The fighters gather to celebrate their victory in a recent campaign against the enemy infidels. Singers are called in to raise an anthem in praise of the warriors.

Suddenly, there is outrage, consternation. Dozens of the fighters get up and stalk out of the celebration, along with their commanders. They are all deeply insulted, their religious faith has been assaulted, they have been exposed to a filthy evil which they cannot, will not, abide:

Some of the singers are…. women.

Just another day in a Taliban encampment? another example of the virulent woman-hatred and primitive fanaticism of Islamofascist zealots? Of course not. These were Israeli soldiers and officers, who fled the celebration because of “their belief that halakha, or Jewish religious law, prohibits them from hearing a woman sing,” Haaretz reports.

The Paratroop Brigade had come together in Haifa to mark its service in the glorious triumph of “Operation Cast Lead” — Israel’s all-out military assault on the densely populated Gaza strip, which killed hundreds of innocent civilians, many of them deliberately, as revealed by reams of testimony now emerging from Israeli soldiers themselves. But the program featured the brief appearance of a few women among a group of singers — a gross insult to God Almighty that triggered the righteous walkout.

Although the action was a breach of military discipline, Israel’s military rabbinate fully supports the soldiers’ manly refusal to hear the siren songs of the demonic, she-hag Liliths, and “urged commanders to show sensitivity in such situations and either to excuse religious soldiers in advance from attending any portion of a ceremony that poses a problem or to simply not feature female singers at such programs.”

Or better yet, why not put the harpies in a burqa and be done with it? Oh wait: a growing movement of extremists in Israel is already doing that: see here and here. The veilers are part of the haredim, an expansive, belligerent sect of extremists seeking to impose their, well, primitive fanaticism on Israel’s secular society. The haredim have even banned broadcasts of the songs of a young male singer — a yeshiva student — because his voice sounds “too feminine,” as Shmarya Rosenberg reports. (For more on how Israel’s ever-more powerful religious extremists treat women, see this at Rosenberg’s site.)

Oddly enough, the sluts who sought to tempt the pure-hearted he-men in Haifa were themselves members of the Paratroop Brigade. In this regard, at least, the military rabbinate shows admirable modernity: it is OK for women to carry guns and kill people — but for God’s sake, don’t let them sing where someone with a penis can hear them! This would be highly displeasing to the Creator of the entire universe, you see.

But the aforementioned slaughter of innocent Palestinians in Gaza was definitely not displeasing unto the Lord. In fact, the massacre was encouraged, even demanded by extremist clergymen in Israel’s military rabbinate. Haaretz again:

An overview of some of the army rabbinate’s publications made available during the fighting reflects the tone of nationalist propaganda that steps blatantly into politics, sounds racist and can be interpreted as a call to challenge international law when it comes to dealing with enemy civilians….

“[There is] a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [the Land of Israel] to gentiles, though all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses. We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it.” This is an excerpt from a publication entitled “Daily Torah studies for the soldier and the commander in Operation Cast Lead,” issued by the IDF rabbinate…

The IDF rabbinate, also quoting Rabbi Aviner, describes the appropriate code of conduct in the field: “When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers. This is terribly immoral. These are not games at the amusement park where sportsmanship teaches one to make concessions. This is a war on murderers. ‘A la guerre comme a la guerre.'”

This view is also echoed in publications signed by Rabbis Chen Halamish and Yuval Freund on Jewish consciousness. Freund argues that “our enemies took advantage of the broad and merciful Israeli heart” and warns that “we will show no mercy on the cruel.”

In addition to the official publications, extreme right-wing groups managed to bring pamphlets with racist messages into IDF bases. One such flyer is attributed to “the pupils of Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg” – the former rabbi at Joseph’s Tomb and author of the article “Baruch the Man,” which praises Baruch Goldstein, who massacred unarmed Palestinians in Hebron. It calls on “soldiers of Israel to spare your lives and the lives of your friends and not to show concern for a population that surrounds us and harms us. We call on you … to function according to the law ‘kill the one who comes to kill you.’ As for the population, it is not innocent … We call on you to ignore any strange doctrines and orders that confuse the logical way of fighting the enemy.”

