Written by: Syeda Mubassir Mahjabin Nahian
The Palestine-Israel conflict has become one of the deadliest wars in the world. This began from 1947 and is still going on for almost over 75 years. To understand the complexity of this conflict, we need to understand the historical perspective of their claims and the present politics that is revolving around it.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine stems from the Israelis’ historical claim of the land since 1700 BC. The Jewish population lived in Israel, known as the Holy Land, and migrated worldwide. Christianity increased after the Roman Empire, and Islam spread in the 7th century. Jews migrated to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, facing persecution and harassment by Christian crusaders and Muslim populations.
The Ottoman Empire’s fall in World War I led Britain to control the Middle East, involving a Jewish minority and Arab majority. In 1917, Britain established the Balfour Declaration, aiming to establish a home for Jews in Palestine. That is when the number of Jews began to rise in that region, especially after the Nazi Holocaust done in the Second World War and the tensions between these two groups increased over the time.
In 1897, the Zionist Organization was created first which later turned into the World Zionist Organization (WZO) having one goal- the establishment of the national home of the Jews in Palestine.
Now up until now, one thing is clear that the Jews people undoubtedly were the natives of the land and also those who lived in the place throughout the history can be called proper natives. But then how did the Palestinians come into the scenario?
After World War I, Palestine was placed under British mandate in the Middle East by the League of Nations, with the expectation of a full independent state. This mandate was given to the British government 5 years later, when the British administration promised the Jews people to give the land to them. It can be said that these two separate incidents were where things began to go wrong. The Jews people saw this whole design as an assurance to the Arab people as they supported the Allied power during the war. The Palestinians also did not take the increasing number of the Jews people nicely. Palestinians rioted, suppressed by the British, and the Arabs believed the British government was anti-Arab. In 1946, President Truman pressured the British to allow more Jews, but the British refused. After this incident, the Jews thought the British administration were anti-Jews. This led to a terrorist campaign against both the British and Arabs. After the Jews were affected by the Holocaust, they were ready to fight for their national home.
The British government, unable to handle post-WWII challenges, requested the UN to address the situation. In 1947, the UN proposed partitioning states into Arab and Jewish states, with Jerusalem internationalized. Arabs rejected the partition because they did not feel like they were obligated to take responsibility for the Holocaust incident.
In 1948, Israel declared its independence, leading to the start of the War of Independence. Arab neighbors attacked Israel, including Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. Israel won the battle against all odds, primarily because they were fighting desperately for a homeland at the time, and there was also a divide in those Arab countries’ interests. Despite Israel winning the war unexpectedly, the conflict continued with various conflicts, including the 1956 Suez Crisis, 1967 Six-Day War, 1973 Yom Kippur War, 1993 Oslo Accords, 2000 Second Intifada, 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, 2006 Second Lebanon War, 2008-2009 and 2014-2021 Gaza Wars, and the ongoing Gaza attacks. In 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded to unite Arab groups and create a national liberation movement. Despite peace trials in the 2000s, none were accepted mutually.
Israel’s main claim had religious and historical context. They believe that it is their biblical right according to Torah, to get the land of Israel. And according to history. They have been the natives from the beginning on this land. Whether these claims were right or wrong is a long gone debate now, because now Israel is occupying the land and has been violating international law on a regular basis in Gaza.
Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) rules Gaza. The PLO has a secular attitude, but Hamas is an opposition party that the West regards as a terrorist organization. It won the Palestinian election in 2006, and since then, terrorists in Gaza have fought alongside Israel. On October 7, 2023, Hamas conducted an unexpected large military offensive into Israeli territory, sparking the current conflict. Many have condemned Hamas for the attack, and Israel has used this incident to justify all of the horrors it has committed against Palestine. In terms of devastation, Palestinians have suffered far more than Israel. Even though there was not much coverage on the Israel-Palestine conflict since the world was preoccupied with other issues (Russo-Ukraine war, the Myanmar Rohingya issue etc.), this does not mean that Palestinian suffering ended when we stopped paying attention to it.
The major reasons for Hamas’s surprise attacks can stem from one, multiple, or all of these factors-
- Hamas wants the destruction of Israel whereas the Israeli president Netanyahu wants the destruction of Palestine as a state.
- Hamas had a long pent-up anger towards Israel due to its policies about the treatment of Palestinians for the past 56 years, rising settler violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem along with the expansion of the Israeli settlement, and the outbreak of violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Also for the past 16 years, Israel’s unlawful blockade has rendered Gaza the world’s largest open-air jail.
