Mainstream discourses across the globe often invoke religion as a major reason for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Religious differences between Muslims and Jews consistently find their way into populist explanations of the conflict’s development and continuation. Inside Israel-Palestine, however, mainstream perceptions are counter if not antithetical to global understandings. For the majority of Israelis and Palestinians, the conflict is seen as fundamentally secular in nature, and rooted in competing national claims to self-determination in the same territory.
Despite this, it is nevertheless the case that we are witnessing an increasing creeping of religious claims into local understandings of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and particularly into its nationalist dimensions. This creeping of religious claims into nationalist claims (and their potential future fusion) is a worrying dynamic for two inter-related reasons. Firstly, it is apparent that should religious claims become fused to nationalism, the potential for increased future human suffering on both sides is exacerbated because the conflict will become more intense. Secondly, if religious claims and nationalism were to become fused in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then it is arguable that a possible resolution to the conflict becomes even more intractable.
Mada’s Fusion of Religion and Nationalism Project, a joint research project with the Fletcher School at Tufts University, examines religion and nationalism in Palestine/Israel from a comparative perspective. The project’s research, which is based on an understanding of Zionism as a form of settler-colonialism, benefits from comparative contexts that also involve some form of fusion of religion and nationalism (Sri Lanka, India, Serbia), as well as additional cases where the fusion of religion and nationalism played a less integral role in political conflict (South Africa, Ireland). Researchers with the Fusion of Religion and Nationalism Project draw upon these scenarios to contextualize intersections between religion and nationalism in Palestine/Israel.
The project is directed by two scholars, Professor Nadim Rouhana, General Director of Mada al-Carmel and Director of the International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program at Tufts University’s Fletcher School, and Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Director of the Gender Studies Program at Mada al-Carmel.
Since the project’s launch in 2012, five international and local research workshops have taken place, in which researchers presented and discussed their work. Scholars continued their research until the end of the project’s second year. The project, now in its final stages, will conclude with two international conferences – one to be held at Mada al-Carmel, to consider the role of religion in Palestine/Israel from a comparative perspective, and another to take place at Tufts University, which will focus on the intersection of religion and nationalism in broader international contexts. Additionally, a book will be published compiling articles by the researchers.
Mada’s Fusion of Religion and Nationalism Project has organized five workshops. Chaired by Dr. Nadim Rouhana and Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, these workshops included participants from Palestinian, Israeli, American, Bosnian, Serbian, Australian, and Indian universities.
- “Religious Claims, Nationalism, and Human Suffering in Political Conflict: A Comparative Research Agenda” - Tufts University, March 2013 - Workshop Program
- “Religious Claims, Nationalism, and Human Suffering in Political Conflict: The Case of Zionism” - Nazareth, October 2013 - Workshop Program
- “The Politics of Suffering: A Comparative Perspective on Colonialism, Nationalism and Religious Claims” - East Jerusalem, April 2014 - Workshop Program - Workshop Report
- “Religious Claims, Nationalism, and Human Suffering in Political Conflict: The Former Yugoslavia in a Comparative Perspective” - Sarajevo, October 2014 – Workshop Program - Workshop Report
- “Religious Claims, Nationalism, and Human Suffering in Political Conflict: The Fusion Between Religious Claims and Nationalism in the Palestinian Context” - Ramallah, December 2014 - Workshop Program (Arabic)
- “Religious Claims, Nationalism, and Human Suffering in Political Conflict: Perspectives from South Africa” - South Africa, October 2015 – Workshop Program - Workshop Report