The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what we can do about it

by | Nov 9, 2023 | MIGRATION & CONFLICT

A photo of a young boy holding hands with an older man from behind. The boy has a Palestinian flag in his hand and is raising it up high. The man has a bag thrown over his shoulder. There are cars and large groups of people in the background.

Image: Hosnysalah, Pixabay

Origins

 

Like many conflicts that have taken place in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian war has its roots in a religious disagreement. Firstly, it is essential to acknowledge that there are two big blocks, on the one hand, the Jews (Israel), and on the other hand, the Sunni Muslims (Palestine). Both territories are currently disputing its governance and claiming their historic right to live in what is now considered by some Western powers as Israel.

 

But, how did it start? The conflict has its origins in times before Christ. At that time, Israelites asserted their lineage as descendants of the ancient Hebrews, while Palestinians contended that they were descendants of the Philistines, who had inhabited the region for over three millennia. However, political experts highlight the end of the 19th Century as a major turning point in the history of the dispute. During the 19th Century, Israel was still part of the Ottoman Empire, at the same time, the political movement called Zionism emerged.

 

Vox defines Zionism as the national ideology of Israel. It asserts that Judaism is both a religion and a nationality, and that Jews have a right to their own state in Israel their ancestral homeland. It is the reason for the Jewish people’s return to Israel and is also a major concern for Arabs and Palestinians concerning the Israeli state.

 

As Zionism developed, the Jews began to occupy the Palestinian territory, and between 1882 and 1903, the “First Aliyah” arose, which was a notable Jewish immigration wave to the Palestinian territory. Eventually, and caused mainly by the antisemitism movement that intensified in both the First and Second World Wars, a bigger immigration wave occurred towards the Ottoman-ruled Palestine. Subsequently, the Jews and Muslims were engaged in several wars, like the Hebron massacre (1929), which caused the death of 67 Jews. Israeli nationalist groups arose, and terrorist attacks detonated from both of the parties involved.

 

In 1949, Israel was recognized as a country, and the United Nations divided the territory, giving Palestinians and Jews a similar-sized proportion of land. The Palestinians were dissatisfied with the division proposed by the UN and engaged in another war against Israel (also known as the First Arab–Israeli War), but this time accompanied by the Arab League (composed of Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, etc.). The turnout was unexpected, as Israel won and enlarged its territory, expelling the Muslims.

 

After that war, Israel continued expanding its land and tried to reduce the presence of the Palestinians through movement restrictions, cutting water access, repressions, and marginalisation. As a consequence, in 1987, the well-known political organisation Hamas rose, while another Palestinian organisation, called the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) tried more peacefully and democratically to fight for Palestinian rights.

An old-looking map of the coastline to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. "Israel" is on the map but not Palestine. In the top right corner are two Palestinian stamps.

Image: NTMW and Maher, Getty Images Signature.

Indeed, during the period of 1993-2000, the PLO signed along with Israel the renowned Oslo Accords, which are a set of agreements that established a peace process based on co-existence between the parties, through a mutually negotiated two-state solution. However, they eventually fell apart as there was an environment of mutual distrust, violence, attacks, Israeli illegal settlements, fundamental disagreements, etc.

What is happening now?

Why is Hamas attacking now? A pertinent question with widespread media coverage. Let’s examine the situation closely to determine the underlying factors. Currently, Palestine is divided into two territories: the Gaza Strip (controlled by the group Hamas), and the West Bank (controlled mainly by Israeli occupation and the Palestinian Authority). 

 

The dispute in Gaza has broken out due to the trial of normalisation of the international relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, a Muslim country and supposed ally of Palestine, has been in discussions with Israel to establish a peace agreement between the two nations. This development could lead to other Muslim countries, such as Egypt, enhancing their diplomatic ties with Israel as well. Certainly, this deal is not convenient for Palestine. In response, Hamas has launched an offensive against Israel, resulting in the current conflict that is visible across the media. Consequently, Israel’s army prepares to counterattack by invading the Strip of Gaza, and there are concerns about militias in Lebanon and Syria supporting Hamas in the ongoing fighting.

 

The consequences of the conflict

 

War demands sacrifice of the people. It gives only suffering in return.” — Frederic C. Howe

 

On October 25, the Israeli military declared that it had hit over 7,000 targets within Gaza, making the current military assault one of the most severe in recent memory on a worldwide scale. As the Israel-Hamas war continues, the deepening crisis is putting additional pressure on an already overburdened global humanitarian system. 

 

Apart from demographic losses from both sides, the international sphere is also affected, more specifically from an economic point of view. Due to its role as a crucial supplier of energy and a key shipping passageway, conflict in the Middle East can have a significant impact on the global community. In fact, the international economy is vulnerable, as we are still recovering from the economic shock caused by the ongoing Ukrainian-Russian war. Overall, the potential effects of the war will depend on its future development.

 

What can we do?

 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complex issue that has plagued the region for almost a century. The solution to this long standing problem requires the active involvement of governments, international organisations, and various political actors. As students, we too can play a role in promoting understanding and exploring potential solutions. We have the power to raise awareness, initiate constructive dialogue, and work towards establishing a peaceful coexistence between the two nations.

How can we address the conflict?

  • Firstly, it is important to educate ourselves, rather than choosing a side without any context, it is relevant to have a certain background about the dispute, its origins, consequences, and future prospects. It is the only way in which we can develop a critical and analytical mindset and elaborate coherent opinions.

  • Donate to Global Relief Agencies to help the victims of the war. Some examples are Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, The International Committee of the Red Cross, Save the Children, and the International Rescue Committee.

  • Discuss and debate the issue in a mutually respectful environment. In that way, students can bring the conflict to the public attention, as well as gain a deeper understanding.

  • Make sure that we are getting information from the right sources: media could be biased towards one of the sides, and may not reflect the reality of the war.

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