The Role of Religion in the Palestinian-Israeli ConflictPosted: 2015/10/08
Text: Solveig Hansen
Generating Forgiveness and Constructing Peace through Truthful Dialogue: Abrahamic Perspectives is based on Hilarie Roseman’s Ph.D. thesis, in which she describes the essence of reconciliation and forgiveness.
“How do members of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic organizations address unresolved questions of reconciliation and forgiveness? Mending links means forgetting and disposing of old hurtful memories, looking carefully at human needs, and with the love and forgiveness that religions teach, working together to construct peace.”
Hilarie Roseman graduated with her Ph.D. in International Communications in 2014. She lives in Australia.
The excerpt below is from her thesis.
Generating Forgiveness and Constructing
Peace through Truthful Dialogue:
By Dr. Hilarie Roseman
Similarities of protracted conflict
Three scenes of protracted conflict: South Africa, Ireland, and the Middle East. The similarities are discussed below:-
- All worked for peace (South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission).
- All had introduced settlers (Ireland had 600 years of British rule).
- All had the enemy “within” their community, not without.
- Equal rights (“Zionism and Palestinian nationalism clashed over the ownership of the land, the right for self-determination, and statehood” (Rouhana (1998 pg. 762).
- Lack of education, work, housing for all “their demands cannot be met by the same resources at the same time” (Wallensteen (2002, pg. 15).
- Deep seated experiences of being “wronged”. “Conflicts are carried forward by states and states-in-waiting, and are often about the control of land and resources – including people” (Kant 1795).
- Various violent and non – violent efforts to claim back what is lost.
- A final understanding that everyone has to work together and the beginning of community education for peace.
The role of religion in the Palestinian, Israel, conflict
Earlier, we have seen that conflict theorists think that land is at the center of the conflict. However, I have approached the Abrahamic communities as family communities. All having common connections in history, and able to call Abraham their father in faith. So if we look at this conflict from an extended way – we look for the connections and commonalities:-
- Israel is a Jewish State, and the proposed Palestinian State would be Muslim.
- Both Jews and Muslims have lived on this land for thousands of years.
- They are genetically connected. Both have Abraham as their earthly father, in the common DNA kind of way that we find out today with gene research. The Jews are descended from Isaac and the Arab Muslims from Ishmael, both sons of Abraham, but with different mothers; Isaac from Sarah, and Ismael from Hagar. They both had life and death experiences with their father, but, eventually, buried him together in peace (Gen. 25.9).
- The religious role in the Oslo Accords was negative in the extreme. The Jewish peacemaker Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on November 4th 1995 by a far-right-wing Zionist Yigal Amir from his own country, who did not want him to sign the Peace Treaty. Extreme outbursts of activism were “not just expressions of disagreement with policy, however; they were signs of frustration with a world gone awry. The dissenters’ anxiety was personal as well as political, and in a fundamental way, their fears were intensely religious” (Juergensmeyer 200-2003 pg. 45).
- Twenty percent of the Jewish population of Israel can be said to be of the religious right, under the banner of Zionism. Zionism is the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel (Zionism, Jewish virtual library). Historical ties and religious tradition link the Jewish people to the land of Israel. Juergensmeyer explains that “In talking to Israel’s religious activists , it became clear to me that what they were defending was not only the political entity of the State of Israel, but a vision of Jewish society that had ancient roots” (ibid pg. 46).
- There was also an “enemy” within the Muslim camp. The Egyptian Anwar Sadat was assassinated on 6th October 1981 by fundamentalist army officers after he had negotiated a peace treaty with Israel.
- The same negativity can be seen within the Hamas political party who is governing Gaza at the present moment. They have in their constitution a very negative religious indictment of the Jewish people. The Hamas Covenant 1988, in the preamble, states that Israel will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it. Article 6 includes “The Islamic Resistance movement strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine”. Article 13 includes “there is no solution for the Palestine question except through jihad” (Yale Law School, The Avalon Project, Hamas Covenant, 1988). According to Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman in an interview shortly after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre, a Muslim can “never call for violence,” only for “love, forgiveness and tolerance.” But he added that “if we are aggressed against, if our land is usurped, we must call for hitting the attacker and the aggressor to put an end to the aggression” (ibid).
The Muslims, Jews and Christians in the research groups throw a light onto a common way forward for the seemingly impossible and unchangeable attitudes of family members of Abraham. They discuss from a family point of view enemies, forgiveness, and the construction of peace. The way forward is with remediations that can begin where you are living. They also dialogued about fundamentalists, hoping that they would achieve a deeper faith, and coming to the conclusion that they had to accept the good they held, while also recognizing in them what was not good. The action I speak of now is that of Boraine. He discerned and confronted the South African Government with the premise that they were living out a false gospel. So, for us, we can look at the evidence that the common commandment to love God and neighbour is not being taught in Abrahamic communities. The focus groups have reached this conclusion, that it is not being taught, and remember, it has to be taught before it can be put into practice. The focus groups have stood up and spoken with a plea for its reinstatement.
Copyright Hilarie Roseman PhD, from “Generating forgiveness and constructing peace with truthful dialogue: Abrahamic perspectives” (2014 Dignity Press)