It is ironic how many wars have begun due to religion. It is the introduction into society on how to behave according to your culture, your background, and your origins, which have been passed down over many hundreds of years. Religion itself has never condoned war. In any holy book of every religion it is a sin or against the will of God to war, to kill, to steal and yet so called martyrs are packing explosives to their bodies in the name of Allah and blowing themselves up. Israel. The very word itself has a huge meaning to it and is able to spark off a debate.
This holy land has seen the birth of Judaism and Islam alike. The religious differences between the two are marginal and yet so much blood has been shed. The holy land of these people has turned into a battleground and the neighbours are enemies, so much for the “Love thy neighbour” commandment. This hostility has spanned from the early ages into the modern era but why has it turned into a long and bitter conflict? Since 1516 until 1917, Palestine had been incorporated into the Ottoman Empire and was administered from Istanbul.
During the First World War, Turkey and its empire was allied with Germany, apparently the cause of the war. When Germany lost the war, their allies had to pay reparations and give up colonies amongst the League of Nations (precursor of the UN), which consisted of Great Britain, France, Japan and Italy. The southern half of the Turkish Empire was mandated to France and Great Britain under the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Lebanon and Syria were mandated to France and Palestine (today’s Jordan, Israel and the West Bank) to Great Britain.
Following the trend of the 19th century, people were beginning to categorize themselves as nations. Jews and Palestinians wanted the creation of a self-determined state where their laws according to their religions and culture could be implemented, free from the rule of foreigners. The Jewish population had no land to call their own. They were a Diasporas spread across the world. Theodor Hertzl, an Austria- Hungarian journalist, advocated in his paper “The Jewish State” (Der Judenstaat) the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine or elsewhere.
Palestine was the optimal place as it had witnessed the birth of Judaism. The Kingdom of Israel had existed there 2,000 years ago but had been destroyed at the hands of the Romans. Under the influence of Hertzl, the World Zionist Organisation was created and various funds were set up to aid the idea of Zionism. The meaning of the word Zion means heaven. This is what the Jewish population were looking for and Zionism entailed the immigration and eventual settlement of Jews in Palestine. They wanted a safe haven for Jewish people to come and live together in peace away from the hatred of the West.
The core beliefs of Zionism are that all Jews represent one nation and the only solution to the anti-Semitism is the establishment of a Jewish state where no one could aggravate any hatred towards them. There was a need to create ” a national home for the Jewish people secured by public law. ” Zionism drew a religious importance to Jerusalem but Islam had an attachment there too. The political characteristic of Zionism has been influenced by nationalist ideology and the colonial ideas of the West. The Jewish population has been the single most attacked group of people.
From being blamed for the Black Death/Plague that was festering over Europe in the 15th Century to anti-Semitist riots which turned violent in Russia, and being expelled in the early 20th Century to the mass murder of 6 millions Jews in Germany at the hands of Hitler, the Jewish people have been persecuted. Even today Neo-Nazis, though they are a minority, rally and demonstrate against the Jews. The Arab world has pure venomous hatred for them. Stories of Jews killing and drinking the blood of Arab babies and children are not scarce in the Middle East.
The question to ask is why are they hated? It is a difficult question to answer and I won’t be able to respond to it fully. Between 1882-1903 the first wave of Zionist refugees, 25,000 strong had entered and settled in Palestine. 1904 had seen a 40,000 strong wave, increasing the already overcrowded population. The rising tide of rich and middle-class Jewish settlers was generating resistance amongst Palestinian-Arabs peasants. The new Jewish settlers were able to purchase land from Arab landowners and this was seen as the slow and eventual progress of the Zionist movement.
Palestinian Arabs opposed the British mandate because it restricted the right to self-rule, which was promised by Britain if they led a revolt against the Ottoman Empire in that area in the First World War. The revolt led by T. E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) was successful but the promise on behalf of the British was not. Britain was also seen as pro Jewish where Arthur Balfour had declared in 1917 that a Jewish homeland should be created. This threatened the positions of all Palestinian Arabs in the country that they had resided in for centuries.
The Jewish National Fund was able to large amounts of land from the Arab landowners and the Arabs living in the area were evicted. This caused great uproar amongst the Palestinians. This wasn’t the home of the Jewish population. This was the home of many Arab families, which had lived there for generations and now they were being thrown out. These displacements led to violent confrontations. These confrontations spilled over into religious matters, where in 1928 Muslims and Jews began to quarrel over the rights of the Wailing Wall (al-Buraq in the Muslim tradition).
The Wailing Wall is the only remaining remnant of the second Jewish Temple. It is one of the holiest sites for the Jewish community. But this site is also holy for the Muslim community too where the Wall is also adjacent to the Noble Sanctuary (Temple Mount) and on this site are the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of Rock, which is the place thought to be the unchanged spot where the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven on a winged horse. On August 15th 1929, members of the Betar youth movement (a pre state Revisionists Zionists) demonstrated in opposition to the Muslim community and raised a Zionist flag above the Wall.
