The New Sicarii

Although they might not have been the first terrorists, they wrote the book on terrorism. Rejecting other landscapes but their narrow view of the world, they believed their inner might could defeat the invincible Romans and killed co-religionists who refused to continue the battle. By using concealed daggers to dispatch their foes, they acquired the name Sicarii. In effect, they were a suicide prone sect who didn’t mind taking fellow Jews with them to death.

The Sicarii played a principal role in provoking the Roman onslaught against the Jewish population in Jerusalem and in the eventual destruction of the city. Their identifying characteristics: victim hood, no compromises, use of daggers to resolve issues, generating hate, and creating victims. Two questions still require responses: Why did the Sicarii pursue a suicide effort and why did the first century Jews tolerate their presence?

History tells us that populations never learn from history and proceed to commit the same mistakes. The Jews have followed this principal; Sicarii have been prevalent throughout Jewish history and have often brought tragedy to Jewish populations.

Roman crushing of the Jewish rebellion in Jerusalem in 67 AD did not stop Jewish rebellions in Roman territories. Thirty eight years later, Jewish tribes in Crete, Cyrenaica (modern day eastern Libya), Cyprus, Mesopotamia and the Aegean took advantage of Roman struggles with attacks from other nations to start the Kitos war. According to Roman history, the war “spiralled out of control resulting in a widespread slaughter of Roman citizens and others by the Jewish rebels. The rebellions were finally crushed by Roman legionary forces, chiefly by the Roman general Luseis Quietus, whose name gave the conflict its title.”

The Jewish Encyclopedia describes the Cyrene massacres:

By this outbreak Libya was depopulated to such an extent that a few years later new colonies had to be established there.

In Cyprus a Jewish band under a leader named Artemion had taken control of the island, killing thousands of civilians. Under the leadership of one Artemion, the Cypriot Jews participated in the great uprising against the Romans under Trajan, and they are reported to have massacred 240,000 Greeks (Dio Cassius, lxviii. 32). A small Roman army was dispatched to the island, soon reconquering the capital. After the revolt had been fully defeated, laws were created forbidding any Jews to live on the island.

Wars undertaken with no possibility of permanent victory; just the opposite, certain destruction of the Jewish populations. And all this done when history considers the Jews relatively accepted and free to practice their religion in the Roman Empire.

In the first century AD, Jews lived across the Roman Empire in relative harmony.

Protected by Rome and allowed to continue their religion, everything was fine until rebellion in Judaea led to a major change in the practice of their faith.

By the beginning of the first century AD, Jews had spread from their homeland in Judaea across the Mediterranean and there were major Jewish communities in Syria, Egypt, and Greece. Practicing a very different religion from that of their neighbors, they were often unpopular. As a result, Jewish communities were often close-knit, to protect themselves and their faith.

Jews had lived in Rome since the second century BC. Julius Caesar and Augustus supported laws that allowed Jews protection to worship as they chose. Synagogues were classified as colleges to get around Roman laws banning secret societies and the temples were allowed to collect the yearly tax paid by all Jewish men for temple maintenance.

There had been upsets: Jews had been banished from Rome in 139 BC, again in 19 AD and during the reign of Claudius. However, they were soon allowed to return and continue their independent existence under Roman law.

If fighting and losing two wars against impossible odds was not sufficiently punishing, Simon Bar Kokhba, a proclaimed Messiah, commandered another revolt against the Roman Empire during the years 132–136 AD. The revolt temporarily succeeded in establishing an independent state of over parts of Judea for two years before the Roman army overcame the rebellion. Result: The Romans barred Jews from Jerusalem, except for Tisah B’av, a fast day that commemorates the destruction of the Jerusalem Temples

Sicarrii among the Jews continued for centuries with false Messiahs and troubling figures who defied authority in losing causes.

For several reasons, the initial Zionist thrust resembled the Sicarii actions.

Althought their philosophy had little appeal to the Jewish people of the late 19th century, Zionists behaved as if they spoke for the Jews, and their actions threatened them.

The first Zionist Congress (1887) was to have taken place in Munich, Germany. However, due to considerable opposition by the local community leadership, both Orthodox and Reform, it was decided to transfer the proceedings to Basle, Switzerland. Theodore Herzl acted as chairperson of the Congress which was attended by some 200 participants. (Only 69 were delegates)

The Reform Judaism’s (representing most of American Jews at that time) 1885 Pittsburgh Platform called for Jews to adopt a modern approach to the practice of their faith.

Instead of a nation, the Pittsburgh Platform envisions Jews as a religious community within a nation. For this reason, there was an explicit rejection of Zionism, which was viewed as unnecessary because American Jews were at home in America.

