To read Hisham’s first response check this link

To read Yossi’s reply to Hisham’s first response check this link


Greetings dear Yossi,


Before delving into the topic, allow me to thank both you and your team for inviting me to read the book, expressing such great interest in my response, reading and replying to it.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a shared problem, and one of the greatest causes of our sorrows. It is also a matter that has often been poorly discussed and misrepresented, and I aspire not to make the same mistakes others did.

I’d love to express a point of view that is often ignored; one that stems from my rational nature as a man who cares about neither God nor religious perspective, but rather sees them as key obstacles to resolving the conflict.

 I will concisely but fully explain my point of view in the hope that you have enough patience to read the rest of my letter.

The letters included in your precious book represent a serious attempt to explain the Jewish Israeli side of the story to Palestinians and Arabs. You outline the importance of neighborship, and how both peoples must recognize the right of the other to exist in the land of Israel. You promote the values of love and affection over wars, fear and destruction.

You insist – in the fourth and seventh letters – to incorporate religion into the conflict on the basis that it has the power to bring all people together and unify them, especially considering the fact that Islam and Judaism share similarities particularly in their perception of God. You claim this even though history itself has proven religion to be mere tools of war.

Holiness, as far as I’m concerned, is similar to violence; it tears into and intrudes our private and public life. The Scriptures, if seen as purely fictitious works, are nothing but stories of conflict between the “I” (self), the “we” and “the other” seeking possession over land and history.

Evoking the sacred (which strengthens the “I” when confronting “the other”) in an attempt to resolve the conflict does not in fact offer any legitimacy to those who claim it. Such references are mere fictional compliments to the core narrative; compliments whose sole purpose is sanctification. It seems clear to me that holiness alone is not enough to resolve the conflict and this can indeed be testified to by the violence that has accompanied it throughout the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Similarly, holiness serves to incite violence on the Arab side of the conflict. It has become a social obligation to resist the Jews, who symbolize infidelity and occupation, and has encouraged further stubbornness against the Jews. This in turn spurs on Israel’s endeavour to fully Judaize Jerusalem. Meanwhile, such a national embrace of religion has since been rejected by the Western civilization (which you, Yossi, have criticized) who have given up on the concept of the religious state, and replaced it with the civil, secular one.

Holiness has long been the refuge of Arab identity since its defeat in 1967 in which the Arabs have ceaselessly attempted to present a better image for themselves; but to virtually no avail. Their religious heritage of Scripture and Hadith has proven to be the only place in which they can combine both the Holy and the historical and in so doing convey a heroic image of themselves. They deployed fictional tales and legends in any and every part of their historical narrative in order to paint their victims as martyrs and righteous heroes.

Although religion has always been present in the conflict ever since it began, its political influence on Israelis and Palestinians crystalised following the Six Day War; the war in which nationalist and Pan-Arab regimes struggled to swallow bitter defeat. In Israel, too, the political scene changed radically; the populist support for religious right-wing parties such as the Likud or other pro-settler factions led to the fall of secular parties, such as Labor, the original founders of the Israeli state. On the other hand, the failure of “Oslo Accords” and the Palestinian National Project to achieve an independent state for Palestinians, led to the rise of Islamist radical movements like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.

History has taught us that only rational management of conflicts characterized by wise diplomacy and realistic problem-solving, rather than nihilistic fantasies that lead to self-destruction, can resolve conflicts. We must keep all religious complications and its accompanying baggage, along with the “politics of Identity”, out of the political field. We must focus on the improvement of human rights and care for our material well-being in order to come to a solution that will cease aggression against the weak and in doing so grant them some hope and justice with which they can live.

I’m confident that you would approve of this point of view; one that’s principally opposed by fundamentalists and ideologues who benefit from the incorporation of detrimental religious, nihilistic and identity-based outlooks in politics. They profit greatly in imposing their agenda on public opinion even if they know that doing so further complicates the conflict and worsens people’s lives. The determination of Political-Islamic groups and regimes to Islamize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in depicting it as a religious dispute between Muslims and Jews, is a living example of such political and ideological intrusions in conflict. This, alongside the Israeli discriminative project, only causes greater pain to Palestinians and induces Palestinian violence. The Islamization of the conflict has produced no positive outcomes, but rather only politically benefited Islamists at the ballot box or served to spread their propaganda in their “chaotic-skirmish” TV programs.