- Palestinians in Gaza argue that Israel’s restrictions and air strikes are collective punishment, citing the deadliest year on record in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
- Regional dynamics also played a role here, especially the continuation of the Israel-Saudi relation that has been going on along with the beginning of the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor initiative. With these cooperative initiatives, the Arab world will give less significance to the Palestine situation and less pressure on Israel.
- Hamas militants may have sought to increase their popularity among Palestinians by using hostages to pressure Israel to release some of the estimated 4,500 Palestinians in its prisons.
Palestinian militant groups launched a barrage of rockets from land, air, and sea into Israel. Then their military bases were targeted, and Hamas raided Israeli communities-
- Killing 1,400 people
- Taking more than 240 hostages in this operation.
- Injuring almost 5600 people.
The Israeli government declared war on Hamas, launching aerial assaults and preparing for a potential ground invasion, with- (as of 10th November)
- 11,078 Palestinians have been killed so far.
- At least 27,490 people were injured.
Amnesty International has documented unlawful Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, causing mass civilian casualties and warranting investigation as war crimes. The organization analyzed satellite imagery, photos, and videos, revealing five instances of violations of international humanitarian law, including failure to spare civilians, indiscriminate attacks, and targeting civilian objects. It also announced a total blockade on the coastal enclave, turning off electricity and blocking humanitarian aid.
Residents of Palestine took shelter in hospitals and United Nations Schools for safety and expected Israel to follow international law. But that did not happen. The Israeli military dropped 30,000 tons of bombs on Gaza, demolishing almost half of all dwelling units and rendering at least 10% of them uninhabitable. Due to airstrikes and incursions, about 70% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been forced from their homes. Half of the hospitals and 62% of primary care health centers are essentially closed, and one-third of all schools have been affected, with roughly 9% now closed. Pregnant patients are being forced to undergo emergency C-sections without anesthesia, and women are being discharged from hospitals as soon as three hours after giving birth due to capacity issues. Al-Shifa Hospital is also out of fuel now and has suspended their service in Gaza.
The massive killing and blockade has stirred the world. Netanyahu is being condemned for not following the international and humanitarian laws. There have been a lot of protests going on around the world claiming an end to this conflict once and for all. But Israel and its citizens believe that in order to win, the lethal violence in Gaza is necessary and justified. They even went on a rally on 4th November, for the release of the 241 hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas from the Israeli border. Some groups are also asking for the resignation of Netanyahu as he failed to protect Israel from the 7th October attack.
Around the world:
Israeli authorities have consented to a four-hour humanitarian halt in Northern Gaza, anticipating that residents will relocate to Southern Gaza, even though there is lack of fuel and vehicles in the area. This is despite the fact that there has been no good response to the truce as of the most recent report. The US has expressed concern about the rising death toll in Palestine and hopes that this halt will allow humanitarian aid to reach Gaza. However, rather than viewing this from a humanitarian standpoint, it may also be viewed from a political standpoint, where the aim is to demolish North Gaza. Israel is planning a military attack and ethnic cleansing in Northern Gaza.
French President Emmanual Macron recently condemned both Hammas and Israel. But he also asked Israel to stop bombing the women and children in Gaza and asked for a ceasefire, even though he did not comment on Israel breaking the international law. Israel President Netanyahu responded negatively to this comment of Macron, saying the one should be condemned is not Israel, but Hamas.
Meanwhile, the common people are rallying and protesting against the genocide Israel is doing in Palestine. Jews around the world condemned what is happening in Palestine, claiming this is not what they asked for. Recently, thousands of people are seen rallying in the capital of the western Balkan countries to show their support for Palestine. A shift in concern is being witnessed around the world, and everyone is attempting to resolve the fight as soon as possible because it will eventually touch them as well.
Role of international community
The international community’s role in the war of independence in 1948 has been controversial, with the focus often on the self-interest of the nation rather than civilian lives or human rights violations. Despite the Arab countries attacking Israel together in 1948, Israel won due to their desperation for their homeland and the division among Arab countries’ intentions. Again, The British government, responsible at that time for establishing a Jewish state in Palestine, did not oppose Arabs, as they needed oil from Iraq and the opening of the Suez Canal, which depended on Arabs. Instead of supporting one party, the British government tried to persuade both parties to live peacefully, disregarding their deep-rooted religious differences. It is still clear in today’s political environment how important it is for the international community to prioritize its own interests over all other considerations, even human life. Anyone who supports or opposes the parties is strongly reliant on the fact that it serves their national interest in the long term.
