Over the past four decades, the Middle East, also referred to as the cradle of civilization and the origin of the three predominant monotheistic religions, has been a flashpoint for religious fascism and extremism. Unfortunately, people have become used to relating radicalism with Islam to the point, where the notion that Islam is the expression of extremism par excellence has become widely accepted (Gettleman and Stuart). Interestingly, the public, as well as politicians and religion scholars, has not paid particular attention to Zionism that somehow takes some equally dangerous radical trends. Apparently, different reasons have been given by various scholars on the origin and development of the Zionist and Islamist movements, but the majority of them seems to link these religious resurgences to the 1967 war (Gettleman and Stuart). In fact, some scholars consider the post-war religious resurgence to be a continuation of sentiments expressed by the fundamentalist Islamic groups and Zionists rather than new movements with completely different ideologies. Despite the vast difference in opinion on the similarities and differences between the Zionists and Islamic movements, it is generally accepted that the 1967 war played a critical role in the development of the current religious fundamentalist groups (Laqueur and Barry). This essay argues that the Zionist and Islamist movements fundamentally contrast each other, although they superficially mirror each other at the same time. Additionally, the essay demonstrates how individual political desires have translated into group-based religious movements that continue to influence the political landscapes in the Middle East.
As mentioned above, a majority of the religious movements that fall under either of the above two categories can be traced back to the 1967 Israel war (Cleveland and Martin). This war had changed the structures of political opportunity for both the Jewish and Islamist fundamentalist movements (Cleveland and Martin). For instance, the capture of new territories by Israel brought with it significant changes to the Islamist ideologies. Their failure in defending the Gaza Strip and the West Bank region resulted in lesser dependency on international organizations. In fact, Israel attacks originated from Egypt before the war. However, after the occupation, those individuals, who held on Islamic teaching and still occupied the captured regions, started launching attacks against Israel and eventually joined forces to form movements such as Hamas. Evidentially, such Islamist movements became more active in the post-war time as they operated within Israel-controlled territories (Gettleman and Stuart). Until now, these groups have opposed the absorption of Palestine as it would lead to a rise of the Greater Israel.
On the other hand, the 1967 Israel war gave rise to a more active and radical Zionism. The success in gaining new terror revitalized the Jewish fundamentalist movements as the result of the change in political opportunity. Moreover, the incorporation of Judea and Samaria as a part of Israel gave the revisionist Zionist movement greater commitment in their endeavor to bring Palestine within the Israeli borders in their attempt to reestablish the biblical Israel (Cleveland and Martin). At the same time, what seemed unachievable before the war became eminently attainable, thus propelling more people to join the movement. Additionally, even the secular Jews were open to the idea of territorial expansion since they considered the new development as a boost to the ability of the country to defend itself (Gettleman and Stuart). As a result, Zionist ideologies become less opposed, increasing the opportunities for Jewish fundamentalism to thrive. Therefore, both groups used post-war mobilization structures to build their abilities and extend their networks (Laqueur and Barry). Presumably, the 1967 war provided the necessary ideological cultural framework for the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood and later Hamas as well as the rise of the Zionism fundamentalists groups such as Gush Emunim (Cleveland and Martin).
Furthermore, both groups share a relatively similar cultural framing aimed at addressing shared issues such as the status of the land of Palestine, the false religionists, and past failures or tragedies with a religious orientation. Moreover, groups that adhere to Takfirism and Zionists have an ideology that stems from religious exclusivism (Cleveland and Martin). At the same time, the similarity between the Zionists and the Islamic group like ISIS is evidenced not only in their formulation and expression of their exclusive religious views but also in the assertion of destruction and negation ideologies. Similarly, both groups advocate political absorption and territorial expansion as well as operate on the same political plane (Cleveland and Martin). Recently, ISIS and the Zionists have been seen to share common values and identical ideological claims (Cleveland and Martin). Moreover, the politics around the groups seem to revolve around the idea of the creation of the Greater Israel.
However, the two groups cannot be said to be entirely the same since the Islamist fundamentalists seem to focus on the past failures and grievances experiences, while the Zionists are concerned with the possibility of future failures, their implications to Israel, and how to avoid them (Laqueur and Barry). Despite the perceived similarities in their agenda, the two movements use different approaches in promoting their missions. For instance, ISIS uses confrontation through terror attacks, while the Zionists Supremacy has been accused of being behind the creation of ISIS to indirectly further their ideologies (Cleveland and Martin). In fact, ISIS occupies what most Zionists consider to be a part of the Greater Israel.
In sum, the essay has been able to demonstrate how the Islamist movements, such as ISIS, mirror the Zionists even though they are not entirely similar. It has been also made clear that the Zionists have achieved their greatest success during the 1967 Israel war, while the Islamists have majorly experienced failures as evidenced by their focus on past grievances and experiences. Lastly, religious exclusivity and cultural framing illustrate the similarities between both fundamentalist movements. Therefore, the two ideological movements represent an excellent example of how religion and politics are intertwined.