ABSTRACT

Like many other groups regarded as "fundamentalist", a misused term in the late twent ieth century, Gush E m u n i m as a group functions outside the established political system, while having a powerful effect on it. Its animating principle is constituted not by a political manifesto, al though such a document does exist, but by texts of a different kind. These consist pr imarily of the biblical text and its amplification by Halakhah, and various J e w - ish historical texts which serve to become the Gush's founding myths. O n e of these is the story of Massada which was an important source also of Israel's founding mythology. Even the myths of Iphigenia and Ant igone are cited by certain Gush writers to illustrate the not ion of sacrifice and a willingness to die for the sake of justice. People of the Gush live a cont inuity of history, wi th moderni ty another chapter within that continuity. For the Gush, Rabb i Akiva, Bar Kokhba and the Macabbees are components of that continuity, together wi th today's Israeli politicians on all sides. T h e past becomes an eternal present in a largely a historical construction of history based on a selective appropriation of events from the "past". T h e Gush's founding mythology refers to the periods of the first and second Jewish commonweal th — the 13th to 6th century B.C.E. , and the second century B.C.E. to the second century C.E. These prefigure the third commonweal th n o w being created through the pangs of messianic redempt ion . 1

T h e convenantal relationship be tween God and the Jews constitutes the Gush's most essential text which must withstand every political incursion. Central to this covenant is the land. According to the Gush, any element threatening this central symbol of God's promise, the me tonymy of the convenantal relationship, must be resisted. In terms of the Gush's realpolitik, peace wi th Israel's enemies, in itself, is a desirable aim. However , if the peace, however desirable, threatens the convenant , the peace, too ,

must be withstood. Those who , by pursuing peace, threaten the convenant, are the enemies, regardless of religion or nationality. Arabs and Palestinians are not viewed by Gush E m u n i m as inimical per se, but only in relation to their real or ideologised occupation of the land, while secular, left-wing Israelis are perceived as hostile in their willingness to exchange territory for peace. According to this logic even right-wing Israeli leaders, including M e n a h e m Begin, signatory of the C a m p David peace accord, and Yitzhak Shamir, w h o participated in the Madrid talks, are as culpable as the Left (or secular Zionists). 2

Gush Emun im was officially founded in 1974, in protest against the return of the territories demanded by Kissinger's peace initiative after the Y o m Kippur War . It had already existed spiritually and intellectually from 1967, but it came to prominence after the 1973 war rather than after the Six-Day War, under the Labour governments of Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir. Dur ing this time its most enduring settlements were founded. In the early days the Gush was not a movement of delegitimisation of the government. Even its most bitter verbal confrontations with Yitzhak Rabin 's (first) government did not lead it to doubt the government 's legality and authority. T h e Gush's formative period was between 1974-77 until the Labour Party was defeated and Likkud came to power. Ironically, under this very supportive Likkud framework, the golden era of Gush E m u n i m came to an end.