The Arab-Israel conflict is a story which has taken place over a century. In order to understand the conflict between these two cultures their collective histories must be taken into consideration. It was a long and hard path for the Jewish population to get a piece of land they can call their own. A land free of religious persecution. I think that history has shown that these two states can not and will not be able to sustain peace over any period of time.
The story between these two countries starts shortly after the First World War. The defeat of the Ottoman Empire caused the League of Nations to split up their existing territories. Palestine happened to be one of the affected territories. The British and the French saw this as an opportunity to expand their empires (Origins). The United States under the presidency of Harry S. Truman stated that the land acquired after the war would eventually be granted their independence (Victor 169). The pro-Zionist movement was concerned in the development and support of a Jewish national homeland (Dictionary). With this new land a pro-Zionist movement led by Dr. Hiam Weizmann came up with the Balfour declaration, which stated that there was to be the creation of a Jewish national home inside Palestine (Brief). The Palestinians obviously opposed this idea because it would take away land from their country. The reasons that the Jews wanted this land so much was because this was the birthplace of the Jews, this is where they formed their national and religious identity, and here they wrote and gave the Bible to the rest of the world (Concise 113). Eventually this plan was adopted without taking into consideration the existing inhabitants. Shortly after this declaration Arab nationalists started riots opposing the Jewish presence in many of their cities for example: Jerusalem, Haifa, and Hebron (Brief).
These Arab riots caused problems for the unprepared British Army. Hundreds of Jews were killed during these riots which were financed by Nazi Germany (Bard 23). In order to fight back the Jews created their own underground militia which bombed Palestinian civilians and practiced methods of terrorism. In order to stop the violence and the rioting Britain came up with the idea of separating these two ethnic groups by creating a small Jewish state and a larger Arab state. The Arabs protested by stating that Palestine was their land and they wanted a complete cessation of all Jewish immigration. In order to appease both sides Britain restricted the number of Jews to be admitted into Palestine. The amount was not to exceed 15,000 people for a five year period. The Arabs would be allowed to set their own limit after this five year period (Brief). This came at a very critical time because this was about five to ten years before World War II. During World War II most Arabs were sympathetic to the Nazis. During the war Jews from all over Europe tried to sail there way to Palestine. The oppressive tactics of the Nazis forced them to cross the sea in boats that were not fit for the journey, hence the prospect of them making it was very poor. According to Britain’s agreement, the immigration was not to exceed more than fifteen thousand Jews a year (Bickerton 49). Obviously, this meant that a lot of the Jews were not allowed into the country. The ones that did make it were either turned around, sent to internment camps, or tried to sneak themselves into the country illegally. The reason for this influx into Palestine is because no other country would grant them refuge. The British blockade caused the Jews hundreds of thousands of lives.
After the war, due to heavy Unites States pressure on Britain there was a recommendation that one hundred thousand Jews be admitted to Palestine. The Arabs as usual opposed this action. Sometime later Britain would return Palestine back to the League of Nations (now the United Nations) stating that Palestine was ungovernable and unstable (Brief). After Palestine was returned back to the United Nations they recommended that the country be split into two states, an Arab state and a Jewish state. On November 29, 1947 the United Nations put their recommendation into action (Brief). According to Harry S. Truman who supported the resolution, “I think the proper thing to do, and the thing I have been doing, is to do what I think is right and let them all go to hell (Origins).” The Jews accepted it with open arms because they finally had a place to call their own. The Arabs rejected it stating that it was not the United Nation’s land to give away. Palestine was broken into two approximately equal partitions. Eventually everything broke down and these people started to cause problems. It was impossible for either side to peacefully coexist.
Sporadic fighting and skirmishes were common place. These wars would only fuel hatred and extreme distrust for the other side. After gaining their independence in 1948, Israel conducted their first war against Palestine (Brief). Before the war even started groups of Palestinian irregulars surrounded Jerusalem and cut off all supplies, essentially blockading the city. After finding out that they were out manned and outgunned by the Palestinians, Israel finally come out from the underground to fight in a more traditional way. They at first came up with fifteen hundred soldiers to attack the blockade of Jerusalem (Brief). This attack enabled them to break through the Palestinian lines. After the defeat of the blockade the Palestinians conducted more attacks while retreating from the Jews. One of these attacks was a massacre at the town of Gush Etzion, which was a Jewish town, where they murdered as many Jews as they could possibly find. The Jews retaliated by massacring Arabs at the town of Deir Yassin. Syria, Egypt, and Jordan all jumped at the opportunity to join in the war. A cease fire was issued in June 1949 to give both sides time to regroup and reorganize. This helped the Jews more because it gave them more time to recruit and train more soldiers (Cohn 63). This training of underground forces enabled the Jews to be united under the Israel Defense Force. The Israel Defense Force used preemptive tactics to prevent the shipment of arms to Palestine and their allies; they sunk a large shipment that was on its way to aide the Palestinians (Brief). After that some of the Palestinian allies withdrew from the war because they did not want to put forth the money needed to maintain the war (Brief). This would eventually lead to several peace treaties that would all fail.
After the defeat of the Arab armies, Palestine backed Yassir Arafat created the Fatah which would conduct suicide bombings on Jewish targets (Victor 131). Yassir Arafat’s zeal in these bombings were exacerbated by the fact that he had grown up in the Gaza Strip. This would lead to several different terrorist organizations that would cause problems and chaos in the area for years to come. Such terrorist organizations, the PLO, Hamas, and others would lead to the death of innocent Israelis and fuel more hatred in the Middle East. Israel fought back by attacking parts of mutual land, where Palestinian and Jewish people lived, by occupying the area and kicking out the Palestinians.
Another conflict to add the these two trouble groups of people was the massacre of the Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich, Germany in 1972. Five Arabs, wearing track suits and ski masks, climbed the fence of the Olympic Village and met three other of there accomplices who had gained entrance with credentials inside of the village (Israeli). Once inside they made their way to the Israeli part of the compound and broke in. The terrorists broke in and took Israeli athletes hostage in order to get the release of two hundred and thirty-four Palestinians that were being jailed inside of Israel. The terrorists called themselves Black September but were really part of the PLO. This operation was order by the leader of the Fatah and PLO Yassir Arafat (Isralei). The German military and police tried to stage a rescue but failed miserably. Within twenty-four hours when the whole ordeal was over eleven Israeli athletes, five terrorists, and a German policeman were all dead (Israeli). This would only lead to more distrust of the Palestinians and their government.
In three years of Palestinian terrorist organizations suicide bombings on Israel, 889 people have perished (Perspectives). More than two-thirds of that number, a total of 668 people, have been innocent civilians who were unarmed (Perspectives). There have been almost 18,000 attacks on Israeli civilians and economic targets (Perspectives). Israel is not the only side who has taken loses, the Palestinians have lost over 1,600 people and that is not including the number of people who Israel has captured (Arc). Recently Israel and Palestine have shown willingness to cooperate for peace. Palestine has taken a step forward in revamping their security forces and top ranking officials, in order to control the Islamic terrorists that live within their country. Israel has also shown their cooperation by giving back some of the West Bank settlements that have been fought over for the past five years.
Recently there has been peace talks between the two states, both making some concessions to peacefully coexist.
According to Dr. Dawoud El-Alami, “The creation of the state of Israel was at the expense of the Palestinians. The indigenous Arab population of Palestine has been systematically discriminated against since the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which created Israel for the Jews at the expense of a native population, which has been denied its own nationhood and become dispossessed, marginalized people (Beginners).”
With all of this being said I think that the two states will not be able to sustain peace in the area given their history. Palestinians will never fully accept a Jewish state because the land they live on was “taken” from them after the World Wars. As long as there are terrorist organizations that have their extremist views there will never be peace in the Middle East.
Israeli 1972 Olympic Team Murdered in Munich.
PalestineFacts.org. 18 Apr. 2005
Victor, Barbara. A Voice of Reason. New York: Harcourt Brace ;
Cohn-Sherbok, Dan, and Dawoud El-Alami. The Palestine – Israeli
Conflict. Oxford: Oneworld, 2002.
Bickerton, Ian J., and Carla L. Klausner. A Concise History of the
Arab-Israeli Conflict. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002.
Bard, Mitchell G. Myths and Facts . N.p.: American Israeli
Cooperative Enterprise, 2002.