The Root of Arab Rage

dome of the rock

What Do They Want From Us?

The latest media circus around Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s words about the role of Hitler and the Mufti in the Final Solution captures the compounded tragedy of current events in Israel.

Obviously, Hitler was the demonic force behind the extermination of the six million Jews in Europe. No one in their right mind would try to absolve, or diminish in any way, him and the Nazis of their unequivocal responsibility for perpetrating the greatest systematic genocide in history.

At the same time no one can equally deny the culpability of Jerusalem’s then-grand mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, in supporting, inciting and encouraging the destruction of the Jews.

This — not Bibi’s words — is the issue at hand: That the hatred demonstrated by Palestinians in Israel today, leading to young Arabs randomly attacking any Jew they can find, is not related to any of their current grievances, but to an ongoing genocidal attitude to Jews, which precedes modern Israel.

The mufti’s rabid despise of Jews shows that the forefathers of the Palestinian nation, without a country and without the so-called ‘occupation’, without land and without settlements, even then aspired to systematic incitement to exterminate the Jews.

The fact that the media can so easily become obsessed with Netanyahu’s words, instead of the real headline — understanding the root of Arab rage — reflects on the second tragedy taking place today: In addition to the obvious outrage due to the wanton murder of innocents comes the gross distortion of facts and perversion of information committed by the media – diverting focus from the real story: Why do the Arabs/Muslims hate Israel and the Jews so much?

What lies behind their rage against Israel? Compared to the millions of Muslims slaughtered by other Muslims in Sudan, Syria, Iraq and other countries, Palestinian deaths in Israel are relatively few. Yet the millions massacred and millions more repressed does not evoke Arab outrage as do the events in Israel. Why the double standard? Some argue that this double standard in the Middle East is due to the fact that Arab countries are shame-based societies, and Israeli repression of Arabs is seen not just as brutal, but also as humiliating.

They cite Arabs stating that, “Israel is a colonial outpost and that as a result while Israeli Arabs may have ballots and free speech, they have no dignity. The Israeli occupation represents a total humiliation of all the Arab regimes. It’s a continuous reminder of the weakness of the Arabs as people, of their society and political system, as well as an indication of the impotence and corruption of their regimes.”

Arab humiliation seems to have become a mainstay since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The Arab world can simply not get over their lost pride as a people who once ruled and represented the epitome of civilization, and now are relegated to Third World status. Israel and America represent for the Arab world the source of this humiliation – so the argument goes.

Many other speculations are offered to explain Arab rage and frenzy against Israel and the West.

Understanding the underlying causes for Arab sentiments is not academic; it is the only way to get to the bottom of the issues. Understanding their mentality is the true key to help provide us with a meaningful strategy. We can never devise a workable plan as long as we focus on the superficial causes, and do not understand the driving force of our adversary. Does the Arab world just want justice for the Palestinians? Equal rights (rights they do not have under any Arab ruler)? Some land to live peacefully? Or perhaps they want something more that they simply are not telling us?

I submit that the true reason and core root of Arab anger is religious and not political.

The Arab world’s opposition to Israel is not due to any Israeli actions, but rather to the very existence of the Land of Israel and Jewish control over the land. This control is a perpetual thorn in their side, and the root cause for their “shame” and humiliation.

Why? Because Muslims fundamentally believe that Israel’s existence – and Jewish control over Israel – in what they consider to be their ‘conquered land,’ is a desecration of their religious vision.

This is the reason why Muslims have always built mosques on the sacred land of Jews and Christians (e.g. the Temple Mount, Bethlehem) to demonstrate their absolute belief that Muslim control over these lands fulfills and realizes the Divine will.

This religious belief is the true cause for the rage of the Arab/Muslim world against Israel. It is not about human rights, Palestinian sovereignty, Arab dignity, oil, money, harems, or any other issue. No amount of land return, no concessions will satisfy them – other than the elimination of Jewish control in Israel.

As uncomfortable as it may be, we will never be able to resolve the issues until we realize that this is a religious war not a political one.

Many of us would like to conveniently believe that the issues are political ones, because that would make the situation a lot more manageable and the problem a lot simpler. We know how to deal with political challenges. But if this is a religious war, we simply do not have the tools, experience or interest to fight such a war.

Our existing modalities are secular ones. Our political systems and governmental institutions have been built with secular goals in mind, without much consideration to spiritual and religious values, which we have relegated to the private sector. We therefore do not see the world in context of religious and spiritual vision. That’s why we cannot fathom or understand the rage of the Arab world today.

