The History of Israel and Palestine
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a decade old issue and is a territorial conflict, to begin with. After 10 days of rocket attacks and airstrikes from Gaza the truce appears to be holding on Friday with Palestinians celebrating across occupied settlements. Israel is removing the emergency restrictions from the rocket-hit areas. Both the countries agreed to launch ground invasion, ceasefire with the mediation of Egypt.
The conflict traces itself through the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War 1 to the period of British occupation and several protests and wars that erupted after it like the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and Six-Day War of 1967. WWI and WWII influenced the establishment of the nation state of Israel in 1948, which gave rise to the Six-Day War, the Oslo Accords and Hamas. Many have said that Israel’s territorial expansion over the last few decades has been an illegal attempt to acquire power over Palestine. We will be looking at the historical perspective and how the fallouts of the past have resulted in the recent conflict.
Two events were taking place simultaneously. The Ottoman Empire that ruled over Palestine collapsed after WW1. Meanwhile, Zionism, a Jewish nationalist movement vested in the idea of a Jewish national state in Palestine, emerged strongly. The British supported the creation of Israel through its Balfour Declaration and after WW1 established a colony in Palestine through the British Mandate. The exodus of Jews to Palestine from Europe and Russia resulted in a rise of the Jewish population by 320000 in 1920-1939. The issue of power and territory between the two parties thus emerged. Finally, the UN’s approval of the Partition Plan sought to resolve these issues. However, the territories assigned to both were unevenly spread out making it difficult to rule their respective lands.
The struggle to consolidate power led to hostilities from both ends. However, Israel’s success in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and the Six-Day War of 1967 led it to annex more land and expand to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem (Refer to the map). Palestinians did not remain silent and protested in series of “Intifada”, literally meaning “shaking off”. It is important to note that Palestinians is a term regarded to the ethnic identity of those who historically lived in Palestine and does not correlate to any specific religion. Today, the West Bank is controlled by Palestine Authority while it is under Israel occupation which imposes Israel security restriction on Palestinians’ acitvities. Gaza is controlled by Hamas which is an Islamist Fundamentalist party.
The first “Intifada”, starting from 1987, witnessed a boycott of Israeli products, services, and refusal to pay their taxes. It also witnessed the emergence of a militant opposition “Hamas” in Gaza. The second intifada erupted in the early 2000s after the first one was suppressed in 1993. The former centered itself on Al Aqsa Mosque, a holy site for both Jews and Palestinians. During the approximately five-year uprising, more than 4,300 fatalities were registered, and the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths was slightly more than 3 to 1./
How Did It Begin?
The malevolence between Israelis and Palestinians was particularly intense during the holy month of Ramadan this year. One factor that intensified the bitterness between the two was the Israeli Court’s decision on the eviction of 13 Palestinian families in the region of Sheikh Jarrah in 2020. The Israel Court further delayed the hearing on the possible eviction of Palestinian families on May 9th, 2021 that led to violent clashes between the contenders. One of the locations of confrontations was the Al Aqsa Mosque.
Why is Sheikh Jarrah the epicenter of dispute?
Sheikh Jarrah lies in the neighborhood of East Jerusalem, a city of importance to Jews and Muslims. After the war of 1948, Israel asserted independence and controlled more land than United Nations promised. Devastated by the war, Palestinian refugee families settled in Sheikh Jarrah in 1956 with the support of Jordan and the UN. It is important to note that Sheikh Jarrah before housed the Jewish community.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem further after the Six-Day War however it wasn’t internationally recognized. In 1972, the Palestinians of Sheikh Jarrah faced legal challenges from Israeli settlers who identified themselves with the land. Thus a legal battle of the land dispute began and the protests and attacks are just an extension of the debate over it.
Israelis feel that it is their legal right to the land, as Israeli law permits Jews to recover the land abandoned after the 1948 war. However, Palestinians have sanctioned the property via the Jordanian government. Palestinians feel that, unlike Israel, they do not have legal rights to defend their property. 43 Palestinian families were evicted in 2002 and more in the following years of 2008 and 2017.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Friday the law is "applied in an inherently discriminatory manner," adding that the transfer of Israeli civilians onto occupied land could be "prohibited under international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime."
