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The Impact of Islam on the Arab-Israeli Dispute

The role of Islam in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is a contentious subject with two main schools of thought.  One, broadly sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view, treats the conflict in geopolitical and social, rather than ideological or religious, terms.  The other, emanating mostly (although not exclusively) from pro-Israeli sources, maintains that the Palestinian cause—even when wrapped in secularist discourse—remains inseparable from the Muslim mind-set and Islamic political tradition.

The first view concedes that some Palestinians have embraced Islamic extremism but maintains that the underlying causes motivating them are to be found in their nationalist and social grievances that are understandable and more or less legitimate.  If those grievances were to be addressed and rectified, the theory goes, the jihadist zeal in the West Bank and Gaza would also abate.  The proponents of this view additionally warn that Israel—having presented herself during the Cold War as a bulwark against the spread of communism through the Middle East—is now projecting herself as the West’s first line of defense against militant Islam, while facilitating its spread by her intransigent policies in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The second view warns that, even if an evenhanded and generous agreement were to be offered to the Arabs, it would prove to be unworkable in the long term because...

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