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The Pathology of Hatred Bookmark and Share
The Pathology of Hatred
By: Rabbi Dov Greenberg

Israel's late foreign minister, Abba Eban, once said: "If Algeria introduced a resolution at the UN declaring that the Earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions."  Indeed, at Durban, in early September 2001, the United Nations international conference against racism became a platform for anti-Israel propaganda, resurrecting every evil image and myth of a thousand years of anti-Semitism. Israel, not Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Libya, was accused of ethnic cleansing, genocide and crimes against humanity.

On May 14, 1948, the day the State of Israel was born, while it was being attacked on every one of its borders, David Ben Gurion made the call for peace part of Israel's Declaration of Independence: "We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness."  That call for peace still stands, yet remains unanswered. To accuse Israel, a country that continues to seek peace after 56 years of terror and war, of being an apartheid state engaged in ethnic cleansing, is akin to declaring that Israel has flattened the world.

So the question is this: What is really at the heart of Arab leaders demonizing Israel?

Haman and the Tree of Knowledge

The answer can be found in a fascinating Talmudic discussion.

The Talmud asks (Tractate Chulin p. 139b): "Where do we find a reference to Haman in the Torah?" Haman, was the Persian viceroy who plotted the annihilation of the entire Jewish nation and whose defeat is celebrated on Purim. In its question, the Talmud is searching for reference to him in the Five Books of Moses.

The Talmud answers that Haman is to be found in the first chapter of Genesis. When  G-d approaches Adam after he has eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, G-d asks, "Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The word "from" in Hebrew is "hamin", which has the same letters as the name "Haman".

This Talmudic insight seems odd. The words Haman and hamin have apparently no connection, save the fact that they are composed of the same letters. Haman is a name; hamin is a question.  The former was the name of a Persian Jew-hater, the latter refers to a tree in the Garden of Eden. What's the correlation?

Commentaries explain that the Talmud, in its subtle eloquence, is conveying the psychological motivation behind Haman's obsession with killing Jews.

Haman: The Man Who Had It All

Haman was a man who had everything: wealth, fame, power, influence, prestige, and a great family. He was the viceroy of Persia, the world's dominant empire, and the king commanded his subjects to prostrate themselves to him. Haman lacked nothing in the world, save one thing: Mordechai, the Jewish sage of the time, wouldn't bow down to him. And because Haman lacked that one thing, everything else seemed worthless. "All this [wealth, fame, and power] is worth nothing," he declares in the biblical book of Esther, "so long as I see that Jew, Mordechai, sitting at the King's gate." The sight of Mordechai, one Jew, refusing to bow down to him, filled Haman with such rage that he was determined to wipe out Mordechai's people, all the Jews. Because he wanted everything, absolute submission, he ended up with nothing. Haman was ultimately defeated and hanged by the king himself.

Now we can understand the meaning behind the Talmud's question, "Where do we find a reference to Haman in the Torah?" Essentially, the Talmud is asking, "Where can we find in the Torah an explanation for Haman's personality and character?"

The answer is in the Genesis question, "Did you eat from the tree which I commanded you not to eat?" G-d placed Adam and Eve in the most beautiful garden. He gave them everything, except for one tree. Instead of being content with all they had, they felt that if they could not have everything, it was as if they had nothing. Ultimately because of that one thing, they lost everything and were expelled from paradise.

Understanding the Middle East Conflict

For years Israel said to its Arab neighbors, "Let us live together." Their consistent reply was: "Rather than live together, we will die together." In 1947, the UN in its famous partition plan offered the Arabs a state alongside a Jewish one. Israel accepted the offer; the Arabs rejected it. Why?

After the Six Day War, Israel offered the return of the territories in exchange for peace and the Arab League issued its three Nos: No to peace, No to negotiation, and No to recognition. Why?

At Camp David, in 2000, Arafat was offered a Palestinian State with its capital in East Jerusalem, 100% of Gaza and over 90% of the West Bank. Arafat's response was a terror campaign that claimed the lives of thousands of his own people, in addition to Jews. Why have the Arabs consistently behaved in this fashion? Why did they not, for their own benefit, accept the path of peace?

