AL-Hroub joins Harvard panel

October 27, 2021
Speaking at a webinar hosted by the Harvard Divinity School, Professor Khaled AL-Hroub, co-author of When Politics are Sacralized: Comparative Perspectives on Religious Claims and Nationalism, examined how religious claims are used in inventing and supporting nationalist movements in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
AL-Hroub, along with fellow co-authors Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, Nadim N. Rouhana, and Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, joined the webinar and provided a comparative look at how the fusion between religious claims and nationalism is performed and governed in contemporary world politics. His presentation addressed the intersection of religion and politics in the Israeli-Palestinian, drawing from his chapter of the book.
AL-Hroub highlighted the employment of religious claims as the main difference between Zionism and the Palestinian National Movement’s nationalist projects and argued that Judaism occupies a central position in justifying the creation of the State of Israel and its identity today. In contrast, he said, “secular arguments have always dominated the political landscape in Palestine and religion and religion claims appeared only on the margin until the emergence of Hamas.”
AL-Hroub pointed to 14th century Roman Catholic Pope Boniface VIII doctrine of the Two Swords, a spiritual one wielded by the church and a temporal one wielded by the king, though both used for the church.  He argued that, in Zionism, Judaism was used first as a sword in the early days of the movement to revive the Jewish idea of coming back to the Holy Land and again as a sword to justify the creation of the Israeli state. On the Palestinian side, he argued that “the whole idea of any mingling with religion and politics was for the defensive mechanism – resistance; so there was a Palestinian shield materialized in different ideological manifestations, including Islamism with Hamas.”
When examining the trajectories of both movements over the past decades, Al-Hroub noted that Zionism, which started secular and used religion for pragmatic reasons, is witnessing further religionization, while the Palestinian nationalist project is undergoing “further nationalization of all ideologies, be them Marxist, Islamist, Pan-Arabist, so the nationalization curve has been overtaking all other ideologies and forces.”
AL-Hroub is and an author of and contributor to several books and publications on Islam and politics and Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including the webinar’s subject book, When Politics are Sacralized: Comparative Perspectives on Religious Claims and Nationalism. He taught at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies of Cambridge University where he was the founder and director of Cambridge Arab Media Project (CAMP) until 2012.