Root causes of the Israel-Palestine conflict

free Palestine protesters
Emily Murphy

25th May 2021


The Israel-Palestine conflict is one that has dominated global news for decades. The tensions between both sides run deep and the world is divided in its support. However the situation is not as clear-cut as most people believe, and the timeline is much greater than many realize. To understand the conflict it is important to look at the entire picture. 


The area where violence is occurring is better known to many in the west as Judea, the historic and biblical homeland of the Jewish people. The name Palestine is a variation of the name ‘Syria Palaestina’, given to the region by Roman Emperor Hadrian as an act of colonization after the ‘Bar Kolchba’ revolt (132-136 CE). This event, more commonly referred to as ‘The Third Jewish-Roman War’, was a result of the Roman occupation of Judea, and the eradication of Jewish laws, rights, and religious freedoms. Emperor Hadrian massacred many Jews and banned them from Jerusalem. The diaspora was further dispersed by religious persecution and ethnic cleansings throughout the following centuries. However, the Jewish people have never forgotten their bond with the promised land. 


The Arabization of the region occurred with the expansion of the Arab Empire in the first millennium. This was most significant in the 7th century during the Muslim conquest of the Levant. Until the 11th century both Muslims and Christians lived together in the region, however, the population gradually converted to Islam. The population remained relatively small with approximately 250,000 inhabitants at any given time, until the 19th century when rapid population growth occurred. 


At multiple points during the past several centuries, many notable leaders have attempted to establish a nation for Jews in the promised land, including Napoleon in 1799. The most successful attempt began during the First World War. The British government issued the ‘Balfour Declaration’, which supported the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people”, within the then Ottoman region. Five years later, in 1922, the League of Nations approved the mandate. Between 1929 and 1946 numerous uprisings occurred in Palestine protesting the immigration of Jews into the region. In 1947 the United Nations passed Resolution 181, calling for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states.


“When the State of Israel was formed in May 1948, conflict erupted once again in the region, as 110,000 immigrants arrived. Since then conflict has continued sporadically in the middle-east, however, the Israeli state has formed peace agreements with many of its neighbours, including Jordan, Syria, and Egypt.”

On 7th May 2021, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound/Temple Mount, a site sacred to Muslims and Jews, clashes began between Muslim worshipers and Jews celebrating an Israeli holiday. Afterward, Hamas the Palestinian militant group (classified as terrorists by the EU, US, and others) that control the Gaza strip issued an ultimatum to Isreal: withdraw its forces from the compound, or face attacks. On 10th May, as the deadline passed, Hamas fired seven rockets at Jerusalem. Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza. Between 11th and 18th May airstrikes and protests on both sides continue. More than 232 people in Gaza have been killed however thanks to Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense system and air-raid bunkers only 12 Israelis have died. After 11 days of conflict, Israel and Palestinian armed groups, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad agreed to a ceasefire. Two delegations of Egyptian security have been sent to Tel Aviv and Palestinian territories to “monitor implementation and procedures to maintain stable conditions permanently”. While this is welcome news, the question remains, is there a permanent peace solution in sight? 


In 1974 Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation began moving towards a two-state solution, an idea that has been pushed by successive Israeli prime ministers. Although Arafat was unsuccessful at the time, he did aid in the establishment of a Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza. Since 1974, Israel has offered this two-state solution to Palestinian leaders on five separate occasions, each has been refused due to disputes over land distribution. It is the goal of Hamas to achieve a one-state solution. They want the 400,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank to leave, voluntarily or forcibly. This is incredibly unlikely. Residents on both sides of the border have, in many cases, lived in the region their entire lives, many can trace their ancestry back several generations. Despite the regular conflict and clashes, this section of the middle-east is the home of thousands of people, Muslims, and Jews. The future is uncertain but the global powers continue to push for a two-state solution and the world hopes that this time peace is long-lasting.





Featured photo by Aveedibya Dey on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND Programme Assistant Rachel


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