On the streets of Jerusalem, in the rubble of Ramallah, in synagogues, in mosques, in the hearts and minds of millions in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the remainder of Israel, Israelis and Palestinians are locked in a clash of civilizations. In his masterful work, The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel L. Huntington outlines a theory which approaches international politics on the scale of civilizations. However, he circumvents discussion about Israel. Huntington cautiously describes Israel as a “non-Western” (Huntington 90) country, but identifies the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as one along a fault line between civilizations (267). Though he chooses to avoid the issue, Huntington’s theory provides a groundwork for analyzing the conflict in Israel in terms of a clash of civilizations between Judaism and Islam. This is a dangerous and provocative idea. But if we dare examine its implications and explore its insights, we risk a more complete understanding of the conflict which has plagued relations between Palestinians and Israelis in particular, Muslim countries and Israel in general, for over fifty years.
Let us begin with a discussion about Judaism’s status as a civilization. This is a highly contentious claim which Huntington himself questions:
With the creation of Israel, Jews have all the objective accoutrements of a civilization: religion, language, customs, literature, institutions, and a territorial and political home. But what about subjective identification? Jews living in other cultures have distributed themselves along a continuum stretching from total identification with Judaism and Israel to nominal Judaism and full identification with the civilization within which they reside, the latter, however, occurr...
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...ited States. Yet the rational actor model fails. Islam transcends strategic, economic, and political rationalism. So the next time you catch yourself saying that the barbarity, longevity and popularity of the conflict against Israel defies reason, hold your tongue. Islam has traditionally kept its distance from Enlightenment ideas.
Cleveland, William L. A History of the Modern Middle East. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2000.
Huntington, Samuel P. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon & Shuster Inc., 1997.
Kaplan, Mordecai M. Judaism as a Civilization. New York: Schocken Books, 1934.
Stoessinger, John George. Why Nations Go to War, 8th Edition. San Diego, CA: Thomson Wadsworth 2001.
The Avalon Project: Hamas Covenant 1988. Yale. Web. 19 Mar. 2015
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