Blogs: Paul Pillar

The Blurred Lines of Religious Zealotry

Paul Pillar

When religious zealotry involves bloodshed, especially large-scale bloodshed, is when we when ought to be most concerned with its infusion into public affairs. The capacity for zealotry and large-scale application of violence to combine has increased in Israel with the steady increase of religiosity in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and its officer corps. A prominent exemplar of this trend is Colonel Ofer Winter, commander of the IDF's Gilati Brigade, who has received attention for the heavily religious content of his instructions to his troops. With his brigade poised near the Gaza Strip before the most recent round of destruction there, Winter said in a letter to his troops that he looked forward to a ground invasion so that he could be in the vanguard of a fight against “the terrorist enemy that dares to curse, blaspheme and scorn the God of Israel.” After Winter's brigade did get to join the fight, he said that a mysterious "cloud" appeared and provided cover for his forces, an event he attributed to divine intervention. Quoting from Deuteronomy, he said, “It really was a fulfillment of the verse ‘For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to give you victory.’”

Winter's brigade was involved in what could be described as a culmination of the synthesis of zealotry and bloodshed. When an Israeli soldier was missing and suspected (incorrectly, as it later turned out) to have been captured alive by Hamas in a battle at Rafah, Winter executed the "Hannibal" directive, an Israeli protocol according to which as much violence as necessary is used to avoid having any Israeli become a prisoner, no matter how many civilians or others are killed and no matter that the captured Israeli soldier himself is killed. Over the next several hours a relentless barrage of artillery and airstrikes reduced this area of Rafah to rubble, while Israeli forces surrounded the area so that no one could escape it alive. This one Israeli operation killed 190 Palestinians, including 55 children. There may have been other implementations of the Hannibal directive in the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza; this one is confirmed because Winter himself later spoke openly and proudly about it. Although some secular-minded private citizens in Israel have objected to the heavily religious content of Winter's leadership, officially there does not appear to be anything but approval for anything he has said or done. He is an exemplar, not a rogue.

In short, an operation officially sanctioned and led in the name of a national god was conducted to slaughter scores of innocents as well as one of the operators' own countrymen. We ought to think carefully about this incident and about what Colonel Winter represents when we decide how to conceive of fault lines in the Middle East, what it means to insert religion into politics or to be a religious zealot, exactly what it is we fear or ought to fear about religiosity in public affairs, and which players in the Middle East have most in common with, or in conflict with, our own—Enlightment-infused, one hopes—values.
 

 

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We Have Met the Source of Questionable Strategy and He Is Us

Paul Pillar

When religious zealotry involves bloodshed, especially large-scale bloodshed, is when we when ought to be most concerned with its infusion into public affairs. The capacity for zealotry and large-scale application of violence to combine has increased in Israel with the steady increase of religiosity in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and its officer corps. A prominent exemplar of this trend is Colonel Ofer Winter, commander of the IDF's Gilati Brigade, who has received attention for the heavily religious content of his instructions to his troops. With his brigade poised near the Gaza Strip before the most recent round of destruction there, Winter said in a letter to his troops that he looked forward to a ground invasion so that he could be in the vanguard of a fight against “the terrorist enemy that dares to curse, blaspheme and scorn the God of Israel.” After Winter's brigade did get to join the fight, he said that a mysterious "cloud" appeared and provided cover for his forces, an event he attributed to divine intervention. Quoting from Deuteronomy, he said, “It really was a fulfillment of the verse ‘For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to give you victory.’”

Winter's brigade was involved in what could be described as a culmination of the synthesis of zealotry and bloodshed. When an Israeli soldier was missing and suspected (incorrectly, as it later turned out) to have been captured alive by Hamas in a battle at Rafah, Winter executed the "Hannibal" directive, an Israeli protocol according to which as much violence as necessary is used to avoid having any Israeli become a prisoner, no matter how many civilians or others are killed and no matter that the captured Israeli soldier himself is killed. Over the next several hours a relentless barrage of artillery and airstrikes reduced this area of Rafah to rubble, while Israeli forces surrounded the area so that no one could escape it alive. This one Israeli operation killed 190 Palestinians, including 55 children. There may have been other implementations of the Hannibal directive in the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza; this one is confirmed because Winter himself later spoke openly and proudly about it. Although some secular-minded private citizens in Israel have objected to the heavily religious content of Winter's leadership, officially there does not appear to be anything but approval for anything he has said or done. He is an exemplar, not a rogue.

In short, an operation officially sanctioned and led in the name of a national god was conducted to slaughter scores of innocents as well as one of the operators' own countrymen. We ought to think carefully about this incident and about what Colonel Winter represents when we decide how to conceive of fault lines in the Middle East, what it means to insert religion into politics or to be a religious zealot, exactly what it is we fear or ought to fear about religiosity in public affairs, and which players in the Middle East have most in common with, or in conflict with, our own—Enlightment-infused, one hopes—values.
 

