Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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  • Topic: Israel, West Bank, Gaza Strip
  • Pages : 7 (2639 words )
  • Download(s) : 1885
  • Published : April 20, 2001
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The conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Jews is a modern phenomenon, which began around the turn of the 20th century. Although these two groups have different religions (Palestinians include Muslims, Christians and Druze), religious differences are not the cause of the conflict. It is essentially a struggle over land. Until 1948, the area that both groups claimed was known internationally as Palestine. But following the war of 1948-49, this land was divided into three parts: the state of Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip (1). Jewish claims to this land are based on the biblical promise to Abraham and his descendants, on the fact that this was the historical site of the Jewish kingdom of Israel (which was destroyed by the Roman Empire), and on Jews' need for a haven from European anti-Semitism (2). Palestinian Arabs' claims to the land are based on continuous residence in the country for hundreds of years and the fact that they represented the demographic majority (3). Arabs do not believe that they should forfeit their land to compensate Jews for Europe's crimes against them. In the 19th century, following a trend that began earlier in Europe, people around the world began to identify themselves as nations and to demand national rights, foremost the right to self-rule in a state of their own (self-determination and sovereignty). Jews and Palestinians both began to develop a national consciousness, and mobilized to achieve national goals. Because Jews were spread across the world (in diaspora), their national movement, Zionism, entailed the identification of a place where Jews could come together through the process of immigration and settlement (4). Palestine seemed the logical and optimal place, since this was the site of Jewish origin. The Zionist movement began in 1882 with the first wave of European Jewish immigration to Palestine. Until the beginning of the 20th century, most Jews living in Palestine were concentrated in four cities with religious significance: Jerusalem, Hebron, Safad and Tiberias. Most of them observed traditional, orthodox religious practices (3). Their attachment to the land was religious rather than national, and they were not involved in or supportive of the Zionist movement which began in Europe and was brought to Palestine by immigrants. Most of the Jews who immigrated from Europe lived a more secular lifestyle and were committed to the goals of creating a Jewish nation and building a modern, independent Jewish state. By the early years of the 20th century, Palestine was becoming a trouble spot of competing territorial claims and political interests. The Ottoman Empire was weakening, and European powers were entrenching their grip on areas in the eastern Mediterranean, including Palestine. In 1917, the British Foreign Minister, Lord Arthur Balfour, issued a declaration (the Balfour Declaration) announcing his government's support for the establishment of "a Jewish national home in Palestine" (5). Britain obtained a mandate over the areas which now comprise Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jordan. In 1921, the British divided this region in two: east of the Jordan River became the Emirate of Transjordan and west of the Jordan River became the Palestine Mandate (6). This was the first time in modern history that Palestine became a unified political entity. Throughout the region, Arabs were angered by Britain's failure to fulfill its promise to create an independent Arab state. In Palestine, the situation was more complicated because of the British promise to support the creation of a Jewish national home. The rising tide of European Jewish immigration, land purchases and settlement in Palestine generated increasing resistance by Palestinian Arab peasants, journalists and political figures. They feared that this would lead eventually to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. Palestinian Arabs opposed the British Mandate because it thwarted...
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