Sunni Political Islam: Engine of 'Israeli-Palestinian' Conflict

And in the case of Israel and its Arab Muslim enemies, the core energy on the Arab side is one of religious rage -- a feeling that the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in parts of the land formerly ruled by Muslims constitutes a crime against god. Such a crime cannot be forgiven or compromised with.

In a recent article on the Hamas website expressing support for the recent terror attacks, Palestinian columnist Dr. Issam Shawer summed up the issue in an admirably succinct way:

We maintain, and believe, that our battle against the occupier is fundamentally religious, not geographic, historic, or economic.

Allah the Exalted mentioned [in the Koran] our [current] conflict with the occupier, when he told His servants that they would enter Al-Aqsa Mosque as they had entered it the first time, and told us [also] that everything that “Israel” had built in order to establish its fragile entity would be destroyed. ... Therefore, we must stop arguing that our battle against the enemy is political, waged in the arena of the UN, the Security Council, or negotiations. All this nonsense contradicts the Koran and the Hadith. (Translation by MEMRI).

Shawer grasps the dynamics of the conflict far better than most Western observers.

On the other side, the Jewish idea of the “Return to Zion,” the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the renewing of the days of old are deeply embedded in Jewish religious tradition and inseparable from them.

Modern Zionism may have been secular in nature, but it drew from these wellsprings in Jewish self-perception.

The difference throughout has been that the Jews have, since the onset of the modern struggle, demonstrated a willingness to accept political plans proposing a sharing of the land under discussion: in 1937, 1947, 2000, and 2008. The Arab Muslim side has demonstrated no similar capacity.

The Jewish self-perception is that of a small nation, cautious, uncertain, defensive.

Arab Sunni Muslim identity, by contrast, is one predicated on triumph and conquest as the natural state of affairs, now accompanied by the humiliating, bewildering current state of failure and subjection. Hence the enormous, murderous rage at the present state of defeat to a people seen as naturally subordinate: the Jews. Hence the absolute refusal to accept history’s apparent verdict, and the latest furious attempt to dislodge the enemy.

Religion, specifically Sunni political Islam, is driving it, as it has driven all previous attempts. It shows no sign of running out of energy, despite the meager results so far. A deep sense of its own superiority and the inevitability of its eventual victory informs its adherents. It is past time that the many obsessive Western observers of this conflict grasp the essential, religious driving force. Political religion, specifically Sunni political Islam, lies at its heart. It has always been there.