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Jewish religious terrorism

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Title: Jewish religious terrorism  
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Jewish religious terrorism

Jewish religious terrorism (Hebrew: טרור דתי יהודי) is a type of religious terrorism committed by extremists within Judaism motivated by religious rather than ethnic or nationalistic beliefs.[1][2]


  • Terminology 1
  • History 2
    • Zealotry in the 1st century 2.1
  • After the creation of Israel 3
  • Individuals 4
  • See also 5
  • Footnotes 6
  • References 7


Some researchers on ethnic terrorism distinguish between ethnic terrorism and religious terrorism, but admit that the distinction between these forms of terrorism is often blurred in practice. Daniel Bymen, in his study on "The Logic of ethnic terrorism", argues that Jews operate far more as an ethnic group than as a community motivated by and organized according to religious doctrine. As good examples of Jewish terrorism based on ethnic, not religious grounds, or Zionist political violence, the author cites Jewish underground groups Irgun and Lehi, which operated against British law during the British Mandate of Palestine before the Israeli declaration of independence in 1948.[3][4]

Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister until 1945, often exaggerated the term Jewish terrorism in political rhetoric, portraying it as a serious world threat and a pretext for the removal or "liquidation" of all Jews from Europe, particularly following Herschel Grynszpan's 1938 assassination of a German diplomat.


Zealotry in the 1st century

According to Mark Burgess, the 1st century Jewish political and religious movement called Zealotry was one of the first examples of the use of terrorism by Jews.[5] They sought to incite the people of Judaea Province to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from Israel by force of arms. The term Zealot, in Hebrew kanai, means one who is zealous on behalf of God.[6][7] The most extremist groups of Zealots were called Sicarii.[5] Sicarii used violent stealth tactics against Romans. Under their cloaks they concealed sicae, or small daggers, from which they received their name. At popular assemblies, particularly during the pilgrimage to the Temple Mount, they stabbed their enemies (Romans or Roman sympathizers, Herodians), lamenting ostentatiously after the deed to blend into the crowd to escape detection. In one account, given in the Talmud, Sicarii destroyed the city's food supply so that the people would be forced to fight against the Roman siege instead of negotiating peace. Sicarii also raided Jewish habitations and killed fellow Jews whom they considered apostate and collaborators.

After the creation of Israel

According to a study by the political scientist Noemi Gal-Or, since the creation of Israel, Jewish terrorism has been assessed as "far less significant" than Arab terrorism.[8] It lasted a few years during the 1950s and was directed at internal Israel-Jewish targets, not at the Israeli Arab population.[8] There was then a long intermission until the 1980s, when the Jewish Underground was exposed.[8]

It has been suggested that a striking similarity between the Jewish groups, and jihad networks in Western democracies is their alienation and isolation from the values of the majority, mainstream culture, which they view as an existential threat to their own community. Other similarities between these groups are that their terrorist ideology is not exclusively religious, as it attempts to achieve political, territorial and nationalistic goals as well, e.g. the disruption of the Camp David accords. However, the newer of these Jewish groups have tended to emphasise religious motives for their actions at the expense of secular ones. In the case of Jewish terrorism most networks consist of religious Zionists and ultra-orthodox Jews living in isolated, homogenous communities.[9]

The following groups have been considered religious terrorist organizations in Israel:

  • Gush Emunim Underground (1979–84): formed by members of the Israeli political movement Gush Emunim.[10] This group is most well known for two actions. Firstly, for bomb attacks on the mayors of West Bank cities on June 2, 1980, and secondly, an abandoned plot to blow up the Temple Mount mosques. The Israeli Judge Zvi Cohen, heading the sentencing panel at the group’s trial, stated that they had three motives, ‘not necessarily shared by all the defendants. The first motive, at the heart of the Temple Mount conspiracy, is religious.’[11]
  • Keshet (Kvutza Shelo Titpasher) (1981–1989): A Tel Aviv anti-Zionist haredi group focused on bombing property without loss of life.[12][13]:101 Yigal Marcus, Tel Aviv District Police commander, said that he considered the group a gang of criminals, not a terrorist group.[14]
  • The "Bat Ayin Underground" or Bat Ayin group. In 2002, four people from Bat Ayin and Hebron were arrested outside of Abu Tor School, a Palestinian girls' school in East Jerusalem, with a trailer filled with explosives. Three of the men were convicted for the attempted bombing.[15][16][17][18][19][20][21]
  • Israel between 1950 and 1953, against the widespread trend of secularisation in the country. The ultimate goal of the movement was to impose Jewish religious law in the State of Israel and establish a Halakhic state.[22]
  • The Kingdom of Israel group (Hebrew: מלכות ישראל, Malchut Yisrael), or Tzrifin Underground, were active in Israel in the 1950s. The group carried out attacks on the diplomatic facilities of the USSR and Czechoslovakia and occasionally shot at Jordanian troops stationed along the border in Jerusalem. Members of the group were caught trying to bomb the Israeli Ministry of Education in May 1953, have been described as acting because of the secularisation of Jewish North African immigrants which they saw as 'a direct assault on the religious Jews' way of life and as an existential threat to the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel.'[23]