The painful answer is that the Arab objective is not to establish the twenty-second Arab state, but to destroy the only Jewish state. Arab leaders have always craved a Palestinian state that, in their oft-repeated phrase, would "extend from the river to the sea," i.e., from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea -- all of Israel. To paraphrase the Book of Esther "All this land, wealth, oil, and power is worthless as long as Israel exists." This hatred was and is at the heart of the conflict. It is not about Arab desire for more land that drives the continuous strife; it is the feeling that if Israel exists, their existence is somehow worthless.

On Dec. 26 2003, a massive earthquake in Bam, Iran tragically killed over 40,000 Iranians. The government of Iran announced that help was welcome from every country in the world except Israel. Think about it: Israel is the world's expert in quickly finding survivors in bombed out buildings, and is a mere two hour flight from Iran. Yet the Iranian government chose to let men, women and children die or lie buried under rubble rather than be saved by a Jew from Israel.

Apparently, they hate Israel more than they love life.

The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful people, yet a dedicated minority of motivated Arab propagandists has made hate toward Israel a basic tenet in much of the Muslim world today. Tens of millions of children are taught that alone among nations, Israel has no right to exist. All the old myths, from the blood libel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are being recycled. Parents celebrate the suicide terror of their sons, because the joy of killing Israeli families outweighs the death of their own. Not since the Nazi hatred of Jews has humanity witnessed such animosity.

Hitler's Obsession

To Hitler, eradicating the Jews was a greater priority then winning World War Two.  In July 1944, when the Germans desperately needed every train to begin the evacuation of Greece, not a single train was diverted from taking Jews to death camps. When the Germans ordered a ban on all non-military rail traffic in order to free trains for a summer offensive in southern Russia, the only trains exempted were those transporting Jews to death camps.

Hitler's policy of murdering the Jews actually undermined the Nazi war effort; it would have been more pragmatic to use the Jews for slave labor. Yet even those who were used for slave labor were so mistreated that many of them died within months. When a Nazi general, Kurt Freiherr von Grienanth, suggested in September 1942, that "the principle should be to eliminate the Jews as promptly as possible without impairing essential war work," he was demoted and his proposal denounced as a subtle effort to help the Jews. (*)

Moral Self-Confidence

What should be our response to this hatred?

Mordechai understood that compromising with Haman was futile.  Mordechai didn't say, "The Jews will evacuate half of Shushan" (the capital city of the Persian Empire), so that Haman will be able to live in a "Judenrein" city. Mordechai understood that the obstacle to peace was not the Jewish presence in one particular city, but their presence in any city. It was not the one who was hated, but the one who hated who needed to change, so Mordechai did not bow. As a result, redemption and peace ultimately came for Jews and Persians.

Today, too, Israel ought to stand up to the pathological hatred with moral and political self-confidence. They must let the world know that peace will come not when Israel will give away land, but when Israel's neighbors stop destroying themselves in their attempt to destroy Israel.

Why We Blame Ourselves

Sadly, in spite of the overwhelming evidence, the Jewish reflex is to "bow" and deny our enemies' aggressive impulses. We tend to blame ourselves for the aggressors' desire to destroy us.

This proclivity toward self-deception was described by Jean-Francois Revel, in his book How Democracies Perish:

"Democracy tends to ignore, even deny, threats to its existence because it loathes doing what is needed to counter them. It awakens only when the danger becomes deadly, imminent, and evident. By then, either there is too little time left for it to save itself, of the price of survival has become crushingly high."

The Western world paid dearly for ignoring Hitler's war against the Jews. Will we again ignore and underestimate the current war against Israel and the Jews?

At a Washington rally for Israel in April 2002, said to be the largest pro-Israel gathering ever held in the United States, William J. Bennett, pointed to the Holocaust Museum just a few blocks away and said: "What we are seeing today, what Israel is feeling today, was not supposed to happen again."

Let it not be said by future generations that we saw the raging fires of hate and destruction, and again did nothing. We must take a stand, for if we don't, who will? And if not now, when?

*) Documented by the holocaust historian, Lucy Dawidowicz, in The War Against the Jews. p. 141-142 and in Dawidowicz, A Holocaust Reader, p. 85.