And this is why a Palestinian state is not possible, and for that matter not doable. A state will never satisfy the Arab world. They will simply see it as a step in the direction of their re-conquest of Israel. They do not want a state for political reasons, but for religious ones. That is the key to the underlying issues. As much as we wish to make the Palestinian leaders of the world our “partners in peace,” we must realize that our secular notions of peace are not part of their agenda at all.

But what lies beneath and behind – what fuels – this Arab rage and passion? To understand this we need to enter into the secret world of religious passion.

Balance between the sacred and the mundane is a central theme in the Torah and in Jewish literature. We read time and again about passionate souls who are challenged to find balance between transcendence and existence. We are clearly instructed to live holy lives. “Be holy, because I, your G-d, am holy.” But how do we do that in a deeply secular and mundane world, without annihilating our existing institutions and infrastructures?

Sanctifying yourself in the material world is no simple feat. Spirit and matter are dichotomous. Our physical existence consumes us so that it leaves little room (space and time) for spirituality. Our struggle for survival – eating, sleeping, work, shelter – hampers our search for transcendence, the pursuit of our calling and higher purpose. Material life lends itself to corruption, which explains why the scouts sent by Moses to Israel returned with a negative report, arguing that Israel is a “land that consumes its inhabitants.” Who among us does not have the struggle between our own personal higher standards and the temptation to conform to society’s standards, between home and career, between focusing on our transcendental needs when we are so preoccupied with our material ones?

The challenge of creating harmony between body and soul is twofold. When we are immersed in our daily needs it is increasingly difficult to access our souls. When we are inspired by a transcendental experience, we find it difficult to reenter regular life. It seems as if the extraordinary and the ordinary are mutually exclusive, like two different worlds that can never entirely converge.

How often do we find someone caught up in spiritual ecstasy that they cannot return intact? Being burned out by the fire of a passionate high, unable to reenter ordinary life? Case in point the famous Talmudic story of the ‘four who entered the garden,’ three unable to return unharmed. This explains why some mystics have chosen the ascetic path, separating themselves from regular life, so that they can pursue the life of the spirit.

In the book of Leviticus we read how Nadav and Avihu succumbed to this temptation. In their great passion and love for the Divine, they entered the Holy of Holies, and they… ‘burned out’ and could not return. The Torah then proceeds to define the necessary guidelines on how to enter holiness and how to internalize and integrate the experience and not self-destruct.

Of course this fear of being spiritually ‘burned out’ can lead one to argue the merit of the exact opposite position: We should just immerse ourselves in our material lives and forget about our spiritual dreams and fantasies. The argument goes: In our mundane world it is simply naïve to live a life of spiritual and ethical integrity. If we do embrace the sublime, we stand the great risk of ‘burn out’ and being unable to cope with ordinary life. Why take the risk, better to just resign ourselves to a mundane life, as close as we possible can to ‘animal bliss.’

But that type of resignation is a cop-out. Can we be healthy human beings if we repress our soul’s restless thirst for transcendence? Indeed, we are obligated to sanctify our lives. And this precisely is life’s challenge: To fuse both worlds – matter and spirit, to spiritualize our material existence. This requires a delicate balance – a delicate dance – to synthesize both experiences, without one annihilating the other.

What is sanctity? Sanctity is recognizing that that every aspect of your life is not self contained but meant to become a channel for a Higher presence. Kedusha (holiness) is bittul (see Tanya chapter 6), suspension of self that allows the Divine to enter. Selfishness and narcissism does not allow anything else in.

“Where is G-d?” the future Rebbe of Kotzk was once asked as a child. He replied: “Wherever you let Him in.”

The command “be holy” instructs us to sanctify all aspects of existence – time, space and human. We must sanctify our personal behavior, through kindness and love. Then we sanctify time – we realize the preciousness of each moment and fill it with meaningful and Divine activities. Shabbat and the holidays are sacred days. Yom Kippur – the holiest day of the year, the Holy of Holies – is the epitome of time sanctification, serving as the source of sanctity for all days of the year.

Finally we sanctify space, the homes, land and countries in which we live. The Holy Land of Israel is the epitome of space sanctification, serving as the source of sanctity that spread to the entire globe. [This is one reason why we pray facing the East – Israel, Jerusalem, the Temple Mount].

Jerusalem – especially the Temple Mount and specifically the Holy of Holies on the Mount – is the center and nucleus of Holiness on Earth. No wonder everyone always wanted to control Jerusalem. Not just today but throughout history. How many battles have been waged over that holy real estate?

So, Jewish control of the Holy Land and particularly of the Holy of Holies is no small matter. Arab rage against Israel may have many ostensible causes. But at its core root, it stems from the Holy of Holies – from the need and will to control that vital region. As long as Jews control it, they feel utterly weak.

