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The story of the Israel – Palestine conflict, from 1917 to today

War has raged between Israel and Palestine for decades in a land both sides claim as their own.  

Let’s look at the history of this conflict from the beginning.

History

After Britain defeated the Ottoman Empire and took control of the area known as Palestine during World War I, Britain was given the challenging task to establish a home for the Jewish people. In the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Britain declared that they would find a national home for the Jewish people within Palestine, something that created conflict between the Palestinian and Jewish people. This conflict is because the Zionist and Palestinians have a bad history creating a poor relationship. Zionists believe that they should protect and develop Israel as their homeland. They believe Israel is their ancient state, something that doesn’t sit well with the Palestinians that have also lived there for centuries.

At that time there was an Arab majority in the area of Palestine, but after the Balfour Declaration many Jews moved from Europe back to the place that their ancestors once called home, especially to seek safety during World War II, something that would change history forever. 

In 1947, the United Nations voted that Palestine should be split into separate Arab and Jewish states with Jerusalem becoming an international city. The Arab side, however, declined the plan. Unable to solve the problem of finding a home for these people, the British rule ended in 1948 and Israel was created by the Jewish leaders.

Palestinians were not happy with this move and war broke out, causing more havoc. Surrounding countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon immediately invaded Israel, causing many Palestinians to leave their homes behind. In total there were over 700,000 Palestinian-Arabs that left, which was about half the population of pre-war Israel. This is known as “Al Nakba” or the great “Catastrophe.” 

After the fighting ended and there was a ceasefire in place the following year of 1949, finally giving the people who called this land home some peace. Jordan occupied the land known as West Bank and Egypt occupied the land known as Gaza. Jerusalem was split into two, Israeli forces occupied the West while Jordan occupied the East. The following decades were followed by war and conflict as there was never a peace agreement, causing years of suffering for the people living there. 

Palestinians later lost more and more of the land they called home, leaving many of them displaced. Later in 1967, Israel occupied East Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza and other states in countries such as Egypt and Syria. Palestinians now live in Gaza, the West Bank and some surrounding countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. 

Israel will not let Palestinians go back to their homes as they claim that it threatens Israel’s existence as a “Jewish State.” Leaving many Palestinians hopeless and homeless.

Israel has pulled out of Gaza giving the Palestinians somewhere to call home but still occupies and has settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Golan Heights in Syria and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. Around 600,000 Jews live in these settlements. Both Israel and Palestine proclaim Jerusalem as their capital. 

Palestine looks at these settlements as disruptions of peace and think that they should be illegal. 

Photo Credit:  Montecruz Foto

The Rise of Hamas

Palestine is now governed by Hamas, a militant socialist group. Hamas was founded in December 1987 by members of the Muslim brotherhood and religious faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) at the beginning of the Palestine intifada which is a resistance movement of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and parts of Israel. The Muslim brotherhood is a religious government and socialist group within Egypt. 

Hamas would clash constantly with Israel. In the 1988 charter, Hamas stated that Palestine was its homeland, that they would never surrender to non-Muslims religious duties for Palestinian-Muslims and that they would take control of Palestine from Israel. This brought conflict with the PLO which had acknowledged the existence of Israel as a state, something Hamas was against. Hamas then became an independent organization. 

Hamas would later be known as a terrorist group for taking the lives of many innocent peoples. Violent attacks in 1989 led to the arrest of many leaders including its founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Hamas then went under some re-organization and a bureau for international relations and fundraising was formed in Amman and Jordan. Khaled Mishaal was elected as the head of the organization in 1996. Hamas was later expelled from Jordan as they claimed that Hamas used their offices as posts for the military in West-Bank and Gaza. They then moved to Damascus, Syria in 2001, and then Doha, Qatar in 2012. 

Disaster struck in 1993 when Hamas left the peace agreement with the PLO and Israel. Along with the “Islamic Jihad group” (PIJ), they would plan multiple suicide bombings, killing many people. PLO and Israel responded with high security measures but chairman Yasser Arafat wanted to include Hamas in the political process. After peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians stopped in 2000, there was an uprising of violence known as Aqsa Intifada . Hamas attacks on Israel increased.

Palestinians finally got some hope. In 2005 Mahmoud Abbas, president of the PA and Ariel Sharon, the prime minister of Israel announced that they would pull troops from Palestine territories and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire. Violence continued but troops were pulled from the Gaza strip later on. 

Hamas won the 2006 election over Fatah and ended up forming a coalition government in 2007. Ismail Haniyeh ended up being the prime minister. Hamas had shown that they were open to reconciliation and were open to agreements with Israel and the PA. Clashes between the two sides made Abbas call for a state of emergency and Hamas was left with the Gaza strip and Fatah with the West-Bank. Hamas and Fatah later reached a reconciliation agreement in 2011 mediated by Egypt. 

In 2007, after Hamas took the Gaza strip, Gaza was declared hostile territory by Israel. Many sanctions took place on this territory by the Israeli government. Violence continued but finally in June of 2008, they had agreed on a 6-month truce. After it ended on December 19th, 2008. After a series of accusations of violation of the truce happened on both sides, after rocket fire on both sides Israel sent a series of rocket strikes into the area. After a week Israel sent a ground campaign into Gaza. After three weeks, over one thousand people were killed, and many were left homeless, and a unilateral ceasefire was put in place. On November 14th, 2012, Israel sent a series of air strikes into Gaza after an increase of Hamas rocket attacks. Another cease fire was put in place on the 21st of November. 

Recent Conflict

Tensions were high due to the 2014 disappearance of 3 Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, blamed Hamas for their disappearance. After Israel sent a sweep in the West Bank area to find the teens, many Palestinians with militant ties were arrested. The boys were found dead on June 30th in Hebron. Rocket attacks by Islamic Jihad and other groups increased and another ceasefire was put in place. After two years of ceasefire, on June 30th, Hamas launched their first rocket into Israel. On July 8th, Israel responded with aerial bombing, missiles, and mortar fire. Ground attacks were sent to destroy tunnels and Hamas militant buildings, this included tanks and troops. They were pulled out in August from the Gaza strip and they completed the mission.

Conflict continued and an estimated 2100 or more Palestinians were killed. Many protests have taken place such the ones in 2014, 2018 and most recently April to the present for this year. In 2014 many Palestinians protesters clashed with Israel police leaving hundreds injured. Rocket fire by Hamas and air strikes in Israel continued. In 2018 protestors tried to cross the Israel border and sent explosive balloons and kites over. 60 people were killed, and 2700 people were wounded, this led to more conflict and eventually a truce in November. 

Conflict this year     

Around the month of Ramadan (April and May) of this 2021 tensions have escalated with protesters and the police. Israel Police and Palestinians are constantly clashing. Palestinians claim to be suffering due to the restrictions Israel put in place. Israel is also threatening to evict Palestinian families from East Jerusalem, causing more anger. The main protest began in East Jerusalem on May 6th after the anticipated eviction of six Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah. More than 600 people were injured.

On May 10th at noon, Hamas sent a request for Israel to remove troops from Temple Mount Complex in Sheikh Jarrah, they stated that there would be consequences if they did not reply. Within the conflict, the Deputy of Gaza’s works and housing ministry said at least 2,000 housing units were destroyed and another 15,000 were damaged in the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, within Gaza, including many big buildings such as the building housing the Al Jazeera press, a international public news media company. 256 Palestinians were killed with 66 of them being children, 13 Israelis were killed with two of them being children. 1900 Palestinians and 200 Israelis were injured as well. The conflict has displaced 72,000 Palestinians. 

It is estimated that 4300 rockets were fired into Israel with 90% of them being intercepted by the iron dome, an all-weather air defence system. Israel conducted 1500 air, land and sea strikes on the Gaza strip.

A cease fire finally came on the 21st of May.

A New Hope

Recently, a new hope has come to the Palestinian and Israeli people. A new coalition government has been formed to depose Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The coalition agreement was signed by multiple parties on June 2nd, 2021. These parties include: Yesh Atid, Blue and White, Yamina, the Labor Party, Yisrael Beiteinu, New Hope, Meretz, and the United Arab List. 

Benjamin Netanyahu has been Israel’s prime minister for 12 years. If this coalition government succeeds the Israeli and Palestinian people may finally be able to coexist in peace.

This is a big deal as not only are there Israeli parties within this new government, but the United Arab List is an Arab Political party. This Arab within Israel party with the Israeli party could finally create some unity in this land.

As of the 13th of June, Benjamin Netanyahu has been overthrown. Naftalli Bennet is now the prime minister of Israel ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s long 12-year term. Bennet is the prime minister in rotation, this means Yair Lapid will become the prime minister in 2023.

The future prime minister has already given us some insight on how he might approach this century-long problem. Yair Lapid stated that “If You ask me ‘What is the one great move you can make to improve the Israeli economy?’ of course it will be signing an agreement with the Arab world about the Isreali-Palestine conflict. This will change everything”.

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