The 19th century emancipation movements liberated west and middle European Jews and permitted them to integrate into European society. The Russian Jews, who had major problems, didn’t consider Zionism as a relief for their difficulties.

Between 1881 and 1914, 2.5 million Jews migrated from Russia–2 million to America and only 30,000 to Palestine. Another 500,000 went to the large capitals of Western Europe.

Bernard Avishai, The Tragedy of Zionism

Rather than benefiting world Jewry, the Zionist message endangered it. Nations were uncertain about their Jewish citizens, who were portrayed by Zionists as having different consciences and mind-sets. Zionism presented Jews as having allegiance to an external ideal, willing to leave their native country if the opportunity became available.

By 1914 the original Zionism had become a stagnant adventure. The Balfour Declaration and the allied victory in World War I revived the Zionist mission. Despite the revival and the establishment of the state of Israel, it’s unproven that the original Zionism succeeded or even has a presence. The Jews who immigrated to Israel immediately after 1948 arrived for mainly economic and political reasons and not to fulfill a Zionist mission. Israel even claims the massive number of immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East (Mizrahi) did not arrive voluntarily, but were forced out of their homes. Zionism has not persuaded a great number of Jews to leave their western nations, not deterred them from greatly participating in their nations’ economic and social gains and not prevented them from integrating themselves into their nations’ cultures. The Economist (Jan.11, 2007) mentions that only 17% of American Jews regard themselves as pro-Zionist and only 57% say that “caring about Israel is a very important.” Even if Israel were not primarily a Jewish nation, but politically similar to other western nations and willing to give the immigrants special largesse, the odds favored the willingness of the North African and Middle East Jews to leave their homes and move to any democratic nation in the Middle East, Jewish or non-Jewish..

The attempt to recruit the world in an embargo against Nazi Germany in 1933 can be considered a Sicarii effort.

Jewish organizations initiated an international boycott campaign as a response to German discriminatory policies and abuses of German Jews. In March 1933 the American Jewish War Veterans and the American League for the Defense of Jewish Rights launched the first US Jewish boycott campaign.

Although, undoubtedly originated with proper intentions, the boycott was doomed and counterproductive. Nations struggling with economic depressions did not want to disturb world trade, had enough of their own problems and weren’t prepared to encounter Germany. The Nazis, who would never have been moved by any embargo, took advantage of the intended boycott to try to prove their argument that Jews engaged in international conspiracies. The boycott campaign further enraged the Nazis against the Jews and tightened the discrimination against them.

The underground war fought by Jewish militias against the British Mandate exposed more Sicarii.

The Altalena, carrying members of the right-wing Irgun militia, was sunk in 1948 after arriving in Tel Aviv against the Israeli government’s orders. The encounter left 16 Irgun members and three IDF soldiers dead.

The King David Hotel bombing in Jerusalem on 22 July 1946 killed 91 people, including17 Jews.

The Jewish underground organization Lehi assassinated British Minister Resident in the Middle East Lord Moyne, and United Nations mediator Folke Bernadotte. Although banned by the Israeli government and called “a criminal group of terrorists” by the UN, Israel granted a general amnesty to Lehi members on 14 February 1949.

Eventual Israeli Prime Ministers committed each of these atrocious actions. David ben Gurion ordered the sinking of the Atalena; Menachem Begin carried out the King David hotel bombing and Isaac Shamir was known as a leading member of the Lehi.

The modern Sicarii, those who claim to speak for the Jewish people but are bringing them to eventual decline, have replaced metal daggers with character assassination, defamation, attacking words, wounding innuendos and bludgeoning malice towards their fellow Jews. They have a unique focus of utmost loyalty to the state of Israel. Jews who don’t share their views and refuse to profess similar loyalty receive their daggers of condemnation.

Neither historical, scientific, or archaeological findings and knowledge, supports a great Hebrew civilization. Jewish legal claims to the Levant, and singular heritage to Jerusalem, contradict the Iscarii focus. Nevertheless, the Iscarii consider fellow Jews who are educated with this knowledge as stupid and deceived traitors and unleash their wrath to intimidate and silence them. Preposterous expressions, such as ‘self-hating’ Jews, anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, and all those who are antagonistic to Israel are anti-Semites, exhibit a lexicon of hate that guides their actions. The over-used epithets expose the Sicarii’s lack of facts, reality and logic to support their arguments. The rights of others – no consideration at all.

These insulting and ugly epithets solicit examples of “Jewish baseness,” Jewish lack of regard for others, and Jewish feelings of superiority and fuel anti-Jewish feeling. The Iscarii promote the objects they rally against, and which they actually need to validate their existence.

Iscarii websites unashamedly list fellow ‘self-hating’ Jews.

