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Council on Foreign Relations Religion and Foreign Policy Bulletin
December 2012

December 2012

Divided by the Same Father

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Young people advocating for peace fly kites with the Israeli and Palestinian flags. (Paulo Whitaker/Courtesy of Reuters)


CFR's Reza Aslan examines the lenses through which Christians, Jews, and Muslims view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and warns against their tendency to link the crisis to the metaphysical.

Aslan theorizes that "it has always been extremely easy to inject God into our political conflicts. After all, religion is the language that holds the most currency with the masses. But if we are to find an equitable end to such intractable conflicts as the one between Israel and Palestine, we must learn to actively strip them of their religious connotations. Otherwise, we will never stop fighting them."

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Spotlight on Beth Katz

Beth Katz is adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and executive director of Project Interfaith, a nonprofit organization based in Omaha. Project Interfaith, founded by Ms. Katz, is committed to promoting open, respectful learning and conversation on cultural diversity in schools, communities, and the workforce. With the recent launch of RavelUnravel, a multimedia exploration of the tapestry of spiritual and religious identities that make up communities, Ms. Katz has ignited a movement and created a space for people to discuss identity, religion, spirituality, and culture. Visit Project Interfaith to learn more.

Don't Boycott Hamas

This Foreign Affairs snapshot by Tareq Baconi, doctoral candidate at London's Kings College, contends that in order to maintain the current calm in southern Israel and Gaza, Israel and the international community need to engage Hamas diplomatically. Baconi believes Hamas has shown a willingness to move beyond its hardline ideology and if given the opportunity, might act practically.

To learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and relative peace, read Senior Fellow Elliott Abrams' recent article "The Winners and Losers: The Gaza War and Its Fallout."

CFR Resources for Understanding Egypt

Over the past few weeks, CFR fellows have been closely monitoring the events in Egypt. To better understand the turbulence, reference the resources below:

  • This CFR Backgrounder explores the Muslim Brotherhood's rapid ascension to power in Egypt and looks at its ability to maintain a post-revolutionary commitment to democracy.
  • In an interview with, Middle East expert Marina Ottaway discusses the political dynamics behind secular parties and Islamists' fight for control.
  • In this CFR video, Senior Fellow Ed Husain highlights the underlying issues at the core of Egypt's power struggle.
  • In this op-ed, CFR's Steven Cook argues that President Morsi and his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood miscalculated the amount of trust Egyptian people have in their ability to rebuild the nation.

Shia Days of Rage

Frederic Wehrey, senior associate in the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, analyzes religious tensions in Saudi Arabia, the ruling family's dwindling devotees, and the potential for a "Saudi Spring." Wehrey posits that "by ignoring long-standing grievances, playing the sectarian card, and unequivocally treating Shia opposition as Iranian-backed radicals, the Saudi regime is aggravating the very problem that it would like to defuse."

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