In popular media, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to play out on a daily basis. Strife and struggle in the West Bank and the Gaza strip play out in the papers we read every morning. We learn that x amount of people have lost their lives, families are ripped apart and hospitals are being bombed. Leaders of powerful nations attempt to implement a peace treaty that both parties will uphold and foster the two-state solution that both Israelis and Palestinians have expressed they favour.
But, how much do we really know about the origins of the conflict?
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the continuous struggle between the populations that has its roots in as early as the 1800s. Zionists – radical minority of the Jewish population – in the late 1800s decided that they would colonise this land in order to create a Jewish homeland. The Zionists considered other locations before deciding to settle on Palestine such as Africa and the Americas however, none had more religious significance than Palestine. The Jewish immigrated in large numbers which did not have any immediate problems, however, as land purchases started to be controlled more heavily by the Turkish and many came to the state with an express desire of taking over the land to make a Jewish state. This was obviously concerning for the Palestinians and with the escalating tensions, fighting broke out.
The rise of Hitler, in addition to the Zionist efforts to destruct efforts to place Jewish refugees in western countries, meant that Jewish immigration to Palestine grew alongside the conflict. Despite tensions over sectarian conflicts in Palestine reaching a boiling point, it was not until 1947 that the United Nations agreed to intervene. However, they did not adhere to the principle of self-determination and instead made a two-state plan in which they would give away 55% of Palestine to a Jewish state although, they were clearly still a minority in the Palestinian state. The Jewish only represented 30% of the total population and owned less than 7% of the land.
Between 1947 and 1949 the region engaged in civil war and while it is argued which sect had the strongest army and the most combatants, it is known that virtually all battles unfolded on Palestinian territory. Also, that the Arab armies only engaged in conflict with the Zionist forces once they had assassinated 16 men, women and children and another 100 at Deir Yassin. By 1949, Israeli forces had managed to attack and successfully conquer 80% of Palestine, scattering 750,000 Palestinians as refugees and in the process obliterated 500+ towns and villages. Further, a new map was drawn up in which every city, river and hillock was renamed in Hebrew in an effort to erase all vestiges of Palestinian culture. Former Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir even went as far to say that ‘there were no such thing as Palestinians.’
In 1967, Israel set out to conquer more land. Israeli forces launched a surprising but advantageous attack on Egypt and Syria and then moved to conquer the remaining 20% that remained Palestine in 1949, namely the West Bank and Gaza Strip. According to international law however, it is inadmissible to acquire territory by war meaning that the territories occupied by Israel, do not belong to Israel. At present, the conflict mainly revolves around the remaining 20% of Palestine that Israeli forces attempted to seize in 1967 – the West Bank and Gaza strip – which will be analysed in more detail in Part II.