While religion does not necessarily serve as a direct motive for every war or every conflict, it sure does make starting one a lot easier.
Last week, Egypt and Israel had a minor diplomatic incident over a delivery of palm leaves for a religious festival. No just a few, though. 700 000 palm leaves are imported every year from Egypt into Israel for use in the Sukkot, a festival to commemorate the 40 years in the desert after being led out of Egyptian (!) slavery by a man who supposedly looked a lot like Charlton Heston.
One of the aspects of the Sukkot includes eating your meals in a small self-made dwelling covered with palm leaves. And there, of course, is the rub. Ever since the change of government in Egypt, things haven’t been that cheerful between the two nations. Hostilities have resulted in childish name-calling on the Egyptian side, and calling back the Israelian ambassador from Cairo after an angry mob attacked the embassy.
So, no palm leaves this year. As a result, Israel will have to provide its own leaves and ‘boost production’. Exactly how they are going to manage that still remains a mystery to me, though. You see, you don’t just ‘boost’ a palm tree.
It would have been interesting to see though, one country starting a small armed conflict with another over botanical issues. But of course it’s not about botany. It’s about religion. Announcing cancellation of a delivery of leaves one month before the start of your neighbours religious festival really doesn’t look that much as a coincidence. You don’t cancel a very lucrative sale like that if there isn’t an ulterior motive.
In fact, religious pressure has been very popular throughout the ages,and in almost every religion. It can be used to exert and extend power (‘convert yourself…or die!’), to send people on interesting citytrips with an all-inclusive Club Med pillaging and slaughtering option (‘let’s go to Jerusalem with an army to kill some heathens!’), or, in general, just to send them off to certain death in various other and usually very original) ways.
In fact, it is being neglected a bit as a strategy these days. It would be interesting to see France stop all export of Holy Tapwater from Lourdes to the religion-fanatic Italians over a diplomatic incident involving Carla Bruni, Berlusconi and 600 grams of Gran Padano. To see the Middle East lock off oil supplies to America (imagine that, eh..!). And of course to see the Belgians stop all export of chocolate Easter eggs to the rest of the world due to a lack of government (‘Easter’s cancelled this year, sorry’)
True, leaving religion out of the equation would make geopolitics dull, but it would at least make things slightly easier…