4. TOWARD A SYNTHESIS VIEW Compiled by Stephen Tankel
INTRODUCTION The foundation of the three movements on which this* report focuses is a Manichean worldview. Regardless of faith, culture, ethnicity, geography, or socioeconomic status, for all of the cases EWI examined, it is “us” versus “them,” where “them” can be members of the same faith and those willing to compromise “pure” beliefs are branded as apostates. For example, Yitzhak Rabin, Mahatma Gandhi, and Anwar Sadat were all assassinated by members of their own faith on the premise that they had betrayed their co-religionists. Such an unforgiving worldview is attractive precisely because it offers simplicity in a complex world, as well as certainty to its adherents that they are on God’s side because of their belief in how civilization should be ordered. Often, these extremists are already isolated, and as they become more radicalized, they further isolate themselves in an attempt to recreate even a microcosm of their ideal world. In all three cases, there was, at times, a drive to ultimately establish an idealized, theocratic society. Some will commit violence to remake civilization, while others will lash out violently, simply to exact divine retribution against what they consider to be “failing” societies. Theology is employed in defense of a notion of the way things should be and God is seen as a defender of that particular civilization. The message is appealing in its simplicity: follow the path of God and you and your community will gain (or regain) dominance. It provides a vision of what civilization should be, a roadmap for making it so, and the justification to do whatever is necessary to either defend or upend the status quo accordingly. This is an incredibly accessible message and one that offers seemingly immutable logic to explain a recruit’s position in this world and the opportunity to improve his or her position in this world or the next. This redemptive element was present in all three cases. So, too, was the notion of power: over
Note on methodology: The findings compiled here represent multiple syntheses: first, by each of the individual researchers of their interview subjects; second, by EWI of the researchers’ reports in the discussion paper for the conference, and finally, by EWI of the different opinions proffered at the conference. Because the conference was held under the Chatham House Rule, specific individuals are not cited unless they were already identified by name in the research reports submitted to EWI or agreed during subsequent discussions to be sourced directly.
one’s self, over one’s enemies, over one’s land, over co-religionists who stand idle rather than acting to remake civilization, and ultimately over one’s own destiny (if not in this world, then in the next). Finally there was an oppositional element against both the state and specific members of one’s own society. The research undertaken for this project found this mind-set and worldview present in all of the case examples. In Israel, victory in the Six Day War in 1967 and the capture of land in the West Bank were viewed through the same prism of divine intervention and with the same pride that many Muslims felt the victory in Afghanistan over the Soviet Union. This was a sign that God was with them and that redemption of the land of biblical Israel was at hand. For Jewish extremists within the settler movement, the idea of compromising with the Palestinians and ceding the land back is thus seen as heretical. To the true believer, a potential peace deal involving painful compromise is not nearly as compelling as being promised absolute victory and control, as well as winning the role of heroes to the Jewish people. Viewed through the prism of power, concession is also akin to going “back to Auschwitz.” The extremist camp believes and propounds that territorial concession is nothing short of voluntarily paving the way for Jewish annihilation.1 The ideology of Christian Identity does not just say why white Christians should be the “dominant race,” it also explains why they are not currently in a superior position. The belief system is conspiratorial in nature and particularly appealing to those looking to create an enemy and for someone to blame. The government is seen as having either betrayed white interests to the "lower races,” or to have been infiltrated and manipulated by them. Thus, it is incumbent upon the true white, Christian Americans to wage war, both against the government that has betrayed them and the “lower races” that have infested their country.2 The small numbers of extremists who commit violence in the name of the anti-abortion movement view themselves as God’s soldiers on earth, sent here to protect the unborn and preserve a moral way of life.
Itamar Ben-Gvir (far-right activist) interviewed by Dina Kraft (EWI Researcher), February 20 2007. 2 Leonard Zeskind (president of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights in Kansas City, and an expert on the Christian Identity movement) interviewed by Daniel Levitas (EWI Researcher), March 2007.
Published on Jul 23, 2010