Written by: Aaron Wong Jielun (21-I4), Elizabeth Khoo Yuk Min (21-U1), Emma Shuen Lee (21-O1), Lay Kai En, Ashley (21-O1), Lim Zi Loong, Zexel (21-E2), Murugan Rakshita (21-E1), Tiew Zuo Yuan, Richard (21-I2)
Designed by: Lay Kai En, Ashley (21-O1)
INTRODUCTION + BACKGROUND
Till this day, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains one of the world’s longest-running and most contentious issues. Essentially, the conflict revolves around two clashing self-determination movements, the Jewish Zionist project and the Palestinian nationalist project. They disagree on a great many things, but mainly on who the West Bank and the Gaza Strip belong to, and whether a Palestine state should be created alongside Israel.
The conflict dates back to the early twentieth century. In 1947, the United Nations divided the British Mandate of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. This was accepted by the Jewish leaders but rejected by the Arabs and never implemented. Unable to resolve the issue, Jewish leaders declared the State of Israel on 14 May 1948, sparking the first Arab-Isareli War. Although it ended in 1949 with Israel’s victory, 750,000 Palestinians were displaced and the territory was segmented into three: the State of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Over the following years, friction within the region increased, culminating in the Six Day War in June 1967, in which Israel took control of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. The Palestinian refugees and their descendants living in these areas were not allowed by Israel to return to their homes as Israel believed that this would disrupt the Jewish majority and threaten their existence as a Jewish state.
Despite attempts at peace in 1979, 1993, 1995 and 2013, Israel’s occupation of these territories continue to be deemed illegal by Palestinians under international law, and would lead to constant tension and armed conflict in the years to come.
Since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been ongoing for years, why is the media suddenly choosing to focus on this issue again?
Tension building between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem has been building for the past few weeks. Israeli forces put up fences around holy sites during Ramadan, including at Al-Aqsa Mosque where Palestinians were giving prayers during the Ramadan celebrations, claiming to be maintaining peace. However, Palestinians instead regarded this as ostracization and deliberate discrimination against them. Eventually the security was relaxed, and fences were brought down. However, the violence had already ensued. There had been several nights of fighting between protesters and Israeli forces, each side blaming the other and neither admitting their part in initiating the conflict.
The conflict also saw the violent use of militarisation on both sides. Palestine has mainly been sending rockets into Israel while Israel has been conducting airstrikes over Gaza. This has led to casualties in both countries — 10 Israelis have been killed by the rockets while over 200 Palestinians have been murdered as a result of Israeli airstrikes.
Eviction has only become a key issue in this conflict, with accusations of human rights abuses. Not far from the Damascus gate and also in occupied East Jerusalem is the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. There has been a series of court cases there since the 1970s about who owns certain homes. In May, Israeli Court decided that several Palestinian families should be evicted, ruling in favour of the association of Israeli settlers. This angered the Palestinians, who then came out to protest.
THE CASE FOR ISRAEL
We have learnt about the history of the region as commonly fed to us by the media, but to date back far before the 20th century, we would realise that Israel is a land that did not belong to the Palestenians. When Jews ruled under multiple confederations starting around 1000 BCE, the area was commonly known as the Kingdom of Israel, Judea or Samaria. Under the Roman Empire, Jewish sovereignty ended in the Holy Land. By 70 CE, “Syria Palæstina” was a province that joined Roman Syria and Roman Judea. Thus the name of this region changed from Judea to Palestine, plausibly to minimize Jewish connection to the land. Afterwards, many ambitious conquests on the part of the Ottomon empire ruled the area. Rashid Khalidi, a renowned palestinian historian writes that Palestinian nationalism was not exclusive, but Arabism, Islam, and local loyalties all played imperative roles.
Although the Hamas have little to do with Palestinian nationalism, they undoubtedly involve in it. The Hamas is a Palestinian extremist millitant organisation that is situated in Gaza, and have been historically launching terror attacks on Israel’s civilian population. When the Palestinians began to pelt stones onto the Israeli Forces in the Holy Al Aqsa Mosque, it followed with Hamas launching a series of rockets into Israel. Despite the heart-wrenching Israeli airstrike over Palestine that killed many Palestinian civilians, it is notable to realise that the Hamas were sent a warning in an hour advance from Israel, to evacuate all of its innocent citizens in the building, which the Hamas did not comply with, marytyring innocent Palestinian civilians. The Hamas Charter includes anti-semtism incitement and directly tells of destroying Israel. [The quotes are referenced from a source cited below- but we shall not take the chance of uttering extremist sayings]. Israel is a sovereign nation like all countries, and holds the rights to fend the extremists off. Perhaps the real battle lies between Israel and Hamas, and the civilians on both sides unfortunately suffer the repercussions.