Arabs took action believing the Noble Sanctuary was in jeopardy and Jews were attacked all the way through the country. 64 Jews were killed in Hebron and the Jewish community ceased to exist as they fled to parts of Jerusalem. During a week of collective violence 133 Jews and 115 Arabs were killed and many more wounded. Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 meant there was an influx in Jewish settlers; this meant more land purchases and settlements. The Palestinians had enough and the Arab revolt of 1936-1939 was of consequence of resistance to excessive Jewish settlements and British control.
With the help of militia groups the British army had flattened the resistance but this effort by the Arabs wasn’t in vain. The British had reconsidered their position in the Palestine area and the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and issued a White Paper in 1939, which is a political term for a statement of policy. This White Paper declared the limiting of future Jewish immigration and land purchases in hope that it would quell the tension and the number of attacks upon its own army and the Jewish population.
This led to a backfire as Jews were facing extermination at the hands of the Nazi regime and the viewed the policy as a betrayal. All British-Zionist alliances were broken. For the second time World War was breaking out and the future of Palestine was to remain undecided for 8 more treacherous years. Britain and her allies of the Second World War had won but they had enough of the mandate that was causing more grief every year. Britain handed the mandate over to the UN, recommending that a separate state for both Jews and Palestinian Arabs should be created in 1947.
By 1947 Jews owned 6-8 per cent of the land and 608,000 Jews were residing in Mandate Palestine. In comparison 1,269,000 Arabs were also residing within those borders. On the assumption that many thousands more Jews would immigrate to Palestine which would cause more outrage, the area was split into two halves 56% and 43% respectively where the Jewish state was slightly bigger. Jerusalem and Bethlehem were to become international zones, which meant neither the Jews nor the Muslims owned those cities.
The Arab leaders vehemently rejected this proposal while the Jewish leaders reluctantly accepted as they were hoping to receive more than the allotted land given to them by the UN. Many Arabs nations felt betrayed by this vote to partition and allow the Jews to have a self-determined nation. They argued that it was against the wishes of the Arab majority that the British allowed extensive settlements in the area and the Arabs were the ones to suffer with families being displaced at the hands of the Jews.
By the spring of 1948 the Zionist armies had gained control of the land that was theirs under the UN Partition Plan 181. May 15th saw the British Mandate run out and the withdrawal of British troops in Palestine and the Zionist leaders proclaimed the state of Israel. Now they weren’t Jewish “settlers” or “refugees” they were “Israelis. ” Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq invaded Israel in order to “save” the Palestinian Arabs from the Zionists. The Arab army was untrained and inefficient to be fighting the small but highly trained Israeli army.
The Israeli army made successful gains and at the end of war in January 1949 it was clear that it was an Israel victory. In July that year the armistice was signed by the warring nations and now the Palestine they once knew was divided into three parts. The state of Israel, which covered 80% of the territory that was in dispute Jordan, occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip. This war led more Jews to travel to Israel. They were Israelis and they could be proud of their country they had made successful gains and stamped their authority on those who threatened her.
During the war over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs became refugees living in near by Syria and Jordan. This has caused controversy as many Palestinian Arabs claimed the brutality of the Israeli army made them leave. The massacres and killing of Arabs in cold blood had scared them into fleeing. The Israelis however claim that the propaganda used by the neighbouring Arab nations scared them into leaving and they did so on orders of Arab leaders; 75% of them. It is now documented that only 5% left on orders of Arab leaders.
The mass expulsions of Arabs from cities and the massacres conducted at villages such as Deir Yasin, where 125 – 250 were shot dead caused the mass immigration seen by the world. The remaining Palestinian Arabs that stayed behind all 150,000 of them became known as citizens of Israel. The warring countries regarded them as traitors. Even within the country of Israel they are second-class citizens. Their movements were monitored by Israeli soldiers and sometimes stories of Israeli soldiers attacking Palestinians spread. Since the creation of Israel is only for the Jewish people other minorities in the area are foreigners.
Even after the armistice was signed in 1949, the conflict between the neighbours continued. The Cold War was in full effect too and USA had become the most influential outsider in Israel. Israel took part in the campaign with Britain and France to stop the nationalisation of the Suez Canal. They had captured the Gaza and Sinai Peninsula area but were forced to retreat under orders of the UN and the increasing political pressure from the USA and USSR. This place was to become the centrifugal point of Cold War rivalry for increasingly global influence.
Tensions between the Syrian and Israeli forces were mounting. The Syrians were using the Golan Heights to attack and snipe the kibbutz that were established below the mountains. Israeli forces couldn’t do much but in April attacked and shot down 6 MiGs. The Russian government later misinformed the Syrian government that Israel was preparing to mount an attack and expanding into Syria. There was no mobilisation of troops in northern Israel to attack Syria but terrorist attacks were increasing and it was public knowledge that something had to be done about it.
Syria decided to invoke its defence treaty with Egypt. Responding to their request in May 1967 Egyptian leader Nasser mobilised his troops into the Sinai Peninsula and threatened war. Its known that war wasn’t an option that Nasser was looking for. He was only hoping that Israel would stop its supposed mobilisation and retreat from northern Israel. The war rhetoric continued between the two countries where the Syrian defence minister claimed that they had “resolved to drench this land with your blood, to oust you, and throw you into the sea for good. “