Religion in the Current Crisis

Although the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is largely a conflict over land and can be resolved through the application of international law, religious groups do play several important roles in the ongoing crisis. Fanatical religious groups use their religions to perpetuate the conflict, while peaceful religious groups use the teachings of their religions to call for peace.

Although the American media is rife with articles on the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism, it is important to be aware of the role of two other fanaticisms – Jewish and Christian – in this conflict.

According to the late Israeli professor Israel Shahak, Israel denies Palestinian Christians and Muslims their basic human rights due in large part to a virulent strain of Jewish chauvinism. Shahak states that, “The State of Israel officially discriminates in favour of Jews and against non-Jews in many domains of life, of which I regard three as being the most important: residency rights, the right to work and the right to equality before the law.” This discrimination is arguably the largest blockage to peace between the two parties.

The Israeli settler movement, in particular, which is responsible for stealing a huge portion of Palestinian land, is primarily based on this chauvinism. Particularly disturbing is the description of their land theft as ‘redeeming’ the land – transfering holy land from non-Jewish ownership to Jewish hands. Shahak explains that, “[t]he logical conclusion of such an ideology is the expulsion, called ‘transfer’, of all non-Jews from the area of land which has to be ‘redeemed’.

Playlist: Israeli Treatment of Christians

In recent years there has been a bizarre marriage of fanaticisms. Some prominent members of the American Christian Right have joined with Jewish Zionists in their discrimination against non-Jews (primarily Christian and Muslim Palestinians) in the land that is holy to all three religions. Some of these Christian Zionists adhere to a previously rare theology called “Dispensationalism,” in which select scriptures from the Old Testament are interpreted to predict a series of violent events that will lead to the “second coming” of Christ. This Dispensationalist belief calls for all Jews to “return” to Israel/Palestine, which will then bring a cataclysmic “rapture,” in which 120,000 Jews will convert to Christianity and the millions remaining will be killed in a cruel and bloody battle, which will then, in turn, bring the return to earth of Jesus Christ.

Most Christians consider such violence the antithesis of the teaching of Jesus Christ. Even groups who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible largely believe that the Second Coming will happen “in God’s way” and “in God’s time,” not through human intervention, and emphasize New Testament teachings of love and compassion. Nevertheless, the Dispensationalist interpretation is being promoted on numerous religious radio stations and elsewhere, appears well-financed, and is a significant factor.

Among the Jewish religious community there is a similar split, with religious opposition to Zionism found across the spectrum of Jewish belief. In fact, originally Zionism was a minority position among the Jewish population worldwide, only attaining its present large proportions after World War II and the Nazi atrocities. Today, a growing number of Jewish organizations and individuals consider Zionism deeply contrary to Judaism. For example, members of Neturei Karta believe that Jews “are a people in exile due to Divine decree,” and that their “banishment from the Holy Land will end miraculously at a time when all mankind will unite in the brotherly service of the Creator.” These many groups feel that Israel’s violent policies are not only counterproductive but contrary to the ethical traditions they view as the core of Judaism.

Israel-Palestine Timeline

Israel-Palestine Timeline: The human cost of the conflict records photos and information for each person who has been killed in the ongoing violence.

History of the Israel Lobby

Alison Weir's book Against Our Better Judgement: How the U.S. was used to create Israel brings together meticulously sourced evidence to outline the largely unknown history of U.S.-Israel relations.

Buy it on Amazon, and visit the book website for reviews, more ordering options, and upcoming author events.

Information largely missing from U.S. news reports. Read the Blog

The Historic Role of
Religion in the Conflict
Discrimination & Fanaticism

Forgotten Christians

Rabbis forbid using books with map of pre-1967 lines

The Extremist Origins of 'Education and Sharing Day'

Muhammad’s Sword

Opinion: The End of Zionism

A Strange Kind of Freedom

More on Discrimination & Fanaticism

Religious Peace Efforts

An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Others: The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel

Presbyterian Church – Divestment Still on the Table

From Jew to Jew: Why We Should Oppose the Israeli Occupation

Choosing to Act: Anti-Semitism is Wrong

Living with the Holocaust

More on Religious Peace Efforts

Religious Peace Groups

American Muslims for Palestine

A Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT)

Sabeel – Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center

Friends of Sabeel, North America

More Religious Peace Groups


Book – Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years

Book – Jewish Fundamentalism In Israel

Book – Forcing God’s Hand

Radio – Jewish, Christian, & Muslim Fundamentalists Oppose ‘Road Map to Peace’

Book – Zealots for Zion: Inside Israel’s West Bank Settlement Movement

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