By Nikos Theologou,
Easily one of the most controversial and difficult stories of our lifetime, the Israel VS Palestine conflict has been an on-going situation for more than 70 (!) years. In fact, the longevity of the situation has made the international community numb to its existence, that is of course until there are flare-ups that the world simply can not ignore.
One of the biggest myths around the Israel-Palestine conflict is that it has been going on for centuries and focused on ancient religious hatreds. While religious beliefs are not completely irrelevant to the equation, the nature of the conflict revolves around two groups of people who claim the same piece of land, and it goes back about a century in the early 1900s. Back then, the region of Israel-Palestine had been under Ottoman rule for centuries, with Muslims, Christians and a small number of Jews living in peace. More and more people living in that region started developing a sense of national identity as Palestinians. Meanwhile, in Europe the movement of Zionism was born, a movement that said that Judaism is, apart from a religion, a nationality and saw their historic homeland in the Middle East as their best chance at realizing that.
After World War I and the fall of the Ottoman empire, the British took control of the region of Palestine and allowed Jewish immigration, which eventually created tension between Jews and Arabs with both sides committing acts of violence.
Then came, potentially the biggest atrocity in the history of humankind, the Holocaust. The Holocaust led many more Jews to flee Europe to British Palestine, and the idea of a Jewish state gained many supporters from the international community. An idea that was brought to life by the UN Proposal 1947. The plan of the proposal had 3 goals: give Jewish people a state (Israel), give Palestinian people their independence (Palestine) and create a chance for Britain to leave. While the Jewish state accepted the proposal, the Arabs saw the UN proposal as another opportunity for European colonialism on their land and declared war on Israel. Israel won the war and pushed well past their borders, under the UN plan, and expelled a huge number of Palestinians from their homes creating a huge refugee crisis.
In the infamous Six-day war (1967) between Israel and the Arab states, the former won the war and managed to seize land from Syria, Jordan, Egypt and, most importantly Palestine, including all of Jerusalem and its holy sites, which left Israel ruling over the Palestinians. Over the next decades, most Arab states made peace with Israel, with one way or another, but the Israeli military was still occupying the Palestinian territory of West Bank and Gaza. That was the beginning of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
In the next years, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) fought against Israel, including acts of terrorism, to seek an independent Palestinian state. However, while the tension between the PLO and Israeli forces was progressively rising, something dramatic was starting to change in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory. For either political, religious or financial reasons, Israelis had started moving in the West Bank protected by the Israeli army, that made the occupation harsher than ever.
The on-going pressuring occupation led to the First Intifada (Arabic word for “uprising”), which lasted 6 years (1987-1993). The demonstrations began in the form of protests and boycotts, but it was not long enough until they turned into violent riots. Israel responded with heavy forces, which led to a couple hundred Israelis and over a thousand Palestinians losing their lives. At the same time, the terrorist organization of Hamas was founded in Gaza and was considered the PLO 2.0.
While the international community attempted to chime in and mediate the situation, through the Oslo accords, extremists from both sides repeatedly used violence to derail peace, while seeking the other sides’ destruction. That dynamic has been around ever since. The uncertainty for peace set the tone for the Second Intifada (2000-2005), which turned out to be much more violent than the first one, with over 1.000 Israelis and 3.200 Palestinians losing their life.
This is the point where the conflict really changed. In fear of a third Intifada, Israel built walls and checkpoints to control Palestinians’ movements. At the same time, Israel withdrew from Gaza and Hamas gained power and split from the Palestinian Authority, thus splitting Gaza and the West Bank.
On May 7th and May 10th of 2021, Israeli police stormed the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest religious site in Islam, during Ramadan, and wounded over 300 worshippers with rubber bullets. The police presence was in response to protests against the multiple forced evictions in East Jerusalem by Israeli forces. Bear in mind, East Jerusalem is a Palestinian territory that has been under illegal Israeli occupation since 1967. Why are Israeli forces evicting Palestinians out of their own houses, you ask? Two words. Ethnic cleansing.
While Israeli forces continue to ethnically cleanse Palestine, Hamas has turned out to be Israel’s strongest card, when it comes to international dialogue. Hamas’ terrorist actions give the Israeli military justification to bomb and kill ten-fold Gazans. More specifically, while “defending” against Hamas, Israeli forces have managed to kill sickening numbers of children, top healthcare specialists, destroy their only COVID-19 testing site and demolish buildings, housing, media organizations including the Associated Press and hitting refugee camps. Israel might be the only nation that in the name of defense has committed so many war crimes.
On a personal note, I find it extremely weird, that the international community has accepted, almost instantaneously and rightfully so, that Hamas is a terrorist organization focused on the harming and destruction of the opposition, when the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have been more harming, malicious and terroristic than Hamas themselves. How many more children must die in the name of defense for people to start seeking action? How many Palestinians have to be violently evicted for the international community, including European Union and USA, to impose sanctions on Israel?
The situation in Palestine is a deeply troubling, sad story, that has been implanted in the Palestinian DNA for generations. It is a story without a happy ending and with no logical lesson. People tend to forget these stories, put them in the back of their mind because they make them uncomfortable. Uncomfortable recognizing their privilege and duty in a world that has burdened them with many duties and little privileges.
Tomorrow I will wake up in my home, eat breakfast and go about my day. In Palestine tonight, some people will be spending their last night at their house. I need to help.
- Uncomplicating The “Complicated” Palestine/Israel Conflict – SOME MORE NEWS, Youtube, Available here
- Israel-Gaza violence: The conflict explained, BBC News, Available here
- Israel/Palestine Human Rights Watch, Available here
- The battle for Jerusalem – Vice News (on youtube), Available here
- ISRAEL AND OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES, Amnesty International, Available here
- Why is accountability for alleged war crimes so hard to achieve in the Israel-Palestinian conflict?, Available here