Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Mahmoud Abbas and the Torah
(Warning: Reader discretion advised. This essay involves Judaism. It may offend you.)
Between last Shabbat and this upcoming Shabbat, our Torah references an incident about a non-Jewish sorcerer called, Bilaam. I suggest that these Torah references give us some insight into Mahmoud Abbas and his anti-Israel friends.
This essay is based upon the comments of the Ramban (Rabbi Moses, son of Nachman, 1194-1270 (?)) . The text I use here is, Ramban-Nachmanidies/ Commentary on the Torah, ArtScroll Series, Mesorah Publications, March 2012, volume 6, Bamidbar /Numbers , pp 482-655).
In last week's Parsha (Torah portion) called Balak (Bamidbar, 22:2-25:9), we saw that Balak, king of Moab, was both afraid of the Jewish Israel--and eager to attack Israel. Because he saw Israel as too powerful to attack, Balak went to his friends, the elders of Midian. He sought their advice: how can I attack this Jewish nation and hope to win?
These elders had an answer. They would conspire with Balak to devise a plot to subdue Israel (see Ramban comments, (Bamidbar, 25:18)). The elders of Midian told Balak he must consult a world-famous sorcerer. This sorcerer would know how to place a curse on the Jewish nation. The elders of Midian even knew exactly whom to call--a non-Jewish sorcerer named, Bilaam.
The Ramban (Bamidbar, 22:3 ) says Balak knew Israel was forbidden to attack Moab. He knew Moab was safe from the Jewish nation (ibid). But he wanted more. He wanted to strike at Israel. He wanted to make certain Israel would absolutely never be able to attack him, ever (ibid).
The elders of Midian plotted with Balak to hire the famous sorcerer. Their plan was, get Bilaam to curse the Jews. His curses would weaken the Jewish nation. Then, weakened, Israel would--at least in theory--become vulnerable enough to conquer.
Bilaam was recruited. He came to Balak. He worked to curse the Jewish nation. His curses failed. However, before he left Balak, Bilaam offered one last piece of advice. Balak could weaken the Jewish nation, if he....
As the Parsha, Balak, ends, we see that Bilaam's advice worked. Through Bilaam's ingenious plotting, Israel was thrown into crisis.
In this coming week's Shabbat Parsha, Pinchas (Bamidbar, 25:10-30:1), we learn about both the near- and long-term aftereffects of Bilaam's plot. In Parshat Balak (Bamidbar, 25:7-9)), Israel ended the crisis. Now, in Parshat Pinchas, it attacked Midian (Bibid, 25:16-17). In the fighting--which may have ranged far beyond the initial point of crisis--Bilaam was killed (Ramban, ibid, 25:18).
The Ramban has an interesting commentary on Bilaam's death. He suggests Bilaam was not present when his anti-Israel advice was implemented. He'd already gone home. He didn't directly participate in seducing Israel into its crisis.
The Ramban appears to ask a question about this death: if Billaam was not present during the Midianite 'strike' against Israel--if, in other words, Bilaam didn't actually 'attack'--why was he killed? An inferred second question here is, if Bilaam didn't actually 'pull a trigger', can he be punished?
The Ramban offers an answer that speaks to us today: everyone involved in a conspiracy, the Ramban says, is guilty of the crime committed by conspirators.
This guilt isn't just a spiritual guilt. It has a modern legal echo through the concept of a joint criminal enterprise.
This legal concept says a person could be judged guilty of a crime even if he wasn't present during the commission of that crime. Depending upon the details of a case, a person could be guilty if he had simply participated in the plan to commit that crime.
We see something of this in the Ramban's commentary. The Ramban posits that all who conspired in this instance to attack the Jewish nation were guilty of that attack.
Consider now the modern Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority (PA). He seeks to destroy Israel (Abbas has an extensive resume of anti-Israel activities that confirm this intent). He and his Fatah officials accuse, demonize and incite against Israel pretty much weekly--and they've done so for years (see palwatch for hundreds of instances of this).
Everything the Palestinian Authority does regarding Israel seems consciously dedicated to incitement against the Jewish state. The PA's education system, religious leaders, sports ministry and media all spew hatred and murderous propaganda against Israel.
Abbas and his Muslin friends at Fatah and Hamas don't operate in a vacuum. Like Balak before them, they seek advice. They seek counsel with the European Union (EU) and with individual European countries, churches and organizations. This collective-but-informal anti-Israel 'federation' annually sends millions of Shekel to anti-Israel Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) in Israel which distort, misrepresent and sometimes outright lie about Israel in order to criminalize the world's only Jewish state before the eyes and ears of the world.
Abbas conspires with many far beyond the Middle East. He plots against Israel with his friends at the United Nations.
There, he successfully encourages friends to, essentially, curse the Jewish nation by voting against Israel and to condemn Israel more than any other nation on earth. He encourages them to curse the Jewish nation by condemning Israel for supposed war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations against a long menu of human rights abuses.
At the UN, Abbas even gets his friends to un-Jewish Jerusalem, The Temple Mount and Hevron. His friends curse the Jewish nation by voting to remove all Jewish connection to each of these holy Jewish places in Israel--and to rename them as holy Muslim sites. For all intents and purposes, Abbas' friends at the UN plot to destroy Israel piece-by-piece when they rename that which is Jewish as Islamic.
Like Balak and his friends in the Torah, Abbas and his friends work to weaken the Jewish nation so that, at just the right moment, Israel will be weak enough to destroy.
Both Balak and Abbas know that Israel has never attacked them out of hate or a raw, selfish desire to conquer. Nevertheless, both Balak and Abbas seek to strike out at Israel to make absolutely certain Israel will never, ever be able to attack anyone.
In the Torah, those who attack Israel are typically punished. Does Biblical punishment for those who attack the Jewish nation suggest anything to you about Abbas and his friends who conspire and attack Israel?
What happens to those who conspire against Israel could surprise you. That surprise might even have an impact of Biblical proportions.
Stay tuned. The cursing hasn't ended. The consequences haven't begun.