A number of violent acts by Jews have been described as terrorism and attributed to religious motivations:

  • Yaakov Teitel an American-born Israeli, was arrested in the aftermath of the 2009 Tel Aviv gay center shooting for putting up posters that praised the attack. Although Teitel confessed to the gay center shooting, Israeli police have determined that he had no part in the attack.[24] In 2009 Teitel was arrested and indicted for several acts of domestic terror, namely a pipe bomb attack against leftist intellectual Zeev Sternhell, the murders of a Palestinian taxi driver and a West Bank shepherd in 1997, and sending a booby-trapped package to the home of a Messianic Jewish family in Ariel.[25][26][27] A search of his home revealed a cache of guns and parts used in explosive devices.[28] As of January 2011, the case was still pending trial.[29] On January 16, 2013 Teitel was convicted of two murders, two attempted murders, and several other charges.[30][31]
  • Eden Natan-Zada killed four Israeli Arab civilians on August 4, 2005. His actions were criticized by then prime minister Ariel Sharon, as "a reprehensible act by a bloodthirsty Jewish terrorist", and author Ami Pedhzer describes his motivations as religious.[2]:134[32]
  • [35]
  • Yigal Amir's assassination of Yitzhak Rabin on November 4, 1995 has been described as terrorism with a religious motivation.[2]:98–110[36][37] Amir was quoted as saying he had "acted alone and on orders from God." and that "If not for a Halakhic ruling of din rodef, made against Rabin by a few rabbis I knew about, it would have been very difficult for me to murder."[13][38]:45 A former combat soldier who had studied Jewish law, Amir stated that his decision to kill the prime minister was influenced by the opinions of militant rabbis that such an assassination would be justified by the Halakhic ruling of din rodef ("pursuer's decree").[38]:48 This Jewish religious concept allows for an immediate execution of a person if that person is "pursuing", that is, attempting immediately to take your life or the life of another person, although the characterization of Rabin as din rodef was rejected as a perversion of law by most rabbinic authorities.[13]:255 According to Amir, allowing the Palestinian Authority to expand on the West Bank represented such a danger.[38]:48Amir was associated with the radical Eyal movement, which had been greatly influenced by Kahanism.[38]:53

