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The toxicity of fundamentalist thinking
Zealotry poisons everything
Author’s Note: All conflicts result in human losses, and that is a tragedy. I am not on any side, nor do I think anyone has the moral high ground. Israeli politics are as toxic as Palestinian politics. I mourn for all the powerless humans caught up in strife. They have no way of escaping. Hate, like an infectious wound, often leads to fatal outcomes.
Hamas, an Islamist fundamentalist group formed in 1987 as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, has controlled the Gaza Strip since it won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006—the last time elections were held in Gaza. These elections took place a year after Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers from Gaza. In 2007, Hamas ousted its rival political party, Fatah, from the strip during a military conflict within Gaza. Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, the European Union, Canada, Egypt, and Japan.
Politics in the Middle East, and especially in the areas surrounding Isreal’s borders, are incredibly toxic because of ongoing ancient tribal wars. This essay is not to go into detail on the entire timeline, but I will recap the last hundred years and how they have led to the situation playing out in 2023.
1897 - First Zionist organization created in Switzerland. Zionism is an identity based on nationalism and religious zeal.
1916 - Colonialist powers Great Britain and France carve up the Middle East, creating borders based not on what was good for locals, but what they perceived as good for their own interests.
1917 - Great Britain declares support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
1936 - Arabs revolt and internecine conflicts between Jews and Arabs intensify.
1937 - The British recommend partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.
1939 - World War II starts.
1944 - Jewish partisans begin operations against British troops and interests in Palestine.
1947 - United Nations votes to partition Palestine.
1948 - British mandate ends. David Ben-Gurion declares the independent state of Israel. Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan invade Palestine.
1949 - Cease fire declared between Israel and Arab states.
1967 - After many provocations, Israel attacks Egypt and defeats multiple Arab armies, occupying large swathes of formerly Arab controlled Palestinian territory.
1973 - Yom Kippur war.
1979 - Egypt-Israel peace treaty signed.
1981 - Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, who signed the treaty with Israel, is assassinated by Islamic radicals on the eighth anniversary of the Yom Kippur war.
1982 - Israel withdraws from the Sinai and invades Lebanon.
1987 - Palestinian Intifada (uprising) begins.
1994 - Israel and Jordan sign peace treaty.
1995 - Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli leader who signed the peace treaty, is assassinated by Jewish radicals.
1998 - Israel turns 50.
2002 - Israel reoccupies large areas in Palestine.
2005 - Israel withdraws from Gaza but continues enforcing restrictions on movement for Arabs.
2006 - Hamas, a fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organization, wins control of Palestinian government. Sporadic and sustained rocket attacks begin on Israeli territory. Israel responds with ground and air attacks.
2009 - Unilateral cease-fire. Israel withdraws from Gaza once again.
2012 - Israel assassinates Ahmed al-Jabari, the Hamas military leader, spawning new conflicts.
2014 - Hamas kidnaps and murders three Jewish teenagers, prompting an intensification of the conflict.
2018 - Israel kills hundreds of Palestinians protesting the barrier fence separating Israel from Palestine.
2021 - Jewish police raid Al Aqsa mosque, killing hundreds.
2022 - Military raids by Israel as reprisals for assassinations of Jews by Palestinians.
2023 - Hamas launches attacks on multiple soft targets within Israel, brutally murdering hundreds at a music festival and kidnapping others as hostages.
The poison has permeated the consciousness of all who live in the area. Radicalism, and the hatred that goes with it, are ascending.
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Several religious factors pertinent to Islam and Judaism dictate the role of religion as the main factor in the conflict, notably including the sanctity of holy sites and the apocalyptic narratives of both religions, which are detrimental to any potential for lasting peace between the two sides. Extreme religious Zionists in Israel increasingly see themselves as guardians and definers of the how the Jewish state should be, and are very stringent when it comes to any concessions to the Arabs. On the other hand, Islamist groups in Palestine and elsewhere in the Islamic world advocate the necessity of liberating the “holy” territories and sites for religious reasons, and preach violence and hatred against Israel and the Jewish people.1
This is what happens when societies let fundamentalism and ignorance rule. This is what happens when intolerance dominates, and murderous dogma goes unchecked. This is what happens when lies become reality and humans become unanchored from the value of the human experience.
My heart is heavy, and I have no answers today. I do not have a solution to ridding the world of murderous zealots without becoming a murderous zealot myself. That is something I find myself unwilling to do.
I see the world in places. In places, I see humanity failing to evolve. I weep. I weep for the victims of this and all the pointless violence around the world.