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Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach – Torah perspective: They really must go – Rabbi Meir Kahane

“Beware of what I command you today: Behold I drive out before you the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivvite and the Jebusite. Be vigilant least you seal a covenant with the inhabitant of the land to which you come, lest it be a snare among you. Rather you shall break apart their altars, smash their pillars, and cut down its sacred trees. [...]Lest you seal a covenant with the inhabitant of the land, and they will stray after their gods and slaughter to their gods; and he will invite you and you will eat from his slaughter. And you will take their daughters for your sons, and their daughters will stray after their gods and entice your sons to stray after their gods.” (Ex. 34:11-16)

G-d established the Jewish People as a holy nation, chosen, treasured and lofty, His select anointed. Their task was to accept the yoke of His kingdom, sanctify His name on earth as Supreme King and subjugate their pride, selfishness and evil impulse by accepting and preserving G-d's attributes and values, His laws, judgments and statutes. G-d knew that such a nation could not maintain its perfection unless it were set apart from the foreign culture of the nations. G-d, therefore, established for His holy nation a holy land. It would be a vessel to house the Jewish People and their society, the Torah state G-d obligated them to create, and to separate them from the straying nations and their culture which both errs and leads others astray. After all, whatever separates between Israel and the nations necessarily separates between holiness and the non-holy. Thus, Eretz Yisrael, once Israel were chosen to be G-d's people, became the only holy place on earth, while all other lands are impure. G-d established this distinction, because He wished His people Israel to be set apart from the rest of the nations. He, therefore, established that the Divine Presence would not rest outside of Eretz Israel, that there would be no blessing for the Jewish People except in Eretz Yisrael itself, and that all holiness and all mitzvot would be confined to Eretz Yisrael. It is clear that even inside Eretz Yisrael, G-d wished Israel to be set apart from the non-Jew and from his culture and wished the Land to be free of their influence.

There are two components to this separation. On the one hand, Israel must leave the exile and live only in their special land, lest they be influenced by the nations and their culture. On the other hand, even in Eretz Yisrael itself, Israel must separate themselves from that evil culture. Regarding Eretz Yisrael [...], non-Jews are divided up into two groups. The first is non-Jewish nations who were in the Land when Israel arrived there to conquer and occupy it. The second is all the rest of the non-Jewish nations, including idolaters, descendants of Noah, and foreigners and alien residents. The Torah saw a twofold danger in the nations who dwelt in the Land before Israel arrived to conquer it, namely the seven Canaanite nations. On the one hand, like all the nations, the Canaanites constituted a spiritual danger to Israel, who had been commanded to establish a Divine, Torah-oriented state in Eretz Yisrael, isolated and set apart from the abominations of alien cultures. Moreover, the Canaanites posed a unique danger in that they viewed Israel as conquerors who had taken their land. They would hate Israel forever and would forever dream of revenge and seek opportunities for reconquest.

Following is the great commentator Abarbanel (on Ex. 34:11-12, see top of article): Verses 11-12 inform us that since G-d is driving out the Amorites and the other nations, it is improper for Israel to forge a covenant with them. If a nobleman helps someone by fighting his battles and banishing his enemies, it is morally inappropriate for that person to make peace with them without that nobleman's permission. So, too, with G-d driving out Israel's enemies, it is inappropriate for Israel to forge a covenant with them, for that would profane G-d's glory. This is especially so considering that this friendship and this covenant will not succeed. With Israel having taken their land, there is no doubt that they will constantly seek Israel's downfall. This is why it is said, “[the land] where you are coming.” Since Israel came to the land and took it from its inhabitants, and they feel that is has been stolen from them, how will they make a covenant of friendship with you? Rather the opposite will occur. “They will be a fatal trap for you.” When war strikes you, they will join your enemies and fight you. How exalted and true are Abarbanel's words! This is the real reason for the approach taken by Halachah to the seven nations. G-d understood the mentality of these nations. He knew that they would view Israel as conquerors and thieves and would forever relate to them with resentment and hatred. The Torah explicitly commanded, at least regarding driving out the Land's inhabitants, because if they remains via a peace treaty, they will become “barbs in your eyes... causing you troubles in the Land.” (Num. 33:55. Not in vain are the words “yerushah” - inheritance, and “horashah”- driving out, so similar in Hebrew. G-d knew that without driving out the nations of the Land, the Land would not be an inheritance for them. Rashi explained the same way: (on Num, 33:52-53): “Vehorashtem”: Drive them out. “Vehorashtem et ha'aretz”: If you first “clear out the Land of its inhabitants”, then - “viyeshavtem bah” - you will be able to survive in it. Otherwise, you will be unable to survive in it. And Or HaChaim writes (Ibid., v. 55): “They shall cause you troubles in the land” (Num. 33:55): Not only will they hold on to the part of the land that you have not taken, but the part which you have taken and settled as well. “They shall cause you trouble” regarding the part that you live in, saying, “Get up and leave it.”

Here is the plain truth before us, and it will defeat those who warp and distort the Torah. The Torah commanded us not to hesitate about annihilating the nations in the Land, lest they harbor enmity and seek revenge for Israel's taking the land they viewed as their own. Certainly, Israel did take it from them, but that has no importance, because G-d, Master of all the earth, promised the Jewish People – and them alone – the Land. G-d “uproots some inhabitants and brings in others” (Pesikta deRav Kahana, page 123). G-d uprooted the Canaanites and brought in Israel, “that they might keep His statutes and observe His laws. Praise the L-rd!” (Ps. 105:45).