See also


  1. ^ "Explaining Part 1: The Axis of Good and Evil." Section "Terrorism Across Religions." by Mark Burgess.
  2. ^ a b c Pedahzur, Ami; Perliger, Arie (2009). Jewish terrorism in Israel. Columbia University Press. p. 196.  
  3. ^ "The Logic of Terrorism" by Daniel Bymen. 1997. pp. 151, 155 and 157.
  4. ^ "Global terrorism" by James M. Lutz, Brenda J. Lutz. Walter. p. 127.]
  5. ^ a b Burgess, Mark. "A Brief History of Terrorism". 
  6. ^ Zealot, Online Etymology Dictionary
  7. ^ Zelotes, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon", at Perseus
  8. ^ a b c Gal-or, Noemi (Editor). Tolerating Terrorism in the West: An International Survey. Routledge, 2004. ISBN 978-0-415-02441-9. pp. 61–62
  9. ^ [1], [Terrorism, Identity, and Legitimacy: The Four Waves Theory and Political Violence: Ed Jean Rosenfeld: Comparison of Jewish and other manifestations of religious terrorism: Ami Pedahzer and Arie Perliger: pp. 105–107]
  10. ^ For The Land and The Lord: The Evolution of Gush Emunim, by Ian S. Lustick
  11. ^ Ami Pedahzur, and Arie Perliger (2009). “Jewish Terrorism in Israel.Ch 3”, Columbia University Press, (2009)
  12. ^ Radical Orthodox Group Terrorizes Secular Israelis. Pittsburgh Press Feb 25, 1989
  13. ^ a b c Brother against brother: violence and extremism in Israeli politics Ehud Sprinzak, p. 277
  14. ^ Critical essays on Israeli society, politics, and culture By Ian Lustick, Barry M. Rubin, Association for Israel Studies, p. 71
  15. ^ [2], [Terrorism, Identity, and Legitimacy: The Four Waves Theory and Political Violence: Ed Jean Rosenfeld: Comparison of Jewish and other manifestations of religious terrorism: Ami Pedahzer and Arie Perliger: p. 106]
  16. ^ [3], [ Supreme Court rejects appeal of the 'Bat Ayin Underground': Yuval Yoaz ]
  17. ^ [4], [Jewish terrorist group (Bat Ayin) attempts to blow up girls school in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur: Palestine: Information with Provenance]
  18. ^ [5], [ Bat Ayin terror cell members get 12 to 15 years in prison: Sun, August 07, 2011: Jonathan Lis]
  19. ^ [6], Israel’s Next War: CHAPTER TWO: A Plot That Shocked All of Israel: Members of a terror cell in the settlement of Bat Ayin are caught trying to bomb a girls' school in East Jerusalem at the busiest time in the morning
  20. ^ [7], [Acts of Jewish terrorism since 1949: 11/03/2005: Matthew Gutman]
  21. ^ [8], [Jewish Terrorism in Israel: Monday January 11, 2010: Palestine Center Book Review No 1 : 11 January 2010: "Jewish Terrorism in Israel" written by Ami Pedahzur and Arie Perliger Hardcover: 264 pages, Columbia University Press November 9, 2009:]
  22. ^ Pedahzur, Ami, and Arie Perliger (2009). “Jewish Terrorism in 33-37”, Columbia University Press, (2009)
  23. ^ Pedahzur, Ami, and Arie Perliger (2009). “Jewish Terrorism in 31-33”, Columbia University Press, (2009)
  24. ^ James, Randy (3 November 2009). "Accused Jewish Terrorist Jack Teitel". Time.,8599,1934103,00.html Retrieved 2009-11-03.
  25. ^ Weiss, Mark (2 November 2009). "Israeli police arrest West Bank settler over Palestinian killings".  
  26. ^ Mitchell, Chris (6 November 2009). "Suspect Arrest Announced in Ami Ortiz Case".  
  27. ^ Levinson, Chaim (1 November 2009). "Who is suspected Jewish terrorist Yaakov Teitel?". Haaretz. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  28. ^
    • "Settler suspected of multiple hate crimes".  
    • [9] (in Hebrew)
  29. ^,7340,L-4017400,00.html
  30. ^,7340,L-4333417,00.html
  31. ^
  32. ^ [10] Washington Post, 5 August 2005
  33. ^ Harvey W. Kushner. Encyclopedia of Terrorism, SAGE Publications, 2003, ISBN 978-0-7619-2408-1, p. 150.
  34. ^ 1994: Jewish settler kills 30 at holy site BBC On This Day
  35. ^ In the Spotlight: Kach and Kahane Chai Center for Defense Information October 1, 2002
  36. ^ Stern, Jessica (2004). Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. HarperCollins. p. 91.  
  37. ^
    • Mahan, Sue; Griset, Pamala, Terrorism in Perspective, SAGE, 2007, pp. 137, 138
    • Mickolus, Edward, The terrorist list: A-K, ABC-CLIO, 2009, p. 66
    • Hoffman, Bruce Inside Terrorism 1998, p. 88
  38. ^ a b c d Mark Juergensmeyer. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. University of California Press.  


  • Juergensmeyer, Mark, Terror in the mind of God: the global rise of religious violence, University of California Press, 2003
  • Pedahzur, Ami; Perliger, Arie, Jewish terrorism in Israel, Columbia University Press, 2009
  • Sprinzak, Ehud, Brother against brother: violence and extremism in Israeli politics from Altalena to the Rabin assassination, Simon and Schuster, 1999
  • Stern, Jessica, Terror in the name of God: why religious militants kill, HarperCollins, 2003
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