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Israel & Palestinian Territories Hit 6-Year High in Religious Hostilities

Religious hostilities are very high and rising within both Israel and the Palestinian territories. According to a 2014 Pew Research study, social hostilities involving religion (including mob or sectarian violence, religion-related terrorism or conflict, organized attempts to dominate public life with a particular perspective on religion, harassment over attire for religious reasons, and other religion-related intimidation or abuse) have reached 6-year highs in both areas.

Pew uses a tool called the Social Hostilities Index (SHI) to measure social hostilities by country.  The tool measures the presence and intensity of various measures of social hostility on a scale from 0 (no social hostilities) to 10 (all-out civil anarchy).  According to the report, Israel reached a high of 9.4 out of 10 on the Pew Social Hostilities Index in regards to religious violence in 2012.  The Palestinian Territories reached a high of 9.0 out of 10.  This is in comparison to the Middle East & North Africa, which rated at 5.7 out of 10 in 2012; and in comparison to the world, which rated at 2.9 on the Index.

All of these numbers have been trending upwards over the past several years. In Israel and the Palestinian Territories, prominent business leaders pointed to the rise is hostilities as fueling an ongoing decline in regional GDP (dropping from 5.8% in increase in 2006 to 3.3% in 2012) and have called for the Israeli and Palestinian governments to aggressively seek a peace solution to reverse this trend.

The plan seeks to improve the economic situation for Palestinians, thereby removing economic sources of tension and winning greater buy-in for a peaceful and sustainable future.  But detractors of the plan criticize it for failing to deal with underlying social, security, political and sovereignty issues; the Pew Research Institution points to research highlighted by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation showing that underlying issues such as restrictions on religious freedom are equally important issues to be addressed to bring about a reduction in religious hostilities. Pew points out that when such restrictions are addressed, the result is not only greater religious freedom, but greater stability and the fostering of peace, all of which contribute to a better business environment.