It follows that those same laws that applied to the seven nations apply to all the nations that live in Eretz Yisrael in every age. This includes those of our day, who view Eretz Yisrael as their own land and soil, and who view the Jewish People as a nation of conquerors, robbers and thieves. That same danger looms over the Jewish People and its control over Eretz Yisrael in our time as then. After all, what difference is there as far as G-d's warning that “those who remain shall be barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, causing you troubles in the Land” (Num. 33:55), between the seven nations and between any nation that dwells in the Land, views it as its own, and then Israel come and conquer it from them? Surely, it will feel that same hatred and that same fierce will for revenge as did the seven nations, as explained by Abarbanel (quoted above). This logic appears already in Or HaChaim (on Num. 33:52): “You must drive out”: Although the verse said of the seven nations, “You shall not allow any people to remain alive” (Deut. 20:16), here, the Torah is talking about other nations found there besides the seven. It therefore was careful to say, “all the Land's inhabitants,” meaning, even those not of the seven. Any fair and honest person, who has accepted G-d's yoke upon himself, knows from simple logic that this is the truth, that today's Ishmaelites – as far as their dwelling in the Land – are considered like the seven nations (and in this regard, lacking any reason to distinguish between the seven nations and others, the same laws apply). As far as the seven nations, inhabitants of the Land, we learn (Jerusalem Talmud, Shevi'it 6:1): Joshua sent three proclamations to Eretz Yisrael before Israel entered the Land: “Whoever wishes to leave, should leave; to make peace, should make peace; to make war, should make war.” Joshua gave the seven nations three choices: to leave the Land, to fight – and if so, to be killed – or to make peace, via absolute surrender, with taxes, slavery and abandonment of idolatry, steps constituting an admission that the L-rd is G-d, Supreme King of Kings, that He has given their land, the Land of Canaan, to His people Israel, and that henceforth it is Eretz Yisrael.

It seems clear that the possibility of “making peace” was given to these nations only before Israel entered the Land. After all, if they agreed to peace only after Israel entered and began to be victorious and conquer the Land, then their overture was obviously insincere and motivated only by fear. We must then suspect that they are only waiting for the right moment to revolt. Tosafot adds: The option to “make peace” must have only been available before Joshua began his first war. Rahab, too, accepted Judaism upon herself before they started the war. R. Yehuda and R. Shimon argued only about whether Canaanites outside the borders could be accepted afterwards. Yet those within the Land could not be accepted once Joshua had started the war, and “You shall not allow any people to remain alive” applied to them. Their options were either to fight and die or to flee the Land. Once again, this was for the simple reason that we do not believe them, due to the clear, reasonable suspicion that those who fought and only after defeat proclaimed their desire to make peace, are not sincere. They are doing it only out of fear, because they have no choice.

It is patently clear that for that same reason, we cannot tolerate the Ishmaelites' presence today in Eretz Yisrael. Not only did they not submit before the war began in which they were defeated, but they murdered, burnt and tried to wipe out the Jews who arrived in Eretz Yisrael years and decades beforehand. In this way they are no different form the seven nations. Clearly, the Ishmaelites, too, think that Israel, who arrived in the Land and wished to establish a Jewish state there, are thieves. They, too, will always harbor resentment against Israel and will never resign themselves to us, but will await the “right moment” to rebel. As for their ostensibly having submitted nowadays, that is only out of fear and the inability to claim victory for the time being. Moreover, their “submission” lacks legal force, because according to G-d's decree, any non-Jew given the right to ask to live in Eretz Yisrael must accept hard and fast conditions in accordance with the Halachah, namely tribute and servitude. This applies whether he is actually from the seven nations or classed as such (i.e. those in the Land before Israel arrived to take it from them), and assumes that he asks before war breaks out. It also applies where he is from another nation, i.e. from outside the Land. The reason for these conditions is both because of the danger he poses to Israel's security and the danger of his influencing Israel with his alien culture.

The conditions are as follows: 1) acceptance of the status of ger toshav, resident alien, with abandonment of idolatry and acceptance of the seven Noahide laws; 2) tribute 3) servitude. Because an argument has arisen among medieval scholars regarding [the status of] ger toshav, let us leave it aside until we explain the two others, tribute and servitude, regarding which all agree that without these, a non-Jew cannot live in Eretz Yisrael. As the Torah explains, these two conditions are the main ones applying to the non-Jew who wishes to dwell in Eretz Yisrael, because these serve to ensure in advance the security of the Jewish commonwealth. Thus, either the enemy is banished or annihilated, or subjugated through tribute and servitude. This is why in Deuteronomy 20, where the Torah discusses the laws of conquest, it first sets forth these two conditions. If there is no security, Israel will be unable to establish a stable regime as a center of Torah and holiness.

The question of peace in the Middle East is a question of the Arabs and the world acknowledging the total sovereignty of the Almighty. There can be no compromise on this. It is only a peace that comes with Arabs submitting to the yoke of the heavenly kingdom that will be a permanent one and the Jew who gives up part of his land as a compromise, violates the entire purpose of the rise of the Jewish State and the demand of the Almighty that the nations acknowledge Him as King. There can be no retreat from land because that is in essence a retreat also from the Kingship of the L-rd.

No, not hatred of the other nations, but and understanding and deep assurance of belief that the Jews are indeed the blessed recipients of Divine truth; that that truth is a thing to be studied and acted upon and lived every moment of the Jew's life and that he and his children and theirs must live in a society of Divine holiness that is unique and untouched or influenced by the profanity and commonness of the other nations. Not hatred for others, but deep pride and thanksgiving that we are the Chosen.

Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from “The Jewish Idea” of Rabbi Meir Kahane, HY”D, last two paragraphs excerpted from an article (couldn't identify it now) from Barbara Ginsberg's blog "Rabbi Meir Kahane's writings" and from Rav Kahane's "Uncomfortable questions for comfortable Jews".

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