The Talmud gives us a profound psychological insight. At times your unconscious – your mazal – may sense something that causes a strong physical reaction. The holiness of Israel and Jerusalem is the cause for the profound enmity of the Arab world, even if there are other perceived causes and not everyone may be conscious of the true cause.

But to devise a successful strategy requires a true diagnosis of the problem. And sometimes (more often than not) the truth is something no one wants to hear or acknowledge. The war against Israel is rooted in religious belief (albeit distorted). And this is very difficult for us to accept. Why? There are many reasons. One compelling reason is this: After all, our modern secular world still lingers in the long shadow of the war between science and religion, a war many thought was won long ago by science and secularism. Suddenly religion comes back on the scene, and is threatening not just the Middle East but New York and Washington – mighty secular America.

That is too much to absorb in one shot. That’s why people are in such shock. We need to get accustomed to this new reality — a religious global war being fought, a war that will determine what G-d really wants of us, a war that will define and crystallize once and for all what is true Islam, what is true Christianity and what is true Judaism. We need to learn to reintroduce a long forgotten G-d into our lives, to reacquaint ourselves with G-d after a long hiatus, fueled by prosperity and its inevitable complacency and spiritual lethargy.

As a Jew, I know that our role is to use every platform available to us today to advocate the universal message of Torah – what Abraham taught to all his children, how G-d wants all of us to live, Jew, Muslim, Christian and all people.

The Torah’s essential message is that we can and we must sanctify the material world. We need to integrate the sacred with the mundane. One extreme or the other is simply not acceptable: Violent passion – even in the name of G-d – is destructive and therefore un-G-dly. Too much untempered chesed (Ishmael) annihilates the universe. Conversely, overabundant gevurah (Esau) and immersion in the material, or its antithesis, radical disassociation with the physical (as in celibacy), is equally destructive.

The holiness of Eretz Yisroel is complete when it creates harmony between the physical land (Eretz) and the Divine (Yisroel, meaning “You have battled with the Divine and with man and you have prevailed”).

We are now experiencing perhaps the greatest ‘market correction’ in history – in defining the truth of the world’s religions; a reality check of the vastest proportions – the final battle – and ultimate reconciliation – between the sublime and the secular, between spirit and matter.

Truth or consequences is not a game today; it has never been so apparent. The consequences of living a lie are becoming more obvious by the day. Lies and deception work well in shadows, where is difficult to discern true from false. But as the dawn breaks and we can begin to clearly see the price we pay for our falsities, the truth emerges in direct proportion to the exposed lies.

Are we really surprised that Palestinians have taken to the streets looking for Jews to stab and kill? And their leaders are calling for a new intifada?

Sometimes the most obvious truths are not stated and acknowledged because we fear the unknown. But then when we do acknowledge them we begin to realize that we have the power to face the challenge.

Let us hope and pray that we do not have to pay with any more lives to realize the truth of our situation and act accordingly.


Our hearts, condolences and prayers go out to all thoise that have suffered recent losses, and to all our brethren in Israel. .


Create a passionate spiritual revolution for the good.

As passions of violence have been released on us, against humanity, our most powerful response is to counter with a passionate revolution of purpose, with no less passion and drive than the evil being waged against us.

Please see War in Israel: What We Must Do for a list of practical suggestions.

For an elaborate related discussion on this topic, please go here to view Rabbi Jacobson’s latest classes and articles on the topic of confronting a terror.


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Yitzchak Millman
8 years ago

In trying to explain Arab behavior toward Jews and toward Israel, R. Jacobson fails to cite a key prophecy in this weeks parsha, Lech Lecha. Speaking to Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, Hashem says: He will be a free man; his hand shall be against every man, and every mans hand against him; and he will take his place in the face of all his brothers. In this weeks parsha, no less! I ask the Rabbi: Wouldnt this explain a good deal of Ishmaelim (Arab) behavior today? And if the good Rabbi had cited this from scripture it might have cleared up a lot of misconceptions people have about who these people are and what mankind can expect from them.

Editors reply:
Very good point. Thanks for writing this. Rabbi Jacobson did discuss this verse in another article here.

8 years ago

I am totally speechless! Rabbi J should run for office. Our country and the west has lost its way and battling the cognitive dissonance so entrenched in our world is the first strategy. The challenges we face are so well articulated here, I have nothing to add except admiration. Shabbat Shalom!

8 years ago

To Yitzchak Millman
Before getting to a key prophecy in this weeks parsha a person has to accept Torah authority. For those who dont the proof of your argument is nothing but a coincident. This essay meticulously paves the path for everybody to get it; even a non-believer has access to understand the root of the problem.

