Islamist thought has, from its beginning, regarded certain aspects of Zionism and eventually of the State of Israel as examples that should be followed. Common to Israeli thought on the conflict is the dichotomy between Arab Islamists who are the enemies of Zionism, and Arab liberals who are partners for peace. The 'peace camp' has emphasized that Israel should withdraw from all the lands that it occupied in 1967, but has also called for the promotion and intensification of diplomacy to end the conflict. The military triumphs of democratic Israel have encouraged liberals to attack undemocratic Arab regimes that use the conflict as a pretext to delay political reforms. Despite their many deep ideological differences, Islamists and liberals alike have identified social cohesion, political realism and activism, long-term planning, scientific and technological development, gender equality and pluralistic democracy as important factors in Israel's success.
Islamism and liberalism in the Arab world: some theoretical remarks
Uriya Shavit and Ofir Winter
One of the sensitivities accompanying Islamism is that the term originates from Western researchers, some of whom employ a critical approach toward the phenomenon. The main faction of Islamism adheres to wasatiyya, or the 'harmonious golden path'. Contemporary Arab intellectuals who define themselves as liberals portray Arab liberalism as an ideological heritage that draws on the guiding principles of Western liberalism to issue specific demands from Arab societies. Yehoshafat Harkabi's book, The Arabs' Position in Their Conflict with Israel, was one of the first to explore the image of Zionism, Jews and Israel in the Arab discourse of the 1950s and 1960s. After the decline of pan-Arabism, from the 1970s to the Arab Spring, Islamist movements grew stronger, increasing their influence in matters of society and culture, but had yet to take over the government of any Arab state.
A war of no compromises and compromises during war
Uriya Shavit and Ofir Winter
This chapter offers a chronological overview of the Islamist ideological opposition to Zionism. It explores the different pragmatic approaches toward Israel that have developed in the various epochs of Islamist thought, particularly in relation to previously signed agreements with Israel. Islamist opposition to the Zionist idea is as old as Islamism itself. The Six Day War resulted in a resounding Arab defeat that signalled the end of progressive pan-Arabism as the dominant force in Arab politics, although it would continue to wane as empty rhetoric for decades to come. Seen through an Islamist prism, the humiliation of the Six Day War served as a vindication of the principles of Hasan al-Banna's ideology. A skill characterizing Islamist thought is the formation of pragmatic policies that do not challenge ideological and religio-legal foundations. The meta-historical perspectives are the conspiracy theory of the 'cultural attack' and the anti-Semitism of the Islamist worldview.
This chapter discusses the historical roots of liberal writing about Zionism and Israel as a role model. It also discusses the liberal thinkers' usage of the different achievements of Israeli society as a means to shed light on the political, social and scientific revolutions necessary for Arab societies. The shift in Arab liberal thought began in the 1980s as liberal authors started to connect the lack of democracy in Arab societies and their backwardness. The writing of the liberals from the mid-1990s depicted Israeli democracy as the absolute opposite of Arab tyranny. In contrast to the diligence and pragmatism demonstrated by the Zionists, Arabs relied on slogans, appealing to international law and morals. Liberals in the early twentieth century pointed to the Zionist enterprise as a role model because it gave credibility to revive the Arabic language and to discard a culture of passivity.
This book regards Arab Islamism and liberalism as distinct political ideologies with all-encompassing views on the structure and appropriate roles of society and the state. The thesis presented here on the different functions of Israel and Zionism within these two ideologies refers to a protracted period of time. It also establishes several generalizations about the actions of individuals and groups in a vast geographic and linguistic space. The book first offers a chronological overview of the Islamist ideological opposition to Zionism. It portrays the main characteristics of and driving forces behind this resistance and explores the different pragmatic approaches toward Israel that have developed in the various epochs of Islamist thought. The book then discusses Islamist depictions of Zionism and Israel as role models and analyses the reasons for the formation and acceptance of such interpretations. It also offers a chronological overview of the evolution of liberal thought with regard to the Zionist enterprise. It depicts the various perceptions of peace and normalization created within this thought and demonstrates the contradictory ways in which the Arab liberal struggle for freedom and democracy has been intertwined with the Israeli-Arab conflict. Finally, the book discusses liberal interpretations that represent Zionism and Israel as role models, and analyses the reasons for the formation and acceptance of such interpretations.
