Thanks to our Aliyah Diary guest author for bringing to our attention Armand Laferrere's essay The Huguenots, the Jews, and Me. Laferrere's piece explains some of the history of the growing links between Protestants and Jews in a hostile world.
The book by Matthew Levitt is Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad. Levitt, now deputy assistant secretary for intelligence in the Treasury Department, is interviewed here.
Levitt's "Hamas" (AZURE 26, Autumn 2006, reviewed by Leiter) and Laferrere's "The Huguenots, the Jews, and Me" are conceptually
Laferrere's deeply personal essay describes a worldview established by the Reformation, refined by Calvin, and later articulated by Max Weber. This worldview, Laferrere writes persuasively, connects the French Huguenot (Calvinists) and himself to the Jews. Laferrere explains this in terms of the French Catholic persecution of the Huguenots. But Weber teaches us another perspective.
Weber, an economist and sociologist, connected the economic/social rise of capitalism (i.e. the rational group/societal pursuit of economic gain) with Calvinist revision of a religious worldview, a revision begun radically by Martin Luther in his shift from Catholicism to Protestantism, but refined by Calvin. The latter emphasized worldly gain as a sing of salvation, emphasized group/societal wealth along with individual asceticism and modesty. That is, Weber argued, Calvinist "religious" beliefs influenced the
new economic belief and actions of capitalism. In fact, Weber cites Ben Franklin's recasting of Calvinist values into very secular anodyne proverbs about work.
How is this connected to the book, "Hamas"? Levitt argues that the contemporary Western constructs of "religion," "charity," "political versus militant" wings of an organization do not hold for Hamas (nor for Hezbollah, nor for militant Islam, including the Iranian regime). Rather, there is a more seamless fabric of beliefs that cross Western boundaries such as "religion" or "politics" or "economy."
A quote from Leiter's review:
"...It is in this context that Levitt makes one of his most important contributions to our understanding of how terror works. Fungible funds, it turns out, are only part of the problem. The crossover between dawa and terror, he shows, extends to works of charity themselves. Ambulances are used to transport suicide bomb belts, schools are used to hide weapons, and charitable organizations are used as recruiting centers for terrorists. Hospitals are used to procure ingredients for bombs, such as the nitric acid and hydrogen sulfide used to produce nitroglycerin explosives, and hydrogen peroxide to make an explosive called tatp, which is favored by Hamas. Dawa-supported doctors use their freedom of travel privileges to smuggle suicide bombers into Israel. Likewise, libraries supported by the Hamas dawa are used for the dissemination of radical sermons glorifying death and murder, and in what is perhaps the most potent symbol of the link between dawa and terror, mosques are used for storing weapons and hosting operational meetings. In short, Hamas offers a holistic religious doctrine that treats good works toward coreligionists and terrorization of the enemy as two sides of the same coin."
Ironically, Weber makes an argument that with the rise of Protestant/capitalism, the societal (Catholic) compartmentalization of religion (otherworldliness) and secular become woven together. In fact, a change in religious worldview results in a change in secular action (in contrast to Marx's argument).
Clairvoyantly, the editor of Ha'Aretz, Carlebach wrote in 1956, shortly before his premature death, that the West did not comprehend the way of thought of Arab societies and how different is this way of thinking from the heirs of Western Enlightenment. Carlebach did not use the perhaps more precise concepts nor terms used by Weber, but he seemed to get the basic idea. And, Carlebach argued, if the West didn't get the difference in thinking about human relationships, then it didn't get the great struggle brewing between Islam and the West.
Levitt's book is a conceptual contribution to a Weberian understanding of the worldview of Hamas and related societies. To understand them better is understand the dedicated (mortal) enemies of not only the Jewish States, but also of a way of thinking and being and living together shared in the West.
Nathan Szajnberg, MD