Steven Shamrak
8 years ago

The Mufti did not inspire Hitler to commit the Holocaust, but he was a willing and eager participant. The silence and quiet endorsement of the international anti-Semitic community was the true inspiration! They were silent to killing of millions of Jews – the same as they were indifferent to the genocide of Armenians by Turkey in 1915. This silence was Hitler’s real inspiration!
On August 22, 1939, in preparation for the impending invasion of Poland, Hitler stated to Reichmarshal Hermann Goering and the commanding generals at Obersalzberg…
Our strength consists in our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter – with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. Its a matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me… Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?
In 1941, Haj Amin al-Husseini fled to Germany and met with Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joachim Von Ribbentrop and other Nazi leaders. He wanted to persuade them to extend the Nazis’ anti-Jewish program to the Arab world.
The Mufti sent Hitler 15 drafts of declarations he wanted Germany and Italy to make concerning the Middle East. One called on the two countries to declare the illegality of the Jewish home in Palestine.
In November 1941, the Mufti met with Hitler, who told him the Jews were his foremost enemy. The Nazi dictator rebuffed the Muftis requests for a declaration in support of the Arabs, however, telling him the time was not right.
Mufti offered Hitler his “thanks for the sympathy which he had always shown for the Arab and especially Palestinian cause, and to which he had given clear expression in his public speeches….The Arabs were Germanys natural friends because they had the same enemies as had Germany, namely….the Jews….
In 1945, Yugoslavia sought to indict the Mufti as a war criminal for his role in recruiting 20,000 Muslim volunteers for the SS, who participated in the killing of Jews in Croatia and Hungary. He escaped from French detention in 1946, however, and continued his fight against the Jews from Cairo and later Beirut. He died in 1974.
Another thing that Hitler was inspired from Islam, was the idea of the yellow star. It was required for Jews to wear it in Muslim invaded countries to ensure that they were treated as 2nd class citizens.
Things You Need to Know About the Mufti
1) Husseini used the “Temple Mount libel” to drive the 1929 Arab massacre of Jews in Hebron. (Fatah and Hamas are doing now!)
2) Husseini worked closely with Adolf Eichmann on the extermination of Jews in the Holocaust. (The PA has the same goal!)
3) Husseini’s role throughout World War II was as an anti-Semitic, anti-Allied propagandist.
4) Nazi support of Husseini led to radicalizing the Muslim world.
5) Husseini’s radical, violent anti-Semitism became a founding feature in both Palestinian nationalism and modern Islamism.
6) Husseini’s “fusion” of European anti-Semitism with Islamic views of Jewish evil has been adopted by Islamists around the world. (Regardless if it is Shia Iran or Sunni Saudi Arabia!)
7) Husseini recruited thousands of Muslim soldiers for Hitler.
8) Husseini was designated by the UN as a war criminal. (But France let him go!)
9) After World War II, Husseini continued spreading anti-Semitic propaganda as a central tenet of Palestinian nationalism.
10) Husseini remains a hero to Palestinians.
Arafats mother, Hamida Khalifa al-Husseini was, a cousin to the very same Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Therefore, Arafat was his nephew or grand-nephew and was inspired by him to create his own Jew-hating, genocidal, terrorist organization – Fatah!
Another Muslim ‘invention’ that Hitler was inspired by was idea of the yellow star. The practice was used in Islam dominated countries in order to distinguish and humiliate Jews and other non-Muslims and in order to treat them as 2nd class citizen!
(Compiled by Steven Shamrak)

Ofer Raveh
7 years ago

The solution is always created before the problem in the universe.
Abraham, following G-d instruction to send Ishmael and Hagar away, created the solution: The Arab-Israeli conflict.

What was the issue that G-d had to circumvent?
The issue that would surface thousand years later was, the internal discords between Israeli orthodox, conservative, reform and secular Jews, and the internal discords between Arabs sunni and shia.

How would it circumvent these internal discords?
When internal disagreement would rise, the external “enemy” would surge, galvanizing the parties, and keep them united. If there are discords between orthodox, conservatives, reforms and secular Jews, an Arab up-rise will unite the Israelis. If there are internal issues in an Arab country, the government blaming Israel for its people situation, will quite down the voices against this government.

How to bring peace?
If we accept everyone in our own community, there won’t be a need for external forces to keep us united.
The bottom line is that we are all working for the same common goal, but each one of us has a different obligation to work on. The religious person duties are different than the secular person, but we are all working to bring Moshiach together. Different religions call it different names, but it is all about redemption. Understanding the oneness concept of the universe, is the first step in bringing peace to the world.

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