16 September, 2010

A Brief History of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

The modern Israel-Palestine conflict begun at the fall of the Ottoman Empire. When the empire fell at the end of World War I (WWI), there was a power vacuum which the French and the British attempted to fill throughout the Middle East. They were unsuccessful at filling the vacuum of power left by the Ottoman Empire, and the when they divided up the land boundaries they did not consider the people groups in the Middle East. The conflict boils down to land, both who is controlling it and who is living in it. There have been at least five major wars between the Israelis and other Arab nations. The current and most recent issues are the Israeli settlements in the west bank, lack of a Palestinian State, Palestinian Refugees from the 1948 war, religious buildings, control over the City of Jerusalem, and security of Israel.

Before the end of WWI, in 1917 the British occupied Palestine. At the end of WWI, when the French and the British divided up the land; the British gained control of the British Mandate of Palestine in 1922. This land included Israel, some of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. This was formally established by the Balfour declaration, Balfour was a Zionist and wanted there to be a place for the Jews to return too. During the time that Palestine was under British control the Jewish population was growing due to growing persecution in Europe.

The five major wars involve Israel and at least one Arab nation. The first war was in 1948 when Israel was facing forces from seven different Arab nations and several militant groups. This was known as their War of Independence. Despite being severely outnumbered Israel managed to do much better than anyone expected, they did lose the Gaza Strip to Egypt and the West Bank to Jordan, but they gained the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is important because, “Israel views the sea as its one great natural reservoir and so will protect and control at all costs the sources that feed this sea.” (Burge pg. 20) The next war was in 1967 known as the six day war. In this war the Israelis were outnumbered yet they managed to gain large amounts of territory. The six day war was between the Israelis and the forces of ten nations in addition to militant groups like the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). During the six day war Jordan lost Jerusalem and the West Bank; Syria lost the Golan Heights; Egypt lost the Gaza Strip Suez Canal, and the Sinai Peninsula. The War in 1973 also known as the Yom Kanpur war, Egypt lunched a surprise attack on Israel. Egypt broke through the Israeli defenses at the Suez Canal and moved into the Sinai Peninsula. Once the Israeli forces reorganized they surrounded the Egyptian forces and forced surrender. At the conclusion of this war Israel gave back the Suez Canal and the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for the Egyptians to recognition of the Nation of Israel. In both 1982 and 2006 there were rockets and shells being fired into the nation of Israel from southern Lebanon. The people responsible for these attacks were organizations; specifically the PLO and Hezbollah, Israel invaded southern Lebanon in order to stop the attacks on Israel. The plateau of the Golan Heights, “continues south around the east side of the Sea of Galilee and towers over it from 2,500 to 3,000 feet. Considering that the Sea of Galilee is about 650 feet below sea level, the Golan offers a huge strategic advantage over the region.” (Burge pg. 19-20) This is why Israel considers the Golan Heights important for their security.

One of the main issues the Israel-Palestine conflict has is a security problem for Israel. Before The Six Day war the distance from the Israel border to Tel Aviv is well within the range of rockets and artillery fire. Whenever Israel is attacked by in-direct fire (rockets, mortars, artillery) their reaction is to invade the area it came from and create a buffer zone so the indirect fire cannot reach Israeli territory. Currently Israel has a peace treaty between Israel and its surrounding neighbors and the PLO. The PLO has not been a major threat since the war in 1982. The PLO and Israel signed their peace treaty called “Declaration of Principles”. The main objective of these organizations like the PLO is for a recognized Palestinian state, Israel claims a Palestinian State would be a base of operations for terror groups. A two state option is disliked by both extremes, Hamas and Zionists. Due to the many wars there have been many thousands of Palestinians who have been displaced from their homes, yet Israel is slowly building Jewish settlements that were destroyed by the same wars.

The problem with attempting any kind of peace treaty is the large diversity of population and religions. The land of Israel and Palestine includes Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze. The Christians many denominations the Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Holy Sepulture, COPTS, and Ethiopians. Trying to get all these groups to agree is almost impossible, especially when they can just start a new radical organization.

These are just some of the many issues involved in the Israel Palestine Conflict, which has had a very long and bloody history. This brief summary of events does not even begin to cover the religious side of the conflict. Many international organizations such as the U.N. attempt to find resolutions to these issues but there are two ways at looking at the conflict. One is to take it purely as a legal one with no religious or empathic perspectives. The other view is to take it as a religious conflict and become emotionally involved, taking empathy for those who this conflict has displaced. While the first one seems cold and heartless it is the best approach because once emotions and religion are involved nothing will be resolved.

Works Cited

Burge, Gary M. Whose Land? Whose Promise? Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press, 2003.