October 16

A quick history lesson explaining the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Here is a quick history lesson on why there is always so much violence surrounding Israel and the Gaza Strip:

While we constantly hear about this violence between Israel and Palestine, many do not know the context to why it constantly persists, and why it seems to never be resolved. So, here is a quick overview to the modern history of Israel and Palestine, which may help you put the tension in perspective.

  1. While Israel of course is an ancient city in the Bible, the State of Israel as we know it today, is relatively brand new in historical terms. The region was known as Palestine after the first World War (under British Mandate), only became its own country after the Ottoman Empire fell. Before Palestine became official, however, there was the Balfour Declaration.
  2. What is the Balfour Declaration? A letter written by the UK’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild, a very wealthy baron who was considered the leader for the Jewish community in England. Basically, the letter said that the British government was in favor for an area in Palestine to be home of the Jewish community who faced persecution in other countries.
  3. Where did this idea come from? In 1896, a Jewish journalist wrote the paper Der Judenstaat (The State of the Jews), which caught like wildfire, and birthed the Zionism movement. There was a continuing threat of anti-semitism in Europe, and Theodor Herzi, the author, called for a Jewish state in Palestine. At this point, Palestine was a region, and not an established state as it was still under the Ottoman Empire. Herzi established the Zionist Organization, and a goal that the Jewish people would have a place that they could practice their religion freely, and not fear racism or persecution from governments. Two years after the first ZO Congress, Balfour offered the new Chairman of the Organization refuge in Uganda, which was refused. Israel was a Holy City for the Jewish people, and the ZO would not settle. The same area, however, is also the Holy Land for Arabs and Christians.
  4. Here comes in World War I. The talk for a Jewish state was already whispered around British Parliament. But England also needed all the allies it could get to win the first major world war. For this reason, there was the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence. This piece of history is major, as basically the British government also promised Arabs in the Ottoman controlled Palestine region a place to call their own. The Arabs Revolt, starting in 1916, was a crucial component to the WWI victory in that region for the Allies. After, however, the Arab leader Hussein bin Ali would not accept the idea of a Jewish state in the Palestine region he just secured under the new mandate.
  5. The fight for a Jewish home versus Jewish state continued throughout the next decade in British Parliament.
  6. On May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion called for the establishment of  Jewish state. The next day, the British Mandate for Palestine was set to expire. From this moment, there were Arab-Israeli Conflicts. People from Yemen, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan all took up arms to try and stop the formation of the State of Israel. This conflict lasted a year. One year later after the first year of what is still a war, Israel became a state, and was admitted to the United Nations by a majority vote on May 11, 1949.

So from 1949, Israel has been in a civil war with its neighboring Arab countries. Israel’s population soared after it became a state, as holocaust survivors and war refugees sought refuge in their new country. This is why when you here politicians talk about the Iran Deal, it is in reference to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Iran’s Supreme Leader) desire to destroy Israel. In fact, Khamenei said in response to what Iran would do if they made a nuclear weapon in 25 years that there would be no need to worry about Israel, as it will no exist “God willing” in 25 years.

Israel, a still new country, is surrounded by neighbors who more or less want the country to no longer exist. Palestinians believe that it is an area that belongs to them, while Israelis believe the exact same. As Israel is the United State’s number one ally in the region, foreign policy with surrounding countries largely has to do with Israel’s safety. This conflict has taken place since Israel joined the United Nations in 1949, and as there is some peace between escalated violence, the tension remains ever prevalent and relevant. When politicians refer to “Stand with Israel,” it is over these issues, and are hugely political with real ramifications for the future of this country.