Who supports Israel?
- The US, EU and Western countries condemned the Hamas attack and sided with Israel first. Later, Spain, Norway, France began to condemn Israel and call for a stop at killing Palestinians, even though they deem Hamas as a terrorist organization. However, there is a shift in the Western community’s response, particularly with all Jews and citizens mobilizing for Palestine and boycotting Israeli products in their nations.
- But the US is still supporting Israel in every implicit and explicit way possible. They even went along and claimed that The Palestinian Health Authority inflated the number of deaths in Gaza. The US plays a significant role in narrating the scenario in favor of Israel both diplomatically and financially.
- The US has provided Israel with over $260bn in military and economic aid, aiming to deter potential warfronts and address the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent tour to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey failed to achieve success, as his agenda was to justify Israel’s attacks and prevent the conflict from getting out of hand. Netanyahu did not agree to a humanitarian pause at that time, and Blinken’s efforts to reach a regional agreement have been tempered by deadly fighting on Lebanon’s southern border between Israel and Hezbollah. Diplomats in the Middle East believe Blinken has the power to stop attacks by calling for a truce or withdrawing US financing. Turkey removed its ambassador from Israel, applauding the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority’s decision. Blinken is now going to Japan to discuss the US approach in the conflict.
- Even though it preaches human rights all around the world, the US is supporting Israel for what reason or on what basis? The US supports Israel for its role as a watchdog in the Middle East, engaging in activities such as bombing Iraq, invading Lebanon, supporting apartheid in South Africa, and supporting the War on Terror. Israel also provides an excuse for US invasions in the Middle East. The US also denounced the ICC’s decision to open a war investigation in occupied Palestinian territories in 2021.
- Also Since the occupation, Palestinians have lost control over their land, natural resources, and water supply. Israel took over 60% of the West Bank and 40% of the Gaza Strip, mainly for settlements and military areas. The geopolitics and geology of Palestine are similar, with EU demand for ally-approved gas increasing and the USA’s pipeline network reducing threats to hegemony.
Who supports Palestine?
- Except for all the humanitarian aids, in the front line we can say, Iran and Hezbollah. Even though Iran had no direct involvement in the Hamas operation per say, it does support Gaza. Hezbollah is also supporting Hamas as it is trying to stop Israel from pushing too far as it is also putting a pressure on the borders of Lebanon.
- Turkey allegedly dumped merchandise from multinational firms that are believed to be supporting Israel, such as Coca-Cola and Nestle.
- Saudi Arabia, at the Arab-Islamic summit, condemned Israel’s justification for hitting Gaza as a self-defense measure and asked that aid be permitted in Gaza as well as the stoppage of arms exports to Israel.
- The joint Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit has called for an arms embargo against Israel.
- Despite US and European countries’ support for Israel, their citizens have varying opinions. Tens of thousands marched in the largest pro-Palestinian demonstration in US history, condemning US government support and calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Many Jews, including European and Israeli Jews, joined rallies to express solidarity with Palestinians.
- Russia and China are maintaining contact with both sides of the Middle East conflict, with Putin blaming US policy for the lack of peace as always.
- International Institutions: Different UN agencies (FAO, WHO, UNICEF), NGO’s (Oxfam Canada, Red Crescent) and Transnational bodies (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch) are supporting Gaza in midst of this chaos. But the role of the UN in mediating this issue is something very unfortunate.
- UN: The role of the United Nations and other human rights organizations in this setting is unfortunate, but not surprising at this time. The UN passed a lot of resolutions in the past which called for Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories captured in the 1967 war, which did not get fully implemented. One former UN human rights official even stated that, the international human rights and humanitarian law regime’s power is weak. As the country’s conflict with the UN develops, Israel’s UN envoy has stated that the country will deny visas to UN personnel in response to UN-Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ criticism of Israel for ordering the evacuation of Gaza residents from north to south. This is a very unusual response and later Antonio had to clarify the statement.
