Zionism, Liberation and Religion: Gush Emunim and the Palestinian Theology of Liberation
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This paper examines two religious groups intimately involved with today’s conflict in Israel and Palestine. It compares the messianic fundamentalism of Gush Emunim, a fringe group of Israeli Jews responsible for settling sweeping areas of the West Bank, with a movement of Palestinian Christians in the West Bank who espouse a politically engaged theology of liberation. Ironically, both movements draw authority from the same body of scripture using different hermeneutical methods of interpretation. Two opposing theologies have led to irreconcilable claims over the contested lands. The figures of Rabbis Abraham Isaac Kook and Tzvi Yehuda Kook are identified as highly influential participants in the religious Zionist movement, as well as models for the religious activism of Gush Emunim. The Kaballah-inspired desire for Jews to return to the holy land was made possible with the Six-Day War of 1967, and the radical theology of T.Y. Kook found its application in the form of Jewish settlements throughout the newly occupied territories. In opposition to Gush Emunim stand the Palestinian Christians, who must reconcile their faith with passages in scripture that seem to legitimate Jewish claims over Palestine. Through a contextualization of scripture the Palestinian liberation theology, as expounded by figures like pastors Naim Ateek and Mitri Raheb, is a movement that seeks to empower Palestinian Christians and seek reconciliation with their Israeli adversaries. The paper concludes by contrasting models of peace as laid forth by both Gush Emunim and the Palestinian Christians of the West Bank, assessing the viability of each.
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