Palestine Conflict: The Basics

What you have to know in order to understand Palestine conflict is about the history of Palestine. This article is written for people who have no or little knowledge on Palestine conflict and who visited the website of Students for Justice in Palestine at Waseda (SJP Waseda) to educate them and to let have interests in the issue.

Jewish Hardship

Palestine has had its history since the times of The Old Testament with one of the oldest cities in the world called Jericho. In B.C. 2,000, Abraham, who is the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, chose the destination of the Exodus to Canaan (the old name of Palestine) and passed away in Hebron, the State of Palestine now. In B.C. 1000, Jewish people began to live in prosperity represented by King Solomon and King David. It is said that the Western Wall is a part of Temple of Jerusalem, which was built by King Solomon. However, peace of wise kings did not last long due to the conquest of the other empires and resistance, which left unrest in Palestine.

The Birth of Christianity

When Palestine was ruled by Roman Empire, Jesus Christ was born in Nazareth, now Israel. Though Jesus was a Jewish person, he criticised Judaism because he thought it only had put importance on formalism and taught people to go back to the doctrine of Abraham. His disciples passed his thoughts, giving birth to Christianity. Conservative rulers regarded him as a dangerous demagogue and sentenced to crucifixion. He now rests in the Holy Sepulchre in East Jerusalem.

The Rules of Islam

In A.D. 638, Islamic forces led by Prophet Muhammad occupied Jerusalem, bringing an end to the long Roman rules and begging of Islamic rules. Prophet Muhammad was raised to the skies from Jerusalem (it does not mean he passed away though), then the Dome of the Rock, which is one of the symbol of Jerusalem eve now, was built to protect a rock which keeps a footstep of Prophet Muhammad. After that, Palestine has been under Islamic rules for 1,300 years except a short term of the rules of the Crusaders. Islam protects Jewish and Christians as “the people of the Books” and thus different peoples who believe in three religions lived in harmony in one place. However, this situation dramatically changes in 20th Century.

Britain’s “Triple-tongue Diplomacy”

Hussain-McMahon Correspondence (1915) During the World War I, Britain was fighting against Ottoman Empire, which ruled Palestine. Though Ottoman Empire was an Islamic empire, its top was Turkish race, which caused antipathy among Arab race, the main nation in Palestine. Inspired by this factor, Britain concluded this correspondence with Arabs promising that Arab people would rule Arab territory; and Britain got Arab cooperation.

Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) The following year, Britain and France, both in United Nations, had negotiations over the separation of Ottoman territory after the war. In this agreement, Palestine was defined as an area under “international control” and the other Arab area was ruled by either Britain or France. Superpowers had no intention of saying goodbye to the area.

Balfour Declaration (1917) On the other hand, among Jewish people, who have history of the Diaspora (dispersion after Roman rules of Palestine), Zionism became active because of rising anti-Semitism in asylum such as Europe and America. Zionism is the movement of going back to the original place of Jewish, as in, Palestine. Some Jewish worked in the field of finance, which was often considered as third-rate job, and they succeeded to be aristocracy like Rothschild family. Britain promised to make Jewish “national homes” in Palestine to get financial support for the war.

After the war, Palestine became British Mandate. Kingdom of Hijaz, which was established on the basis of Husain-McMahon Correspondence, only ruled the Western side of Arabia Peninsula. Arab territory including Palestine was ruled by either Britain or France.

Rising Zionism and the Conflict

During the World War II, Europe witnessed the worst side of anti-Semitism. Nazi-Germany won overwhelming public support and even anti-Nazi countries hesitated to help Jewish. After the war, because of reflections and sympathy for the Holocaust of Hitler, and intentions of governments to kick Jewish out of their countries, both Jewish and non-Jewish promoted Jewish migration to Palestine. Soaring Zionism, the conflict between Arabs and Jewish had happened more often. One of the causes of the conflict was the fact that Arabs were working as farmers while Jewish were landowners of farms and employed Arabs; Arabs were discontented with inequality.

Partition of Palestine and Peace Process

Britain gave up dealing with the conflict between Arabs and Jewish and put the problem under the United Nations’ charge. In 1947, UN General Assembly adopted UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which gives 56% land of Palestine to Jewish who only accounts for one third of population in Palestine and put Jerusalem under international control. Arabs obviously opposed the resolution and it became de facto war between Arabs and Jewish. Many Arabs fled from Palestine to escape from massacres by Jewish terrorist organisations.

The First Arab-Israeli War (Palestine War; Israeli Independence War)

In the following year, 14 May 1948, Israel was established on the basis of Resolution 181. On the same day, Arab countries declared war on Israel and battle started on the next day. Even though Israel only had one fifth of military strength compared to Arab countries, it accomplished the victory thanks to the United States and even gained new lands. Due to this war, Gaza Strip came to belong to Egypt, West Bank to Jordan.

The Third Arab-Israeli War (June War; Six-Day War)

In 1967, Israel suddenly attacked Egypt and Arab countries got completely defeated. Israel upped and occupied Jordanian West Bank including East Jerusalem, Egyptian Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, Syrian Golan Heights in only six days and they called a cease-fire. However, Israel was blamed for its sudden attack and lost the supports by the world; UN Security Council invalidated Israeli occupation and called the solution of the Palestinian refugee problem in the UN Security Council Resolution 242. In spite of this Resolution, Israel continued to occupy Sinai Peninsula until 1979 and it has never returned West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights even now.

The First Intifada

In 1987, a truck of Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had an accident and 4 Palestinians were killed. The funeral eventually became a riot and Palestinians including women and children started to throw rocks and stones at IDF. This movement repelled Israeli attempt of suppression by tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition and ended up to spread all over Palestine. As Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) actively supported the Intifada (“uprising” in Arabic), the movement escalated from the fight of rock into Molotov cocktails, then guns and bombs. At the same time, non-violent movement such as denial of tax payment to Israeli authority also carried out among Palestinians. As a result of the First Intifada, 1,162 Palestinians and 160 Israeli were killed until 1991, when it settled down.

Oslo Agreement

In 1993, PLO and Israel made a historical reconciliation. Both recognise each other and Palestine was ruled by PLO, that is, Palestinian autonomy was approved. At the same time, Gaza Strip was officially under Palestinian Authority (PA), followed by West Bank, whose dominium was formally abandoned by the Jordanian government in 1994; eventually the territory of Palestine was officially defined. However, some Palestinian organisations which took a firm stand against Israel such as Hamas did not participate in this agreement; moreover, Arab League regards this agreement as broken because of Israeli attacks against Gaza and Lebanon in 2006.

The Second Intifada

In 2000, Israeli Foreign Minister (then) Sharon visited al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock with 1,000 armed police officers and declared that these areas “will remain under perpetual Israeli control.” Sharon was known as a redneck Israeli politician; therefore, both action and speech of his made Palestinians explode their anger. Caused by Sharon’s provocative attitudes, this uprising lasted until 2005; in nearly five years, 7,500 Palestinians and 1,200 Israelis were killed.

Current Situation

The conflict between Palestine and Israel has not ended until now. In 2014, moderate PLO and aggressive Hamas compounded and established the coalition government, which was basically welcomed by the world. However, Israel harshly opposed to this event and bombed Gaza Strip because it considers Hamas as “terrorist organisation”. As Hamas also reacted with rocket attack against Israel, peace in Palestine seems to be far away yet.

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