The Resurgence of Religion Is No Mystery

In The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions, Michael Walzer compares three countries—Algeria, India, and Israel—that gained their independence from European rule thanks to secular revolutionary movements and are now experiencing a resurgence of religion. In his review, Peter Berger suggests that there is nothing paradoxical about Walzer’s “paradox”:

[N]othing Walzer says . . . seems to really recognize the transcendent claims, consolatory appeal, or experiences provided by the religions under discussion. Nor does it recognize religion as a context in which to express the most basic questions about our place in the universe. Pascal described the human condition as standing at the midpoint between “the nothing and the infinite,” and religion has been the principal vehicle through which this truly paradoxical position and our ensuing wonder at the universe have been expressed.

Walzer’s central case is Israel. He is both puzzled and frankly disappointed that its founders failed to create a new secular culture “thick or robust enough to sustain itself” without the unwanted help of traditionalism. I am not quite sure that this is the way the issue should be framed. On the one hand, groups that assert their superior wisdom and virtue with great pretensions of certitude always have a tactical edge over those whose convictions are less apodictic and more moderate. On the other hand, there is, by almost any measure, a robust secular culture in Israel, which is very much alive and tempting to those outside it.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Algeria, India, Israel, Religion & Holidays, Religion and politics, Secularization

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict