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The region is the Middle East. The cause of the Israel/Palestine conflict is the question of land and who rules it. Jewish colonization and Palestinian nationalism, both laying claim to the same territory is the basis of this long conflict.The land involved in the Israel/Palestine conflict totals approximately 10,000 square miles at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. The state of Israel encompasses the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean ocean, bordered by Egypt in the south, Lebanon in the north, and Jordan in the East. The Gaza strip is an additional141 square miles south of Israel, thatis under the control of the Palestinians. Palestine is one of the oldest agricultural sites in the world. Archeologists found wheat at Jericho dating from before 8,000 B.C. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all have roots in the Middle East. The land has been one of conflict and shifts in power back to the days of the Bible.
I believe unfair reports and incomplete information have reached the American people with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The only way to find the real stories is to go looking for them. Richard North Patterson brought the lack of accurate information to my attention when I read his novel called, “Exile”. I, like most Americans, have received most of my information, and therefore the basis for my beliefs from the media. Mr. North Patterson’s novel shook my beliefs enough for me to want to look further into the facts of the conflict. As the organization of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting shows, the media does not always provide the unbiased detail to understand what the conflict involves. It is difficult to report a story without taking a side to the conflict, but one side seems to have had the sympathies of the media and therefore the rest of the world.
After World War II, the United Nations recommended partitioning Palestine into two states and the internationalization of the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. In this UN Resolution, the minority of the Jewish people received the majority and the better of the land. The Arabs received 43 percent of the land, the Jews 57 percent. Despite the Arab Palestinians’ rejection of the partition and the existence of Israel, Israel was proclaimed a state on May 14 1948. While the Jewish people obtained their homeland, there has been no Palestine and no internationalization of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. In 1948, Palestinians were driven out of the new state of Israel into refugee camps in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and other regions. Approximately 750,000 people were driven from their homes in Israel; and many Jews were also driven from their homes in surrounding Arab countries. Both the expelled Palestinians and Jews often had their land and bank accounts and other property seized.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been one of the longest and has led to thousands of deaths. For both the states, the claim to the land goes back thousands of years. The Jewish people’s claim dates from Biblical times when Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish Kingdom. By 70 A.D. the Romans had claim to the land which started the Jewish “time of wandering”. The Romans lost control by the 9th century to the Arabs who were mostly Muslims and who, like the Jews considered Jerusalem one of the holiest cities. Palestine remained under Muslim rule for over ten centuries. Britain claimed control of the land in November of 1917 and the League of Nations gave the British control to govern and help Zionists settlers build a Jewish national home. In 1922, Britain divided the land, with the eastern half becoming the separate country of Jordan. The British ruled Palestine over the next 25 years until hostilities between the Arab Palestinians and the Jewish settlers became intolerably hostile so that Britain turned Palestine over to the newly formed United Nations.
The holocaust during World War I, from 1939 to 1945 was a catalyst for the Jewish people to return to Palestine. The world’s sympathies were with the Jews and creating a Jewish national homeland. As a result in 1947, the United Nations divided Palestine into two states; one Jewish the other Palestinian. The Palestinians felt that establishing Israel and the resulting Jewish settlers that displaced the original Palestinian inhabitants created the conflict that exists today while the Israelis argue that the Palestinians’ refusal to accept Israel and by trying to destroy it, created the conflict that exists today.
On May 15, 1948, the day following the declaration of Israel’s independence armies from five Arab countries combined to invade Israel. After a year of fighting, Israel held more land than was originally given to them by the United Nations. Cease-fire agreements were signed but the Arabs would not sign a peace treaty because they did not consider the war to be over. Egypt and Jordan absorbed the parts of Palestine not taken by Israel. The Arab Palestinians call this war the “Catastrophe”. Approximately a million Palestinians that were left without homes or farms fled Israel but most were turned away from other Arab countries and found themselves living in United Nations run refugee camps in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank.
In 1967, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan attacked Israel. During the 6-day-war Israel took large stretches of land from the Arabs including the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank from Jordan, which was the center of ancient Israel but was supposed to become the center of the Palestinian state in 1948. By winning the West Bank, Israel held most of historic Israel and the cities of Bethlehem, Hebron and the old city of Jerusalem. After the war, Israel attempted peace by returning all the land except Jerusalem but the Arab Palestinians would not negotiate on this point.
The United Nations passed Security Council resolution 242 in November that called for, “Israel to withdraw from occupied territories in exchange for secure and recognized boundaries”. The Arabs rejected the resolution but over time, most Arab nations accepted the resolution as the basis for today’s peace agreements and negotiations.
