The religion conflict in Israel is a complex issue driven by multiple factors, including ethnicity, nationality, history, and religion. It will primarily delve into the religious dimension, which is increasingly recognized as the core of the conflict. It is essential to acknowledge how deeply religion influences the identities, attitudes, and policies of those involved, including non-religious individuals.
Religion plays a central role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict due to various religious elements within Islam and Judaism. Two crucial factors are the sanctity of holy sites and apocalyptic narratives, which hinder the potential for lasting peace. In Israel, extreme religious Zionists view themselves as guardians of the Jewish state and are reluctant to make concessions to Arabs. Conversely, Islamist groups in Palestine and the wider Islamic world advocate the liberation of “holy” territories for religious reasons, often preaching violence and hatred against Israel and Jews.
Extremists in the media and on social platforms propagate religion-based rumors, such as the “Jewish Plan” to destroy al Aqsa mosque and build a Jewish third temple or the belief that Muslims aim to annihilate Jews. These rumors further escalate tensions.
Additionally, worsening socio-economic conditions in the Arab and Islamic world contribute to the growth of religious radicalism, pushing more youths toward fanaticism and religion-inspired politics.
The Arab Spring, which initially aimed for democratic change, ironically posed a threat to Arab-Israeli peace by challenging previously stable regimes with extreme political views. For instance, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, after coming to power in 2012, threatened to undermine the peace agreement with Israel due to their religious ideology.
Examining permanent status issues, including borders, security, recognition, refugees, Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and authority over Jerusalem, reveals the direct connection to the faiths of Jews and Muslims worldwide. Jerusalem’s ownership and authority have been fiercely contested throughout history, given its significance to Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The city has been captured, recaptured, besieged, and destroyed multiple times, with a complex history spanning various rulers.
Both Jewish and Islamic histories intertwine with Jerusalem. Judaism was the capital of the Kingdom of Israel during King David’s reign and hosted highly sanctified sites like the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. In Islamic history, it was the first Qiblah and the place of Prophet Muhammad’s Isra’ and Mi’raj, as mentioned in the Qur’an.
The issue of West Bank settlements also has a religious dimension, with some orthodox Jews settling in the area to fulfill biblical prophecies, leading to clashes with local Palestinians. Similarly, some fundamentalist Islamic schools believe that, in the end, all of Israel and Palestine should be under Islamic rule, rooted in certain Hadith versions.
Historically, some Jewish extremist groups have seen their actions as a divine return to the holy land. On the other hand, certain Muslim extremist groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, have justified their involvement in the conflict based on eschatological beliefs about the Day of Judgment. This ideological underpinning continues to fuel violence and religiously inspired terrorism.
Iran, following its Islamic revolution in 1979, has emerged as a vocal opponent of Israel, openly calling for its destruction from a theological standpoint. Iran supports groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, posing a security threat to Israel under the banner of Islam.
While peace agreements have been reached with Egypt and Jordan, religious considerations hinder people-to-people and cultural normalization. Accepting peace with Israel is sometimes seen as religious treachery, not only by extremists but also by many relative moderates in Arab states.
Religion-based conflict drivers extend beyond religious groups, encompassing broader segments of Arab and Islamic societies. Shared interests and identities influence this overlap, whether among secular nationalists or religious extremists.
To mitigate the religion conflict in Israel, interventions such as interfaith dialogue, remembering past cooperation between Jews and Muslims, and emphasizing religious texts promoting tolerance and understanding should be urgently pursued. This religious component must be central to current efforts aimed at achieving peace and long-term coexistence in the region.
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