The Muslim Legal Dilemma of Peace with Israel

By Groiss, Arnon | Jewish Political Studies Review, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

The Muslim Legal Dilemma of Peace with Israel


Groiss, Arnon, Jewish Political Studies Review


THE MUSLIM LEGAL DILEMMA OF PEACE WITH ISRAEL War, Peace and International Relations in Islam: Muslim Scholars on Peace Accords with Israel, by Yitzhak Reiter, Sussex Academic Press, 201 1, 236 pp.

Reviewed by Arnon Groiss

It is always useful to have God on your side whenever you become engaged in a meaningful enterprise, especially when cardinal decisions related to peace and war are involved. In a religiously devoted society like the Muslim one, God's support is especially essential as well in political controversies such as the debate over the issue of peace with Israel. The present book unfolds a wonderful array of Islamic rulings ifatawa, singular fatwa) for and against such a move and analyzes their background and significance within the wider context of Islam and international relations.

Fatwa is a tool of guidance for the ordinary Muslim individual, especially in times of inner conflicts as a result of political and social changes. Since Islam, like Judaism, is an all-encompassing religion, it has relevance to most aspects of daily life and, therefore, a word of guidance from a respected religious authority (termed mufti) is often needed. Over time, this institution has become more established and, as might have been expected, developed into a bone of contention between the state and dissident factions, as is well manifested in the present book.

Prof. Yitzhak Reiter is a senior fellow of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. He teaches in the Conflict Studies Program of the Hebrew University and at the Department of Political Science of Ashkelon Academic College. From 1978 to 1986 he served as deputy adviser to the Israeli prime minister on Arab affairs. Prof. Reiters expertise is in the fields of the politics of Israeli Arabs, and Jerusalem and the holy places in the context of the conflict, on which he has written several books and articles. In addition, he has been active in various initiatives related to Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, as well as to the Jewish-Arab dialogue within Israel.

The book starts with three theoretical chapters discussing the attitudes of Islamic legal sources (that is, the Koran and the Prophetic Tradition - Sunnah) toward peace and war; the interpretation of such attitudes throughout history from the days of the early caliphs to our own times against the background of historical developments regarding the Muslim state; and the debate among Muslim scholars throughout the ages - especially nowadays in the context of the conflict with Israel - regarding Prophet Muhammad's treaty with his archenemy, the Meccan tribe of Quraysh.

Then follow several chapters that analyze the legal debate and the various fatwas issued in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty of 1979, the Oslo Accords of 1993 between Israel and the PLO, the Israeli-Hizbullah conflict of 2006, and the issue of Israel-Hamas armistice (hudnah). …

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