Unrestrained Hateful Speech Doomed Jerusalem

In the decades after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Talmud states that while the First Temple was destroyed because of three terrible evils: idolatry, sexual immorality, and bloodshed; the Second Temple was destroyed at a time when [almost all] Jews occupied themselves with studying Torah, with Mitsvot, and with giving charity. Yet unfettered hatred prevailed. This should teach us that unrestrained hatred is deemed as evil as all the three sins of idolatry, sexual immorality, and bloodshed together. (Talmud Yoma 9b)

Knowing this, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still turned up his intolerant political slanders in a message that went out to Likud party voters last week from his Facebook page saying: “The Arabs want to annihilate us all — women, children, and men, “so I am asking [each of] you to be the prime minister’s envoy and bring three friends or family members next Tuesday and make sure they’re voting Likud” — Netanyahu’s party.

The Los Angeles Times reported that this is not the first election in which Netanyahu has tried to get votes by fanning the flames of anti-Arab sentiment. “Late on election day in 2015, after exit polls suggested his party might lose, he posted a warning about Arab voters being bused to the polling places “in droves.”

Netanyahu was later forced to apologize and pay a fine, but the move may have played a part in helping him stave off defeat and keep his job.

The current election is a redo of the April [2019] vote, in which Netanyahu narrowly triumphed over his major opponent General Gantz, but then failed to enlist enough allies to form a coalition government.

In last April’s election, turnout among Arab voters fell to a historic low of 49% — in part due to efforts to intimidate Arab voters. Likud inspectors, for example, brandished 1,200 cameras in polling places in Arab communities to scare voters. In 1999, a 75% turnout of Arab voters played a major part in defeating Netanyahu to end his first term in office.

This last week, Netanyahu led an attempt to pass a law that would have legalized installing cameras in polling booths to fight what he called “widespread voter fraud” in Arab communities.

There is no evidence of such fraud, and the effort, which was opposed by all the institutional bodies supervising Israeli elections, was defeated.

When the rabbis of the Talmud said that the Second Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed not because of Roman might; but because internal, sectarian, unfettered hatred prevailed in the Land of Israel; this should teach us that unrestrained hatred and intolerance is deemed as evil as all the three terrible sins of idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed combined.

God forbid that we may now be seeing the seeds of such internal, sectarian, unfettered hatred and intolerance spread and prevail in the Land of Israel. How can we suppress it.?

One good answer comes from the Lubavitcher Rabbi Menachem Mendle, who said: “Intolerance lies at the core of evil. Not the intolerance that results from threat or danger. Not the intolerance that arises from negative experience. Just intolerance of another being who dares to exist, who dares to diminish the space in the universe left for you. Intolerance without cause is deep within us because every human being secretly desires everything for himself. Our only way out is to learn compassion without cause. To care for each other simply because that “other” person exists.

Is it really possible that such an idealistic viewpoint can overcome the xenophobic, fear-mongering politics, that is so evident today in many places in the world?

One way to do it is to quote some passages from the Qur’an that extoll the tolerance we wish our enemies would believe in: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know [respect] each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God; is the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted.” (49:13)

And “For every nation there is a direction to which they face (in prayer). So, hasten towards all that is good. Wheresoever you may be, Allâh will bring you together. Truly, Allâh is able to do all things.” (Qur’an 2:148) The commentary/Tafsir of al-Jalalayn (d. 1459) on this verse states:

“Every person, of every community, has his direction/qibla, to which he turns in prayer, so compete with one another in good works; strive with acts of obedience [to the One God] and acceptance of these [duties]. Wherever you may be, God will bring you all together, gathering you on the Day of Resurrection and requiting you for your deeds; surely God has power over all things.”

And “And for all religions We have appointed a rite [of prayer and sacrifice] that they may mention the name of Allah over what He has provided for them of [sacrificial] animals. For your God is one God, so to Him submit. And, [O Muhammad], give good tidings to the humble who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts are fearful and patient over what has afflicted them, and the establishers of prayer, and those who spend [charity] from what We have provided them.” (Qur’an 22:34-35)

And finally: “Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but righteous is one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth [charity] in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; establishing prayer and giving zakah; fulfilling their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. These are the ones who have been true, and it is these who are righteous.” (Qur’an 2:177)

Only if we show greater zeal in opposing hate mongering by continually acting in defense of democracy, pluralistic Judaism, equal rights for woman, national, and religious minorities, and elimination of state enforced religion, can we save ourselves from destruction.

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