“Palestine, Israel and the war over the holy lands”, that might serve as a good title to the sequel of “The good , the bad and the ugly”, the perpetual ethnic war between the Arabs and the Jews, numerous wars, peace treaties and desperate attempts of reconciliation As a holy and ethnic dispute, the clash extends the limits of the directly impacted parties to include an assembly of 22 countries, the Arab league. Arabs have always considered Palestine, Jerusalem to be specific, as part of their religious patrimony and have conducted numerous crusades in the past to “liberate” the holy lands, the most famous of which is the Saladin crusade against Richard the Lionheart. A conflict with Palestine had always meant having to deal with an opposition of 22 countries as such. The Israeli case is no exception for just as the first immigrant Jew set foot in Palestinian or British territory as it was part of the commonwealth, the Arabs swarmed in opposition shedding ink on the first page of what is to become one of the longest conflicts in modern history.
We will start by discussing one of the roots of the conflict, the creation of the Zionist movement which paved the way for the rise of a new global power, Israel.
As the 18th century elapsed and the dawn had risen on the 19th, the need for a movement that defends, protects and acts for the rights of the Jews against anti-Semitic entities became imminent as religious segregation and loathing had reached a climax in Europe parallelly with the reign of white supremacists over the region. The Jews were once again the Pariahs of society and times were reminiscent of a long abhorred past which inflamed in them a volcano of blazing nationalism and a sense of Semitism that is soon to be applied into a real context.
One Austrian misfit, Theodore Herzl decided that it was time to stop playing the victim and that the only way forward is to claim the glory of Judaism through a movement of intellectual, diplomatic and economic power. A congress organized in Basel laid the basis for what is to become the state of Israel. The movement continued to pressurize the United Kingdom influencing it to sign the Palestine Mandate in Mid 1919, a League of Nations mandate awarding the Brits administration of the territories and providing for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. The movement started working on their state creation with what is to be known as the 3rd and 4th aliyot between 1924 and 1931, increasing the Jewish population in Palestine from 25,000 to 174,600, amounting to 17% of the population.
The movement did not slow yet diachronically accelerated its immigration rate as the Nazis started suffocating and maintaining pressure on the Jews following their victory in 1932 leading to an increase of 247,000 immigrants to Palestine with the British policy slowly decreasing immigration certificates to avoid the rising pressure form Arab Palestinians. However, with the Jew fleeing the German wrath and storming Palestine by the thousands, the pressure from the Arabs became insurmountable and the Brits had to act to put an end to their ire. The British empire decided to emit a “white paper” restricting Jew immigrants to 75,000 over the following half decade and limiting land purchase.
Moving to the creation of Israel which was first initiated by the 1947 UN partition plan. As the UK bid its farewell to Palestine in 1947, it delegated the mission of restoring peace to the United Nations.
In a historical meeting, the UN concluded with “resolution 181” providing detailed policies on how to end the conflict through a two-state solution as well as a conceptual map of the territory, keeping the most conflictual grounds, Jerusalem, under international supervision.
While this decision certainly pleased the Jewish side led back then by Prime Minister Ben Gurion, the Arabs were furious and thought of the decision as part of the Jewish masterplan to retake the holy lands. In a desperate move to halt the creation and instalment of Israel, in what will be know as “Al nakba”, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia declared war on the newly established Hebrew state, a war that heavily backfired leading only to an extension of the Jewish territory to occupy Western Jerusalem in defiance of the UN resolution. A bloodshed that caused an international outrage, forcing citizens out of their homes, 750,000 Palestinians migrating out of the country and into the Middle East, specifically to neighbouring Arab Countries. The Arabs then regrouped their forces and garnered resources in preparation of the upcoming war. Ironically, the war only lasted for 6 days Israelis again emerging victorious and further illegally annexing the Gaza strip, the Golan and stripping Sinai from Egyptian soil.
Despite the numerous gory encounters between the two parties, several peace attempts have been initiated.
The Oslo accords were a landmark moment in the peace attempts between the Arabs and the Israelis, led by the head of the Palestinian liberation organization and historical figure Yasser Arafat, the accords which are composed of two different segments, the first of which was signed in 1993, Taba and the second in 1995, Egypt and provided for the establishment of a Palestinian state as well as the recognition of an Israeli state by the LPO. Although the Oslo accords are yet to conclude a permanent peace between the opposing parties, their policies and terms remain into effect.
Another significant peace attempt is the camp David Summit in the USA. As expected from an agreement drafted by a side biased towards Israel, it was met an obvious reluctance from Mr. Arafat for it offered all of the Israeli wishes on a silver platter to PM Ehud Barak and gave him utter dominion over the region.
Following a gory conflict in 2003 resulting in thousands of victims came the “road to peace” plan as sponsored by the UN. A 3-phase plan detailing structural reforms before establishing a sovereign Palestinian state which will be followed by discussing the inevitable peace deal, a utopian trajectory quickly denied by the Human rights watch organization.
Years of desperation passed without a glimpse of a peaceful beam of light until the 2016 U.S presidential campaign where republican candidate, Donald J Trump announced that, if elected, he has the way to solve the conflict with what he considers as the peace deal of the century. 4 years later, on the brink of impeachment, Mr. Trump, alongside PM Netanyahu, under fire as well of corruption charges, announce the peace agreement. A once again one-sided deal as Palestinian counterparts were not even included in the making of the deal, pleasing again the Israelis while throwing a bone for the Palestinians to chew on with what could only be described as the idea of a state.
Amid conflicts, some Arab countries along the years have considered making their peace with reality and normalizing relations with Israel.
Egypt was the first to sign a peace agreement to fully normalize its relations with the Hebrew state in 1979 resulting in an immediate suspension of its membership from the Arab League. 15 years later, Jordan followed on its track in an attempt to bolster its economy through trade incentives with Israel and the U.S. In a historic announcement, the UAE has also set foot in the normalization process with the Israelis, a move decried and heavily criticized by Arabs especially Palestinians under Israeli occupation who expressed that a normalization at can only be justified by a full recognition of the Palestinian statehood while crown Prince Mohammad ben Zayd stated that this move was essential to halt an imminent annexation of the west bank which is the potential territory for a Palestinian state in the first place. This agreement will also allow the UAE advanced US weaponry and bolster its economic relations and trade deals.
The UAE is expected to be the first in many to follow Egypt and Jordan as Arab countries are starting to come to terms with the reality of things, Lebanon could be one to initiate as such an agreement could help it stand back on its feet and bolster its miserable economy.
Having to examine the situation from an objective perspective, one will inevitably stumble on the root of the conflict and come to the conclusion that the war is not over territory yet over sheer nationalist patriotism and a desperate search for a lost utopian glory of ethnic ideals, both parties are yearning for salvation and promises to feed a people hungry for a long forgotten past which leads us to our final point, the liberation of Palestine.
No one can deny the atrocities committed by Israeli forces from the establishment of the state to the present moment, from breached of human rights to illegal annexation of land. However, the idea of a liberation is slowly turning into a fairy tale or a populist presidential speech. No progress and no peace can be reached by repeatedly exhuming a distant past or leading both parties through a perpetual infernal cycle, a time warp if you will.
Both Israelis and Arabs need to fathom that a mutual recognition and understanding is mandatory to move forward and find a path that is in the interest and benefit of both.