The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Why It’s Important by BZUSY Kadimanik Madison Nadler
This piece was written by Kadimanik Madison Nadler of BZUSY. She wrote it as a Historical Paper entry for a contest and won! Congrats Madison!
I regret to say that Appendix I and II mentioned in Madison’s article could not be attached to this post due to technical difficulties. -Bayle G.
Bombs, prejudice, and terrorism. Many are familiar with the words, but how many have experienced their effects first-hand? For years, Judea was a safe country for the Jewish people, until they were expelled by the Romans, forcing them to explore the continents for a new place to call home. Years later, in search for a land to expand their culture, the Arabs took over Judea, which had been renamed Palestine after the Jews’ expulsion. Centuries succeeding, after the Holocaust, the Jewish people came back and claimed that Palestine was rightfully theirs. This resulted in the encounter known as the Arab-Israeli war for Israel’s independence. Both sides exchanged prejudice, violence, persecution, and thousands upon thousands of casualties. Even today they continue to share these things.
Judea was often ruled by one empire or another. Most notably, the Romans. The people of Judea revolted countless times against their oppressors, and Herod (proclaimed “King of Judea” by the Roman Senate) was no different. “Of all the multitudinous peoples who constituted the Roman world, the Jews were undoubtedly the most difficult for the Romans to govern. Herod repressed the outbreaks against his authority with bloody fury… After Herod the Judeans continued to restive under Roman rule.” It wasn’t until approximately 73 C.E., that the Romans expelled the Jewish people from Judea (Diaspora). Thus, leaving them to explore the continents in search for a new homeland. Meanwhile, the rest of the population in Judea, which consisted of a few idol worshippers and Arabs, were left under Roman control. Because Judea was surrounded by numerous Arab empires, many Arab people began to gradually migrate to Judea to explore land to expand their culture.
Despite popular opinion, there was indeed a time when the Jewish and Arab people lived alongside each other in peace. This was during the nineteenth century when the Ottoman Empire ruled over Palestine. It wasn’t until years later when the British began its rule over Palestine that tensions arose. The first complication the British seemed to have was the fact that they had promised bits of Palestine to too many groups of people. They planned to have a piece of land for themselves, the French, the Meccans (Muslims who had an established home in Mecca), and the Zionists (Jews who wished to establish a homeland in Israel). In fact, on November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter to Lord Rothschild, a Zionist, declaring that Britain had officially secured a home for the Jewish people in Palestine; “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object…”. However, the British had decided to segregate the Arabs, Jews, and Christians into three different institutions, resulting in the three sects not getting along and for tension to be at an all-time high. Their second mishap, was amid 1920-1939, in which the Brits attempted to honor the Balfour Declaration by raising the Jewish population to 30%. Per contra, the British actually ended up violating the Balfour declaration by unlawfully evicting Palestinian residents from their homes to accommodate the rise in Jewish residency; “…it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”. The Palestinians were very upset by the sudden threat of being cast out of their homeland and revolted against the British. In 1933, the Brits slowed down Jewish immigration immensely, which was especially frightening for the Jewish people, because anti-Semitism was at an all-time high in Europe. Because of all the discontent and conflicting views, the UN came up with a plan that even today serves controversy. This plan was created on November 29, 1948 and was called the UN Partition Plan, more humbly known as the two-state solution. Appendix I depicts a map of the geographical layout of the UN Partition Plan. This so-called solution suggested that Palestine was to be divided into two states, an Arab state and a Jewish state. The problem with this arrangement was that the way it was depicted on the map made it look extremely complex, and the Jewish people were unjustly given a much larger percentage of land. Naturally, the Palestinian people were outraged at this. Their country was slowly being taken from them, and soon, it felt, that their entire lives would be taken slowly from them as well.
May 14, 1948, Britain relinquished its hold on Palestine (British Mandate had ended), and gave control to the UN. This caused the Jews to immediately declare Israel’s Independence, resulting in the first Arab-Israeli War. After the war for Israel’s Independence, Israel came out victorious and the UN decided to award Israel even more territory than originally envisioned in the Partition Plan. Appendix II depicts a geographical layout of Israel’s land after its independence. This only left the West Bank, Eastern Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip for the Arab population. This led over 700,000 Arab people to become refugees.
Years later, during 1967, June 5-10 became known as the Six Day War. The war was a result of Israel launching a preemptive strike against Egypt, eventually leading to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria to all be involved in this war; ultimately leaving Israel victorious. This encounter gained Israel control of the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, West Bank, and the Golan Heights.
It wasn’t until 1993 that Israeli and Palestinian leaders came together to negotiate the Oslo Declaration, which was made to establish peace by ending the violence and revolts by Palestinians who wished for Israeli occupied areas (won after Six Day War) to cease their occupation there. It was also made to establish a self-government for Palestinians, specifically in West Bank and Gaza.
The West Bank and Gaza are now self-governed, however, they are unlawfully occupied by Israeli soldiers. This is partially due to Fatah and Hamas, two terrorist groups that have based themselves in the West Bank and Gaza and are in control of the Palestinian government.
Even today, Israelis and Palestinians are still fighting about whether or not Israel belongs to the Jews or the Arabs, and whose fault the conflict is. For some, this argument is based from a land standpoint. A view based purely on the geography and power that comes with owning this small piece of land. Those who were once wealthy, but then robbed of their home, land, and livelihood. For others, it has a more spiritual tie. Israel, home of Jerusalem, is a very religiously significant country for many different types and sects of religion.
Along with the arguments, are the several acts of terrorism, prejudice, hate, violence, and death hailing from both Israel and Palestine directed towards each other. Bystanders are often blown up by suicide bombers who have hidden within a large crowd, citizens will be unlawfully shot by soldiers, the people who are supposed to protect them the most. People are spit on by others based on where they are from or what they believe in, threats made against people in the street are based on what that person stands for, men and women who are refused service all because of who they are. These exchanges seem to be commonplace in a society so filled with controversy.
Subsequent to the Holocaust, many Jews fled Anti-Semitic Europe with haste. During the Holocaust, the Jews’ homes, jobs, friends, family, and lives were all taken from them forcefully. With no place to go, they were forced to explore the world yet again to have a new beginning. A large sum of them moved to Palestine, in hopes of reconnecting with their Holy Land. Over time, small Jewish communities were built, and the consensus between them was that the Jewish people needed a national home to prevent another tragedy like the Holocaust from happening. Palestine became their safe place. In the Jewish people’s eyes, they are entitled to Israel specifically because of the historical and religious significance it holds to them. It goes as far and as literal as G-d promising Israel to the Jewish population: “That day ADONAI made a covenant with Avram: ‘I have given this land to your descendants…’”. This would instinctively entail for the Jews to inevitably fight for what they believe is their land.
The typical Israeli beliefs are as follows: Israel won all of its land fairly during its efforts in the several Arab-Israeli Wars throughout history, and under no means should be forced to return any of it to the Palestinians; despite any of the awful things that happened to them under Britain’s reign. There is no excuse for the inexplicably horrid acts against Israel by Hamas and other Anti-Israeli terrorists based in Palestine or otherwise. The encounters that have led to thousands upon thousands of deaths due to acts of terror in the form of bombings, shootings, stabbings, etc. are unforgivable and will result in consequence. Israel was given to the Jews by G-d, and Israelis have every right to be there. Israeli soldiers have the right to occupy Palestine because Palestine is a threat to Israel. The Israelis are the victims, they lost everything and are only now getting it back. Israel is the established home for the Jewish people, and the only safe place for Jews to thrive. That home will not be taken away, and Israel will defend itself under any circumstances with any means necessary.
However, these values are not shared by everyone. The Palestinian point of view is quite contradictory to the Israeli point of view. The Palestinians were forcefully expelled from their homes, jobs, and eventually country to make room for the increasing Jewish population by the British officials who were occupying Palestine at that time. They involuntarily had to become homeless, jobless, and lose simple pleasures they once had. After Israel’s Independence (along with many other Arab-Israeli Wars), many lived in refugee camps with horrible living conditions as they had no other place to go. Even now, Gaza and West Bank are in terrible poverty. The Arabs feel entitled to Palestine because they feel the British unjustly removed them from their homeland. They also have religious ties to Jerusalem.
The general Palestinian beliefs are as follows: Israel is not called Israel, it is called Palestine; and Palestine is the Palestinian homeland. The millions of people who were displaced and had their homes, businesses, and places of worship reduced to rubble need to be avenged and deserve to be placed back in Israel. The Jews/Israelis are the terrorists, they attack constantly. Despite winning the wars, the Jews did not rightfully gain any of the land they were fighting over. Palestinian poverty is all of Israel’s fault. Israeli occupation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank is unlawful because it is Palestinian self-governed territory. The Palestinians are the victims, they had everything ripped from them and they’re only trying to get it back. No other country will take them in because they don’t want Israel to be a country.
The previous few paragraphs were examples of the biases from either side of the conflict. These are the stereotypical and one-sided views that many people think of when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict. There are many argumentative and accusative views from both the Arabs and Israelis that may contradict each other. This is yet another reason why this conflict is so difficult to attempt to resolve.
Looking at the evidence, there are a few things that can be confirmed. The first is that the Palestinians will not settle for a portion of land, and will stop at nothing until Israel is demolished and Palestine takes its place; because of the surrounding Arab countries who refuse to give them a home or help them financially. The second is that both parties have undergone horrible tragedies and are both equally deserving of the land they’re fighting for. The third, and possibly most important, is that the conflict is not the fault of the Arabs or the Israelis, but the British; and their horrible mistake of dividing the Arabs and Jews against each other.
Unfortunately, there are no words that can describe the pain of millions of lives lost, the pain of starvation and thirst, and the pain of knowing your child will inherit your war. But the exchanges between Palestine and Israel have made it so that they’ve been experienced first-hand. No amount of land will fix the tragedies these people have undergone.
It can be concluded that the Arabs and Israelis may be too stubborn to ever resolve this conflict. They will continue to explore ways to exploit each other, continue with the grotesque and gory encounters that hurt so many innocent people, and exchange their mournful ways of life to the next generation.
Gen. 15:18, Old Testament/Jewish Bible
Provided supporting evidence as to why those of the Jewish faith feel entitled to Israel.
Lord Arthur James Balfour, Balfour Declaration, (Foreign Office, November 2nd, 1917), 1.
Contributed direct evidence against the British and direct quotes about the Balfour Declaration which was a one page letter stating the Jews would have a homeland in Israel.
Philip K. Hitti, The Near East in History, (D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1961), 149-150.
Provided with quote.
BBC News, Israel profile – Timeline, (BBC News, November 30, 2015) Web.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29123668 (Accessed January 16, 2016).
Equipped a timeline which helped me type up the historical introduction.
David Robson, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, (Gale Cengage Learning, 2010) 82-84.
Implemented information on the predicted future of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel After the Six Day War, State of Israel (IDF Mapping Unit, Not Listed) Web.
http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/aboutisrael/maps/pages/june%2010-%201967-%20israel%20after%20the%20six%20day%20war.aspx (Accessed January 18, 2016).
Furnished map of Israel’s territory after the Six Day War.
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UN Partition Plan – Resolution 181 (1947), (IDF Mapping Unit, Not Listed) Web.
http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/AboutIsrael/Maps/Pages/1947%20UN%20Partition%20Plan.aspx (Accessed January 18, 2016).
Rendered map of the UN Partition Plan.
John Wilkinson, Jerusalem Under Rome and Byzantium 63-637 A.D., Jerusalem in History, (Olive Branch Press, 2000), 78.
Provided confirmation of Herod’s political status.
Public Broadcasting Services, History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, (American Documentary, Inc. December, 2001) Web.
http://pov-tc.pbs.org/pov/pdf/promiese/promises-timeline.pdf (Accessed January 18, 2016).
Contributed a timeline and an Israeli and Palestinian perspective on events in history.