Current Issue Article Abstracts
Summer 2021 Vol. 56.3
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On November 18–20, 2018, Annabel Herzog (Professor of Political Science at the University of Haifa in Israel) and I (Professor of Religion and formerly Professor of Political Science, both at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA) organized a conference at Haifa with the title, "Asymmetry, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and Abrahamic Peace." The two issues of J.E.S. of which I am guest editor constitute the papers from the conference. As many of the essays make clear, the asymmetries in military power and resources between the Israelis and the Palestinians are a major source of the conflict. The multinational and multidimensional conference brought together Israeli, Palestinian, American, and European scholars to discuss the origins, sources, and evolution of the conflict, its current status, and possible modes of resolution.
Theopolitical Notes on Israel's Declaration of Independence
Warren Zev Harvey
In 2018, the Knesset of Israel, led by its right-wing coalition, adopted the Nation-State Law, which affirmed that the State of Israel is the "nation-state of the Jewish people" and only the Jewish people. Many have contrasted this law with Israel's 1948 Declaration of Independence, which promised "complete equality of social and political rights" to all citizens, "irrespective of religion, race, or sex," and expressed a commitment to the moral teachings of the biblical prophets. The Declaration was written by socialists and rabbis, while the Nation-State Law was written by right-wing nationalists. The Declaration focused on three prophetic values: freedom, justice, and peace.
This essay discusses the content of the Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, focusing on its religious language. In doing so, the essay links the law with three points of gravity: religious-ethnonationalism, populism, and colonialism. Specifically, the essay highlights how the Nation-State Law is a manifestation of the religious right politics in Israel, which seeks to consolidate the Jewish nature of the state, to entwine the nature of Israel as a state for the Jews with its absence of borders, to devalue the political significance of citizenship, and to gain a wide consensus on the right of self-determination as a religious right derived from the Jewish sacred texts rather than as a political right based on international law.
This essay contributes to the Judaic conceptualization of peace by bringing Walter Benjamin's essay "Critique of Violence" into conversation with the nonviolent practice of the Israeli NGO, Rabbis for Human Rights. It analyses Benjamin's critique of liberal peace and legal instrumentality by questioning his distinction between pure, divine violence and instrumental violence by focusing on the story of Korah's rebellion. Moving to Benjamin's equation of pure violence with nonviolent conflict resolution, I argue that the latter is the appropriate means to achieve "justpeace." Rabbis for Human Rights' scriptural interpretation indicates that nonviolent peacebuilding can be modeled on the agonistic struggle between divine law and human intercession. They use legal means to challenge the state violence of occupation in pursuit of justice and peace.
Religious fundamentalism is a major source of political instability in the world. The literalizing of God and religious texts infuses followers of the three Western monotheistic religions with an impetus to fight to the death any nation or group that they feel opposes their understanding of what God demands of them. From even before the era of the official promulgation of monotheistic doctrine, an alternative reading of the supreme Power in the universe has been available. This alternative reading has been officially canonized in Western religious thought as negative theology. Negative theology states that we can only know what God is not—but not what God is. Since God brings the explanatory quest to a halt, God can only be infinite. It is a contention of this essay that the structure of negative theology duplicates the structure of skeptical argument—and they both issue forth in incoherence. The only mode of relationship to God that is available to us is a mystical one, which means that no person can base their relationship to God on the premise of certainty. Fundamentalism then rests on a vulnerable set of rational arguments, which the essay seeks to explore and expose.
How Can Islamic Education Support Pluralism?
This essay sets out to analyze the concept of difference in the Qur'ān from a philosophical point of view. Generally speaking, this means that people of various cultures can co-exist in harmony in one society through mutual relations of tolerance. The essay also aims to determine the reciprocal interaction of benefits and values among societies through human and moral interactive relations. This divine address has been revealed in order to legalize the principle of difference that exists among human beings, making it a supported divine right and a natural law that one cannot deny or object to, but can rather deal with and benefit from. Against this quality of difference and cosmic dissimilarity, God reserved for Godself the quality of Oneness and denied it to living creatures and inanimate objects. The reader of the qur'anic verses realizes clearly that the attempt of some people to impose God's Oneness upon the life of others, and to force them to conform and be similar by compelling them to assume the same image is only aggression against the Oneness and unity of God, which clashes with the original spontaneity that characterizes the entity of human beings.
This essay offers a critical reflection of the discourse concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its basic hypothesis is that the notion of "conflict," a situation of radical disagreement, necessarily assumes an even more radical agreement on the unity underlying the difference: an agreement on the situation. Its basic question is accordingly: What is the underlying agreement that is presupposed and imposed, that is, performed, by the discourse of an Israeli-Palestinian conflict? What is the "united state" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? What are the logos and logic that generate this synopsis of different, conflicting, warring narratives? Drawing on Marx, Schmitt, Heidegger, Arendt, and Anidjar, the essay attempts to look at the notion of an Israeli-Palestinian conflict as arising from the hermeneutic unity of a liberal logos of state and a fundamentalist logos of religion.
Palestinian-Christian theologian Naim Ateek has argued against the Zionist interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, claiming that it favors a national reading of the bible and contradicts the Christian understanding of a universal God. Ateek's use of the terms universalism and nationalism ought to be understood in the context of the post-World War II encounter between the Christian discourse on Judaism and the discourse on Liberation Theology, as well as in the context of a political conflict over land/territory that has turned increasingly national-religious. The Exodus paradigm is a useful case in point, as it is central to both the Zionist movement and Liberation Theology. Although liberation theologians perceive the Exodus story as an integral part of its own religious history, the Zionist movement's reading of this story creates a monopoly on this paradigm that prevents Palestinian theologians from using it for their own purposes.
This essay aims to uncover the methods and strategies adopted by Islamist groups in the Arab community in Israel in providing social services for children. It describes the results of a case study that focuses on the observation of the work of two Islamic groups in Baqa al-Gharbiya, an Arab city in the immediate vicinity of the Green Line. The study adopts the methodology of qualitative research through in-depth interviews with sixty persons, including children. The characteristics of the services these groups provide will be identified, as well as the links among the organizations and with other community and government organizations. The results indicate that these Islamist groups have a significant presence and influence in the Arab community, as they are active in the political and social spheres comparable to Islamist social service providers in other countries in the Middle East. Palestinian Arab clients prefer to turn to the Islamist groups for help over public social services provided by Israel. When they reach out, it is easier to build trust due to their shared religious and social background. The Israeli institutions, by contrast, represent an intrusive, alien force that they associate with land expropriation and neglect in providing social services.
Education between Critique and Theology
Recent debates in Israel highlight a resurfacing of the tensions between secular education and religion by assuming a clear separation between a critical attitude towards religion, and the preparing of students for a life of religious obedience. Drawing on Theodor Adorno's discussion of education from the 1960's, I wish to challenge this taken-for-granted assumption. I show how Adorno's famous educational appeal for "critical self-reflection" can be traced back to its theological sources. Specifically, I argue that in Kierkegaard's theology of love, Adorno found a particular case for bringing together critique and theology that he then brought to bear on his educational position in which secular education and religion do not represent contradictory elements.