Scholarship sheds light on radical Jewish groups

The talk of media professionals betrays their ignorance of the vital national role played by language, and, by analogy, the importance of Hebrew studies departments at Egyptian universities. It’s the kind of ignorance which causes them to consider the acquisition of knowledge about Israel, whether during times of war or times of peace, as some sort of cultural normalization. I would like to dispel this kind of ignorance.

I’m attempting to make a distinction between our national duty to obtain comprehensive knowledge about all that happens in Israel, on all different levels, whether through scientific research or translation, and superficial thinking which ignores the importance of knowledge as a means of securing our country against external threats.

I received a PhD thesis titled "Radical Religious Jewish Groups in Israel: Origin and Development." The thesis was written by Howaida Abdel Hamid Mostafa, teaching assistant at the Hebrew language department of Ain Shams University Faculty of Arts.

I was happy to find that the research paper followed the scientific approach I have developed, together with professor Rashad el-Shamy, for the department since 1967. Our goal is to serve the national effort in its different forms, in this case via academia. Young researchers should study the various aspects of life and thought prevailing in Israel, especially given that the risks posed by expansionist and anti-Arab ideas have not yet subsided.

The thesis focused on radical religious groups who rely on religious references from Jewish texts, and who interpret these texts as supporting expansionist plans in the Arab world, giving them justification for committing terrible crimes against Arab civilians.

We are thus faced with the quintessential model of terrorist organization, one which carries out secret assassinations that target Arabs, one which employs the most criminal forms of violence in an attempt to expel Arabs from the West Bank, and which plans to destroy the holy places of other religions in Jerusalem, in particular Al-Aqsa Mosque.

I asked Mostafa, author of the thesis, about a reference she made concerning the involvement of Israeli security forces in sponsoring one of these Jewish groups. I asked her to do more research to find out whether the assassination in 1995 of former prime minister General Yitzhak Rabin was carried out by the organization in question, in cooperation with security forces, in order to derail the peace process, which was begun by Rabin with the signing of the Oslo Accords and handing over authority for some cities in the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinian Authority.

Attempts to find an answer to this question are of paramount importance for us to understand the sources of danger that menace Arab rights and jeopardize the chances of restoring these rights through peaceful negotiations. Does the danger come only from extreme religious Jewish organizations? Or do those organizations take action based on official instructions from the security apparatus, or from individuals within the security apparatus seeking to limit opportunities for a peaceful political settlement, for the sake of their own expansionist agenda?

The researcher has promised to examine this possibility and to provide documents and evidence enabling a conclusive judgment to be made in answer to the question. Her thesis tackled the accusations leveled against Avishai Raviv, who was allegedly behind the assassination of Rabin, and his confessions which appeared in the Shamgar report, admitting that he had knowledge of Yigal and Hagai Amir’s intentions to assassinate Rabin.

The researcher also discovered that although Raviv, the organization’s chief, worked with the Israeli Secret Service (the Shabak), he did not report the intentions of the two men. It seems then paradoxical that the court acquitted Raviv even though he confessed to the crime, and considering also that documents handed to the court proved that Raviv had issued a religious decree authorizing the killing of Rabin, since he represented a threat to the lives of Jews–and distributed pictures of Rabin in a Nazi outfit.

I wished to pause at this point in the thesis, to highlight its importance as scientific research, supported by documents and references that expose the backstage intricacies of religious Jewish groups which are only rarely condemned by the West.

The researcher divided her thesis into two chapters and attempted to provide answers to two important questions that she raised at the beginning of her thesis. Her first question was: Are there core differences between these radical religious groups concerning their stance on the land of Palestine, Palestinians, secularists, and democracy in Israel, or are they merely superficial differences forming a division of roles?

The second question was: Is there a possibility for a just peace based on the principle of "land for peace," given the increasing activity of these Jewish groups, the impact they have on devout young Jews, and the support the groups receive from the political leadership in Israel?

As head of the judges panel I wished to express my appreciation for the efforts of the professor supervising the thesis, Mona Nazem el-Dabboussy, as well as the work put in by the researcher, who is one of my youngest students in the department. Today, I’m showing my appreciation not only in front of the judges panel but also before the entire Egyptian public.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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