This chapter investigates the role of individual leaders and the peculiarly Catholic transnational dimension in bringing about change, and some of the ways in which religious organisations contributed to the negotiation of transition. It explores how Catholic hierarchies and churches have coped with the realities of democratic politics. The ability of the Catholic Church to play the ‘defender of the nation’ role was aided by the fact that the ‘occupying’ power was perceived to be of a different religious tradition. The process of democratic consolidation is explored. In most of the ‘third wave’ countries, the dominant religious institutions have made public their commitment to democratic politics and acceptance of democratic norms. The limits of religious contributions to democratic consolidation are then assessed. The hegemonic theory and rational choice theory perhaps offer slightly more insight into why national hierarchies adopted a primarily supporting or constraining position with regard to political change.
This chapter presents a brief digression on the traditional pro-authoritarian tendencies of the Catholic Church, reporting a series of critiques of social, economic and political injustice that challenged authoritarianism. The practical measures aimed at supporting the development of ‘civil society’ are addressed. It is noted that while the voices for social justice and human rights were strong, both religious ‘radicals’ and ‘conservatives’ were sometimes quiet in their support for liberal democracy. The Catholic Church was the dominant voice in many countries, and others were active in defending human rights. The forefront in most ‘third wave’ countries was the Roman Catholic Church, which promoted a broader understanding of social justice and human rights. Religious institutions provide physical symbols and rituals that offer a focus for resistance to the oppressors but also allow religious consolation in the face of oppression and give some sense that the sacrifices are not in vain.
This book examines the contribution of different Christian traditions to the waves of democratisation that have swept various parts of the world in recent decades, offering an historical overview of Christianity's engagement with the development of democracy, before focusing in detail on the period since the 1970s. Successive chapters deal with: the Roman Catholic conversion to democracy and the contribution of that church to democratisation; the Eastern Orthodox ‘hesitation’ about democracy; the alleged threat to American democracy posed by the politicisation of conservative Protestantism; and the likely impact on democratic development of the global expansion of Pentecostalism. The author draws out several common themes from the analysis of these case studies, the most important of which is the ‘liberal-democracy paradox’. This ensures that there will always be tensions between faiths which proclaim some notion of absolute truth and political order, and which are also rooted in the ideas of compromise, negotiation and bargaining.
This chapter aims to tell the story of how the Christian churches have responded to democracy. There can be little doubt that during the ‘third wave’, the Catholic Church did become an institution which tended to support those arguing for an end to the abuse of human rights and the bringing down of authoritarian regimes. The Roman Catholic Church may not have been the primary contributor to democratic governance in Latin America. The question of the political implications of the Pentecostal explosion ties in with a second issue that relates to what has been called the ‘southernisation’ of Christianity, as the traditional ‘West’ ceases to represent the core of the ‘Christian world’. Over the last half century, Christianity has had to engage with the democratic experiment as never before.
This chapter covers the advent of Christianity. Particular emphasis is placed on the real and imagined Protestant contribution to the evolution of democratic politics; the post-revolutionary Roman Catholic reaction and opposition to democracy; and the mid-twentieth-century Vatican conversion to the merits of democracy. One of the products of the Reformation was religious fragmentation. The debates of significance for future democratic development are explained. Religion plays a key role in ensuring the survival of the young republic and the maintenance of a civil polity. The Christian Church tends to lose sight of its original egalitarian impulses and to take on board the hierarchical and monarchical characteristics of the temporal order with which it has co-existed and which it has come to legitimate. The Catholic Church in many developing countries has shifted its position from defender of authoritarian rule to promoter of human rights and democracy.