Jewish Journal


August 26, 2008

Origins of terrorism: blame the Jews



King David after Irgun attack

Remember: When in doubt, blame the Jews.

The attacks often are part of a strawman. But do Jews really deserve credit for being the first terrorists?

Wikipedia says that the Sicarii, an offshoot of the Jewish Zealots and an ancient ancestor of the Irgun, were among the first known terrorists. The Maccabees, Jewish heroes, were certainly not peacemakers. And this article from the Asian Tribune, “The Menace of Terrorism and It’s Early Origins,” focuses squarely on the Zealots who fought back against the Roman occupiers.

According to their theology, they could not accept any foreign rule in their land and they were duty bound by God to unleash violence against what they perceived as the enemies of Judaism. They were formed as a political party with self-appointed leaders and had broken with the normal Jewish society and hence with the Jewish authority and the leaders. Religious and nationalist fanaticism was the main tenet of their political ideology.

Though they represented a political party, it’s fair to call at least some of the Zealots ancient terrorists. They were leaders in the Jewish Revolt who, according to Josephus, instituted a reign of terror before the destruction of the Second Temple, and deeming them much else would be willful deception.

But just because something appears on Wikipedia doesn’t mean its true. The problem with this distinction is that, like many criticisms of Jews throughout history, it can be used to blame Jews for their own suffering—in this case the suicide bombings that kill Israeli civilians.

Does anyone know of another ancient group of people who could claim the title of world’s first terrorists?

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