The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
An All-You-Need-to-Know guide to one of the longest-running wars on Earth
After there is great trouble among mankind, a greater one is prepared. The great mover of the universe will renew time, rain, blood, thirst, famine, steel weapons and disease. In the heavens, a fire seen
There was no dearth of misery and instability. Fear and dwindling hope have brought mankind to its knees as an uncontrolled virus makes its way into our bodies and our lives. As we grapple with concerns for our health, the well-being of our loved ones, our livelihoods, we forgot to tune ourselves back to what’s happening in the world apart from the virus that seems to be tearing it down.
All up until now. Till the din became so strong that now it becomes hard to ignore.
The Israel-Palestine conflict.
With celebrities, both Indian and International jumping in to “me-too” the cause of the warring regions — much attention (sometimes perhaps necessary) has been brought to this issue, this time around.
Seemingly a ceasefire has been announced to the 2021 version of the conflict, but this only seems to be a band-aid to a deep-rooted issue.
For those who would like to get better acquainted, here’s a pointed guide:
The Basics first — Where is Israel and Where is Palestine:
The ancient region of Palestine initially comprised of the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the river Jordan, even spilling onto the Arabian desert beyond. It now consists only of the areas of the Gaza strip (along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea) and the West Bank (western side of the Jordan River).
Israel on the other hand is the only Jewish nation in the world and was formed in 1948 when a large influx of Jewish immigrants populated the region. Israel is located on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea and bordered by Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Palestine was once a region inhabited largely by Arabs, and naturally, they resisted the Jewish invasion of their land, but to little effect. Their land was consequentially reduced as the state of Israel took control of the region.
The Flow of events:
The Zionist Movement: Early 1900s
The Zionist movement that was gaining momentum in Europe in the early 1900s, wanted to establish a homeland for the Jews (most of whom resided in Europe at the time) in Palestine. The movement preached a return of the Jews to their homeland. Judaism was to become more than a religion and stand as a basis for national identity.
The Balfour Declaration: 1917
In the year 1917, the British issued the controversial Balfour Declaration in the midst of World War 1. This was mindboggling since the British and its allies were still at war with the Ottoman Empire at the time and did not actually have control over the land they had promised to the Jews.
The declaration was a document that announced the support of a national home for the Jews in Palestine. The ulterior motive of the British seeking control or a “Mandate to Palestine” as it was officially called, was the establishment of a “national home” for the Jews there. They encouraged Jewish immigration to Palestine.
The Arab population in Palestine opposed the increase of the Jewish population because the new immigrants refused to lease or sell land to native Palestinians, or hire them. Jews started acquiring land and asserting their presence, which led to Palestinian aggression against them in the 1929 riots.
Worship at the wailing wall (part of the Al-Aqsa mosque) was the point of contention in the riots. Jerusalem that was considered the centre of the world where God resided in classical antiquity, too remains a focal point in this conflict — it is a major pilgrimage site for all 3 Major religions — Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
Hitler’s contribution to the conflict: The 1940s
Hitler and the political ideology of the Nazi party is credited with having brought about a significant wave of anti-Semitism (a hostility or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic and racial group). Under his reign, the ethnic cleansing and mass genocide of Jews took place in what is termed as the Holocaust.
With Hitler coming to power several Jews migrated to other parts of Europe, a lot of whom were encouraged to move to Palestine. While Jews faced persecution in Hitler’s Germany, Zionist German Jews signed the Haavara agreement with the Nazi government. This allowed Jews to migrate to Palestine upon selling some of their assets to the Nazi government in exchange for essential goods being shipped to Palestine.
Israel War of Independence & the First Arab-Israeli War: 1947
The UN in 1947, in resolution 181, made a partition plan for the region. On the 14th of May 1948, Israel declared independence, and war with its neighbouring states of Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Iraq ensued. This was the Arab- Israeli war, by the end of which Israel had occupied 77% of the land, including territories that were meant to form the Palestinian state, while retaining its independence.
Approximately 700,000 Palestinians were displaced and the Arabs referred to it as the Nakba (catastrophe). As a result, the Egyptian military controlled the Gaza Strip and Jordan controlled most of the West Bank & East Jerusalem.
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The second Arab-Israeli War and the Suez Crisis: 1956
The Suez crisis or the second Arab-Israeli war erupted when Israel allied with Britain and France to obtain control of the Suez Canal that had been nationalised by Nasser, the President of Egypt after overthrowing the British and French powers who controlled it previously.
Though the French, British and Israeli powers had to withdraw eventually, Israel that was thus far barred from navigating the shortest route from Europe to Asia, had gained partial access.
The Third Arab-Israeli War: Israel took over Jerusalem: 1967
The third Arab-Israeli war of 1967 occurred during the course of six days, wherein Israel managed to capture the Gaza strip (previously under the control of Egypt), the West Bank and East Jerusalem (previously under the control of Jordan) and make territorial gains in Egypt (Sinai Plateau), Jordan and Syria (Golan Heights). This geopolitical conflict led to more Palestinians being displaced. Israel occupied Jerusalem and deemed it the capital of the State of Israel.
After Israel had established its position, the state started encouraging the migration of Israeli Jews to large “settlements” in and around the West Bank, and other territories. Settlements were placed in a way as to seem fluid or indistinguishable from the boundaries between Israeli and Palestinian land.
Egypt’s acceptance of Israel’s existence: The Yom Kippur War: 1973
In 1973, in the thick of the cold war, an Arab coalition led by Egypt & Syria, supported by the USSR launched an offensive against Israel (supported by the USA) in hopes to negotiate the land previously lost to it. Most of the fighting happened in the Sinai plateau and Golan heights with the Egyptian and Syrian forces launching joint surprise attacks on the Israeli position. The war led Israel and the Arab world to re-examine their respective positions, and made the former realise it was not invulnerable to attacks from its Arab neighbours, and couldn’t fend them off forever. This gave way to negotiating the conflict.
In 1979 the Camp David accord was held in hopes of peace between the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat & Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and the Saini Peninsula was returned to Egypt. Once Egypt recognized Israel, its status fell with the other Arab nations. The Egyptian president was then assassinated by Egyptian radicals who opposed the Accord.
The Hamas formation: 1987
The first Intifada (uprising) of 1987, was a Palestinian revolution led by the Palestinian Liberation Organization as protests of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip and West Bank intensified. It turned violent, and Hamas a radical Islamist group was formed.
Hamas is an Islamic fundamentalist organization with a social service and militant wing. It is considered to be a terrorist organization by many countries. It has waged several wars against Israel and its goal is the creation of an Islamic state where the Gaza Strip, Israel, and the West Bank lie.
The Gaza Independence: 2005
In 2005, Israel granted Gaza independence, and Hamas gained power becoming a potent political force after winning elections. Gaza became a base for the radical activities of Hamas. Although Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, it rules Gaza.
What Happened Now: 2021
At the beginning of Ramadan in April 2021, Israeli police set up barricades at Jerusalem’s Damascus gate preventing Palestinian’s access to the old city, where gatherings during the holy month are commonplace. This resulted in aggressions and the barricades were eventually removed amidst confrontations. The outrage spread to the West Bank where protests were staged in solidarity with the people of East Jerusalem.
On May 8, 2021, a large number of Muslim worshipers stayed back at the Al Aqsa mosque (the third holiest site in Islam located in the Old City of Jerusalem) to protest the forced evictions of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah, a predominantly Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. The protests soon turned violent and the Israeli police retaliated by firing rubber bullets and stun grenades.
Hamas, operating from the Gaza strip fired rockets in retaliation, after issuing an ultimatum to the Israeli government to withdraw its forces. Most of these were intercepted by Israel’s extremely advanced missile defence system called the Iron Dome.
Over the years, Israel has gained prominence in the region and expertly stifled attempts at rebellion from the Palestinians. The cost of this conflict is largely borne by Palestinians, with greater casualties and losses faced by them. There is no doubt that Israel has the upper hand and there is no question of the balance of power — Israel has material prosperity and one of the best militaries in the world. The threat to Israel is negligible, and it ought to act in accordance with the fact.
The current ceasefire is only a temporary state of respite for the otherwise conflict-ridden region. Though there is a lot of hue and cry within liberal circles deeming Israel’s establishment in the region as a thinly veiled attempt at colonialism, the moderates at both sides of the conflict hope for a two-state solution or exchange of land that could bring an end to the conflict.
However, radical elements at both ends contribute to disrupting the negotiation process demanding total annihilation of the other side, causing the mutual distrust to grow. One can only hope that International intervention leads to a feasible solution in the region and facilitates peaceful coexistence.
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