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A few months ago, early in July, Philip Gordon, the White House Middle East Adviser to President Barack Obama, shocked his Israeli audience when he declared in a speech that “the United States of America is no longer capable of shielding Israel from the tremendous international pressure directed against it for failing to identify its borders and for failing to end its military occupation of the West Bank through the establishment of a two state solution”. He said “these failures will lead to boycotting [of] Israel by the international community and totally isolating it politically, economically and culturally”. Gordon ended his speech with the biggest shock of all when he indicated that “the United States will never accept nor approve the annexation of the West Bank by Israel. It is only when the Palestinians attain a life of liberty that is truly filled with dignity and national sovereignty, [that] Israel, then, will be able to enjoy the attainment of peace that secures its survival and national security”.

The basic cause for adviser Gordon’s early warnings may be related to the fact that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has increasingly been showing indications of being transformed from a geopolitical conflict into a religious conflict by the religious rightist parties that dominate the political stage in Israel today. Claims of divine rights for historical Palestine by these Jewish rightist groups are based on false interpretation of the Torah and such a claims negate any compromise. This Israeli religious fanaticism has helped to create a similar extremist movement on the other side of the equation where Arab nationalism took, or was indeed forced to take, a back seat allowing for the emergence of fanaticism to rule on Arab streets.

Both extremist doctrines are man-made and self-serving, not God-serving in any shape or form. Conflicts started by self-serving religious antagonists are usually fought till death, until one terminates the other or both are terminated. Evidence of Israeli fanaticism was witnessed during the meeting of ‘The Association of Rabbis for the People and the Land of Israel’. In a speech, Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, a major leader of Religious Zionism, declared that “now is the time to hold The Sceptre and return to King David’s time to teach the Rabbis that their main task is not to teach the Torah, but to establish a religious leadership that takes the role of governing the people of Israel”.

As a result of the growing shift to the religious right in Israeli policies, a poll conducted by the Israeli Institute for Democracy during the Israeli carnage in Gaza showed that the vast majority of Israeli Jews believe that “Israel used the right amount of force in this war” and “all public criticism against the Israeli military’s conduct during the war should be stifled”. Another study, however, published by The Institute of the Jewish People Policy, revealed a great increase among ‘liberal, progressive and secular’ Jews around the world choosing to support the Palestinian civil movement’s campaigns carried out under the banner of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) calling for a boycott of Israel. This shift among Jews is a protest against the religious fanaticism in Israel.

The BDS campaigns, supported by many Jews, are based on facts on the ground that reveal that the Israeli military occupation is really a racist and a colonial power which is an outrageous violation of human rights and international law. Jews who have joined hands with BDS are convinced that “occupation negates democracy, negates the security for Israel and negates any possibility for peaceful coexistence among nations”.

These Jews also believe that Israel should end its occupation and Palestinians (of Israel) should enjoy equal rights with Israeli Jews along with the recognition of the Palestinian right of return as the only solution “to insure the very survival of Israel”.

Along these lines, the former Knesset speaker, Abraham Borg wrote saying that “During the later years something very confusing took place in Israel. In 1948, we talked about a Jewish state and our intention was it to be similar to the French and American states. Israel started as a secular state; it has lost now its secularism and was replaced with a religious nationalism that is narrow-minded and undemocratic”. He went on to say that “Israel has replaced its secular garb with a new anti-democratic one by calling itself the Lord’s State which is the beginning of a theocracy ruled by the religious and tyrannical clique”.

A rather similar note was echoed in Haaretz where Michael Brizon, wrote saying “the State of Israel has spoiled the religious right with its vast support that made them very domineering as a camp of majority. This camp has invaded the secular sector, the news media and included common thugs. I call it the camp after democracy, a camp of racial prejudice that is considered a holy and blessed value”.

He added that “the camp after democracy is to be followed by a conventionally accepted homemade fascism which resulted from the failure of David Ben Gurion [the first prime minister of Israel] to separate religion from the state as all democracies should do”. According to Brizon, such an end result will cause social upheavals in Israel revealing that “our national home was built on the very edge of a bottomless pit that is very dark indeed”.

Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman is the chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopaedia.