Why are Israel and Palestine at war? An historical justification

The world witnessed one of the most horrible massacres in history on October 18th, 2023. Over 500 Palestinians were killed at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City by an Israeli strike, where Palestinians were crowded with wounded and looking for shelter. Geoffrey Wheatcroft has classified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one of the world’s most intensely disputed conflicts. To fully understand the conflict, it must be put in a historical context. 

Arabs/ Palestine before the conflict

Palestine is a middle eastern country, located in Western Asia.  Palestine was home to a diverse population until 1948. Following World War I, the League of Nations placed Palestine under British rule, encouraging the establishment of a Jewish state there. This led to the Arab Revolt of 1936–1939, during which time intellectuals and politicians were clamoring for further freedom and self-determination. Repression followed, including that carried out by Jewish militia and British forces.

Jews / Israel before the conflict

“A nationalist Jewish movement” known as Zionism arose to advocate for the creation of a Jewish homeland. The biblical promise to Abraham and his offspring, as well as the fact that the country was formerly the historical Jewish kingdom of Israel, serve as the foundation for Jewish claims to the land. In 1885, many people continued to arrive in Palestine aided by wealthy benefactors. Jews were able to live on many of the local farms and lands as a result, which fueled the wave of immigration from Europe. In 1887, the population of Palestine was 460,000; 5% Jewish and 95% Muslim.  A second wave of Jewish immigrants arrived in the Middle East, where the Jewish population is expanding and thriving, following the emergence of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s. Thus, Jews population increased to 17% by 1931.

Israel’s founding and the 1948 Palestine Conflict

In 1947, Britain was devastated after having fought WW2, so they basically handed the mandate of the colony of Palestine to the newly created United Nations, and so the UN called for a Jewish and Arab states partition plan for Palestine. The Arab Palestinians rejected this because they sought independence and self-determination and considered it a violation of state status and sovereignty. However, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the state of Israel in 1948, he did so on the grounds that the Arab inhabitants of the land of Israel were left with no choice but to flee. On May 15, 1948, forces from Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, and Iraq attacked the newly formed state of Israel, claiming they were trying to “save” Palestine from Zionists. This marked the start of the first Arab-Israeli conflict. The new state of Israel was born under siege, Arab armies invaded from all fronts. Out of the 1.2 million Arab Palestinians living in Palestine in 1947, 750,000 had either fled or been driven out by Israel by the time the first Arab-Israeli war ended in 1949. Huge camps for refugees were established throughout the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the outskirts of East Jerusalem, Lebanon, and Syria. Palestinians essentially recall this forced expulsion of Arabs as the Nakba or the catastrophe.

The Persistent Battle for a State of Palestine

Israel destroyed three Arab armies in the 1967 Six-Day War, taking control of Gaza and the West Bank and establishing itself as the dominant military force in the area. Yet, after twenty years of living under Israeli rule, Palestinians’ resentment and angst increased and dispersed among Palestinian terrorists, resulting in violent uprisings and protests by Palestinians in Israel and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (intifada 1987–93). Later on, the second intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, broke out between 2000 and 2005 as a result of the ongoing Israeli occupation. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s fundamental problems and grievances were not entirely resolved despite a number of attempts at peace talks and initiatives that followed.

“Hamas” won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections and took over administrative authority of the Gaza Strip and West Bank following Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in the same year. There have been no more elections to date, and Hamas continues to rule the Gaza Strip.

The conflict continues to have a significant impact on the Middle East today. Many Palestinians have been living in camps for refugees for many years, raising their children there as the conflict has not yet been settled and their right of return is still a disputed subject. The Middle East is currently dealing with a number of difficulties that were shaped by the creation of the state of Israel. Understanding the past and the events that led to the current state of affairs can help us better understand the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and strive toward a future characterised by justice, peace, and reconciliation for all parties involved.

Image: Spark Shiver on Flickr 

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