- At heart, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a dispute over land but some opine that religion is often the proxy for that dispute.
- Analysts of the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, argue that these religions historically promoted both conflict and peace
The Hamas militants attack backed by a barrage of rockets on Israel towns on October 7 during a major Jewish holiday Saturday was truly unprecedented.
Hamas gunmen led an assault of startling breadth, killing at least 250 people and leaving 1,500 wounded as the Israeli military scrambled to muster a response in as many as 22 locations outside the Gaza Strip and in towns 24km from the Gaza border.
One of the main factors that triggered the Hamas attack was the policies of the far-right Israeli government enabling settler violence in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem
Prof Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and former deputy director-general and head of the Palestinian desk at the Ministry for Strategic Affairs suggests another reason for the current hostilities.
Micheal bemoans the fact that the "Israeli leadership has in the last year failed to contain the Jewish state's war with Hamas and has done nothing to calm the situation."
The scholar points to “the normalisation process witnessed with Saudi Arabia [and Israel]."
“This is something the Iranians really don’t like and Hamas really doesn’t like. And they do all the possible efforts in order to escalate the situation, to destabilise the situation, in order to embarrass the Saudis in order to prevent the Saudis from making any sort of advance in this process,” Micheal said while speaking to Russian publication Sputnik.
Also according to Hamas itself, their attack on Isreal was provoked by recent events surrounding the Temple Mount, a site in Jerusalem holy to Jews and Muslims alike.
Hamas has termed as "desecration", a recent move by Israeli settlers to enter the Al Aqsa Mosque to pray. They further say they were outraged by these events and are acting accordingly.
However, the Saturday attack is a continuation of a deadly conflict that has killed thousands, forced an entire generation into exile and created constant anxiety about rocket fire or bombings.
So is the Israel-Palestine war a land or religious issue?
Land? Yes on a large-scale, the dispute originates in the 19th century, when Jews living abroad began returning to what is now Israel and buying properties from Palestinians who lived there.
Palestinians want Sheikh Jarrah which neighbours East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state, while the Israelis believe the whole of Jerusalem must remain in their control.
At heart, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a dispute over land but some opine that religion is often the proxy for that dispute, pitting two different ethnicities and religions.
Many may wonder why the Israeli-Palestinian war tends to flare up around religious holidays but the Hamas war is not against Judaism but with Israel for occupying a land they believe is inherently Palestinian.
And for the Jews, when it comes to the holy city of Jerusalem, exclusive claims often turn deadly.
Analysts of the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, argue that these religions historically promoted both conflict and peace, which makes them ambivalent.
Hatred based on religion has been the root of many wars throughout history, including the Crusades in the Middle Ages, (European Christians versus Arab Muslims), and the Thirty Years’ War (largely Catholics versus Protestants), which devastated Europe in the 17th century.
Religion has become intertwined with the intensification of conflict and violence. This trend is also reflected in aspects of the Israeli-Hamas conflict.
In the Israeli-Hamas religious the conflict is between the Jewish Orthodox and religious Zionists on the Israeli side and Hamas on the Palestinian side.
The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (CIRM) of 1988, often called the Hamas Charter, is one of the most demonstrative declarations that illustrate how Hamas incorporates religion into its politics.
Scholars have referred to the CIRM as the Hamas defining ideology, the first Article of CIRM observes that the movement's programme is Islam.
Hamas believers and followers get inspiration on how to live their daily lives and how to view the world around them from the CIRM.
In other words, the CIRM presents Hamas and its followers with a distinctive belief system, in contrast to belief systems outside of Islam.
Inside Hamas Charter
Article Six of the CIRM quotes the Muslim poet, Mohamed Ikbal, who declares that "If faith is lost, there is no security and there is no life for him who does not adhere to religion. He who accepts life without religion has taken annihilation as his companion for life.”
Ikbal believed Islam is not merely a religion of private practice and conscience but it also harbours social order and legal concepts.
Hamas further asserts that “Allah is its target, the Prophet(Mohamed SAW) is its model, the Qur’an its constitution.”
The CIRM has many quotes borrowed from the Quran.
The CIRM further states that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf(a type of sacred Islamic trust), so no part of this land can be sold or traded to anyone.
It is land reserved for Muslims and negotiating it away would break trust with Allah.
The CIRM in Article 11 further states that the land cannot be possessed, not even by Arabs and Muslims are to fight against the false, defeating it and vanquishing it so that justice could prevail.
Palestine is an Islamic land which has the first of the two kiblahs (direction to which Muslims turn in praying), the third of the holy (Islamic) sanctuaries, and the point of departure for Mohamed's midnight journey to the seven heavens.
From the aforementioned quotes from the CIRM, it is clear Hamas believe it is their divine duty to repossess lost land as it is the will of Allah. So Palestinian land is non-negotiable.
Within the Jewish Orthodox is a group called the Zionists, extreme religious Zionists who see themselves as guardians and definers of how the Jewish state should be and are very stringent when it comes to any concessions to the Arabs.
Drawing on biblical prophecy and history, the Jews have centred much of their attention on the religious city of Jerusalem, which Muslims and Christians also revere deeply. The Temple Mount in the heart of the Old City is the thorniest bone of contention.
To cure the Israeli-Hamas religious conflict, world leaders can consider several interventions.
One is an interfaith dialogue that can be centred around reminding the Israelis and Hamas of the past fruitful cooperation between Jews and Muslims, ever since the seventh century.
The dialogue can also focus on religious texts asserting positive and tolerant religious values, and reinforcing these values in educational systems on both sides.
Some may say this is not a new idea it has been implemented before and didn't yield much so what should be new, however, is the urgency and centrality of this religious component as part of any current effort to achieve an Israeli-Hamas “deal of the century” – or even just to mitigate the conflict and pave the way for peaceful coexistence in the long-term future.
The writer is a sub-editor with The Star