Why Spain? Why specifically Barcelona? Why “La Rambla”? Why attack with a van? These questions abound. But, why do these Islamic terrorists attack and kill whoever is in their way? What is the ultimate goal of the Islamic State? There is not much written on this topic. Or it is rationalized. I read an article that says that the Muslims attacked Barcelona because they want to reconquer Spain, which was Muslim territory in the Middle Ages. May be. But this does not explain the attacks in London, Paris, Brussels or Turku, Finland (as I am reading now, as I’m writing these lines).
These weeks we are reading in the Haftara, the text of the prophets that we read each Shabbat after reading the Tora, a passage from the book of Yesha’ayahu, chapter 54. These Haftarot contain a message of comfort for the Jewish people. And today I would like to share with you the commentary of Rabbi Don Isaac Abarbanel (1437-1508) on verse 17 of this Haftarah. This pasuq says that the Creator will intervene, so that the enemies of Israel will not prosper. Isaiah speaks of those who “condemn” Israel with words of premeditated evil (a subject we might address a another day) and those who attack Israel with their weapons.
כל-כלי יוצר עליך לא יצלח וכל-לשון תקום-אתך למשפט תרשיעי
“No weapon that is made against you shall prosper; and every tongue that rises up against you, you will show its vileness. “
Don Isaac Abarbanel had a very hectic life. He was persecuted in Portugal, after having served loyally King Juan for many years. He was also forced to flee Spain after having served the Catholic Monarchs. At the end of 1491 Queen Isabel announced her intention to expel all the Jews from her kingdom, and that he could remain in Castile and maintain his fortune if he converted to Catholicism. Don Isaac Abarbanel rejected the offer and in 1492, in total poverty, he exiled himself in Venezia. Rabbi Abarbanel knew Christianity very closely, and since he was a man of government, he also knew Islam. In te past, he helped the crown of Spain in the battles against the Muslims, both in the reconquest of Andalusia and in the wars against the Ottoman empire in North Africa.
Commenting on this verse Rabbi Abarbanel describes the Muslims of his day: “The prophet [Yeshayhu] says that no weapon formed against you will prosper and every tongue that is raised against you, you must condemn. Today [1490?] There are religions that do not preach or debate, trying to promote their religion to others with words. These religion’s strategy [to proselytize] is to kill all those who do not profess their faith. The Ishmaelites [euphemism for muslims] belong to this category. “
These words were written more than 500 years ago, but they sound as if they were written yesterday. The ultimate goal of the extreme version of Islam, the Islamist utopia, is to “Islamize the rest of the world.” But unlike other religions, which do their proselytizing with words, Islamists do it with the sword. Their strategy to achieve this end is: to kill all the infidels that you can.
This sounds insane. And because of this, very few people can conceive, identify, recognize and articulate this idea. That is why you will not find in the main media many articles that are explicit about this. On the other hand, the perpetrators, are not ashamed to confess their intentions. In fact, a text was found last night, that reminds us of what Don Isaac Abarbanel explained. In that text Moussa Oukabir, the alleged main perpetrator of the attack, says: “I would kill all the infidels, and only leave practicing Muslims alive.”
As we all know, Israel also suffered and suffers attacks like that perpetrated yesterday in Barcelona. The perpetrators are the same: “Islamist suicides who want to kill infidels.” The excuses are different: the occupied territories, etc. But the real Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as I have written. Ore than once, has to do with religion, not with “territories.” Hamas, and the militant groups fighting against Israel (Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, etc.) are as sincere as Oukabir, and openly declare that there is no place for dialogue and negotiations with Israel. For them, the destruction of Israel is neither negotiable nor conditional to the cession of territories.
Unfortunately many journalists and government officials , especially from European countries, etc. do not see, or do not want to see this reality. They refuse to acknowledge that Israel is the victim, and that it suffers from the same problem, only that much more serious, that Europe suffers. They declare that it is possible to reach a “two states” solution or something like that. Additionally, they do the most cynical and intolerable: they pressure Israel to make suicidal territorial concessions! They forget that even “moderate” Palestinian groups share these principles of intolerance for Israel. The evidence? While 60% or 70% of Israelis are willing to accept the idea of two states, the Fattah or the Palestinian Authority, does nothing to promote the idea of living in peace with Israel. They do not even express their willingness to recognize a Jewish state, even in exchange for territories. Everyone knows, but very few denounce, that the future map of the geography of the Middle East that the Palestinians teach their children, does not include Israel.
There is a psychological barrier which prevents us from conceiving seriously the insanity of extremism. This barrier, our own sanity, is very dangerous. When we do not take the delirium of the fanatics seriously, we try to look for “alternative theories”, more rational, but wrong, to explain these attacks. And we dangerously seek false solutions to prevent them in the future.
In these painful times, we cry for the victims of terror in Barcelona, and we pray to HaShem to protect us, and save humanity from hatred and irrationality.