What happened in Al Aqsa Mosque?
The Al Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site for Muslims and is located within the compound of Temple Mount, the holiest site for Jews.
Amidst protests from Palestinians over eviction, Israeli forces on the Friday of last Ramadan week stormed into Al Aqsa Mosque in the Haram esh-Sharif in Jerusalem. They dispersed worshippers through means of rubber bullets stun grenades.
On May 10th, the Israeli forces alleged that Palestinians were conspiring to break the processions of Jerusalem Day. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said Monday’s incident was the “direct result of incitement by Palestinian terror groups”. More than 300 palestinians were injured in the raid. The ministry posted photos of rocks inside the mosque implying that people inside the compound were planning to attack the processions. The forces again fired rubber bullets inside the compound and Palestinians in response threw stones and rocks.
Hamas and Israel:
Hamas controls the Gaza strip and is a part of Palestine. Hamas, a militant organization, seeing the violence in the mosque and Jerusalem warned Israel. It threatened to launch rockets in Israel if it doesn’t withdraw from brutalities. Israel refused to back down which resulted in the incessant bellicose threats and attacks from both parties.
Israeli attacks till now have impoverished the enclave of 2 million Palestinians and killed at least 212 Palestinians as of 10th May according to local health authorities. The overall death toll in Gaza now stands at 197 people, including 58 children and 34 women, with 1,235 injured, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry.
Hamas on the other hand has launched 3300 missiles in Israeli towns and cities killing over 10 people and devastating infrastructure. Israel can tackle the launched missiles through its elaborate defense system of “Iron Dome” that counters the strikes.
"We are acting now, for as long as necessary, to restore calm... It will take time," Mr. Netanyahu warned. Israel will continue its militant strategy against Hamas with “full force” also said PM Netanyahu. The Israeli strikes have destroyed the building of reputed news organizations, The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. Not only this but they have destroyed 132 buildings in Gaza and left 2500 people homeless.
Demonstrations across Jordan and the West Bank have turned violent as Hamas and Israel continue to trade fire. Authorities in some cities have declared state of emergency in Jewish-Arab towns. The violence has expanded to Lebanon. Six rockets are fired from Lebanon toward Israel but fall short into Lebanese territory. Israel responds by firing into southern Lebanon on Monday night. The violence is now in its second week. It has killed more than 200 people in Gaza and 12 in Israel and left many more injured.
In 1993, the Israeli government as well as Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed on a plan to implement the two-state solution as a part of the Oslo Accords.
The two-state solution is aimed to provide two separate territories to the people of both, Israel and Palestine. The execution of the two-state solution has been equally difficult as issues arising at the unsettled borders. There is no fixed decision on where to draw the line between both countries. Many experts think that the line must be drawn based on the 1967 war. The two-state solution envisages the peaceful co-existence of the countries.
President Joe Biden is committed to executing the two-state solution between Israel and Palestinians, Blinken, Secretary of State Antony said on May 23 while adding that the damage in Gaza and humanitarian loss due to outbreak of violence is most significant to the administration.
India’s stand on the conflict:
India has improved its ties with the Israel in recent years but it has also supported the execution of the two-state solution for a long period to end the violence and the suffering of the civilians.
T.S. Tirumurti, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN said: “In conclusion, India reiterates its strong support for the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-state solution.”
Young people in Jerusalem are leading the Palestinian protests to defend their homes. These young Palestinians have been gathering in Sheikh Jarrah’s neighborhood to protest the eviction of Palestinian families. The frustration of the youth is seen since the last month’s protests outside the Damascus gate. The solidarity of the youth protestors has been also labeled as ‘riots’ by some media outlets. But the young protestors are raising their potential voices with the help of social media too. Clashes between Israeli authorities and the protestors are continued.
UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed “deep concern” over the violence and the possible eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem. He asked Israeli authorities to exercise “maximum restraint”. The US said it was “extremely concerned”
The violence continues to ravage the population and has escalated to a full-fledged war. Peaceful co-existence can only be achieved if both parties understand the nationalist perspectives and the right for both states to exist whilst implementing two-state solution.