The conflict of the Jews and Arabs goes back many centuries. Jerusalem and Israel is a sacred place for not only Jews, but for Christians and Muslims also. Thus, this piece of land has been the reason for numerous conflicts and wars. These wars are still going on today, the only difference being that now it is not fought with swords, but waged mentally by starving the enemy of even the basic human rights like education.
Around 535 BCE, Abraham was hailed as the first Jew, and the father of Jewish people. It was at this time that Isaac, the Son of Abraham, was promised that he would inherit the land of Canaan, or the land which we today know as, Israel. Cut to the Middle Ages and we see that the crusades and repeated sieges on the holy city of Jerusalem (The most important city of Canaan and Judaism) left many Jews homeless and thus, they were forced to take refuge in other nations all over the world. The Jew community did face great difficulty during this time, but still managed to rise up and establish themselves as a powerful community with wealth and influence all over the world.
Coming to the 1900s, we see the rise of Zionism, the movement which gained popularity during the time. The movement’s ideology stated that the only way to save the Jewish culture and Jewish people was the creation of a Jewish state in the holy land of Canaan, which then was an Ottoman province known as Palestine. Then the world witnessed two World Wars during which Jews were subjected to racial and even ethnic cleansing. This resulted in extensive inflow of Jews to the Palestine. It also resulted Ottoman Palestine becoming a battleground for the Jews and Arab Palestinians. There were several clashes between the Jews and the Arabs (who by then had started recognising themselves as a distinct ethnic identity, the Palestinians), seeing the tensions between the two communities, the newly formed United Nations came into action. It offered a Two-State Proposal which would divide the British Palestine (which they had captured from the Ottomans in the First World War) into two Nations, the state of Israel for Jews and the state of Palestine for the ethnic Arabs in the year 1947. The proposal was eagerly adopted by Israel, which declared its independence soon after. But the same was not the case for Palestine, as the Arabs thought of the solution as another attempt of Western imperialism. So, thus started a conflict of ideas, principles and most importantly religion, which we today know as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What followed this were two different wars between Israel and its Arab neighbours, in these wars Israel crushed the Arab alliance and pushed well past its 1947 UN designated borders, capturing all the erstwhile Palestine, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the Syrian Golan heights and thus, during late 1970s started a mass unspoken and unofficial movement in which a large number of Israelis started shifting to occupied Palestinian territories of West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
This movement, was in addition to politics, religiously motivated, as the Jews there wanted to established themselves into these areas so that no international force would give these territories to Palestine. Also these territories and areas were religiously very important to Jews. Even though the United Nations, in its 1979 resolution not only condemned this migration, but also declared it illegal. However, the Israeli government did not do anything, instead subsidised these West Bank properties for Israeli citizens, and moreover sent the army for the security of such settlers.
This resulted in extensive violence and backlash from Palestinians in the face of the First and the Second Intifadas (the Uprising) in 1987 to 1993 and then from 2000 to 2005, respectively. This was followed by a distressing amount of deaths and displacement of the Palestinians, and then a string of peace talks which resulted in practically nothing.
Even though the Second Intifada resulted in the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip (but increasing its activities in West Bank), again it ultimately was a loss for the Palestinians as firstly there was a short civil war between PLO or Palestinian Liberation Organisation and Hamas, which resulted in a split of the unified leadership of Palestine. Therefore the latter controlled West Bank and the post started controlling the Gaza Strip (Hamas has also been declared an international terrorist organisation by the US and Israel). It was followed by a strict Israeli blockade in Gaza which it justified as Israel claims Hamas to be a terrorist organisation; this gruelling blockade resulted the unemployment rate in Gaza to jump to a startling 40 per cent.
Thus, today in West Bank we can see a huge void between Israeli and Palestinian neighbourhoods or settlements, on one hand we have highly developed Israeli settlements with scores of world class amenities, but on the other hand we see much worse of Palestinian settlements which lack many basic needs of survival. Apart from that, now Israelis are not just shifting into West Bank settlement for religious purposes, but due to the fact that it has become beneficial for them, as they get government subsidies and world class amenities in these areas. This movement has also been heavily sponsored by not only the Israeli Government but also various NGOs who get funding from the powerful Jewish communities around world.
All of this has resulted in a very pick-you-your-situation as it has become more and more difficult for any sustainable peace proposal to be formed. Due to this increasing number of Jewish population in the West Bank area, the community at the pinnacle of this conflict is the Palestinians’. Ask them how the peace talks work now living in a country wherein they are subjects but not citizens. Israel will never accept them and chances of their own independent state of Palestine are not great. So now they live with an internal question of whether they want their identities as a Palestinian to be saved, or they want a chance to live freely but as Jewish citizens of Israel.
“You can either be a Revolutionary or be a Caged Bird who had a chance to fly but it didn’t.”
– Abraham Lincoln
Feature Image Credits: Scopio
Aniket Singh Chauhan