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Fadi Zatari: Historical and Religious Roots of the Palestinian Conflict and Prospects for the Palesti

Updated: May 28

Dr. Fadi Zatari is currently working as an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University. He received his Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Al-Quds University in Jerusalem and his first Master's degree in International Studies from Birzeit University, followed four years later by a second Master's degree in Political Theory from Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany, and Technische Universität Darmstadt. He received his Ph.D. degree in the Study of Civilization (Political Science) from the Institute for the Alliance of Civilizations at Ibn Khaldun University, Turkey, in 2021. Dr. Fadi Zatari is fluent in German, English, and Turkish, in addition to his native Arabic, and has published several scholarly works in journals such as the Journal of Middle East Studies, Insight Turkey, and the Journal of Islamic Thought and Civilization. As a result of his academic experience and educational background, he possesses deep scholarly attainments in political and civilizational studies based on the Middle East region.

On 7 October 2023, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, announced a military operation against Israel following the launch of thousands of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel. In response, Israel declared a state of war, with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) joining forces with Hamas in confronting Israel. This ongoing military conflict has led to a significant loss of life, with at least 20,000 casualties on both sides, as well as the displacement of numerous residents of the Gaza Strip. Despite the efforts of international parties, led by the United Nations, to address the complex political realities of the Israeli-Palestinian situation, attempts to resolve the conflict have been unsuccessful. Against this backdrop, SPICS conducted an exclusive interview with Dr. Fadi Zatari, focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its underlying historical and religious roots. The interview also aimed to gain insights from Dr. Fadi Zatari regarding the prospects of the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

Throughout history, Jews, Christians, and Muslims coexisted peacefully in the region. It is also very well documented how the Jewish people used to be oppressed and persecuted in European countries like Spain and Germany. Notably, the safest havens for Jewish people have been Muslim countries, including Palestine, contributing to the existence of Arab Jews, known as Mizrahi. The Jews, as a very small minority, used to live in Palestine together without any conflict or clashes. However, the main problem started with the establishment of the Zionist movement. Dr. Fadi Zatari firmly believes that Zionism is the primary cause of the conflict in Palestine, as the tensions and hostilities we witness today never existed before the establishment of the Zionist movement in 1897.

It should be also noted that the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, was not a religious person, and he did not want to establish a Jewish religious state. Even many Jews opposed the idea of establishing a Jewish State in Palestine. This leads to the distinction between Zionism and Judaism. Judaism is not equal to Zionism. There is no doubt in acknowledging that Zionists used and even misused Judaism for political means.

For Palestinians, the Zionist movement is a colonial project to establish a foreign state in their land. The conflict is between Israel as a colonizer and Palestinians as colonized, between oppressor and oppressed. Of course, religions can motivate both sides to escalate this conflict; nevertheless, this is not a religious conflict as some people might think. Therefore, Palestinian people tried in the past and are trying in the present and will continue to fight in the future to gain their independence, self-determination, and freedom. In conclusion, the roots of the conflict lie in the colonial hegemonic Zionist movement and not in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.

In addition, the history of the establishment and development of Israel also influenced the outbreak of the conflict. First, Israel was constructed on myths introduced by the Zionist movement, such as Palestine being "a land without a people," and to convince Jews in Europe to immigrate to Palestine. Israel continues to invent myths and propaganda. For instance, Israeli media and analysts introduced the current escalation between Israel and Palestinians as if it only started on October 7, 2023. Acting as if this conflict had no deep roots in Israeli colonization, apartheid, and occupation. What’s more, Israel was established in 1948 on the bloodshed and broken bones of the Palestinian people, which goes way back before October 2023. For example, on April 9, 1948, Zionists committed a massacre in Deir Yassin (near Jerusalem); around 130 fighters from the Zionist paramilitary groups called Irgun and Lehi killed at least 320 Palestinian villagers, including women and children. So, Israel has a history of seven and half decades of violence and apartheid against the Palestinian people.

Since the outbreak of the new conflict on October 23, 2023, Israel killed almost twenty thousand Palestinians, nearly 70 % of whom are children and women. This escalation has sparked the conflict and raised concerns about a potential regional escalation, drawing to the involvement of more countries. All this can lead to catastrophic results not only on the regional but international level. Undoubtedly, October 7, 2023, is a turning point and a defining date in the Palestinian context and even the region. Many dimensions will contribute to creating a new reality, whether in terms of viewing and dealing with Israel as a superior regional power in the Middle East or reproducing the Palestinian resistance and raising the expectations and the political ambition related to the Palestinian issue. It also raised the Palestinians' political expectations concerning their rights and freedom and increased their enduring patience, steadfastness, resistance, and sacrifice. Furthermore, this conflict brought the Palestinian issue to the international level. We are witnessing massive demonstrations worldwide, not only in solidarity with the Palestinians but also in denouncing the Israeli genocide.

Gaza will not accept staying as an open-air prison, as it has been for the past 16 years. In other words, the current war will impose new equations, like mostly lifting the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip. Dr. Fadi Zatari showed his expectation for more solidarity and support for the Palestinians globally since it will become very challenging for pro-Israeli states to defend Israel’s actions. The mass killings, allegations of genocide, and the implementation of apartheid policy against the Palestinians, not to forget, the massive destruction in Gaza, make it increasingly difficult for Israel’s allies to defend it. This scenario also raises potential negative consequences for Israeli normalization efforts with some Arab countries.

Contact: Ali

Interview: Wen Leyan

Editor: Chen Zhitong



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