Conflicting ideologies and beliefs in the Israeli-Gaza conflict

Sent On: 
Mon, 2021-06-07
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The Israeli-Gaza conflict is part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which is a conflict fueled by conflicting ideologies and beliefs. Many religious Zionists base their political claims on Biblical prophesies. One way of reading Biblical texts is fundamentalist, reading the text as the literal “word of God” that was written in the period it describes with a similar message for us today that needs to be implemented in political life, by military means if necessary, instead of locating the various texts in their historical context and the realm of metaphor.



Holy Bible cover (source of photo)                                              Map of Israel (BBC)


Taking such a prophecy as a duty for believers to fulfill in our days and not as a message of hope for a better future creates conflicting land ownership narratives. Who has stronger claims on the land? The people who rely on these Biblical prophecies or people who have lived here for a long period of time? Both sides select arguments from Bible, Qur’an and history as it suits them.


Jewish religious nationalists and Christian Zionists both make similar arguments. They believe that God has given Jews this land and thus that Palestinians have no similar rights here. Fortunately, not all believing Jews and Christians read the prophecies in the same way. Other religious Zionists, such as members of Oz We Shalom, believe that people do not have the right to implement prophecies but have to wait for God’s time.


Biblical exegesis reveals numerous problems with the fundamentalist narrative. The book of Joshua appears to give a historical narrative but most scholars agree that the book of Joshua was written centuries after the conquest it describes and does not agree with sources dating to the time the conquest according to the Biblical timeline took place. The book dates to the period of the Babylonian exile or even after the Jewish return from the Babylonian exile, so the book most likely served the narrative of Jews returning to Jerusalem in the sixth century BCE. That makes it impossible to use this book as a justification to expel Palestinians from their land just as Joshua did according to the narrative in the book named attributed to him.


Religious Zionism developed in the 19th and 20th centuries. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) saw Zionism as a part of a divine scheme which would result in the resettlement of the Jewish people in an area similar to the Biblical Israel because this was the land promised to the ancient Israelites by God. This resettlement would bring salvation to Jews and then to the entire world. The reestablishment of the Jewish homeland would result in world harmony. The opposite, however, happened. Arab riots against Jewish settlement increased in Kook’s days.


Some Orthodox Jewish groups reject the Zionist claims since they see the reestablishment of Jewish rule in Israel by human agency as blasphemous. “Hastening salvation and the coming of the Messiah was considered religiously forbidden, and Zionism was seen as a sign of disbelief in God's power, and therefore, a rebellion against God.” Rabbi Kook, however, argued that Zionism was a tool of God to promote His divine scheme to return the Jews to their homeland. Settling in Israel is believed to be a religious obligation and helping Zionism is following God’s will.


This is part of the background to the current crisis which was triggered by an anticipated decision of the Supreme Court of Israel to evict six Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah [Shaykh Jarrāḥ], a Palestinian district in East Jerusalem which Jordan had ruled until Israel occupied the city during the Six-Day war in 1967. East Jerusalem is occupied territory under international law, much to the dismay of religious Zionists, who in 1980, worked hard to pass the Jerusalem Law in the Israeli Parliament, declaring that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel," which is seen by many as an act of annexation.


The inhabitants of Sheikh Jarrah primarily stem from refugees who fled violence in what became the state of Israel during the War of Independence. Some nationalist Jewish groups claim these Palestinians are living on land that was once owned by Jews. This claim was brought into the Supreme Court of Israel. That in turn triggered Palestinian protests in East Jerusalem on May 6. Currently, more than 1000 Palestinians from East Jerusalem face possible eviction since Israeli law allows former Israeli land owners to file claims over land in East Jerusalem which they had owned prior to 1948, but Israeli law rejects similar Palestinian claims.


The violence in May deepened the enmity between Palestinians and Israelis. Most of the victims on both sides are civilians. Gaza is often described as the largest open-air prison worldwide with more than 1.1 million people living on 365 km2 who are about 80% dependent on food aid, mostly provided by the UNWRA. The Israeli raids resulted in power cuts of up to 12 hours per day and the water and sewage systems were close to collapse. Over 50.000 Palestinians have been displaced. Palestinian suffering will only create more enmity against Israel and thus support for radical ideologies. 


Throughout all discussions one hears the religious claims, resorting to religious Zionism in Israel and resorting to Islamist beliefs in Gaza. Appropriating religion for a deeply nationalist agenda is not helping to bring justice and peace for all parties involved. As long as these beliefs remain strong and both Israel and Hamas make efforts to reinforce these beliefs it will be hard to bring a lasting peace to this region. For a more expanded report on appropriating Biblical texts for political usage today please click here.



Cairo, June 7, 2021


Cornelis Hulsman,

Editor-in-chief Arab-West Report