The Israel-Palestine Conflict, unnecessary violent bouts that signify nothing!
By: M S Nazki
People gather in giant rooms like this, deliver fancy speeches, but nothing ever changes. They still hate, they still fight.
*All we do, despite all our efforts, the way out is to put a pause to it, to bury all the dead past but the conflict rises like a giant reptile every now and then! It again has!
(I would not have given the story the treatment it deserves if I would have completed in one episode. So I decided to put it across in four since the story has many anecdotes, the regular twists and turns which every war story has. This is Part-I of the effort just for the eyes of the readers. So here I go)
To begin with I never knew how to start this tale though I had a fair idea of the conflict but writing about only the conflict the purpose would not have been solved. So to generate the requisite interest I got my fingers scratching my head and then I finally hit upon the idea as to why should I not start it with involving the magnum opus Ten Commandments the Hollywood classic of the same name. I think I had hit the Bulls eye!
Moses also known as Moshe Rabbenu, Moshe our teacher, is the most important prophet in Judaism, and an important prophet in Christianity, Islam and a number of other Abrahamic religions. In the biblical and Quranic narrative, he was the leader of the Israelites and lawgiver to whom the authorship, or acquisition from heaven, of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) is attributed. According to the Book of Exodus, Moses was born in a time when his people, the Israelites, an enslaved minority, were increasing in population and, as a result, the Egyptian Pharaoh worried that they might ally themselves with Egypt’s enemies. Moses’s Hebrew mother, Jochebed, secretly hid him when the Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed in order to reduce the population of the Israelites.
The story of the Israelis and Palestinian would be incomplete if I not bring in another great man Abraham. Abraham is the common patriarch of the Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Judaism, he is the founding father of the covenant of the pieces, the special relationship between the Hebrews and God; in Christianity, he is the spiritual progenitor of all believers, Jewish or Gentile (non-Jewish) and in Islam he is seen as a link in the chain of prophets that begins with Adam and culminates in Muhammad. The narrative in the Book of Genesis revolves around the themes of posterity and land. Abraham is called by God to leave the house of his father Terah and settle in the land originally given to Canaan but which God now promises to Abraham and his progeny. Various candidates are put forward who might inherit the land after Abraham; and, while promises are made to Ishmael about founding a great nation, Isaac, Abraham’s son by his half-sister Sarah, inherits God’s promises to Abraham. Abraham purchases a tomb (the Cave of the Patriarchs) at Hebron to be Sarah’s grave, thus establishing his right to the land; and, in the second generation, his heir Isaac is married to a woman from his own kin, thus ruling the Canaanites out of any inheritance. Abraham later marries Keturah and has six more sons; but, on his death, when he is buried beside Sarah, it is Isaac who receives all Abraham’s goods, while the other sons receive only gifts. Canaan is basically the land which is also called as ancient Israel and now Palestine.
I. The Biblical prophecies:
Every conflict has a mythological back drop to it. This one too has and that to a big one:
- These lines were chosen mainly because these are the words with which God Almighty turned to his chosen Abraham, a righteous man and a perfect one, to whom was the first Divine Revelation. Thus, God, concluding the Union with Abraham, bequeaths his descendants the land of Canaan for eternal use, but who are the descendants of Abraham? ‘As for Me, behold My covenant is with you, and you shall become the father of a multitude of nations.’ After careful consideration of what kind of people went from Abraham, it can be easily seen that the first descendants of Abraham were the Arabs (from his son Ishmael, born by Egyptian Hagar).
*These are lines from Torah, that were addressed by God to Hagar concerning Ishmael: ‘Behold, you will conceive and bear a son, and you shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your affliction. And he will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be upon all, and everyone’s hand upon him, and before all his brothers he will dwell.’ As we know from the Bible, the Arab tribes went from Ishmael. An amazing prophecy about the mission of the Arabs: they fought everyone, and everyone was trying to fight with them. But ‘before all his brothers’, what kind of brothers can the Arabs ‘dwell’? Who can be considered as the brothers of the Arabs? Let us turn again to the Bible. When Ishmael was
thirteen years old, Abraham’s legitimate wife, Sarah, became pregnant and bore Isaac, who grew up, married and had twins, Jacob and Eisav. The Jewish tribes went from Jacob, the youngest son, , and Eisav first married the woman from the Palestinian tribes and the Palestinians were created, and then, when he realized that his father, Isaac, was not pleased with the wives from the Palestinian lands (the land of Canaan), then he married his uncle Ishmael’s daughter, that is, the Arab descendants were created. Thus we get a vicious circle. There are all the off springs of Abraham. Moreover, after the death of Sarah, Abraham married Keturah, and she bore him the sons who were sent from east to eastward to Isaac, so that they would not inherit after the death of Abraham. So, only the descendants of Jacob, the Jews, did not mix with the Arabs and the Palestinians, although such a ‘sin’ existed between some of them. God will first give the Law of Moses, the Torah (Old Testament) to these people and, taking them out of Egyptian voluntary exile, as a manifestation of love, will choose them ‘their people.’
