Secularism and existential security: Peace between Israel and Palestine unlikely until religion is shaken off

The atrocities carried out by Islamic Palestinians with bombs strapped to their chests are horrible events, which, planted deeply in the heart of Koranic code (see Koran 4:74-78), are invented strictly out of the promises of religious necessity. Indeed, Sam Harris, in his book The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, points out:

“Subtract the Muslim belief in martyrdom and jihad, and the actions of suicide bombers become completely unintelligible, as does the spectrum of public jubilation that invariably follows their deaths; insert these peculiar beliefs, and one can only marvel that suicide bombing is not more widespread” (p. 33).

Zionism, too, entrenched in the philosophy of Jewish nationalism, offers us no salvation from the horrors of religious doctrine. Zionism, working in tandem with Holocaust guilt, invents justification for human rights abuses: the segregation of people, the destruction of homes, the stealing of land, etc. These abuses create a hopeless situation that has been exploited by suicide terrorists to commit unspeakable acts. In this sense, Zionism is as much to blame for Palestinian suicide missions as is Islam.

While the debate over the Palestinian state rages on, and while John Kerry naively believes he can be the harbinger of peace in the Middle East, very little attention has been paid to the giant obstacle that makes peace impossible: religion.

Removing religion from the equation makes peace inevitable. This is problematic for the people of Palestine, however, whom suffer a dearth of existential security. That is, if the findings of Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris in their book Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide are to be believed, Islam will continue to dominate the social and political landscape of the Palestinian people because 1) they rely on Islamic code for survival, and 2) they are promised a paradise after death, a paradise especially granted to martyrs.

For the people of Israel, especially the Jews, secularism is more within reach. As Inglehart and Norris explain, as existential security rises, secularism becomes more mainstream, and the state becomes malleable to social pressures for liberalization of all aspects of domestic and foreign policy. Israel is by far the most advanced state in the Middle East, and, as recent studies show, secularism and irreligion are on the rise in the Jewish state.

If the findings by Inglehart and Norris hold true in Israel (which they almost definitely will), we should expect to see a decline of Zionism as more and more Israelis divorce themselves from Judaism. Therefore, I posit that the ball is in Israel’s corner to secure peace. To do so, Israel has the responsibility to help build existential security in Palestine–to help shake off the Islamic hold over the society that promotes acts of terror.

Religious teachings in Islam and Judaism are natural barriers to peace. Only when such superstitions are pushed to the back of social consciousness can any headway be made. The lack of existential security in the Arab World, especially Israeli-occupied Palestine, make secularism unlikely, making it Israel’s responsibility, as being the more secure and more secular state, to help Palestine grow. Until then, even if Palestine achieves full statehood under Kerry’s guiding hand, we should not expect peace between the Jews and the Muslims. As a consequence, more Palestinians will suffer abuses by Israel, and more Israelis will die in terroristic acts.

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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