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Christina Root

Dr. Zabad
CLAR-208-02. World Views (Religion and Politics)
Topic: Is the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Religious?
20 October 2015

Is the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Religious?

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one of the most widely covered and

frequently discussed aspects of world politics. The ongoing struggle between
Israelis and Palestinians has been constantly evolving since the middle of the
20th century. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has also been considered the
basis for the Arab-Israeli conflict, the widespread political tension between
many Arab countries and Israel.
Since the establishment of Israel as a nation, there have been
numerous attempts to broker the creation of an independent Palestinian
state alongside the State of Israel; all attempts have resulted in complicated,
violent and often horrific outcomes that have left many world powers making
The evolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has caused global
effects, particularly concerning relations between Arab countries and the
Western World. Negotiations in the Middle East are notoriously difficult, and
much of this tension is based on western support of Israel.
Because the majority of powerful western foreign policy is in support of
Israel, and the majority of the Middle East is in support of a Palestinian
nation, the conflict seems completely political. However, understanding the
underlying religious connotations of religion (Israel and Judaism, Palestinians
and Islam) is key to understanding the conflict on a basic level, and vital to
the potential resolution of the crisis as a whole.

Although many people recognize the political motives behind the

conflict, the role of religion often goes unnoticed or misrepresented. The
Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a prime example of how deeply intertwined
religion and politics can become, and how massive the effects of religion can
To understand the role of religion in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it is
important to highlight the religious significance of the area. The Holy Land is
an area that is synonymous with both Israel and Palestine, and is considered
holy by Jews, Muslims and Christians. In Islam, the Holy Land, or Mecca, is
the final destination of the Hajj, a mandatory pilgrimage. In Judaism, the Holy
Land was the refuge of the Jewish people who had escaped slavery in Egypt.
Today, most of the Holy Land, including the sacred city of Jerusalem, is
in the country Israel. This has been one of the many factors of heated
relations in the Middle East. Because both religions hold this land in
significance, there have often been uprisings and periods of unrest when the
two groups collide.
Zionism is another factor that has fueled conflict between Israel and
Palestinians. Zionism is the movement that supports a Jewish state in the
Holy Land (Salem). This concept can also be retraced to religion. Jewish
teachings support the construction of a state in the Holy Land; according to
the Hebrew Torah, God promised this land to the Jewish people. Because of
western support of Zionism, Israel was granted land in Mandatory Palestine,
beginning the tumultuous relationship between the groups.

Religion still has its hand in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict today.

Through the numerous attempts at peacemaking between the two groups,
Palestinian people were allowed to create a representative organization. In
1964 the Palestine Liberation Organization was created. Although the PLO
was did not initially have any religious connotations, they refuted Zionism,
and stated that Zionists had unjustly established a religious state.
After the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization, political
parties began to form. Hamas is a militant group that is also one of the most
popular political parties in the Palestinian territories. Hamas initial goals call
for the destruction of Israel, and the creation of a religious based Islamic
society in historic Palestine. Despite its popularity within the Palestinian
community, Hamas is considered a terrorist group in both the European
Union and the United States.
Hamass popularity is Gaza and the West Bank further supports the key
role that religion has had in the Palestinian-Israel conflict. Hamas desires to
restore Palestine under Islamic religious law. Hamas success with the
Palestinian people proves that people are still turning to religion to work
through the conflict.
It could be argued that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is strictly over
land, but this argument does not take into consideration the religious
importance of the Holy Land to both the Palestinian Muslims and the Israeli
Jews. The argument has gotten very disorganized and complicated
throughout years of tension, uprising and general hostility, but at its core, it

is a conflict over religion. According to both groups, they have a religious

entitlement to the land they are fighting for (Eldad). The conflict is not
territorial it is a clash of ideologies.
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories is more than
just a violent fight for land; it is a clash of civilizations. Israel does and will
always continue to stand out in the Middle East because of religious
differences (Arab-Israeli Conflict: Role of religion). Palestinians living in Gaza
and the West Bank are Muslim, and this warrants support from the rest of the
Middle East who are mostly Islamic countries. Although the violence, conflict
and strained international ties of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are at the
forefront of political discussion, it is important to remember the role that
religion has had in starting the war and continues to have by creating
animosity between Israel and the rest of the Middle East.

Works Cited

"Israel Science and Technology Homepage." Arab-Israeli Conflict. Web. 20

Oct. 2015.

Eldad, Aryeh. "The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Is a War of Religion, Not

Territory - Opinion." Haaretz. Haaretz, 9 Aug. 2013. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

Salem, Harriet. "Religious War Has Moved to the Forefront of the IsraelPalestine Conflict." Vice News. Vice Magazine, 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 18
Oct. 2015.