Bintel Blog

Jeffrey Goldberg on the Nizzar Rayyan He Knew

By Daniel Treiman

  • Print
  • Share Share

Atlantic blogger (and brave journalist) Jeffrey Goldberg remembers the now late Hamas leader Nizzar Rayyan, who was killed this week, along with his family, in an Israeli airstrike:

He was one of the more Islamically-learned Hamas leaders I’ve met (Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was learned as well, I think, but he was very hard to understand; Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who was the least pleasant of all the Hamas leaders I’ve known, was not very learned at all). In particular, Rayyan was interested in the hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, with a special interest in hadith that painted Jews in a negative light. Rayyan and I discussed the writing of Ibn Taymiyya, the Muslim scholar who lived seven hundred years ago, and who is the intellectual forefather of Sunni radicalism today (it was Ibn Taymiyya who elevated jihad to a kind-of sixth pillar of Islam). Like Ibn Taymiyya, Rayyan was preoccupied with Muslim apostasy. He never quite said so, but I could sense that he thought of Abu Mazen and the other leaders of the Palestinian Authority as traitors not only to the cause of Palestine, but to Islam itself. “You cannot be loyal to Allah and to the CIA at the same time,” he said of his P.A. enemies.

There are things I didn’t know about Rayyan, such as that he had four wives - a fact that tells you something about the culture of Hamas - but I knew that he was sincere in his devotion to the cause of Israel’s annhilation. The question I wrestle with constantly is whether Hamas is truly, theologically implacable. That is to say, whether the organization can remain true to its understanding of Islamic law and God’s word and yet enter into a long-term non-aggression treaty with Israel. I tend to think not, though I’ve noticed over the years a certain plasticity of belief among some Hamas ideologues. Also, this is the Middle East, so anything is possible.

There was no flexibility with Rayyan. This is what he said when I asked him if he could envision a 50-year hudna (or cease-fire) with Israel: “The only reason to have a hudna is to prepare yourself for the final battle. We don’t need 50 years to prepare ourselves for the final battle with Israel.” There is no chance, he said, that true Islam would ever allow a Jewish state to survive in the Muslim Middle East. “Israel is an impossibility. It is an offense against God.”

Goldberg notes that Rayyan did not subscribe to the belief, popular in certain militant Islamist circles, that present-day Jews are literally the descendants of apes and pigs. “Allah changed disobedient Jews into apes and pigs, it is true, but he specifically said these apes and pigs did not have the ability to reproduce,” Rayyan told Goldberg. “So it is not literally true that Jews today are descended from pigs and apes, but it is true that some of the ancestors of Jews were transformed into pigs and apes, and it is true that Allah continually makes the Jews pay for their crimes in many different ways. They are a cursed people.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Hamas, Nizzar Rayyan, Jeffrey Goldberg

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.