As the Chicago Tribune reports, this infidel-slaughtering radical jihadism was rampant throughout the officially supported military rabbinate:

The winter assault on the Gaza Strip was officially portrayed in Israel as an attempt to quell rocket fire by militants of Hamas. But some soldiers say they also were lectured about a more ambitious aim: to banish non-Jews from the biblical land of Israel.

“This rabbi comes to us and says the fight is between the children of light and the children of darkness,” a reserve sergeant said, recalling a training camp encounter. “His message was clear: ‘This is a war against an entire people, not against specific terrorists.’ The whole thing was turned into something very religious and messianic.”

…In testimony reported by Israeli news media and in interviews with The Times, Gaza veterans said rabbis advised army units to show the enemy no mercy and called for resettlement of the Palestinian enclave by Jews.

“The rabbis were all over, in every unit,” said Yehuda Shaul, a retired army officer whose human rights group, Breaking the Silence, has taken testimony from dozens of Gaza veterans. “It was quite well organized.”

The army, which conscripts almost every Israeli Jew at 18, has been dominated for most of its history by secular officers. But over the last 15 years, as secular Israelis have soured on the occupation of Palestinian territory, religious nationalists have taken over senior positions in elite combat brigades.

With them have come hundreds of volunteer rabbis, who teach at pre-military academies for religious youths and serve side by side with the troops.

This same process is also occurring in the United States, of course. Extremist, militarist, nationalist Christians have been pushing inexorably to seize domination over the American military, with remarkable success. A few people, like Mikey Weinstein and Chris Hedges, have been sounding the alarm of the militant theists. I’ve written a fair bit on it myself; here, for instance. (Actually, I’ve been writing about it for almost 30 years, as in this piece from 2004. In fact, one of my first appearances in print was about the right-wing takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, converting this quietist organization into a juggernaut of political agitprop and kulturkampf.) And bizarre extremism on a par with anything promoted by the haredim or bin Laden can be found on the commanding heights of the American power structure — with literally deadly results. As I noted way in another column from 2004:

The dogma of Bush’s godliness is no rhetorical flourish; it has been forged with blood and iron. Consider General Jerry Boykin, who, in uniform, toured churches across the United States, declaring openly that “George W. Bush was not elected by the majority of the American people; he was appointed by God” to lead his “Christian nation” against Satan and the “idol-worshippers” of Islam, as reports. Bush then made Boykin the Pentagon’s chief of military intelligence — the point man for wringing information out of Islamic captives in the “war on terror.” The result — confirmed even by the Pentagon’s own anemic investigations — was a military intelligence system gone berserk, systematically torturing and occasionally murdering prisoners who, as the Red Cross notes, were overwhelmingly innocent of any crime. Bush signed orders removing these prisoners from the protection of U.S. and international law; Boykin’s boys then visited divine wrath upon the heathens. But these atrocities cannot be crimes, because Bush and Boykin are, in the general’s phraseology, “Kingdom warriors” in the “Army of God.”

One need only look to the virulent dominionism in the political theology of Sarah Palin to see that this kind of thing will by no means pass from the American political scene anytime soon. And the Bushist bigwig that Barack Obama has retained to run his brand-new “surge” in Afghanistan and other fronts of the Terror War (now given the Orwellian new moniker of “Overseas Contingency Operations”), General David “Pre-President” Petraeus, is certainly has no problem with spreading Christianist doctrine in — and through — the military, as Chris Rodda reported last year.

Religious extremism has been on the rise in many cultures and nations during the past few decades, greatly aided by the spread of technology (especially communications technology) and, even more so, by the willing connivance (and, frequently, the funding) of elitist factions both inside and outside of state governments. As I noted in a piece first published in the Moscow Times in July 2006:

The history of almost every religion is a tragedy of betrayal: the betrayal of the radical, egalitarian vision of its founders by generations of powerful elites, who twist and pervert the original principles in order to augment their own status, wealth and dominion. It has always been thus, but is nowhere more marked than among the “People of the Book” — Christians, Muslims and Jews — whose elites have for centuries led their followers away from the sparks of light that shone in the beginning, dragging them deeper into darkness and error, until today the world finds itself mired in a new Jahiliyyah, the time of ignorance….