These lists pit Jew against Jew, upset innocent persons and defame Jews. Some persons noting the social quality of individuals in the list have asked to be placed on it. However, the lists are not jokes, but an insult to the Jewish people.

Words beget violence and the more radical Iscarii are driven to violence. The most well known appearance of their violence is the attacks on Tikkun’s Rabbi Lerner.

Only one day after Rabbi Lerner presented the Tikkun Award to South African Justice Richard Goldstone, at a celebration of Tikkun‘s twenty-fifth anniversary attended by over 600 people at the University of California, Berkeley, Lerner’s home was again assaulted by extremist Zionists who once again plastered posters over his home. This is the third assault on Lerner’s home since he announced he would be presenting the award to Justice Goldstone, whose report on Israel’s human rights violations during the Israeli assault on Gaza in Dec. 2008 and Jan.2009 was denounced by the State of Israel and by the AIPAC-dominated House of Representatives last year. ((Zionist Extremist Hate Crime Against Rabbi Lerner: Third Attack on His Home and the Limits of “Freedom of the Press,” 3/17/2011, Berkeley, California))

An array of well known and consistent dagger throwers in universities, radio, television and print media target those who criticize Israel by trying to curtail professorial tenure, halt publication of books, prevent production of plays, and sidetrack printing of articles. These attackers don’t dialogue or debate issues. They are not interested in truth or reality. Sparked by, “We are always right,” they engage in character assassination, slander and defamation to subdue their rivals. Most disconcerting is their use of the World War II Holocaust to advance their agenda. In addition to appointing themselves as the voice of live Jews, the Iscarii assume themselves to be the voice of dead Jews.

A true story of a typical Iscarious

Seated at breakfast in a Jerusalem hostel, a forty year old English woman explains why she is a new arrival in the West Bank settlement Ma’ale Adumim. She never felt at home in an England filled with anti-Semites. Here, in Israel she feels she has come home. Turn to an American who is asked if he feels the same. He explains he never faced anti-Semitism in his life and never felt anything else but being an American. His words enrage the British expatriate who leaps up and utters: No, first you are a Jew. Then, you are an American.

It is natural that many Jews, regard their birth nation as their primary faith and remain separated from Israel. Many regard Israeli laws to be intolerant, not protective of minorities and somewhat comparable to the Nazi Nuremburg laws. Some relations:

  • Since Jews can only be married in Israel by orthodox rites, Jews cannot receive an intermarriage ceremony within the state.
  • Although the term right of return refers to a principle of international law and gives any person the right to return or re-enter his country of origin, the Israeli Right of Return only permits foreign Jews to immediately gain citizenship and does not permit immigration of non-Jews, such as Palestinian refugees.
  • An Israeli, according to the so-called Nakba law, must wholeheartedly and unreservedly celebrate the founding of the Jewish state in 1948. Any groups or institutions that mourn the event, which was accompanied by the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Arab residents from their homes – the Nakba, or Catastrophe – or that deny the state’s “Jewish and democratic nature” can now be denied state funds.
  • The Citizenship Law allows the state to revoke citizenship and imprison anyone convicted of acting against “the sovereignty of the state”.
  • Fifty rabbis signed a declaration calling for Jews not to let Arabs rent apartments in their communities. The state owns almost all the land and, except for special situations, refuses land sales to non-Jews.

In Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt noted similarity between the racist foundation of the state of Israel and the 1935 Nuremburg laws. Both laws were based on an idea of Judaism as a race, not as a religious practice, regardless of whether individuals identified themselves as a Jew or belonged to the Jewish religious community.

Many Jews refuse to accept the rationalization that the oppression of the Palestinian people is a temporary measure brought about by Israel’s security considerations. They see no reason to be drawn into the conflict in which they have no part. Not so with the new Iscarii.

Three huge granite stones rest comfortably on the top of Midbar Sinai Street, in Givat Havatzim, Jerusalem’s northernmost district. Cut to specification, the imposing stones represent one of several preparations by the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement’s to erect a Third Temple on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. Since the Islamic Wafq owns and controls all the property on the Haram al-Sharif, by what means can these stones be transferred to the Temple Mount and how can a Temple be constructed there? Not by any legal means. The stones are a provocation, which the Israel government refuses to halt. Since the Iscarii now have the occupation forces on their side, it becomes obvious they will be more threatening. In ancient times, their efforts contributed to the destruction of Jerusalem. Now it could be the entire Middle East.

Dan Lieberman publishes commentaries on foreign policy, economics, and politics at  He is author of the non-fiction books A Third Party Can Succeed in America, Not until They Were Gone, Think Tanks of DC, The Artistry of a Dog, and a novel: The Victory (under a pen name, David L. McWellan). Read other articles by Dan.