One of the most depressing and pathetic results of 9/11 was the manicheism brought upon by a Samuel Huntington-esque world view brought upon by the Bush Doctrine. Black against white, good versus evil and East versus West, every conflict, every social issue, every ideology was suddenly taken through a time warp. We woke up in 2002 presided over by McCarthy, doing fire drill exercizing leading us to the closest underground bomb shelter as if the Soviet were pointing missiles at our suburbian homes again, and every phone was tapped by our government for maximum safety measures. Thankfully, the world in itself is still as complex as ever, ideologies are still being brewed in the same religious blender they’ve always been meant to mix in, and common sense is still gravity-defying.

Take the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for instance. Sixty years of anti-logic attitude on both sides, a cruel mistake performed by so-called peace-building international institutions, open-sky concentration camp in the Gaza Strip, and regular bombing tests by american weapons. Israel, the only western force in the Middle East, vs Palestine, a State that doesn’t even exist, backed up by religious extremism and the European Union: headache-inducing, as far from common sense as humanly possible, a textbook unresolvable conflict that has been testing the limits of diplomacy with every decade, is now adding more fuel to this already burning pan. On one hand, Holocaust survivors and their descendants are creating a supermax State with the help of 1.8% of american tax income. On the other hand, Palestinian and their democratically elected men-in-uniform Hamas leaders are struggling to stop colonization from the former. Jews versus Muslims, military task forces versus Intifada, and now, on top of it all, comes the orthodox Rabbis.

A member of Neturei Karta protesting against the violences inflicted on Palestinian civilians

A member of Neturei Karta protesting against the violences inflicted on Palestinian civilians

The ideology behind the creation of Israel was zionism, a very controversial branch of Judaism claiming that the Chosen People will live in the Promise Land – Israel – until Judgement Day, where God will recognize them as His faithful servants. Until then, most Jews did not have their own country. Hardly contained and confined to one specific corner of the universe, and evolving across continents through a process otherwise known as diasporas, Zionists believe that the anti-Jewish sentiment, from pogroms in the Middle Ages to the Holocaust, have been caused by the fact the Jews were basically nation-less. Zionism was brought to light by Theodore Herzl towards the end of the 19th century, thanks to his book Der Judenstaat, speaking of not only the creation of a Jewish state (Eretz Yisra’el), but its necessity in order to stop the diaspora. Soon enough this idea was both embraced by members of the Jewish community concerned by the rampant antisemitism in Europe, and by European and American scholars alike seeing in zionism a solution to “the Jewish question”. Herzl wrote,

“The Jewish question persists wherever Jews live in appreciable numbers. Wherever it does not exist, it is brought in together with Jewish immigrants. We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution. This is the case, and will inevitably be so, everywhere, even in highly civilised countries—see, for instance, France—so long as the Jewish question is not solved on the political level”.

It is in this climate of divided Jewish ideology that the BBC reports the visit of four representants of orthodox Jewish movement Neturei Karta paid a visit to the Hamas headquarters in Gaza in order to discuss Israel. Hamas, currently in charge of leading the Gaza Strip and fundamentally opposed to the very existence of an Israeli state, claiming its destruction in order to retrieve what was once Palestinian land, seem to have a lot in common with those rabbis, heavily dressed in traditional and conservative Jewish habit, a peculiar sight inside Gaza, where over a million Palestinian are confined without no possible exit by air, sea or ground. To Neturei Karta, Israel can only be created by the Messiah – that does not have a seat at the Security Council just yet – and therefore the current Israel as we know it is heretic. Oddly enough, Hamas drew the same nuance those rabbis do: they reject zionism, not Jews themselves.

Neturei Karta embraced a pro-Palestinian stand. “It is your land, it is occupied, illegitimately and unjustly by people who stole it, kidnapped the name of Judaism and our identity.” The movement, which membership level rises up to a few thousand across the Middle East as well as in the United Kingdom and the United States, even attended the extremely controversial conference on the Holocaust held by Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, where negationism and other forms of denial of the genocide was discussed in harsh antisemitic terms. Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas, described those emissaries as “heroes”, extreme religious leaders willing to recognize the occupation as illegal and illegitimate and fight against Israel’s apparent determination to disperse Palestinians.

The importance of Jewish-Muslim and Israeli-Palestinian dialogue will never be stressed enough; informal and formal meeting between religious and political leaders must take place on a regular basis in order to create a comfortable and productive place for a peace process to be drafted. However, extremism seems to draw extremism as much as ever in the region. Although Neturei Karta’s rhetoric contains compassion and empathy for the plight of Palestinians, a feeling that’s more than welcome on this side of the Red Sea, they are also committed to the destruction of the State, with no regard to its inhabitants. Regardless of the side which everyone seems to inevitably lean toward, it seems one state will never be able to live alongside the other. Co-existence is constantly challenged to the point mutual destruction seems unavoidable. So contested is the existence of Israel, even within its own community, only Israel itself seems to hold the cards regarding its future in the Middle East.