One thing seems sure; this problem can’t be solved on the basis of abstract justice historical or otherwise. Reality is that both Arabs and Jews are here and intend to stay. Therefore in any ‘solution’ some group, or at least its claim is bound to get hurt. No really satisfactory solution is possible-the best that can be done is a reasonable and workable compromise…”–Ralph Bunche writing The Report for the UN Special Committee on Palestine in 1947.1
The developments in the Middle East, since 1947 to the present day, have proven Ralph Bunche’s words to be true and prophetic. The Middle East has been a cauldron of discontentment for decades. The vast economic and human resources of this strife-torn region have made it an extremely important part of the world of international relations and global politics. The significance of the Middle East in global politics is immense. Almost all major players in global politics including the United States, Russia and Western Europe have some interest or the other in the region. However the Middle East is dominated by the Arab-Israeli conflict and it is this conflict, which is the focus of this project.
The Arab-Israeli conflict or more specifically the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that dominates the life of the Middle East is basically a question of self-determination—self-determination of the Palestinian people.
In order to analyze the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it is imperative to look at its history. It is a conflict between two national movements- on the one hand the Zionist movement, and since 1948 its embodiment, Israel, and on the other hand the Palestinian National Movement.2
The Zionist movement began in 1897, when Theodore Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland. The basic aim of the movement was to establish a home for the Jews in Palestine.3
The problem faced by the Zionists was that Palestine was an inhabited country. The Palestinians of today claimed descent from not only their forefathers who defeated Byzantium but also from the people who inhabited Palestine before them. The Israeli claim goes back to Biblical times: their cherished Promised Land. Thus the two ideologies clashed with one another.
The British referred the Palestinian question to the United Nations. ‘An extraordinarily fleeting convergence of interests between Washington and Moscow produced a UN Resolution in November 1947 to partition the country into a Jewish state and an Arab opposition.’4
Modus operandi of the Zionists was massive immigration and land acquisition and colonization to secure a home for the Jews. ‘The demographic, economic and military and organizational infrastructure of the future Jewish state was laid at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian and in the teeth of their resistance.’5
There followed two wars, a civil war largely between the Jewish community and the Palestinian community before the end of the British mandate on 15th May 1948 and a regular war between Israel and units of the regular Arab armies. It was during the civil war that the Palestinian exodus-giving rise to the Palestinian Diaspora began.6
The second war was in June 1967. During this six-day war Israel succeeded in conquering Sinai from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria thus deepening the inter-state conflicts with the Arab countries. It also succeeded in conquering east Jerusalem, West Bank and the Gaza Strip.7
For decades the Arabs and Israelis fought each other for affirmation of their national identities, territories and natural resources. For the Israelis, the fight was for a self-recognized sense of nationhood that would gather all the Jews of the world in the holy land of Palestine. For the Arabs the fight was to rectify the ‘Original Sin’ of uprooting the Palestinians from their historical homeland and thus depriving them of their right to self-determination. Over time, the conflict which was about the partition of...
Bibliography: 2. Edward W. Said, Peace and its Discontents-Gaza and Jericho: 1993-1995 (London: Vintage, 1995).
3. Helena Cobban, The Palestine Liberation Organization (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
4. T.G Fraser, The Arab-Israeli Conflict (London: Macmillan Publishers, 1995).
2. Brian Urquhart, “The United Nations in the Middle East: A 50 Year Perspective” The Middle East Journal 49(4) Autumn, 1995.
3. Charles William Maynes, “The Middle East in the Twenty-First Century” The Middle East Journal 52(1) Winter, 1998.
9. Walid Khalidi, “The Palestine Problem-An Overview” Journal of Palestine Studies 21(1) Autumn, 1991.
10. William B. Quandt, “The Middle East on the Brink: Prospects for Change in the 21st Century” The Middle East Journal 50(1) Winter, 1996.
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