By Moin Qazi
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced many millions of people It has its roots in what appeared an innocuous act a colonial act carried out more than a century ago b, but has made the lines of Palestinians miserable and sub-human. It is the eye of the beholder that determines most of the truth. It also comes with prejudices and may not be the whole truth. But people and opinions are likely to be guided by what you hear.
It is the media which sets the tone for most opinions.The modern state of Israel was founded in May 1948 in the aftermath of the Holocaust and Second World War but the conflict has raged for almost a century.Historians and commentators offer differing versions of the roots of the conflict Some sources trace it to Napoleon Bonaparte, who proposed a Jewish homeland in Palestine as long ago as 1799 in the wake of the siege of Acre during his war against the Ottoman Empire..But Napoean’s strategy misfired.
The efforts of an Israeli state were then attempted by Great Britain about 41 years later.
But the critical point was the United Nations’ vote in 1947 to partition British Colony I; into two– one Jewish, one Arab Despite the worldwide sympathy and c; condemnation of the carnage of Palestinians all along history the world leaders who speak volumes about human rights have looked the other way. They have done it in a very shrewd way. They have all along engaged in subtle diplomacy giving the world an impression of sincerity but in reality, no genuine efforts to resolve a clear-cut injustice, In short, the world has spent more than seventy years only shedding crocodile tears. This drama has been reenacted throughout history since Britain and other powers helped Israel usurp Palestinian territory.
Neither the Palestinians nor the neighbouring Arab countries accepted the founding of modern Israel in May 1948. It would be wise to understand the entire trajectory of events that led to the creation of Israel to grasp the brutalities oppression and aggression of Palestine and the violation of fundamental human rights with the tacit backing of world powers who exclaim paeans about these lofty humanitarian principles on world stages.
The First World War – 1914 – 1918
- The outbreak of the First World War prompted Britain’s distrust of Muslims and intensified British interest in its plan, and it decided to strengthen its grasp on the Suez Canal.
- In January 1915, Liberal Party, politician Herbert Samuel drafted a secret memo The Future of Palestine, which was circulated among the Cabinet members and in which he proposed his theory of annexation territory gradually becoming an autonomous Jewish state under the protectorship of the British Empire.
More than 100 years ago, on November 2, 1917, Britain’s then-foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, wrote a letter addressed to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a figurehead of the British Jewish community. It committed the British government to “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” The letter is known as the Balfour Declaration. The British government formally declared support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” on 9 November 1917
- In 1922, the League of Nations recognised the British Mandate to rule Palestine
- Mass protests began to erupt opposing Jewish immigration as the Palestinian movement tried in vain to counter and resist what its members considered a usurpation backed by the military and diplomatic muscle of imperial Britain.
- The European power promised the Zionist movement a country where Palestinian Arab natives made up more than 90 per cent of the population.
- A British Mandate was created in 1923 and lasted until 1948. During that period, the
British facilitated mass Jewish immigration to Arab-held Palestine. Palestinians were
alarmed by their country’s changing demographics.
The UN Partition Plan
- A two-state solution to the disputed territory almost came into being in 1947, when the UN General Assembly volunteered Resolution 181, which proposed carving a new state from Palestine west of the River Jordan: one housing Jews, the other Arabs.
- By 1947, the Jewish population had ballooned to 33 per cent of Palestine, but they owned only 6 per cent of the land.
- The United Nations adopted Resolution 181, which called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states.
- The Palestinians rejected the plan because it was an outright conspiracy to uproot Palestinians and facilitate Jews
- At the time, the Palestinians owned 94 per cent of historic Palestine and comprised 67 per cent of its population.
The Arab-Israeli War and Nakba – 1948
- Escalating tensions eventually led to the Arab Revolt, which lasted from 1936 to 1939.
- In April 1936, the newly formed Arab National Committee called on Palestinians to launch a general strike, withhold tax payments and boycott Jewish products to protest British colonialism and growing Jewish immigration.
- The six-month strike was brutally repressed by the British
- The second phase of the revolt began in late 1937 and was led by the Palestinian peasant resistance movement, which targeted British forces and colonialism.
- By the second half of 1939, Britain had massed 30,000 troops in Palestine. Villages were bombed by air, curfews imposed, homes demolished, and administrative detentions and summary killings were widespread.
