A Religious Conflict?

The fact is that for many years the hostility to Israel, and attempts to destroy it, have been of a three-dimensional nature – Islamic, Arab and more recently Palestinian.

Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens
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Woman walking past garbage at the Shoafat refugee camp, north of Jerusalem.
Woman walking past garbage at the Shoafat refugee camp, north of Jerusalem.Credit: AP
Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens

Allahu Akbar! he yelled as he brought the hatchet down on the head of the rabbi wrapped in his tallit [prayer shawl], blood splattering the floor of the synagogue. This murderous act, he believed, was being carried out for the glory of Allah. The murder in the Bnei Torah synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof followed a series of murders against Jewish residents of Jerusalem that were committed by Arab residents of the city in the cause of “saving the Al-Aqsa mosque.” “Now this is a religious war,” the alarmists among us were heard saying, “the whole Muslim world is against us.”

To be truthful, not only was the whole Muslim world never supportive of Israel, it has, in fact, with few exceptions, been hostile to the State of Israel since its creation, and before that to the Zionist enterprise in Palestine. As a matter of fact the campaign by the local Arab population in the days of the British Mandate, before they began identifying themselves as Palestinians, was led for years by Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem. The massacre of the Jewish community in Hebron in 1929, the objection to Jews placing a bench at the Wailing Wall or blowing the Shofar there on the High Holy Days, all were based on interpretations of Islamic law that “the land of Palestine is an Islamic waqf for Muslim generations until the Day of Judgment.”

And what about Hezbollah, the “Party of Allah,” and Hamas, both dedicated to the destruction of Israel in the name of Allah? And the Iranian ayatollahs calling for Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth? And here in Israel the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, led by Raed Salah, for years has been staging annual mass rallies in Umm al-Fahm under the banner “Al-Aqsa is in danger” and has fueled much of the recent unrest in Jerusalem with the claim that the Jews are intent on destroying the Al-Aqsa mosque.

The religious aspect of the conflict did not appear a few months ago, it has been there for a long time. The recent appearance of Islamic State, or ISIS, with its widely publicized abhorrent acts, presumably carried out in the name of Allah, have lent prominence to the religious part underpinning the attempts to attack the State of Israel and Jews wherever they may be, and provided examples to follow for some among the Arab population in Jerusalem.

The fact is that for many years the hostility to Israel, and attempts to destroy it, have been of a three-dimensional nature – Islamic, Arab and more recently Palestinian. Many of Israel’s peace advocates, ignoring the full dimensions of the conflict, have naively assumed that if only an agreement could be reached with Mahmoud Abbas, who at best represents no more than 50 percent of the Palestinians, Israel would be able to live in peace.

Possibly more progress can be made in reducing the hostility to Israel by engaging countries in the Arab world and in the non-Arab Islamic world. Actually, here considerable progress has been made over the years. Egypt and Jordan have made peace with Israel, each for its own reasons. Until the revolution, Iran was at peace with Israel, and until the advent of Recip Tayyip Erdogan Turkey had good relations with Israel. Can Indonesia follow?

As for the Palestinians – the Arab citizens of Israel, and the Palestinian population in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria – there is a great deal that Israel can and must do. Living conditions in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem have to be improved, the Shuafat refugee camp has to be turned into a livable neighborhood. Above all, beware of turning the anger at the recent murders in Jerusalem against Israel’s Arab citizens, and all Palestinians. It is too easy to turn neighbors and friends into enemies.



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