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There are umpteen examples of religion being used in politics. In our modern times, with secular principles enshrined in most democracies, the influence of religion in governance has greatly reduced. Nevertheless, religious fundamentalism continues to be a great political hurdle in all countries. There are many worldwide examples of religious fundamentalists perverting their religion and using it in politics, like:

  1. Nazis and Ku Klux Klan perverting Christianity.
  2. The RSS (in India) perverting Hinduism.
  3. The Khalistanis (in India and abroad) perverting Sikhism.
  4. The various Jihadi outfits perverting Islam.

(Note that all these organisations have been been condemned and / or even banned more than once by democracies and are still monitored for potential terrorist activities due to their political beliefs).

The common politics binding them all is the use of a more rigid and perverted version of their religion to create an "us vs them" binary narrative, which they use to brainwash people, get more followers and instigate communal violence to further their political agenda.

Most of them also tend to lean to the extreme right and draw inspiration from fascist ideology including militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, a belief in natural social hierarchy and the rule of elites, and the desire to create a community in which individual interests are subordinated to the good of the nation.

I am quite ignorant if the Jewish community too face problems of religious fundamentalism. Are there any Jewish religious fundamentalist organisations, in Israel or any other country, having similar characteristics to the ones I described above? If not, are there any studies on what insulates the followers of Judaism from such kind of religious fundamentalism?


To be clear, I don't consider Israel to be a "terrorist" state in any manner, but a democratic one that respects secularism (as much as it can despite its jewish identity). So please avoid references to Israel (the state) vs Palestine / muslims in your answers. I am specifically seeking information on organisations (within and, out side Israel) to understand their political ideology and propaganda tactics.

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    Doesn't seem much point writing an answer when there's already a Wikipedia page.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 12, 2023 at 20:53
  • @StuartF Thanks for the reference. (But from that perspective everything is there on wikipedia / internet and we don't need Po.SE ... isn't the point of SE's like this to get more concise, specific and authoritative info?).
    – sfxedit
    Jan 12, 2023 at 20:56
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    Nazis were never regarded as Christian. Not sure if they were overly religious at all. Definitely not a good example of Christian fundamentalism. Jan 12, 2023 at 22:31
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – sfxedit
    Jan 13, 2023 at 0:04

4 Answers 4

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Yes, BUT

There is one known one, but it's marginal.

Kahane Hai is a split off from the former Israeli political party Kach.

It was a minor party. It mustered the following election outcomes: enter image description here

Both Kach and Kahane Hai were outlawed in Israel as terrorist organizations in 1994.

Kahane Hai is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, Canada, the European Union, and Japan. It is no longer considered a terrorist organization in the US, but according to the Wikipedia article in the link, it has been at some point.

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    Do both both kach and kahane hai have a religious fundamentalist ideology or was that the reason for their split?
    – sfxedit
    Jan 13, 2023 at 4:53
  • @sfxedit I don't know what the reason for their split was.
    – wrod
    Jan 14, 2023 at 13:00
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    Kahane Hai means "Kahane Lives" and is basically a rebranding of the outlawed Kach party after Kahane was assassinated. The "Jewish Power" party currently in the governing coalition in Israel has similar precepts to Kahane and cites him as inspiration, but views that were once considered radical (and vile) have become mainstreamed. Jan 14, 2023 at 17:43
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    @AndrewLazarus no, I don't believe it's a mainstream view that it should be illegal (as in punishable by law) for Jews and gentiles to conjugate. The link in Wikipedia says that it was one of the positions of Kach, as a political party. Personal views, including religious ones, and views which people are willing to embed in their governing philosophy are not the same thing.
    – wrod
    Jan 15, 2023 at 0:27
  • @wrod Yes, that was one of Kahane's positions. Maybe because of the embarrassment when Kahane, who was married, had his non-Jewish mistress commit suicide; he didn't want anyone else to do what he did. You are correct that this particular plan has not continued. However, the expulsion of West Bank Arabs, once fringe, is indeed part of the platform of the current far-right parties. Jan 15, 2023 at 6:10
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Acording to Wikipedia there are 2 types of such fundamentalists:

Haredi Judaism

Haredi Judaism consists of groups within Orthodox Judaism that are characterized by their strict adherence to halakha (Jewish law) and traditions, in opposition to modern values and practices. Its members are usually referred to as ultra-Orthodox in English; however, the term "ultra-Orthodox" is considered pejorative by many of its adherents, who prefer terms like strictly Orthodox or Haredi. Haredi Jews regard themselves as the most religiously authentic group of Jews, although other movements of Judaism disagree.

Religious Zionism

Religious Zionism is an ideology that combines Zionism and Orthodox Judaism. It began primarily with the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, which saw Zionism as part of a divine scheme to return Jews to their homeland and eventually bring about the coming of the Messiah. Religious Zionism gained a new force after Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel conquered the West Bank, a territory rich in Biblical history. The Gush Emunim movement took off under the leadership of Tzvi Yehudah Kook and spearheaded the proliferation of Israeli settlements in the newly conquered territory.