- In tandem, the British set a pact with the settler community and formed armed groups and a British-led “counterinsurgency force” of Jewish fighters to crush the Palestinians.
- Within the Yishuv, the pre-state settler community, arms were secretly imported and weapons factories were established to expand the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary that later became the core of the Israeli army.
Six-Day War – 1967
- With Israel’s new army gaining ground, an armistice agreement in 1949 saw new de facto borders that gave the tiny Jewish state considerably more territory than it was awarded under the UN partition plan. About 700,000 Palestinians were driven out – and were never allowed to return.
- Jordan assumed administrative control of the West Bank in 1950 and Egypt held Gaza, an arrangement that would last until the Six-Day War of
- The Palestinian Liberation Organisation was founded in Cairo in 1964, dedicated to fighting for the ”liberation of Palestine” through armed revolution rather than dwelling on rights issues, a stance the PLO would not abandon until 1993 and which would see it labelled a terrorist organisation by both Israel and the US. It would be recognised as the sole representative of the Palestinian people by the Arab League in 1974.
- Following the Yom Kippur War, the Security Council passed another resolution, 338, calling for a ceasefire and again demanding Israel retreat from its 1967 incursions. Again, Israel refused.
The First Intifada
Israel regarded the Palestinian population as mild and peaceful even as it went on expanding Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank and Arab land. That illusion was shattered in 1987 with the emergence of young Palestinians. They indulged in low-level violence. The Israeli army responded with large-scale arrests and collective punishments. The intifada is largely recognised as a success for the Palestinians because it solidified their identity and forced Israel into negotiations. It also helped Arafat bring the two parties to the compromise table
The Peace Process
- As the first intifada wound down in 1993, the Oslo peace process started with secret talks between Israel and the PLO. Israel’s then-prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, signed an agreement with Arafat “right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Rabin did not accept the principle of a Palestinian state.
- The Oslo Peace Accords established the Palestinian National Authority, granting limited self-governance over certain swathes of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Further negotiations were intended to resolve issues such as the status of Jerusalem, and the future of the Israelis was almost meaningless. Some prominent Palestinians regarded the accords as a form of surrender while rightwing Israelis opposed giving up settlements or territory.
The Second Intifada
- Peace negotiations moved slowly along until the failure of Bill Clinton’s attempts to broker a final deal at Camp David in 2000, which contributed to the outbreak of the second intifada. The period was marked by suicide bombings and acquired a new dimension. By the time the uprising ended in 2005, more than 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis were dead.
- The political fallout of the mini-war led to a hardening of attitudes among ordinary Israelis and the construction of the West Bank barrier. t it also prompted then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to say that Israel could not go on occupying the Palestinians’ territory – although he did not say that the alternative was an independent Palestinian state.
Entry Of Hamas
- The PLO was a secular organisation modelled on the lines of leftwing guerrilla movements although most of its supporters were Muslim.
- Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood had previously avoided armed conflict and were largely dedicated to working for a more religious society. But that position changed under the leadership of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a charismatic figure living in Gaza who mobilized substantial work and support.
Position Of Gaza
One consequence of the second intifada was Sharon’s decision to “disengage” from the Palestinians beginning in 2005 with the closing of Israeli settlements in Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank. The status of Gaza since the disengagement remains disputed. Israel says it is no longer occupied. The United Nations says otherwise because of Israel’s continued control of airspace and territorial waters, and also access to the territory
Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections in part because of a backlash against the corruption and political stagnation of the ruling Fatah party. The Hamas leader was appointed prime minister. Israel began arresting Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament and imposed sanctions against Gaza.
Deteriorating relations between Hamas and Fatah resulted in violence. An agreement to form a national unity government fell apart and Hamas led an armed takeover of Gaza while Fatah continued to control the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. There have been no elections since. Hamas has continued to attack Israel from Gaza, mostly using rockets until the latest ground incursion. Israel has maintained a tight blockade of the territory which has contributed to deteriorating living conditions and deepening poverty.
The Present Scenario
- The Zionist movement captured 78 per cent of historic Palestine. The remaining 22 per cent was divided into what are now the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.
- An estimated 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes.
- Today their descendants live as six million refugees in 58 squalid camps throughout Palestine and the neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.