By Sam Loose | Israel/Palestine
With Israel approaching its 70th anniversary it is important to stay observant of the tension that exists in the Middle East, but more specifically the Israel-Palestine Conflict. But who is right? There are legitimate arguments for both sides of the conflict, but the Palestine argument is not based on religious differences, rather occupation and oppression. To argue for Palestine, one must examine the near recent history of the region.
At the dawn of the 20th century, the Ottoman Turks controlled much of the Middle East with an empire spanning the eastern reaches of Europe to the western edges of Iran. But Europe and the Middle East bore more than just a joint Turkish neighbor. No, at this point of history the flame of nationalism burned brightly in both regions. Europe became a ticking time bomb with a collection of over ten separate nations vying for their chance to become a sovereign state. But a similar case dominated the Middle East. Separate Arab groups sought freedom from the Turks, a creation of their own nation, and a revolution of their culture. One such group were the Palestinians who felt Palestine was more than just a region, but a national identity, an Arab culture, and a way of life. But Palestine was sought after by more than just the Palestinians, rather European desire for the territory sprung hot with envy.
Multiple European groups such as the British and French sought the lands that lie in the west bank for its resources and access to the Middle East and Africa. But the fancy for Palestine did not solely exist for existing nations profit, various groups sought the region, including a cultural group known as the Zionists. Zionism, a cultural and civic form of nationalism, founded by Theodor Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian playwright, focused on the creation of a Jewish state. Displaced by nationalism in Europe, Zionists searched elsewhere for their home, eventually landing on the concept of the reformation of Israel, a land centered in Palestine.
With the outbreak of World War I, the Palestine situation became even more complex as the British and French made promises of land to both the Zionists and Palestinians regarding the ownership of the region with the fall of the Ottomans. The aforementioned situation, to the dismay of the British, became a reality. In Order to maintain peace and stability within the region, the British passed a series of laws that would benefit all inhabitants. While trying to remain neutral, the English maintained a clear bias toward the Jewish inhabitants, promoting a series of laws increasing Jewish immigration nearly tenfold over the coming decades.
To Palestinians, the English bias was by no means subtle and seemed to many to be just another installment of European Colonialism. While the issue enraged Palestinians, the Jewish and Arab peoples were able to coexist in relative peace, resolving their issues through diplomacy. But unfortunately, these relationships were only worsened by Jewish immigrants who would buy land from non-Palestinian Arabs and forcibly remove the Palestinian farmers occupying it. As time passed the outcome of a peaceful resolve seemed less and less tangible and eventually, as a response to oppression, revolted against the British, trying to reconquer their homeland. Jewish militias quickly took up arms to defend the British. Eventually, the revolution was quelled, but the Jew-Arab relationship was destroyed and as a response to the uprising the British limited Jewish Immigration at a time where it was absolutely essential, the start of the Holocaust, angering the Zionists.
All aspects of peace disappeared from the region that had once been a safe haven for Jewish refugees and infighting broke out between the original inhabitants and the occupiers. A peaceful ending seemed more and more unrealistic, the constant warring made running Palestine lose all value to the British, eventually announcing their withdrawal from the region in the coming decades. With the help of the United Nations, a two-state solution was devised, splitting the land into two different nations– Palestine and Israel. But this did not please the Palestinians who felt an unfair amount of land had been given to the Israelis, and refused the offer. Israel’s acceptance of the offer sparked hatred within the Arab world, causing five Arab states to immediately declare war on Israel. Israel won this war, but they occupied a great deal of land along with it, expanding their nation by an additional 30% of what would have been their nation according to the two-state solution.
This pattern continued throughout Israel’s history. The surrounding Arab states would declare war on it; Israel would be victorious in these wars and occupy land that was not theirs with it. Israel has only relinquished a relatively small portion of the lands it has occupied. Israel has committed several illegal actions in their occupations of these lands, including forced relocation of its inhabitants and the forcible settling of Israelites, backed by Israeli troops, in Palestinian lands. Israel and Zionists have been harsh to the Palestinians throughout their history, ranging from the illegal occupation of lands, forced relocations, the use of white phosphorus munitions in heavily populated areas, and the disregard for human life when carrying out bombings in populated areas. If a Jewish state is to coexist with an Arab state, Israel must abandon the theme of occupation that dominates its history and instead make a change for the better by accepting and respecting Palestine and its land.