Religious Zionism is still a relatively broad term encompassing both moderate and extreme elements. The extremist elements are often associated with anti-Arab racism and violence, often with ideological inspiration from Kahanism. They have been associated with Jewish religious terrorism, both against Palestinians and in some cases even against the Israel Defense Forces. The Hilltop Youth movement is especially associated with the most extremist forms of Religious Zionism.

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    @sfxedit The most famous example could be Yigal Amir, who had religious reasons for killing Yitzhak Rabin.
    – convert
    Jan 15, 2023 at 18:11
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    Giving Heredi, as an example, in an answer to a question about violent religious fundamentalists is antisemitic. Strict religious observance is a private religious choice.
    – wrod
    Jan 16, 2023 at 2:30
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    There are hundreds of thousands of Haredi (Hassidic, ultra-Orthodox) Jews in New York. Any New Yorker can testify on how peaceful they are.
    – Jacob3
    Jan 16, 2023 at 9:05
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    This answer doesn't do more than exposing the writers ignorance. The Orthodox Jewish community in Israel (about 25% of Israel's total population) is largly devided between Haredi and Religious Zionists, with the RZ's considering modern Zionism as a part of the Jewish religion. The Haredis largly don't believe that modern Israel has anything to do with religion - most Haredis consider Israel as a positive entity, while some (about 10%) are officialy anti-zionist. While every idiology on earth has some followers who take it the the violent extreme, Orthodox Jews are 99.999% nonviolent.
    – Jacob3
    Jan 16, 2023 at 9:09
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    @convert no, the answer is antisemitic. The Wikipedia does not try to imply that Haredi are violent extremist. But, by putting this in an answer to the question on who the violent extremists are, this paints Haredi as violent extremists. Which isn't known to be the case.
    – wrod
    Jan 17, 2023 at 2:13
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Preface: Every (or almost every) ideology of every sort has some followers who take it to the violent end. The difference between a "dangerous" Ideology and a peaceful ideology would therefore be in the amount or percentage of violent followers that it creates rather than "if" any of its followers are violent.

Some violence exists in the fringes of the fringes of some Jewish religious groups, with most of it being "moderate" violence - not including intentional harm to people's lives but rather protesters blocking traffic, etc.

Disclaimer: Since I happen to know more than Wikipedia on the following content, I can only quote myself (maybe copy this answer to Wiki and provide this answer as a source, I just know too much more than NYT reporters on this subject, can't help if you don't believe me).

Introduction to Orthodox Jewish groups (in an attempt to help people who seem to know very little, I'm explaining more than necessary to answer the question): Orthodox Judaism is defined as "Following the laws of the Bible (Torah) as interpreted by tradition and the Rabbis (i.e. the Talmud)". For example: The Bible tells us not to work on the 7th day, tradition tells us what is considered work. It must be stated that Orthodox Judaism is the only form of Judaism prevalent in the whole diaspora (maybe an argument to prove the authenticy of OJ tradition) and is therefore the official religion of the State of Israel. Despite the differences between the various groups, all Orthodox Jews remain as one religion, they can pray together, intermarry, Rabbis share Talmudic discourse and the Israeli Rabbinical Court is comprised of Rabbis of almost all sects within Orthodox Judaism (while a Reform Rabbi would never be allowed to join).

Orthodox Judaism is then divided into three major groups: ultra-Orthodox (Haredi), Modern Orthodox and Religious Zionist. While many Modern Orthodox are also Religious Zionist, they are two totally separate ideologies which should be understood on their own.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews (about 1.3 million in Israel + about 1 million abroad) are largely defined as a group that is sticking to social traditions and to stringencies in Talmudic law well beyond what is necessary in order to be a "Kosher" Jew. UOJs understand that, they basically explain themselves that they just enjoy practicing Judaism and that keeping social traditions is safeguarding their children from negative influences from the "outside" (in Israel this results in a unanimous anti-army-draft policy, even by the non-anti-Zionist majority - as long as they can't shape the army's culture according to their beliefs and customs, causing much political drama). UOJ can be from all geographic backgrounds and the "ultra" can be on many levels. UOJs from European descent are largely divided between the Chassidic and Yeshivish sects (too much to explain here). A small part of the UOJ community is anti-Zionist (about 10%, my estimate), believing that Zionism is against the Torah in its essence (see TrueTorahJews.org). However, most of them don't dream of doing anything with that belief besides maybe telling it to their children. A very small part of them (the "radicals") would go the extent of visiting and showing support to the Iranian leadership and Palestinian activists (in rare cases even terrorists) (google search "Neturei Karta"). Knowing the group from very close, I can attest that they don't represent anyone, i.e. everyone who believes in those visits takes actual part in it, so they are about a few 100 people (despite them saying that they represent millions...). But again they aren't practically "violent".

