The Palestine – Israeli conflict … a very controversial topic indeed
The Palestine – Israeli conflict … a very controversial topic indeed. As a person of Palestinian heritage I’m sure you can guess (or listened to me on my soapbox) on which ‘side’ I favour. Regardless of your opinion there is masses of information that Western media does not deliver regarding this conflict, which is hugely biased and leads many Westerners to form an opinion without knowing the whole story. In this article I will try to inform you of the less reported aspects of the conflict and tell the story from the perspective of a person of Palestinian heritage.
In the 1900s this piece of land was under the Ottoman Empire where mainly Palestinians and some Jewish people lived. The ‘Arab Claim’ was that they wanted freedom from the Ottomans and Britain said that they would help liberate them during WWI and in 1915 Britain encouraged a rebellion. On the other side there was a ‘Jewish Claim’, which was that they were the homeless people and they deserved to return to their homeland Israel – this group of Jews are known as Zionists. (Side note: to be anti-Zionist is NOT to be anti-Semitic, they are two very different issues but society seems to be developing a view that over criticism of the state of Israel is now anti-Semitic) In 1916 Britain and France met and decided that they would share Turkey’s colonies but the following year the League of Nations said that Britain must support Jewish settlement and the Balfour Declaration was agreed where the British gave their support to the Zionist movement to set up a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Since then there have always been violent eruptions between the two groups but this got worse when immigration increased in the 1930s after Hitler’s disgusting and inhumane treatment of the Jewish people. In an attempt to ease tensions the UN suggested a Partition Plan in 1947 with Jerusalem being an international capital; neither nations could agree and this became an incredibly violent time where Palestinians were being forced out. Soon followed the 1st Arab-Israeli war in 1949, which ended with Palestinians being forced into refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank. The next major incident was the Six Day War in 1967 between Palestinians and Israelis who were living next to each other in Gaza or the West Bank and the outcome was a triumph for Israel who took over Gaza and the West Bank.
Following on from that Jerusalem was annexed and illegal Israeli settlements were built around it and Gaza and the West Bank were put under military administration under the pretence that it was for security reasons as they are a small and insecure country. As time went on Palestinians in homes in the West Bank were forced out so Israeli settlements could be built there. In the late 80s and early 90s there was the Intifada which was the rise of a group who wanted freedom for Palestine, however, this group was not organised by Palestine’s Liberation Organisation (PLO) it was a grassroots movement. A violent clash ensued with the Palestinians throwing stones and Israeli’s firing guns. In response there were talks in 1993 between the leaders of Palestine and Israel in Oslo, this was known as the Oslo Accord. These talks happened in secret as to avoid any revolt from either Palestinians or Israelis who would see their leaders as traitors however the two leaders did shake hands. It was agreed that Israel would recognise the PLO’s representation of its people and the PLO recognised Israel’s right to exist within boundaries and Israeli forces began to withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank. Although, Israel still wanted to dominate they would outsource some responsibilities to the Palestinians.
The Palestinians believed this was the start of their freedom but in the next 5 years Israeli settlements doubled; the Palestinians regretted their decision in the Oslo Accord as they naively thought Israel might surrender. There was an unforgivable violent response by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas who sent over rockets to Israeli territory and attacked civilians; Hamas has caused many people in the West to dislike Palestine. There was a counterattack from by a group of Israelis who killed 20 Muslims while they were at prayer. Not only was there violence (from both sides) but the Israeli government did not want Palestine to have a viable economy so the military hardly gave permission to Palestinians who wanted to build schools, homes, shops etc. and the Israeli military did (and still do) destroy Palestinian buildings arbitrarily. This is where the issues of Western media comes in – we never hear about Israeli soldiers arresting Palestinian people or destroying Palestinian property but any incident where a Palestinian aggresses or acts violently towards an Israeli it is everywhere! In the late 1990s/200s there was again another violent rebellion and to protect themselves the Israeli government built a wall around the Palestinian settlements that eats into the West Bank and goes through Bethlehem.
Moving on to what is currently happening – the Israeli government controls everything including water and electricity and it is a known fact that many Palestinians do not have access to clean water because the wealthy Israelis are using it to fill their swimming pools. Israel has now successfully integrated itself into the world economy and now is one of the biggest arms dealers in the world. Many of the things that the Israeli government are doing are completely illegal under international law and even the UN has condemned it however the West (mainly Britain and the USA) does nothing. Most of Israel’s land in owned by the World Zionist Organisation and any person in the world who is Jewish has the right to live in Israel; these Jews have more rights than Palestinians living there who make up 20% of the population but are treated as 2nd class citizens and have different laws purely because they are Palestinian. There are currently 1.5+ million Israeli settlers living in Palestine right now. The majority of the children who have been arrested by the Israeli army have lived within a mile radius of Israeli settlements. Among pro-Palestinians there is a belief that what is happening in Israel is a form of ethic cleansing and in the next few hundred years the Palestinians will fade out of existence.
However, there are multiple Israel-based charities such as Peace Now that aim to increase the status of Palestinians in Israel. Nevertheless, these charities are criticised by pro-Zionist groups that operate on prejudice and call these Jews self-hating Jews. Furthermore, there is a growth in Christian Zionists in the USA who support Israel. In recent years, there has also been a disproportionate growth of news outlets that adopt a pro-Israel stance than one favouring Palestine with 60x as many pro-Israeli press outlets over pro-Palestinian ones. All appearances in US mainstream media of Palestinian officials were outnumbered by one man; Israel’s former US ambassador, Michael Oren. This is not only a problem in the USA, in the UK school staff are told that overt support of Palestine and criticism of Israel is a sign of radicalism.
I hope I have shed some light on this issues and allowed people to see this from a different perspective … and hopefully this wasn’t too biased. I’d be really interested in hearing your opinion whether you’re pro-Palestine, pro-Israel or simply pro-peace!
Michael Scott-Baumann’s textbook: “Access to History: Crisis in the Middle East: Israel and the Arab States 1945-2007”
Michael Scott-Baumann’s talk on Thursday 8th April to History Society: “The Arab-Israeli Conflict”