by Theo Poward
Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the collection of Muslim countries recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, has hardened the international division over resolving the dispute between Israel and Palestine in the Holy Land.
This is often painted as a religiously fuelled conflict. This categorisation begs the question why the conflict only started in 1948, even though Jews, Christians, and Muslims have been living in the areas since their respective births; and the last conflict fought between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the area was the Crusades. Saladin, after taking Jerusalem in 1187, removed the crusader states as a major power in the region, and there were a series of policies that ensured the rights of the minority Christian and Jewish populations.
The other major piece of evidence that this conflict is not primarily driven by religious affiliation is the Western Christians, primarily in the US who support Israel over and above the Palestinian Christians who also want to protect their access to the Holy Sites of Christianity and see the Muslim Palestinians as siblings.
This raises a question: Why do Christians in the West support Israel’s claim over the Christians in Palestine?
This support seems to be largely political, and even anti-Semitic, in origin. Although it was blended with a specific form of ‘End-Times’ theology later. The romantised vision of the Jewish Nation, and the refusal to offer a home in European countries combined into a push to encourage Jews to create their own state in Palestine. This state would then be a pro-western, ‘stabilising force’ in the region that could ensure the safety of trade routes like the Suez Canal.
Who is ‘us’?
This gives us an answer to our question, and it also highlights the problem that underlies the conflicts in the region. Theology is not the driving force behind this conflict. “God gave us this land” Is not a problem of ‘God gave’ but a problem of how you understand ‘us’.
Christians in the West support Israel’s claim over the Christians in Palestine Because of their construction of ‘us’. The identity that holds primacy in their minds is not their Christianity, but the fact they are Western.
Unless we start constructing ‘us’ in a more inclusive sense, which allows for the recognition of the legitimacy of each identity’s existence on the land, as well as the overlapping importance it plays in each of the Abrahamic faiths, then the conflict will continue. Hardening exclusive constructions, like Trump has done, will only serve to make the conflict intensify.