Berel Wein writes this thought-provoking article in the Jerusalem Post (thanks to Olivia). I don’t go along with all of what he says, but I believe he is absolutely right that this struggle has been misjudged by almost everyone. It isn’t about territory in Israel, or “occupation,” and it isn’t about whatever grievance is being retailed about the jihad outside of Israel. It is about the totalitarian instransigence and supremacism of the jihad/Sharia imperative.
We are accustomed to think of the secular-religious divide that exists in Israel today as relating to denominational pluralism, conversions, civil marriage, Sabbath observance and other matters of ritual and budget allocations. All of this may be true, but it ignores the basic divide, which is one of values, world view and perception of ourselves and others.
The recent success of Hamas in the elections for the Palestinian parliament should serve to focus the attention of our leaders and public on a hard fact that Israel has always chosen to ignore until now: that the Arab-Israeli struggle is at its core a religious dispute. Only by appreciating and understanding this unpleasant but very real truth does the struggle take on a somewhat rational and understandable, and perhaps even predictable, pattern.
Since the leadership, political and academic, of the Zionist movement from its founding in 1897 and later of the State of Israel itself has always been devoutly secular and disdainful, if not downright hostile, to traditional Jewish beliefs, values and religious practices, it placed itself in a mind-frame that did not appreciate the Arab position on the emergence of the Jewish national home in the Land of Israel.
If we care nothing about our religion, the Jewish leadership seemed to say, then it should be true that they – the Arabs – must also not allow religion to play a decisive role in reconciling our differences.
I think the State Department suffers from the same false assumption.
In effect, we always maintained that since we had freed ourselves of the constraints of our religion and thus saw our way forward to territorial solutions that would end the conflict, it was obvious that eventually the Arabs would also become completely secularized – the wave of the future, as Marx predicted – and the rose garden of the Middle East would then begin to bloom.…
The mere existence of such a Jewish state, no matter what its borders, would still remain an affront to Islam even if it was completely disarmed and headed by Yossi Beilin. Thus, the president of Iran, among other Muslim leaders, would still be duty-bound to call for its destruction, God forbid. And he and they mean exactly what they threaten….
The Arabs view us as the latter-day reincarnation of the Crusaders of the Middle Ages. The struggle and triumph over the Crusaders was a victory of Islam over Christianity, pure and simple. It reinforced in the Muslim mind the exclusivity and superiority of Islam over all other faiths. It strengthened the concept of dhimmi in the Muslim world, whereby non-Muslims could exist in their society solely in a subservient, second-class state of being, and even then only at the sufferance of the Muslim rulers themselves.
Religion was the motivating force in that struggle. It remains so in our current struggle….
A religious struggle conducted from a purely secular point of view cannot really ever be concluded successfully, for the true core problem remains unrecognized. And this is the true religious-secular fault line that divides Israel today.