Looking Beneath The Surface For Origins Of War

The title of Ilian Pappe’s lecture, “The Role of Islam in the Israel-Palestine Conflict” is somewhat misleading because Pappe argued that Islam’s role has been – and remains – minor. Pappe is from Haifa University in Israel, and the Peace Studies department brought him to Colgate on a 10-day visit. At the lecture on Monday, October 11, Pappe explained that Islam – and religion in general – is a much less significant factor in the Israel-Palestine conflict than most people believe it is. The media and certain sectors of academia present the idea of Islam as an essential component to the conflict since the creation of the Israeli state. This misguided notion is so publicized, according to Pappe, because the Israeli government and the Zionist movement find it useful to describe the actions against them as “Islamic.” Islamic fundamentalists also convince the public that Islam is an important factor. A singular and fairly static entity such as a religion is an easy explanation for a complicated problem, but Pappe argues that the reasons for the conflict in Israel and Palestine are as complicated as the conflict itself. Pappe explained the theory that Islam is the most convenient way to explain the Israel-Palestine conflict. The theory proposes that the dichotomy between the “enlightened” Western world and the “unenlightened” Middle East is due to Islam. Proponents of this theory blame Islam for countering everything associated with modernity. In order to argue that a single factor is behind the problems in the Middle East, one must find a one-sided entity that does not change greatly over time. Due to its dominance in the Middle East, Islam is easily explained as the anti-progressive entity in that region of the world. Pappe opposes the theory that Islam plays a major role in the Arab-Israeli conflict by arguing that when the Jews arrived in Palestine, the Palestinians did not use religious discourse at all. Zionism was perceived as a secular, colonial movement. The Zionists were taking the homes of Palestinians, so they reacted against that encroachment without considering religious beliefs. No one cared what religion motivated the Zionists, and Palestinians did not need religion to support their cause when they witnessed their homes burning and family being killed. Pappe explained that the Palestinians’ violent acts against Israelis are motivated by their victimization and that the only way to live in their dire circumstances is to kill those who are oppressing them. Pappe hopes for a one-state solution, where people with different beliefs and cultures can live in separate communities but respect each other’s differences. In order to reach that peaceful end, he stressed the importance of the rest of the world viewing Israel and Palestine as a normal, humane society. Blaming a singular entity, Islam, is not beneficial to solving the conflict.The United States and the rest of the world must stop associating Islam with fanaticism and terrorism and understand the entirety and complexities of the conflict.