*As it is known from the Torah and from Jewish history, after the death of King Solomon the Jews corrupted, destroyed their statehood, split their kingdom into Israel and Judah. The kingdom of Israel (all 10 tribes) bowed to the idol, therefore, broke the commandments given to them. And here is how the lines from the Torah sound: ‘But if your heart deviates and you do not listen, and you will be drawn astray, and you will prostrate yourself to other deities and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you will surely perish, and that you will not live long days on the land, to which you are crossing the Jordan, to come and take possession thereof. This day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses [that I have warned] you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live; To love the Lord your God, to listen to His voice, and to cleave to Him. For that is your life and the length of your days, to dwell on the land which the Lord swore to your forefathers to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob to give to them.
If you go down further deeper this conflict is nothing but a fight of inheritance of lands between the brothers. The above were just the excerpts I gave but trust me by the time I finish this one the readers would be convinced that this conflict signifies nothing and it should be stopped forthwith.
The roots of the conflict can be traced to the late 19th century, with the rise of national movements, including Zionism and Arab nationalism. Though the Jewish aspiration to return to Zion had been part of Jewish religious thought for more than a millennium, the Jewish population of Europe and to some degree Middle East began to more actively discuss immigration back to the Land of Israel, and the re-establishment of the Jewish Nation, only during 1859 to the 1880s, largely as a solution to the widespread persecution of Jews, and anti-Semitism in Russia and Europe. As a result, the Zionist movement, the modern movement for the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people, was established as a political movement in 1897. The Zionist movement called for the establishment of a nation state for the Jewish people in Palestine, which would serve as a haven for the Jews of the world and in which they would have the right for self-determination. Zionists increasingly came to hold that this state should be in their historic homeland, which they referred to as the Land of Israel. The World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund encouraged immigration and funded purchase of land, both under Ottoman rule and under British rule, in the region of Palestine while Arab nationalism, at least in an early form, and Syrian nationalism were the dominant tendencies, along with continued loyalty to the Ottoman state, in the area.
II. Early violence:
- Among the first recorded violent incidents between Arabs and the newly immigrated Jews in Palestine was the accidental shooting death of an Arab man in Safed, during a wedding in December 1882, by a Jewish guard of the newly formed Rosh Pinna. In response, about 200 Arabs descended on the Jewish settlement throwing stones and vandalizing property.
*Another incident happened in Petah Tikva, where in early 1886 the Jewish settlers demanded that their tenants vacate the disputed land and started encroaching on it. On March 28, a Jewish settler crossing this land was attacked and robbed of his horse by Yahudiya Arabs, while the settlers confiscated nine mules found grazing in their fields, though it is not clear which incident came first and which was the retaliation. The Jewish settlers refused to return the mules, a decision viewed as a provocation. The following day, when most of the settlement’s men folk were away, fifty or sixty Arab villagers attacked Petach Tikva, vandalizing houses and fields and carrying off much of the livestock. Four Jews were injured and a fifth, an elderly woman with a heart condition, died four days later.
*By 1908, thirteen Jews had been killed by Arabs, with four of them killed in nationalist circumstances, the others in the course of robberies and other crimes. In the next five years twelve Jewish settlement guards were killed by Arabs. Settlers began to speak more and more of Arab hatred and nationalism lurking behind the increasing depredations, rather than mere banditry.
The tide was rising and the petty rivalry was getting converted into a fullfledged conflict which it was later going to become.
III. World War I and aftermath (1917–20)
It was the 1917 Balfour Declaration that supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and protected the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities. The Balfour Declaration in 1917 proposed to favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, but that nothing should be done to prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. In 1916, the Anglo-French Sykes–Picot Agreement allocated to the British Empire the area of present-day Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and the area of present-day Iraq. The Balfour Declaration was seen by Jewish nationalists as the cornerstone of a future Jewish homeland on both sides of the Jordan River, but increased the concerns of the Arab population in the Palestine region. In 1917, the British succeeded in defeating the Ottoman Turkish forces and occupied the Palestine region. The land remained under British military administration for the remainder of the war. On January 3, 1919, future president of the World Zionist Organization Chaim Weizmann and the future King Faisal I of Iraq signed the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement in which Faisal provisionally accepted the Balfour Declaration conditional on the fulfillment of British wartime promises of Palestine being included in the area of Arab independence. At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference and Treaty of Versailles, Turkey’s loss of its Middle East Empire was formalized.