In Israel anti-Zionist UOJs are often protesting, not all of them - that would be about 100k people, rather groups of 10s, those protests often result in non-permitted roadblocking, etc. (google: Haredi violent riot / images). I don't recall anyone being intentionally wounded or killed by anti-zionist protesters, I doubt it ever happened. (unintended wounds did happen in recent history).

There are some very specific accounts of violence perpetuated by individual UOJs, not organized or supported by groups, one very tragic example is a 16y old girl who was killed by an Orthodox extremist at the Jerusalem pride parade a few years ago. Besides this I don't remember anything of that scale.

There is a very small (amount of followers drastically changing throughout the years between 10s to 100s) very secluded extremist cult called "Lev Tahor" - they have been accused of abusing their followers especially women and children (they are known for relocating around the globe, escaping authorities). (google "Lev Tahor").

Modern-Orthodox Jews generally believe that Orthodox Jews should adopt everything from the western culture that is not in direct contradiction to Jewish law. Their whole ideology is therefore moderate by nature, making it almost impossible to develop anti-social extremism from its essence.

Religious Zionists (about 1-1.5 million in Israel) believe that modern Zionism and the modern State of Israel are part of the Jewish religion. Most of them (about 70-80%, relying on Israeli election preferences) are more modern than the Ultra-Orthodox and are more involved with the Israeli secular society.

Despite the bad connotation the term "Religious Zionism" can develop in the minds of people who don't know the group (I imagine something like Crusades...), almost all of them are very peaceful people who would never harm any human. However, the majority of the "harmful" violence targeting Arabs (resulting in death or injury), are attributed to members of this group, despite being about 25 perpetrators in total - in the last 75 years. Sad to see how a group of 1.5 million people who denounce violence, are misjudged due to the actions of a few.

The term "Hilltop Youth" is more of a description of Religious Zionist hippie-like boys who live in the wilderness on the hills of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), in an attempt to settle them. It's not an actual organization, it's a trend of bums. Almost all violence (mostly damage to property) against Arabs in the last few years have been attributed to those boys. They are mostly known for getting into fights with Arabs - almost never possible to know/prove who started the fight (the one fight I witnessed was of a boy delivering a powerful blow to an Arab who cursed and threatened him - you judge it). The Israeli police is also known to being very unfriendly to them - arresting boys for minor provocations. However, it's hard to prove that the majority of them are violent or that they are driven by religious extremism rather than by lowlifeness. I don't have an estimate of how many boys they are, I doubt anyone has, since it's not a closed club - you can join it and leave it without notifying anyone, and one can dress like them or even join them in their tents without doing anything violent.

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  • re: " Orthodox Judaism is the only form of Judaism prevalent in the whole diaspora." Just as a nitpick, the Orthodox do not constitute a majority of Jews, not even by a long shot. In the US, for example, they are less than 10% of those who self-identify as Jewish and about 1/5th of those who consider themselves religious.
    – wrod
    Jan 17, 2023 at 6:59
  • @wrod, Correct, however in Israel they are about 35% of Jews, and even those who self-identify as "traditionalist" (about another 40%) are weak-Orthodox (going to orthodox services for high-holidays, etc.) rather than another new form of Judaism.
    – Jacob3
    Jan 17, 2023 at 9:01
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Judaism is a quite small religion currently and the one which has basically solved its immediate problems, so it does not seem to need to resort to violence right now.

However, in the past they have happily blew up trains with British soldiers inside. I assume Jewish terrorism in Mandatory Palestine to be at least partially of religious nature, since their presence in Palestine at that moment was motivated by religion.

There's also a Wikipedia article Jewish religious terrorism.

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    "their presence in Palestine at that moment was motivated by religion.". I don't know if that is a generally valid assumption about the motivation of all groups. The return to Israel had a significant secular component to it and IIRC there was even initially some opposition to returning to Israel from religious scholars on doctrinal grounds. Jan 13, 2023 at 20:28
  • I know about the latter, but not sure bout the former - what are non-religious motivations to resettle Israel in the first half of XX century?
    – alamar
    Jan 13, 2023 at 22:07
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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodor_Herzl Herzl did not envision the Jewish inhabitants of the state as being religious, but there was respect for religion in the public sphere. He also assumed that many languages would be spoken, and that Hebrew would not be the main tongue. Jan 13, 2023 at 22:11
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    @alamar how about historical/cultural? Jan 14, 2023 at 21:27
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    Flagging as not an answer since the examples come from the time before the existence of the state of Israel while the question is not about history. It's about politics. So it should be answered with more recent examples. Examples which are more than 70 years old might as well be 700 years old.
    – wrod
    Jan 16, 2023 at 2:38

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