Rise of theo-politics: Crusade-crescent clash and Isaiah’s prophecy
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivered a long and historic address to the governing Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) parliamentary caucus regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Wednesday.
Urging all “reasonable and conscientious nations” to mount pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to “re-embrace common sense,” he made some important points. Specifically, Erdogan criticized Western countries for turning a blind eye to the massacre in Gaza and failing to push for a cease-fire, accusing them of hypocrisy. Stressing that the Western support for Israel’s massacre was incompatible with humanitarian and religious values, the Turkish leader called on humanity to act.
The following warning, however, deserves the most attention: “If we want peace to prevail in the world, it is necessary to set aside the mentality of crusaders and the crescent. Otherwise, humanity will hurt for nothing.” I found that remark particularly important because it shed light on the dangerous repercussions of Israel’s policy of eliminating Hamas from an original perspective – that the Israeli army’s heavy bombardment, which requires the Palestinians to choose between death and exile, fuels theo-politics in the Middle East and worldwide.
Faith shapes policy
As a valuable component of identity, faith occasionally influences official policy. Yet, a dangerous brand of theo-politics emerges when expansionism, occupation and war-oriented discourse and ideology determine how states behave. Having legitimized Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7 with reference to its right to self-defense, Western governments, wittingly or not, encouraged the extremely religious, Zionist and apocalyptic discourse of Netanyahu’s government.
Claiming that Israel will “witness the prophecy of Isaiah against Hamas with our shared power and righteousness and our deep faith in the eternity of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu promotes a more advanced expansionist discourse in Israel – which already identifies itself as a Jewish country. In this sense, he links his government’s policy of destruction in Gaza to the Torahic theology of the “great state of Israel” and “the promised land.”
Keeping in mind that former U.S. President George W. Bush described the invasion of Iraq as a crusade, Donald Trump often used Evangelical language, the current president, Joe Biden, identified himself as a Zionist and Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently supported Israel “as a Jew,” it goes without saying that such radical theological statements pose a serious threat to humanity.
Fully aware of that danger, the Turkish president spoke with Pope Francis earlier this week to end the fighting and warn the West against the idea of a clash between the crescent and the cross.
Theo-politics in Mideast
The exploitation of expansionist and combative theo-politics is not unprecedented in the Middle East. The terrorist organization Daesh and some radical Shiite groups immediately come to mind. Yet, the Western states, insisting that their policies are guided by secular values, must realize the danger posed by Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s theo-political discourse, which treats Israel as the light and others as the darkness, without further delay.
It is possible to question today whether Washington’s unconditional support to Israel indeed serves American interests. Indeed, one might argue that Israel’s boundless hate and ambition shall drag the United States into new conflicts in the Middle East. It is also possible to make the case that the West makes innocent Palestinians pay the price for its historical shame and debt. Those are all problematic matters. Yet, Netanyahu’s theo-political discourse, which blends Jewish theology with Zionism, threatens to burn the region and other parts of the world.
President Erdoğan does not mince his words. The Western leaders could actually help humanity by heeding the Turkish president’s warning.