After World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, in April 1920 the Allied Supreme Council meeting at San Remo granted to Britain the mandates for Palestine and Transjordan (the territories that include the area of present-day Israel, Jordan, West Bank and the Gaza Strip), endorsing the terms of the Balfour Declaration. In August 1920, this was officially acknowledged in the Treaty of Sevres. Both Zionist and Arab representatives attended the conference, where they met and signed an agreement to cooperate. The agreement was never implemented.
Palestinian nationalism was marked by a reaction to the Zionist movement and to Jewish settlement in Palestine as well as by a desire for self-determination by the Arab population in the region. Jewish immigration to Palestine continued to grow significantly during the period of the British Mandate in Palestine, mainly due to the growth of anti-Semitism in Europe. Between 1919 and 1926, 90,000 immigrants arrived in Palestine because of the anti-Semitic manifestations, such as the one in Ukraine in which 100,000 Jews were killed. Some of these immigrants were absorbed in Jewish communities established on lands purchased legally by Zionist agencies from absentee landlords. In some cases, a large acquisition of lands, from absentee landlords, led to the replacement of the fellahin tenant farmers with European Jewish settlers, causing Palestinian Arabs to feel dispossessed. Jewish immigration to Palestine was especially significant after the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany, following which the Jewish population in Palestine doubled.
America may be a vibrant democracy a super power of immense proportions but if seen in reality it is nothing but a business machinery at work, using its military in conflicts that are left midway without the problem being solved. Afghanistan stands out and so does the Middle East. I was reading a book ‘The Almond Tree’ by Michelle Cohen Corasanti and she very beautifully put forward an encounter with a Palestinian boy, here it is, ‘he looked me directly in the eye. ‘So you live in America?’ ‘We do.’ I smiled. He stopped, opened his backpack, pulled out an empty tear gas grenade and handed it to me. ‘I believe it was a present from your country.’ Majid smiled. ‘Tell your friends thanks. We got their grenade.’ I do not think the situation could be more beautifully and simply put across.
Another fascinating one, there is some such divine claim underlay not just the occupation but the whole idea of a separate state for Jews in Palestine. Take away the divine warrant for the Holy Land and where are you? and what were you? Just another land-thief like the Turks or the British, except that in this case you wanted the land without the people. And the original Zionist slogan a land without a people for a people without a land’ disclosed its own negation. You want irony? How about Jews becoming colonizers at just the moment they look to be when other Europeans had given up on the idea? Israel may be a tough country but the mentality is still the same. Remember Shylock the Jewish butcher in Shakespeare’s classic ‘Merchant the Venice! Yes I’m talking about Shylock and his famous pound of Flesh!
IV. 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine:
*The Arab population in Palestine opposed the increase of the Jewish population because the new immigrants refused to lease or sell land to Palestinians, or hire them. During the 1920s relations between the Jewish and Arab populations deteriorated and the hostility between the two groups intensified.
*From 1920, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Mohammad Amin al-Husayni became the leader of the Palestinian Arab movement and played a key role in inciting religious riots against the Jewish population in Palestine. The Mufti stirred religious passions against Jews by alleging that Jews were seeking to rebuild the Jewish Temple on the site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
*The first major riots against the Jewish population in Palestine were the Jaffa riots in 1921. As a result of the Jaffa riots, the Haganah was founded as a defense force for the Jewish population of the British Mandate for Palestine.
*Religious tension over the Kotel and the escalation of the tensions between the Arab and Jewish populations led to the 1929 Palestine riots. In these religious-nationalist riots, Jews were massacred in Hebron. Devastation also took place in Safed and Jerusalem.
- In 1936, as Europe was preparing for war, the Supreme Muslim Council in Palestine, led by Amin al-Husayni, instigated the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine in which Palestinian Arabs rioted and murdered Jews in various cities.
*In 1937 Amin al-Husayni, who was wanted by the British, fled Palestine and took refuge successively in Lebanon, Iraq, Italy and finally Nazi Germany.
- Ben-Gurion said he wanted to concentrate the masses of our people in this country Palestine and its environs. Ben-Gurion told the twentieth Zionist Congress, the Jewish state now being offered to us is not the Zionist objective. But it can serve as a decisive stage along the path to greater Zionist implementation. It will consolidate in Palestine, within the shortest possible time, the real Jewish force, which will lead us to our historic goal. In a discussion in the Jewish Agency he said that he wanted a Jewish-Arab agreement on the assumption that after we become a strong force, as a result of the creation of the state, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine.
