The Garin Torani Threat: Missionary Ultranationalism

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A protest against a Garin Torani in a building in Jafa, in 2016.

With somewhat demagogic acrobatics, Akiva Novick tried to cleanse the garinim hatorani’im – groups of young religious Zionist families who go to development towns and mixed Jewish-Arab cities to actualize their Zionism – from the charges of racism, disinheritance, spreading hate and fueling passions (“What does Zionism mean in this day and age?” Haaretz, August 29).

In order to achieve his objective, he recruits a pair of sacred Zionist cows – the “pioneers” and those who “Judaize the Galilee” – and compares them to the Garin Torani settlers. In other words, these invasive garinim are only the successors to the mythological pioneers and those who Judaized the Galilee, who are so idolized by the Zionist left. Why are they suddenly unpopular? After all, the toranim are acting exactly like the past objects of their worship: invading and Judaizing.

And he’s right. It’s true, the various garinim are behaving exactly like the pioneers and the Judaizers. And their objectives are also (almost) identical: penetration, occupation, disinheriting, Judaization, control. But Novick ended up like the biblical prophet Balaam, only in reverse: He came to bless and found himself cursing. He came to glorify the Hardalim, the nationalist ultra-Orthodox community, and ended up exposing, reminding and proving the full shame and failure of Zionism, the Zionism that throughout its history learned nothing and forgot nothing.

The pioneers, who really did behave exactly like a Garin Torani, are the ones who laid the foundation for the bloody conflict that has continued for 100 years. And the other side of the equation is also true: The invasive garinim, who really are behaving just like the mythological pioneers, are guaranteeing at least another 100 years of conflict.

And the similarity is even more profound. Both groups, then as now, are alienated from their surroundings, plotting disinheritance, arrogant, insensitive, condescending and blinded by racist ideology. Both groups had a literal interpretation of “For a people without a land, a land without a people,” the most contemptible Zionist epigram. Both believed and believe that all the Arabs who are present should be turned into absentees. They are all redeemers of land. Not redeemers of man.

But in spite of the profound similarity, there is still one big difference. The pioneers hoped, perhaps with somewhat malicious naivete, that in the end, a social democratic state would be established here (for the Jews), which would be quite worthy and well managed.

The Hardalim want much more. They’re not satisfied with disinheriting Arabs and filling their places with Jews. For them that’s only the first stage. The second stage is “lite” religionization, to be followed by ultra-Orthodox nationalism. Slowly, only “by pleasant means” of course, another dunam will be Judaized, until the establishment of a benighted, xenophobic, racist, idolatrous theocracy, filled with death industries, is completed. Because Hardalism is not only ultranationalist, it is also not only religious. It’s both. It is sacred, missionary ultranationalism.

And that is precisely the threat of the Garin Hatorani. A threat that is far more dangerous than the (empty) Iranian nuclear threat: a constant torani revolution, which knows no bounds, is never satisfied, and promises only an endless holy war for the sake of heaven. Until the total destruction, until the complete disintegration, until the end.

Toward the end of his article Novick writes: “We’re not here to talk about gentrification, but about nationalism, demographic struggle.” I will try to forget that he wrote that. Because those are precisely the words that every decent German could mutter to himself at night, when the apartments of his Jewish neighbors began to empty out. “It’s not gentrification,” he would whisper, “it’s only nationalism and a demographic struggle…,” and fall asleep.

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