On the eve of a threatened ground invasion of Gaza, the commander of the Israeli army’s Givati Brigade has told his soldiers that they are engaged in a war to “wipe out” an “enemy who defames” God.
In a Hebrew language letter to his troops published by Israel’s NRG news website and laden with bibilical references, Colonel Ofer Winter writes, “History has chosen us to be the sharp edge of the bayonet of fighting the terrorist enemy ‘from Gaza’ which curses, defames and abuses the God of Israel’s battles.”
“We will act together forcefully and with resolve, with initiative and with deceptive tricks and aim for contact with the enemy. We will do everything to live up to the mission and wipe out the enemy and remove the threat from the Nation of Israel,” Winter’s letter adds.
In Hebrew, the phrase used for “Nation of Israel” refers specifically and only to Jews.
“In the name of the IDF [Israeli army] fighters and in particular, the fighters and commanders from the Brigade, make the phrase ‘For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you’ come true, and we shall answer: Amen,” he concludes.
Winter’s letter is an “astonishing document,” Israeli playwright and journalist Kobi Niv commented on Facebook.
Niv criticizes the “clumsy language which ridiculously combines recitations from the military and the religion but also the fact that on our part (not on their part; on our part) the wars against the Palestinians have turned from a national dispute to a holy war.”
Israel expert Dena Shunra, who translated Winter’s letter for The Electronic Intifada, notes that its appearance reflects the increasing participation of observant Orthodox Jews in the Israeli military. Shunra adds:
This demographic, often associated with the settlement movement, has displaced the traditional Kibbutz-member (militantly secular, socialist/communist leanings) in the Israeli army. Switching from nationalist rhetoric to the language of holy war is part of that transition. Another part is insisting that holy figures appear in battle to comfort/save the Jewish soldiers (and seeing them as Jewish, rather than Israeli). Reports of visitations by “Mama Rochelle” – the Matriarch Rachel, wife of Patriarch Jacob, traditionally buried in Bethlehem – have surfaced in the last few rounds of fighting (from 2002 onward). This changes the nature both of the wars and of the forces engaging in them, pushing towards a clash of civilizations.
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