The stipulation of zionism through the formal establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, sparked a sweeping outrage across the Arab Leagues. Jordan and Egypt has been backing the Palestinine Arabs since the dawn of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, intervening through inciting cross-border attacks into Israeli territory while Israel carried out reprisal operations on these host nations in act of fending them off. In the contemporary era, most Arab League nations have accorded Israel its identity in the Middle-East, with Jordan’s relinquishment of the West Bank which was reciprocated by Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip despite its border and airspace dominance there. Many are willing to broker peace with this tenacious state despite all odds being against its very existence. Israel remains a stronghold for the Jews and believes in the repatriation of Israeli-Palestinians from the holy site, Jerusalem, specifically demanding the eviction of several Palestinian families. This is driven by the desire to unify the “complete and united Jerusalem ” as its capital.
THE CASE FOR PALESTINE
To put forth the idea that Palestinians are intruding onto the sanctity of Jewish land, as postulated by the Zionist Isreali state, is erronous on the premise of Palesteine’s rights to a de facto soverign state recognition. This legal status on the state of Palestine entitles Palestinians and the recognised bounds of land, the West Bank, inclusive of East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip on which Zionist miltant parties such as the Hamas indiscriminately impose human rights subjugations onto the predominantly Arab-Isreali or Palestinian Arabs residing in the Gza Strip. Militant protectionists groups who crusade as proponents of an Isreali nationalism ideology have long been conducting operational decimation of the Arab population, bringing the death toll of Palestinians to a reported 246, inclusive of 66 child-victims caught in the crossfire and retaliation by Gaza occupants.
Furthermore, Palestinians residing in the overcrowded West Bank and Gaza Strip have long been yoked by the systematic subjugation by Israel. Such examples of institionalised discrimination against the ethnonational group include Israel’s belied compliance with Palestinians’ ‘Right to Return’, which was established under international law. Individual rights in Palestine are essentially an illusion of state sanctity as they were drawn up on Israeli demands and are more often than not, withheld or expunged by Isreali officials dealing with Palestinians.
In accordance, Zionist nationalistic pride has empowered the dispension of discimination and racism against Arabs, be it Israeli Arabs or Palestinian Arabs. Take for instance the expansion of Israeli settlements into the Palestinian archipelagos, deemed illegal by international law. Multiple human rights groups have protested that the Isreali government continues to push oppressive and deleterious sanctions onto the state of living by Palestinians: the Arab housing shortage in Jerusalem is resultant of a discriminatory land ownership system unchecked by the Isreali government for compliance with residency rights for Arab-origin citizens, veteran benefits and child allowance entitlements by previously-serving military parents expulse Palestinian Arabs from recieving their due subsidies in educationa supplements, Arab citizens are more likely to be prosecuted or denied bail in the criminal justice system than their Israeli counterparts, systematic disenfranchisement of Arab communities in Israel-governed states also feed to the growing uprisal against Israel.
With all of that said, the question must be asked: which country is in the right? While it might be tempting to think that one of the two factions is the justified side, and is on a righteous crusade to claim what should be rightfully theirs, if the answer was as simple as that the conflict would have been resolved years ago. International relations are never simple, especially relations between countries steeped with an extensive, complicated history between each other. At this point, both sides have committed enough violations in the moral and legal domains that a black-and-white judgement of their actions is hardly possible, and instead, shades of grey abound.
The only absolute fact of the matter is that as long as the conflict rages on, many lives will continue to be wrecked. For that to be avoided, a concrete peace must be reached. With the way things are looking now, however, such an outcome does not appear to be likely anytime soon.
- BBC. (2021, May 21). Israel-Gaza violence: The conflict explained. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-44124396.
- Comprehensive Listing of Terrorism Victims in Israel. (n.d.). https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/comprehensive-listing-of-terrorism-victims-in-israel.
- Council on Foreign Relations. (n.d.). Israeli-Palestinian Conflict | Global Conflict Tracker. Council on Foreign Relations. https://microsites-live-backend.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/israeli-palestinian-conflict.
- Federation Of American Scientists – Science for a safer, more informed world. (n.d.). https://fas.org/irp/world/para/docs/880818.htm.
- How did fighting between Israelis and Palestinians get so bad?: Start Here. (2021). YouTube. https://youtu.be/SsKpy2ftuF4.
- Locke, S. (2018, November 20). Everything you need to know about Israel-Palestine. Vox. https://www.vox.com/2018/11/20/18079996/israel-palestine-conflict-guide-explainer.
- What Sparked the Latest Israeli-Palestinian Confrontations? United States Institute of Peace. (2021, May 12). https://www.usip.org/publications/2021/05/what-sparked-latest-israeli-palestinian-confrontations.