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.
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.
Zionism and Israel as role models in Islamist writing
Uriya Shavit and Ofir Winter
Islamists have perceived the profoundly religious nature of Zionism as a role model because of the synthesis of religiosity with modernity. Islamist writers praising Israel consider themselves sober observers seeking to study their opponent's sources of strength in order to enable the re-emergence of Muslims. Islamist texts praise Israel as a country that has defeated its enemies due to its faith, sacrifice, strategic planning, scientific and technological excellence. Islamist writing is the ultimate proof of a meticulous and patient strategy and of the futility of a stand-alone effort unsupported by strategy. From the early 1980s, Islamist writings encouraged the Muslim world and Muslim minorities in the West to heed Israeli relations with the Jewish diaspora as an example of cross-border religious-nationalist unity. Articulations of Islamist fascination with Israeli democracy can be found in Islamist writings from the early 1980s.
Rationalism and pragmatism have been the two cornerstones of Arab liberalism from its dawn to contemporary times. One of the prominent liberal voices rejecting Zionism was that of Taha Hussein, who was close to the Wafd although he did not hold an official political role until 1950. Rooted in the thinking of the late 1940s and crystallized in the 1970s, a broad liberal agreement blamed the despotic nature of Arab regimes for their failures in the fight against Israel. The 'refusal camp' promoted a stance that argued for democratization on the assumption that, without democratization, Arab societies will be ill-equipped for a struggle against Israel. To Ala' al-Aswani the Israeli-Egyptian peace has been a historical mistake. The resurgence of pragmatic liberalism began in Egypt parallel to a measure of flexibility in the position of the regime after the defeat in the Six Day War.
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.
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.