Jerusalem is prized because of its religious history as the holy city for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The current conflict over Jerusalem is the direct result of the United Nations Partition Plan in 1947, which would make Jerusalem an International city under United Nations control. In the 1948 war following the partition, Israel captured West Jerusalem and Jordan held East Jerusalem. The city remained divided until the 6-day war in 1967 when Israel also captured East Jerusalem from Jordan. Since 1967, Israel considers the entire city of Jerusalem to be its capital, while it was historically Jerusalem was the capital of Palestine and must be the capital of their future homeland. Peace depends on resolving the issue of Jerusalem. Palestinians have lived in the West Bank under Israeli occupation since 1967. Israel has built settlements in the West Bank which house 400,000 Jews. These settlements are illegal under International law, which Israel disputes and ignores. These settlements on what should be Palestinian land are also a major factor in the conflict today.
Since 1967, negotiations have centered on retuning land to pre-1967 states as required by International law and United Nations resolutions. In the late 1980s began the first Palestinian uprising called the “Intifada”. The movement was initially non-violent but the media focused on the violence that did occur. Young Palestinians confronted Israeli troops with slingshots and stones and thousands were killed by the Israeli military.
In 1993 another one-sided peace accord, the Oslo Peace Accord, provided that Israel recognize the PLO and gave them limited autonomy in return for peace and an end to Palestinian claims on Israeli territory. This was one-sided because Israel gained control of the land, water and other resources, and the Palestinians really did not gain anything. Many acts of violence have occurred over the years from both sides but with little results. The Palestinians are still without a nation, have limited rights and suffer from poverty. Israel continues to increase and expand settlements into occupied territories, and are willing to give up less and less land than they promised. The Palestinians have lived under military occupation for over thirty years. Frustration and anger against both the United States and the United Nations have resulted in extremism in some cases. These militant groups from Palestine and other Arab nations have engaged in acts they see as freedom fighting but that Israel, the United States and most of the world see as terrorism.
In 2002, Israel began building a large security fence in the West Bank to stop terrorists from entering Israeli cities and settlements, this fence falls on Palestinian land. The International court says the barrier was illegal but construction continued. In 2003, the United States and Palestinians pushing for peace and a two-state resolution announced a cease-fire but Israel continued to assassinate militant leaders leading to Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli air strikes.
In recent years, anger and frustration mount as poorer Palestinians find themselves with poorer and poorer land while Israel bulldozes their homes in an attempt to kill militant leaders more often killing innocent civilians including women and children. Israel has demanded that the Palestinian National Authority control the suicide bombers but then Israel bombs official buildings and compounds making it impossible for the Authority to control the terrorists. Israel is actually giving more power to the extremists such as Hamas and fueling their desire to destroy Israel.
Hamas has gained power with the Palestinian people because although their means are terrorism and they are listed as a terrorist organization, Hamas spends most of its $70 million annual budget on extensive social programs. “Hamas funds schools, orphanages, mosques, health care clinics, soup kitchens, and sport leagues. Approximately 90 percent of its work is in social, welfare, cultural and educational activities.” The people depend on Hamas because the Palestinian Authority does not provide these services and because Hamas has a reputation for honesty compared to the corruption within the Palestinian Authority.
The result of this conflict appears to be one-sided. The Israelis gained their homeland and the holy city of Jerusalem while Palestine lost its entire state and their holy city. Most Palestinians had their land taken, land which had been bought by or given to their ancestors and passed down through generations. The United States and other Western countries interest in the Middle East is and has been largely about oil. The United States military and financial support of Israel has been largely due to the oil to ensure a large, strong ally in the Middle East. However, the military and financial support has resulted in Israel having the strongest and most advanced military in the Middle East, which includes nuclear weapons. The United Nations has attempted many resolutions that have been critical of Israel’s inaction, and though the international community has been behind these resolutions, the United States vetoes them. Instead, there is more Israeli land expansion and settlements.
There is no doubt in my mind that the original United Nations plan to divide the land to provide for the needs of both the Palestinians and the Jews. The United Nations plan has not been carried out, honored, or enforced by the United Nations or by the United States. Today the Palestinians are in the “wandering time” without a homeland. There is no way to end Israel’s responsibility in the conflict without eliminating the consequences of the “catastrophe” of the Palestinian people. The same conflict exists today because of the continued wars, occupation, aggression, and walls to glorify Israel’s independence and legitimacy while trying to eliminate Palestinian’s legitimate national rights, freedom, and independence.” One cannot exist without the other. United Nations resolutions enforcement and United States interventions could right an imbalance. In the quest for a Jewish homeland with the creation of Israel, there has been devastation of Palestinian lives. Historic Palestine was of its people whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim and they lived together in peace. Violence and force will not bring peace to either side.
“Only a peaceful solution to the conflict based on mutual rights will put an end to the violence and suffering on both sides, and will lay down the foundations for the prosperity and well-being of the two peoples (Bisharat).”
Shah, Anup. “The Middle East conflict—a brief background.” Global Issues, Updated: 30 Jul. 2006. Accessed: 08 May. 2010. <http://www.globalissues.org/article/119/the-middle-east-conflict-a-brief-background>
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