Palestine and Israel: A Brief Background
A split-second dive into the complicated history of the Israel-Palestine territory
By Josh Raynham
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 2 of VARSITY News.
Land, a valuable resource. Religion, a particular system of faith and worship. Culminating in the middle, these aspects have seen to one of the longest-standing civil conflicts in the world today raged between the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Muslims.
This is but a short explanation of the birth of what has been seen as the longest running strife in the 20th and 21st century.
Firstly, how did Israel come to be? Throughout the beginning of the 20th century, Jewish Europeans have been faced with horrific persecution. Towards the end of the 19th century, however, the Zionist movement began to take form. The movement sparked the Jewish people to return to their “rightful ” place in their ancestral homeland of Israel. The rise of Zionism was partly due to the upsurge of anti-Semitism emerging out of Europe, but also partly because of the introduction of secular nationalism to the Jewish people. Between 1896 and 1948 the movement of the Jewish people to Palestine increased, spurred on by the rise of Nazi Germany – and which culminated in the Holocaust. Before 1896, Palestine was home to about 20, 000 Jewish people, but by the time Hitler rose to power, there were more than 8 times that number.
Whilst the move to the promised land seemed like a reasonable ordeal, there was only one problem, there were already people living there. The land had been inhabited by an Arab and Muslim majority, who saw it as rightfully theirs. Once the influx of Jews coming out of Europe increased, the Arabs resisted, seeing this migration as a hostile takeover. The Jewish and Muslim peoples fought bitterly and in 1947 the UN attempted to step in and try to split the land fairly between the two states. This failed as the Palestinians saw it as an extension by the Jewish minority to try and force the Muslim majority out of the area. This resulted in two ‘intifada’ – Palestinian uprisings – which ended in Israel controlling 77 percent of the total area and turning 700,000 Palestinians into refugees. Today the majority of Palestinians live within the Gaza strip and the West Bank. The West Bank, whilst mostly
controlled by the Palestinian Authority, is still under Israeli occupation. Israeli troops enforce restrictions on Palestinian movements and activities whilst overseeing the growing influx of Jewish settlers– who build ever-expanding communities within the West Bank, denying Palestinian land ownership. On the opposite side, the Gaza strip is controlled predominately by Hamas, an Islamist fundamentalist party who are the main opposition to the Israeli occupation. Whilst there are no actual Israeli ground forces in the Gaza strip, Israel still upholds a blockade on the area. The rest of the area surrounding Gaza and the West Bank has now become known as Israel.
But why has the land been fought over so profusely? The answer, Jerusalem. The city hosts the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, as well as two important Islamic monuments, the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock. Once divided separately between the two states, Israelis have now moved in and around Jerusalem and make up about two-thirds of the city. One of the main issues concerning this issue is ensuring that both states have access to the holy sites, but with the influx of Jewish Israelis in the area, the laws dictated by the Israeli state are making it increasingly hard for Palestinian Muslims to gain access to their sites. On top of this, the influx of Jewish Israelis into the area is giving way to forced expulsions of the Palestinian people from their homes, similar to what has been happening inside the West Bank.
This is but a short explanation of the birth of what has been seen as the longest running strife in the 20th and 21st century. The facets of it run deep, with multiple avenues to be explored. With a ceasefire being put into effect, one can only hope this means lasting peace between the two sides.