The degeneration of these faiths into aggressive obscurantism should of course be a matter solely for their adherents; why should anyone else be concerned with the feverish hair-splitting, manic control-freakery and sexual obsessions of rabid fundamentalists? Unfortunately, these now-degraded sects dominate the lives of billions of people. Professed believers — or, even worse, sincere believers — from the three “Abrahamic faiths” control the governments of many nations, with bristling nuclear arsenals under Christian, Jewish and Muslim command. The fundamentalists’ stunted, ignorant and at times demented interpretations of ancient texts, dubious traditions and their own blood-soaked histories cannot be ignored. They are the driving force behind every conflict today that threatens to wrap the earth in flames of literal hellfire.

But what these modern-day “believers” believe — and do — has almost no connection to the religions they profess. Karen Armstrong provides clear evidence of this in “The Great Transformation,” her sweeping new scholarly study of the “Axial Age,” the tremendous, centuries-long, worldwide eruption of human consciousness (roughly 900-200 BCE) that gave rise to the major traditions still existing today: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Greek rationalist thought and the monotheism of Israel, from which later sprang the three sibling faiths whose family quarrels have so poisoned the last two millennia.

As Armstrong notes, the “Axial sages” — prophets, mystics, philosophers, poets — achieved a remarkable consensus across centuries and cultures in the essence of their teachings. “All the sages preached a spirituality of empathy and compassion; they insisted that people abandon their egotism and greed, their violence and unkindness,” and that this radical compassion “must somehow extend to the entire world.” Indeed, “as far as the Axial sages were concerned, respect for the sacred rights of all beings — not orthodox belief — was religion.”

The contrast with the hidebound ignorance of our day could hardly be greater. Or, as Bob Dylan once put it: “Easy to see without looking too far/That not much is really sacred.” Certainly not the rights, or lives, of individual human beings, now being shredded everywhere you look by self-declared lovers of God. The fundamentalists have been steeped in murk for so long that they mistake their darkness for the light.

No doubt every well-wadded, White House-connected televangelist justifying aggressive war, pimping for tax cuts and frothing with anxiety about homosexuals thinks he’s walking in the footsteps of the backwoods preacher from Galilee, who spent his entire ministry serving the poor and the despised, the powerless and the discarded, the sexual outcasts and the victims of wealth, and was finally killed by the satraps of what was then the world’s only hyperpower.

No doubt every Kalashnikov-toting enforcer of Islamic “virtue” — schooled in a hatemongering madrasa funded by cynical Saudi potentates glutted with U.S. oil money — who beats “unruly” women and slaughters ice cream vendors and CD hawkers because “they didn’t have such things in the Prophet’s time” thinks he’s following the example of Muhammad, who forbade the imposition of Islam on others, continually refined his thought and married an independent female merchant who hired him as an agent for her caravan business, then proposed to him, in defiance of ancient custom.

No doubt every “settler rabbi” issuing edicts approving the killing of Arab civilians or blessing a cruise missile bound for a Beirut apartment complex believes he is a worthy heir of Rabbi Hillel, the great Pharisee who, when challenged to reduce God’s law to a single statement, replied: “What is hateful to yourself, do not do to others. That is the whole law; the rest is commentary. Go and study.” This formulation, the Golden Rule later adapted by Jesus, was in fact a powerful distillation — and revival — of the Axial sages’ core teaching.

But this core been lost once again, washed away in the blood being shed by the People of the Book in their global war of terror: state terror, sectarian terror, death squads, black ops, “asymmetrical attacks” and “disproportionate force” — an orgy of egotism and greed, violence and unkindness, with the name of God being invoked at every turn.

What the sages knew thousands of years ago — in the mud of the Ganges, in the cattle yards of Qufu, by the waters of Babylon — we no longer know. We only know the grunt of ignorant bluster and the frenzied call to war: holy war, culture war, “long war.” We are strangling on the blood clot of betrayal.

As the United States (led, we must note, by yet another loudly proclaimed, deeply believing Christian) embarks on an escalation of its deadly crusade to force Afghanistan, Pakistan and other recalcitrant Muslim nations to “transform their societies” — while continuing its staunch support for Israel’s increasingly frenzied berserking against the Palestinians — that blood clot will only grow to even more monstrous proportions.

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