Not Necessarily a Religious War

Matan Peleg

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The latest riots on Temple Mount and the renewal of terror attacks once again raise the question: “Why have the Jews and the Arabs been fighting here for more than 100 years?”

Many if not most would likely answer the question by saying that  the source of the conflict is that this is yet another religious war. According to Islam, the land of Israel is Waqf land, and therefore should be controlled by Muslims. A related but somewhat different answer would be  that this might not be a war over religion, but one where provides the spark used by radical leaders to inflame a radical mob.
After all the Middle East has been rife with violent extremism much before Mohammad, the founder of Islam, was even born.
Here is the reality. For many Muslims, this is a war over the supremacy of Islam, and the existence of a sovereign Jewish entity in formerly Muslim territory is completely unacceptable. There will be religious appeals to resistance and destruction, where religion will both be the subject and the spark for the violence.

But, happily, the Muslim population is not uniform nor identical in its beliefs. The fact is, there are many minorities in Israel, including portions of the Muslim population,  who are interested in lives based on justice and fairness, whose priority is the health and welfare of their families, not the dominance of Islam.

Many of these people believe that this kind of life  is best achieved by an integration into the larger Israeli society, specifically including enlistment into the IDF, Israel’s security forces, or civil or national service.

As just one example, consider that the borders of the Jewish state are faithfully checked, with each rising and setting of the sun, by Bedouin IDF trackers, many of whom are devout Muslims. They see themselves as an integral part of Israeli society and the Zionist enterprise. They have tied their destiny with that of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and do not feel the least bit ill at ease. Most of them are light years away from the Islamic Movement, are repulsed by it, and see its teachings as a danger to human civilization, just like every other normal citizen of the country.
The Beduins are just one of the many minorities, who quietly but with great determination, have embraced the inclusive vision of Zionism, and are determined to be an integral part of Israeli society. (Many but not all them)

Next week, for the first time in the history if the state of Israel, a Caucus for Encouraging and Promoting the Enlistment of Minorities into the IDF and the Civil Service will meet in the Knesset.

The establishment of the caucus was initiated by Im Tirtzu Movement and will led by Member of Knesset Miki Zohar and Member of Knesset Merav Ben-Ari. the Caucus will feature very prominent individuals from all sectors in the State of Israel. Speakers will include the Chairman of the Bedouin Yad Lebanim, Ziad Saadi, and Mohammad Ka’abiyah, counselor of the Bedouin sector of the youth movement, Acharai!, along with Father Gabriel Nadaf, the spiritual leader of the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum (ICRF). Also featured will be the young but  fearless activist Mohammad Zoabi and his mother, Sarah, whose advocacy for Israel on social networks has been more effective than the efforts of the Foreign Ministry.  
The convention will be opened by Minister Ayoub Kara (a Druze), and later on, Hussein Halabi, a social activist and a leading Druze journalist will speak .

Such a lineup of speakers shines a strong light on a compelling fact: the State of Israel, as the Jewish state, is in fact, the most successful multi-cultural enterprise ever founded in the Middle East.

That being said, here is another compelling fact: whether it is a religious war or the cynical use of religion to arouse and inflame passions, this is definitely a war started by those who want to fight  the effort to build a communal life based on mutual respect and on true cultural fulfillment. This is a fight between light and darkness.

Warriors of darkness  is the only definition you can give to those who don’t  understand that the only alternative to the State of Israel in the Middle East is a repressive, dictatorial regime.  It would be a regime where the fate of all the country’s citizens, regardless of religion, race,or gender, would be the same as in the rest of the Middle East - one of persecution, killing, destruction, and a complete lack of basic human rights.
Israel is not involved in a simple “us against them” war pitting Muslims against Jews. That might be the sense of things from five kilometers in the air, but on the ground the situation is far more nuanced and complex.

Addressing that complexity is Israel’s ongoing challenge, one that the upcoming Caucus is also trying to address.