates modern Zionism by several centuries, was “foreign rule.” It called for colonizing all the Palestinian territory that was conquered in the 1967 war; and in the process, intimidates the Palestinians into submission, and liquidate, detain and cleanse those who resist. Their tribal psychology and bizarre ideology made them not to see the Palestinians around them as humans with civil rights. The movement saw it as their religious duty as Jews to settle the Palestinians’ land and never give it up. Rabbi Levinger supported his fascist colonial views with a twisted theology where his god encouraged him and his followers to steal the Palestinians’ properties while the Hebrew Biblical story-tellers claim that the same god told them personally “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”

They claim that a “god” had promised the West Bank “biblical heartland” to the Jewish people, and they view the Israeli triumph in the 1967 war as a sign of messianic redemption of the Jews. This national-religious tribe was able to assert itself in the occupied lands. Mainstream political and military leaders shared this smug satisfaction with the status quo and the Israeli governments since then have decided to work closely with the militant messianic groups to build Jewish settlements everywhere including near the Palestinian population centers even at times of great financial stringency.

With the absence of effective Palestinian leadership and the low opinion of the Arabs’ ability to wage modern war, Israel decided that the nature of the West Bank and Jerusalem were on their way to change, on a large scale, and irrevocably. Gush Emunim has been given a free hand to lead in the settlement project. One of Gush Emunim early successes was working very close with the Israeli government to establish settlements in the exclusively Palestinian city of Hebron. The group established an Israeli presence in Hebron in 1968 and pressed for the widest possible settlement of the whole West Bank and Jerusalem. The government allied itself with Gush Emunim which would openly set up “illegal” settlements where no Jews had lived for thousands of years, and then the government approves them and builds the infrastructure to support them.

The plan to settle Hebron started on the eve of Passover on April 4, 1968. Ten Israeli families including Rabbi Moshe Levinger, pretending to be Swedish tourists, registered as guests in the Park Hotel in Hebron. Later on that day, Levinger hoisted an Israeli flag, setup a makeshift seminary, and announced that the group was reviving Jewish settlement in Hebron.

The Israeli government reached an agreement with them that they could live in an abandoned Israeli army base on the skirts of the city. The settlers were given government resources to build a Jewish suburb outside the city, known as Kiryat Arba on 60 acres of private land expropriated from its Palestinian owner on the order of the military governor for “security reasons”. In a short time, Kiryat Arba became a large urban settlement housing more than ten thousand people, mostly Gush Emunim followers and supporters. Since then, Gush Emunim has set up hundreds of squatter-settlements everywhere in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; all were approved by the government.

The torch of Zionism had passed from the early secular Kibbutz Zionists pioneers to the religious settler armed men of the movement wearing army coats and knitted yarmulkes. They became the new advance group (avant-garde) of the settlement pioneers. They steal the land and terrorize the people, commit systematic crimes against the Palestinians including killing, burning and injuring people, raiding villages and destroying homes and properties. They are members of a terrorist Jewish organization sanctioned by the government, and supported by vast majority of the Israelis and foreign Zionist financiers.

When Levinger died this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described him as “an outstanding example of a generation that sought to realize the Zionist dream.” In a poll conducted by Hadashot newspaper in 1987, Levinger and Menachem Begin were named by a panel as the men who have had the greatest effect on reaching the goals of Zionism in the last twenty years. Levinger and Begin were terrorists with plenty of Palestinian blood on their hands, one messianic and the other secular.

If the Palestinians had the right leadership, they did not have to go to Viet Nam or Algeria to learn how to deal with the colonialist settlers. They did not have to go to Oslo to negotiate with Israel and the US how to divide the West Bank and Jerusalem. They could have learnt a lesson or two from their own people in the West Bank and Gaza when they seized the initiative and tried to change the unjust order of things. The children of the first Intifada forced Israel to freeze the settlement activities and some settlers had to go back to where they had come from until the Palestinian leadership intervened. And the people of Gaza forced the settlers to leave the Strip all together. The fate of the West Bank settlers could have been the same as the Nezer Hazani settlement farmers in Gaza who felt prosperous and self assured on their farms under the protection of the Israeli army. But then the settlement was evacuated and the bulldozers razed it to the ground in 2005. Within a day it was gone because the army could not protect it anymore.

– Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D. is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on and Barnes & Noble. He contributed this article to

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  1. Jews lived in Hebron for thousands of years until butchered by the Arabs in 1929. My family were victims to this. Convenient that you ignore this fact. I suppose the comment will find a hard time being published. You seem to push the opinion that violence is the answer??? Hasn’t done much good for anyone in the Holy Land for the past 100 years

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