The dispute over Jerusalem is in fact exclusive to Palestinians and Israelis, and any solution must be resolved on humane and ethical principles suited to both nations. Palestinians, whose lands have been usurped and colonized, have suffered the most in this conflict. It is the Palestinians whose existence has been violated, identity harmed and dignity insulted, in addition to remaining exposed to Israeli apartheid policies about which you yourself have confessed in between the lines of your book.

This is why the Judaization/Islamization of the conflict – in which the dispute has turned into a religious one that marginalizes the national and humane aspects of both peoples – has eroded rights and minimized their sacrifice, especially amongst Palestinians,. To add further insult to injury, the Palestinian cause is widely exploited by all the corrupt Arab regimes and organizations thirsty for political trafficking and control. Such regimes seek to impose their political agendas over the Arab world, using pro-Palestinian rhetoric in pursuit of wealth and natural resources in the Middle East bringing no benefit to the Palestinians; in fact, such activities are detrimental to Palestinians, causing them more tension and bloodshed.

Just as some Arab dictatorships deployed pro-Palestinian and Pan-Arab rhetoric to bolster their legitimacy, political Islam has used similar rhetoric to promote itself, placing Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque at the centre of their attention.

Hamas’s founding, which brought about the isolation and destruction of Gaza, deepened the concept of suicidal acts as a form of resistance, causing deep internal rifts within Palestinian society. It is another living example of how the Sunni Political-Islamic project has served to further spread fundamentalism and foster populist support for religious revolt (Islamic Sahwa/Awakening) in Arab societies. The founding of Hezbollah, on the other hand, illustrates the Shiite Political-Islamic project (Wilayat al faQih) which promotes the Iranian agenda in the region and supplies its religious and ethical depth.

Arab countries engage in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so as to counter potential threats – and in particular, the founding of an apartheid fundamentalist Israeli hostile state – to their internal stability and national security. Indeed, like other fundamentalist movements in Islam and Christianity (the latter replacing the “New Conservatives” that defined American populism), fundamental Zionism means Judaization (the use of Judaism for Israel’s occupation project) and belongs to a set of fundamentalist ideologies supplying and fuelling each other; such as the Islamic fundamentalism (politicization and use of Islam for religious control, the governance of the jurist, Wilayat Al-faqih – politicization of Shiism to serve the Iranian expansion project), and lately the Christian fundamentalism/evangelicans (politicization of fundamentalism of Christianity to serve the American populism) who replaced the “new conservatives” . At the end of the day nobody pays a heavier price for Israeli policies than the Palestinians.

That’s why all the rational intellectuals from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides must see the conflict from another angle, a different angle than what others did previously in politics, economy and media in order to manage the conflict this time more effectively and peacefully, in accordance to the international humane laws, and moving towards a fair and comprehensive arrangement that guarantees both peoples’ rights.

The dispute with Israel isn’t existential like what the sons of Ismail claim, neither it is about borders as the sons of Isaac claim; since the political Islam wants us to live in the distant past, to approach the conflict fundamentally and religiously so there’d be  cleansing of Jews in another terrible genocide – this would make Arabs and Zionists the same since Zionists also tried to cleanse Palestinians. The Israeli part wants us to forget all of the recent crimes they committed against Palestinians, to forget their right to exist in this land, and wants to adopt their fundamental story based on their historical right in the “promised land”. I don’t agree with any, I purely see that the conflict is all about rights.

Both the Islamist and Judaist narratives sought to revoke the human rights, both sought religious prevalence in the conflict over its humanist and ethical aspects. Religious prevalence over the conflict provided a wider space for manipulations and profit for regional regimes and groups alongside the Israeli government itself; this only deepened international intervention in the region.

It was Balfour’s declaration/call, in 1917, for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”, and not the fall of the Ottoman Empire, that initiated the politicization of religious identities in the Middle East. Once Balfour’s declaration defined Judaism as national identity to its adherents, Hassan Al-Bana continued the trend in 1928 by founding the Muslim-Brotherhood, that considered the Islamic religion as a national identity for all Muslims and campaigned for the establishment of a Muslim state.

