Identity and Religion in Palestine The Struggle between Islamism and Secularism in the Occupied Territories by Loren D. Lybarger (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2007. 265 pages.)

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K. Luisa Gandolfo



In recent years a subtle but steady transformation has been taking place in
the Arab-Israeli conflict. The prominence of Hamas and the process of
Islamization in the West Bank and Gaza are having repercussions on both
a local and a regional level, while politics, faith, and nationalism have created
a mélange of ideologies.As secularist squares up to Islamist, andHamas
and Islamic Jihad vie with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the objective
of the Palestinian struggle becomes trampled in the haste to draw
support to either political group. In the midst of this turmoil, Palestinian
secular-nationalists are defying their ideological background and turning to
religion for support, hope, and survival. The Palestinian political identity is
in a state of flux, and Islam’s dominant role in Palestinian society can no
longer be ignored or dismissed. The emergence of Loren D. Lybarger’s
Identity and Religion in Palestine is, then, a timely publication, as it provides
a perceptive analysis of political identities in the Occupied Territories.
Through his debut publication, Lybarger draws on interviews and experiences
gathered during volunteer work with the Mennonite Central
Committee in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza. Conducted over a
period of six years – three in the 1980s in theWest Bank, two in Gaza in the
early 1990s, and one in the West Bank and Gaza from 1999 to 2000 – the
author breathes life into accounts of the evolving Palestinian political identity
by rendering his respondents’ dilemmas, vulnerabilities, hopes, and fears
with startling clarity. By incorporating a plethora of political factions, religious
communities, age groups, geographical locations, and socio-economic
classes, he cogently assesses the Palestinian political and religious identity.
Equally, his book deepens one’s awareness of the relationship between events
and the cultural and historical forces that transform the region’s social
movements and political identities. Over the course of five chapters and an
epilogue, Islamism and secular-nationalism are defined both in theory and
practice, thus affording a comprehensive insight into the contemporary
Occupied Territories ...

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