The emotional and political commitment is great, and the view of history is divided. Read this case to gain more insight into the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
- What is the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians about?
- What issues need to be resolved to bring about peace?
- How did the conflict start?
- What is Israel’s biggest headache?
Violent demonstrations, rage, war and occupation characterize the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, and the conflict often dominates the news picture. We regularly see pictures of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip marching up to the border with Israel, burning tires and smoking the area, sending in burning kites, throwing homemade firebombs, stones and other items at the Israeli army. The Israelis shoot at and arrest Palestinians. There have also been rounds of war in which the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have fired rockets at Israel, and Israel, which believes this threatens the country’s security, has responded with bombing and ground invasion. A large number of Palestinians have been wounded and killed in these clashes. By comparison, Israeli losses have been small since the creation of the state.
2: Myths and reality
According to campingship, there is hardly any international issue that is as blurred as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The emotional and political commitment is still great, but the knowledge of actual historical conditions is often small. This applies not least to the presentation of and the causal explanations for why there is still no peace.
Here in Norway, we like to stick to the stories and myths about the situation in the Middle East. We pretend that there is a peace process, which does not exist. We still pretend – at least occasionally – that there is a Norwegian role, which does not exist either. We are talking about Palestine , a state that does not exist, under the leadership of a Palestinian president, who is no longer elected, but who has been in overtime for several years.
At best, the Palestinian president leads half of an occupied people in the West Bank . Hamas , which was initially democratically elected with an overwhelming majority of Palestinians, controls the other half, the Gaza Strip. But because Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and other Western countries, the Hamas regime is being politically and economically boycotted.
3: Why is there conflict?
The conflict today is about the same as it has been for almost 70 years. These are the same core issues that we must address in order to achieve a viable peace:
- A strong Israeli state exists in the Middle East and is there to stay. Israel is one of the world’s strongest military powers and is allied with the world’s only superpower, the United States.
- A Palestinian state died during childbirth. In 1947, the UN General Assembly decided to establish two states, one Israeli and one Palestinian. But Palestine has never risen from the dead.
- The occupied territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights were taken by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967. Israel has since refused to return them to Jordan, Egypt and Syria, respectively. What should the world community do with such a violation of international law?
- The Israeli settlers are constantly expanding and dividing the area, which should have become a cohesive Palestinian state, into smaller and smaller pieces.
- Palestinians and Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homes, now in Israel. What should the world community do with them? These Palestinians and their descendants fled during the wars of 1948 and 1967. Israel does not want them back. Over five million of them live in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and scattered around the surrounding Arab countries. But there is also no cordial and friendly relationship between the Palestinians and the Arab countries.
4: How did the conflict start?
As a result of the post-World War I peace settlement, Britain controlled a small area of the Mediterranean called Palestine. It was a British mandate area, a slightly nicer word for a British colony. The British would soon find themselves in the middle of a conflict between new Jewish immigrants from Europe and the Palestinians, the Arab inhabitants who had lived there for centuries and made up about 90 percent of the population. More and more European Jews fled Europe as a result of anti-Semitism again spreading like wildfire. A new nationalist movement, Zionism , had the answer: the Jews had to establish their own state in Zion, the name used synonymously with Jerusalem, a historic area in what was then Palestine. The Jews felt religiously and culturally connected to this area from which they had been expelled by the Romans around the year 70 and again in the year 135.
In the first half of the 20th century, more and more Jews immigrated to Palestine. During the interwar period, the number almost doubled. Not least, immigration gained momentum after Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. But far too few Jews escaped Hitler’s genocide. Around six million Jews were killed during World War II. Only between 1.25 and 1.5 million European Jews had survived the tragedy. Most of them could not or would not stay in Europe. They wanted to go to Palestine, and already in 1945 they made up about a third of the country’s population. At the same time as Jewish immigrants flocked, they systematically built up a “state within the state.”
Britain soon got more than enough of all the problems and conflicts in Palestine and handed over the entire mandate area to the newly established world organization UN in 1947. But what should the UN do with Palestine? And what should the UN do with the surviving Jews in Europe? UN Resolution 181 of 29 November 1947 sought to find answers to both questions: The so-called partition plan decided to divide Palestine into a separate Jewish and a separate Palestinian state:
- The Palestinian state was to consist of Western Galilee, the central parts of Palestine and the Gaza Strip. The census showed that this state would accommodate approximately 725,000 Palestinians and 10,000 Jews.
- The Jewish state was to consist of Eastern Galilee, the coastal strip north of the Gaza Strip and the Negev This state would contain 498,000 Jews and 420,000 Palestinians. The Jewish population in Palestine then owned 8.6 percent of Palestine and made up one-third of the population, but was allocated 56 percent of the land. The proposal was therefore extremely beneficial to them. Only the Zionists accepted the partition plan, as a starting point for Jewish expansion. None of the Arab countries did, and the Palestinians were never asked.
But the division plan was not implemented. On May 14, 1948, the Jews instead proclaimed the establishment of their state, Israel. The next day, the Arab countries attacked the new state.