When Israeli fundamentalism called for the ingathering of world Jewry in Israel, making the whole world support this religious country, fundamentalists like Hassan al-Bana and Khomeini likewise sought similar global control, using slogans about “controlling the world” and “exporting the revolution”.  The common denominator between these fundamentalist ideologies is the feeling of superiority, and self-purity.

Consequently, religious extremism and violent fundamentalism in the Middle East are a result of a political and ideological crisis caused by the politicization of religion. This is manifested in concepts like The Promised land, Islamic Khilafah, and the Jurist Governance (Shia), which violently clash with one another.

Extremism is a result of the fuelling nationalism with religious zealotry, as Iran has done by reinforcing a national identity by sanctification. Similarly, extremism is brought about by the nationalization of a religion, be it Political Islam or political-Judaism.

In light of all of this information, the dangers of the domination of religion in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are very clear. Bringing religion into the conflict empties its political and humane essence, and leaves the region susceptible to religious war at any time, in which all can be burnt, to the detriment of both Palestinians and Israelis.

In the end, what I have discussed here may not cover all the topics presented in your valuable book nor may my suggestions necessarily constitute original ideas or offer a perfect solution. Nonetheless, we must pursue a new approach in which we take the religious component out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in any future effort to reach any sort of “Deal of the Century” and blaze a trail to a more peaceful future.

In championing slogans and policies such as “resistance to the Zionist occupation”, fundamentalist Islamic projects have only worsened the conflict. They have caused Palestinians to doubly suffer, making their losses and sacrifices pointless. On the one hand, such policies have provided the occupier with justifications to commit further horrendous crimes. At the same time, in legitimizing suicide attacks, the Islamization of the resistance has spread a culture of death and hopelessness in the Palestinian community. Islamists exploited resistance to inject their fundamentalist agendas into Arab societies and justify their pursuit of dominance. They monopolized religion and nationalism, inciting against anyone who dared oppose them by labelling them “infidel”, “traitor” and the like. All this has further polarized and divided Arab societies, breeding conflict between social groups and civilians alike. 

The fundamentalist politics that claim to defend Jerusalem and Al Aqsa has, in fact, broken down Arab society’s cohesion, contributing to the distortion of the Palestinian cause’s image and violating the ethics and principles of resistance. Such politics has tarnished the concept of resistance by corrupting it with populist instincts, injecting a dependency on external assistance and encouraging narrow factional tendencies void of any national or ethical commitment. In so doing, they promote isolation and bigotry which are antithetical to the interests of any society.

The fundamentalist groups have used the slogan “the central case of Muslims” to describe the Palestinian cause. Such a political device – accompanied by the dictatorship of Arab regimes who have benefited from it – has been a principle means of deflecting attention from more serious and vital problems such as poverty, illiteracy, backwardness and an absence of social justice.

The result has been a massive failure on all fronts; an internal failure in national development, and an external failure when it came to recruiting support for the Palestinian cause and helping them acquire their rights to recognition, justice, life and dignity. In addition to all this, it has not helped the Palestinians repair their reputation in the international community. They have suffered for multiple generations and are paying the price of the political ideologization of the conflict, religiously and nationally; the price of deepening the conflict’s racial and identity-based components. This political ideologization has been adopted not only by Israel and Political Islamic groups, but also by Arab dictatorships who have invested in the Palestinian cause and Pan-Arab nationalist slogans to bolster their own legitimacy. In so doing, they seek to overcome the rising prominence of the competing ideologies propagated by fundamentalist Islamic movements.

Trump’s populist behavior has consequently re energised the widespread and prevailing populism in the Middle East. Politicians in the region have responded to Trump’s decisions by themselves engaging in political populist actions and promoting a deceptively good image of themselves in order to defeat their opponents. Politicians such as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qassim Soleimani, Hassan Nasrallah, Nouri Al-Maliki and Ismail Haniyeh are all playing the same game.

Populism nurtures populism, and extremism feeds extremism.