- The man had his own style of working and his body language and the mouth piece always spoke in tandem and that was to be forthright with no hiccups. ‘This is our native land; it is not as birds of passage that we return to it. But it is situated in an area engulfed by Arabic-speaking people, mainly followers of Islam. Now, if ever, we must do more than make peace with them; we must achieve collaboration and alliance on equal terms. Remember what Arab delegations from Palestine and its neighbors say in the General Assembly and in other places: talk of Arab-Jewish amity sound fantastic, for the Arabs do not wish it, they will not sit at the same table with us, they want to treat us as they do the Jews of Bagdad, Cairo, and Damascus’!
- If this was to be the attitude amity, peace and calm had to be in distant worlds. They still are!
What role has the USA played ever since this concept of Zionism came into existence no one is sure? Their own writers and media have criticized the whole policy development which the USA has initiated. Now for example this excerpt may amuse you, so here we have found a means of ( a) alienating even the most flexible and patient Palestinians; while (b) frustrating the efforts of the more principled and compromising Israelis; while (c) empowering and financing some of the creepiest forces in American and Israeli society; and (d) heaping ordure on our own secular founding documents. When will the Justice Department and the Congress and the Supreme Court become aware of this huge and rank offense, which is designed to bring us ever nearer to something really bad which is not far off!
V. During World War II:
- During the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine, ties were made between the Arab leadership in Palestine and the Nazi movement in Germany.
*These connections led to cooperation between the Palestinian national movement and the Axis powers later on during World War II.
*In May 1941 Amin al-Husayni issued a fatwa for a holy war against Britain. In 1941 during a meeting with Adolf Hitler Amin al-Husayni asked Germany to oppose, as part of the Arab struggle for independence, the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine.
*He received a promise from Hitler that Germany would eliminate the existing Jewish foundations in Palestine after the Germans had gained victory in the war.
*During the war Amin al-Husayni joined the Nazis, serving with the Waffen SS in Bosnia and Yugoslavia. In addition, during the war a joint Palestinian-Nazi military operation was held in the region of Palestine.
*These factors caused deterioration in the relations between the Palestinian leadership and the British, which turned to collaborate with the Yeshuv during the period known as the 200 days of dread.
- After World War II, as a result of the British policies, the Jewish resistance organizations united and established the Jewish Resistance Movement which coordinated armed attacks against the British military which took place between 1945 and 1946.
- Following the King David Hotel bombing (in which the Irgun blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the headquarters of the British administration), which shocked the public because of the deaths of many innocent civilians, the Jewish Resistance Movement was disassembled in 1946.
*The leadership of the Yishuv decided instead to concentrate their efforts on the illegal immigration and began to organize a massive immigration of European Jewish refugees to Palestine using small boats operating in secrecy, many of which were captured at sea by the British and imprisoned in camps on Cyprus.
*About 70,000 Jews were brought to Palestine in this way in 1946 and 1947. Details of the Holocaust had a major effect on the situation in Palestine and propelled large support for the Zionist movement.
AJ Deues an eminent historian has very aptly put across the psyche of the Jews. In his words, the custom to put others in the line of fire is a recurring theme in Judaism. It boils down to the Levite Korahites willingness to sacrifice their ordinary Jewish subjects in order to ensure their own survival. This should be a historic warning to modern-day Israelites: their orthodox government would not hesitate to risk the lives of the many for the sake of the survival of the few in the orthodox elite. The citizens of Israel will have to think about how to remove the systemic threat that comes from within their own ranks. For the Palestinians, toughness found fertile soil in the hearts of Palestinians, and the grains of resistance embedded themselves in their skin. Endurance evolved as a hallmark of refugee society. But the price they paid was the subduing of tender vulnerability. They learned to celebrate martyrdom. Only martyrdom offered freedom. Only in death were they at last invulnerable to Israel. Martyrdom became the ultimate defiance of Israeli occupation.
Israel is also known as the Holy Land, it is sacred to Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze and Baha’is. All faiths and religious practices are accepted and permitted in Israel. Israel is the birthplace of Christianity, but the Holy Land is also home to numerous sites that are sacred to Jews, Muslims, Baha’is and Druze. There are four cities that are specifically holy for Jews: Tiberius, Tzfat, Hebron, and Jerusalem. Such great credentials but still fighting like a land bandit though with all the sophistry this looks laughable but is a reality where humans die at a wink of an eye as felling rockets and bombings is a customary routine! (To be continued).
(The Writer is a Senior Correspondent News Agency Global News Service (GNS))
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