- Multinational Companies: There have been talks and arguments about boycotting prominent brands in order to apply financial pressure to Israel. What to boycott and what not to boycott has become a point of contention. However, in many nations, this silent protest has been quite effective. Turkey did the same thing officially. In reaction to the claim that they were backing Israel during the conflict, their parliament withdrew Coca-Cola and Nestle from their restaurant menus. Many Western outlets in Qatar were forced to close after their owners disseminated pro-Israel content online. Egypt is going on the same route, despite the fact that it will almost certainly have a negative impact on its economy. When McDonald’s announced that it would provide free meals to Israeli soldiers, it sparked outrage. The Malaysian, Kuwaiti, and Qatari franchises dissociated themselves from the Israeli branch and expressed strong support for Gaza.
But can the same be done in every country? Each country has their own strengths and limitations. Boycotting something in a world of complex economic interdependence is not something to be decided and judged easily. If the repercussions of the activity are not well considered, they may have negative consequences. As we can see in Egypt, people well understand the ramifications of their decisions, yet they choose to proceed with the boycott decision. We daily use items from a variety of companies that support and assist Israel. The major brands can be found in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) groups list. There is no way one can boycott all the products or the brands, but the main objective behind the protest is making a statement, a statement of supporting the Palestinians as much as we can.
- Media: The role of the media is also important in the international society. However, the newspaper media has once again been accused of failing to adequately portray Palestinians’ tales. Their emphasis on reporting Israel and conveying news in a way that puts people under pressure to support Israel. It is nothing new that anytime anything new happens in social media or mainstream media, past issues begin to evaporate from its channels as if they never happened in the first place. The same thing happened with the Rohingya situation in Bangladesh, as well as the accounts of Palastinians who have been in air-jail for the past 16 years.
- Entertainment industry: Recently, thanks to social media, we could find out everything about what is happening in every corner of the world. One message or post anywhere can be spread around the world in a moment. Thus, there have been many social campaigns going on around the social media where support for Palestine is being seeked along with fundraising for the Palestinian people. Not only that, in social media we also can realize the clear biases of the influential people. Raising awareness using social media has been a frequent practice for people of today, especially if the campaign comes from a celebrity. However, it also has the reverse effect.
Several Hollywood celebs were seen pleading for Israel by posting an image of ‘a child fleeing from a bomb in a street’ a few weeks ago. However, as it was revealed that the image was actually captured from Gaza, the stories and posts were deleted or removed. So, if the children in Palestine are grieving, there is no need for assistance, but if it is Israel, the criticism of Palestine is warranted.Many celebrities have professed to support Israel, but when the UN proclaimed 2023 to be the deadliest year for Palestine since 2006, they remained silent. None of them appear to be changing their attitude or speaking for Palestinian citizens. The Palestinian supporters have reacted angrily to their apparent bigotry.
There are however opposing views; several celebrities, including Bella Hadid, Mark Ruffalo, and Susan Sarandon, are compromising their careers and facing severe criticism for speaking out in defense of Palestinians.
What lies ahead?
The future prospects in the international arena are hard to expect. Both Hamas and Netanyahu believe that in order to prevail, they must destroy the other. Many people are hoping for regime change. But this will not affect the people’s feelings of hatred. Both sides have suffered much too much in these years of bloodshed. This generational enmity will never lead to peace until all parties are treated equally. We cannot expect this conflict to finish on a positive note unless we address its core concerns.
Following the military assault on October 7th, Hamas gains legitimacy in Gaza, while Netanyahu faces political pressure for security failures. Both parties are unwilling to confront the underlying source of the conflict. As a result, the cycle of violence and retaliation is likely to continue until one party is annihilated or a peace plan mysteriously facilitates both equally.
As Irish Sinn Féin politician Matt Carthy pointed out, the war on Gaza violated international law, but Israel has been doing so on a regular basis long before the strike. However, neither the international community nor the media have spoken out about these instances. There is no way someone can develop a solution with such obvious bias. The US should get its act together or, like the UN, it will lose its legitimacy around the world along with its human rights negotiations. Everyone is expecting a mediation plan from the United States, and we need it fast.
International organizations are growing increasingly powerless. At this time, international law applies only to poor and underdeveloped countries, who have less support in the international political arena.
In this situation, it is quite likely that the Saudi-Israeli talks will be postponed. This will allow Iran to work out a deal with the US to relieve some of the sanctions pressure on its economy. We may be expecting too much, but if the Arab world can work together and demonstrate their dedication to this issue, there may be hope for a resolution. For the time being, all we can do is watch events develop in frustration, contributing as much as we can.
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