 

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The Latest Cost of Islamophobia

Paul Pillar

When religious zealotry involves bloodshed, especially large-scale bloodshed, is when we when ought to be most concerned with its infusion into public affairs. The capacity for zealotry and large-scale application of violence to combine has increased in Israel with the steady increase of religiosity in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and its officer corps. A prominent exemplar of this trend is Colonel Ofer Winter, commander of the IDF's Gilati Brigade, who has received attention for the heavily religious content of his instructions to his troops. With his brigade poised near the Gaza Strip before the most recent round of destruction there, Winter said in a letter to his troops that he looked forward to a ground invasion so that he could be in the vanguard of a fight against “the terrorist enemy that dares to curse, blaspheme and scorn the God of Israel.” After Winter's brigade did get to join the fight, he said that a mysterious "cloud" appeared and provided cover for his forces, an event he attributed to divine intervention. Quoting from Deuteronomy, he said, “It really was a fulfillment of the verse ‘For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to give you victory.’”

Winter's brigade was involved in what could be described as a culmination of the synthesis of zealotry and bloodshed. When an Israeli soldier was missing and suspected (incorrectly, as it later turned out) to have been captured alive by Hamas in a battle at Rafah, Winter executed the "Hannibal" directive, an Israeli protocol according to which as much violence as necessary is used to avoid having any Israeli become a prisoner, no matter how many civilians or others are killed and no matter that the captured Israeli soldier himself is killed. Over the next several hours a relentless barrage of artillery and airstrikes reduced this area of Rafah to rubble, while Israeli forces surrounded the area so that no one could escape it alive. This one Israeli operation killed 190 Palestinians, including 55 children. There may have been other implementations of the Hannibal directive in the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza; this one is confirmed because Winter himself later spoke openly and proudly about it. Although some secular-minded private citizens in Israel have objected to the heavily religious content of Winter's leadership, officially there does not appear to be anything but approval for anything he has said or done. He is an exemplar, not a rogue.

In short, an operation officially sanctioned and led in the name of a national god was conducted to slaughter scores of innocents as well as one of the operators' own countrymen. We ought to think carefully about this incident and about what Colonel Winter represents when we decide how to conceive of fault lines in the Middle East, what it means to insert religion into politics or to be a religious zealot, exactly what it is we fear or ought to fear about religiosity in public affairs, and which players in the Middle East have most in common with, or in conflict with, our own—Enlightment-infused, one hopes—values.
 

 

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Realism Versus Political Correctness in Opposing ISIS

Paul Pillar

When religious zealotry involves bloodshed, especially large-scale bloodshed, is when we when ought to be most concerned with its infusion into public affairs. The capacity for zealotry and large-scale application of violence to combine has increased in Israel with the steady increase of religiosity in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and its officer corps. A prominent exemplar of this trend is Colonel Ofer Winter, commander of the IDF's Gilati Brigade, who has received attention for the heavily religious content of his instructions to his troops. With his brigade poised near the Gaza Strip before the most recent round of destruction there, Winter said in a letter to his troops that he looked forward to a ground invasion so that he could be in the vanguard of a fight against “the terrorist enemy that dares to curse, blaspheme and scorn the God of Israel.” After Winter's brigade did get to join the fight, he said that a mysterious "cloud" appeared and provided cover for his forces, an event he attributed to divine intervention. Quoting from Deuteronomy, he said, “It really was a fulfillment of the verse ‘For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to give you victory.’”

Winter's brigade was involved in what could be described as a culmination of the synthesis of zealotry and bloodshed. When an Israeli soldier was missing and suspected (incorrectly, as it later turned out) to have been captured alive by Hamas in a battle at Rafah, Winter executed the "Hannibal" directive, an Israeli protocol according to which as much violence as necessary is used to avoid having any Israeli become a prisoner, no matter how many civilians or others are killed and no matter that the captured Israeli soldier himself is killed. Over the next several hours a relentless barrage of artillery and airstrikes reduced this area of Rafah to rubble, while Israeli forces surrounded the area so that no one could escape it alive. This one Israeli operation killed 190 Palestinians, including 55 children. There may have been other implementations of the Hannibal directive in the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza; this one is confirmed because Winter himself later spoke openly and proudly about it. Although some secular-minded private citizens in Israel have objected to the heavily religious content of Winter's leadership, officially there does not appear to be anything but approval for anything he has said or done. He is an exemplar, not a rogue.

In short, an operation officially sanctioned and led in the name of a national god was conducted to slaughter scores of innocents as well as one of the operators' own countrymen. We ought to think carefully about this incident and about what Colonel Winter represents when we decide how to conceive of fault lines in the Middle East, what it means to insert religion into politics or to be a religious zealot, exactly what it is we fear or ought to fear about religiosity in public affairs, and which players in the Middle East have most in common with, or in conflict with, our own—Enlightment-infused, one hopes—values.
 

 

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