Background information on the Israel Palestinian Conflict
Much of the Middle East, including Palestine, had been under control of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 400 years before the outbreak of World War 1. Primarily inhabited by Arab Muslims (86%) with a small portion of the population being Christian (10%) and Jews (4%), these different ethnicities lived relatively peacefully together for a very long time. The conflict began to erupt near the end of the 19th century, when the Jewish religious aspiration to return to Zion and re-establish the Jewish Nation in their homeland became more and more popular. Although this had been a religious thought for the Jews for nearly a thousand years, this offered a solution to the recent widespread prosecution of Jews that was taking place due to anti-Semitism in Russia and Europe. This resulted in the Zionist movement being created in 1897. This movement promoted the immigration of Jews into Palestine and even called for the creation of a nation state. It is reported that the conflict began in 1882, with the accidental shooting of an Arab man by a Jewish guard, and simply escalated from there with the rivalry getting larger and larger as the years progressed and more Zionists immigrated into Palestine.
During the First World War the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany. As a result, Britain convinced those in the Palestinian region to revolt against the Ottomans promising them that in return they would support the establishment of an independent Arab state. In 1917 Lord Arthur Balfour who was the British Foreign Minister contradicted this to gain support of the Jewish population by issuing the Balfour Declaration. It announced the British Empire’s support for the establishment of a National Homeland for the Jews in Palestine. Although it did protect the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities, it further escalated the conflict.
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War 1, the League of Nations granted Britain control over Palestine and Transjordan, which are our modern day Israel, Jordan, West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Just before the outbreak of World War 2 the amount of Jews immigrating to the “Holy Land” increased dramatically due to the persecution of European Jews by the Nazi’s and then the Holocaust. The Arabs living in the vicinity perceived this exponential increase of the Jewish population as a threat and wanted to limit the number of Jews arriving. This resulted in numerous conflicts between the Jewish immigrants and the Palestinians supported by neighbouring Arab states.
It wasn’t until 1947 that the United Nations decided to intervene in the conflict. Instead of allowing the people to create their own state and system of government, they decided to divide up the land themselves. Due to the massive pressure being placed on the UN by the Zionists, the UN proposed that 55% of Palestine be given towards the creation of a Jewish state, even though the Jews only accounted for 30% of the total population and only owned 7% of the land. In this proposition Jerusalem and Bethlehem would be placed under the control of the United Nations. With the Arabs losing the majority of their land and the Jews not gaining control of Jerusalem which contained a large Jewish population at the time, both sides were unsatisfied with the partition plan. On November 29th 1947 the UN General Assembly voted on the partition plan. The result was that 33 countries voted in favour, 13 countries opposed it and 10 countries abstained from the vote. Those who rejected the plan included the Arabs in Palestine and the surrounding Arab states. The Arabs decided that they would attempt to bring the UNs decision to the International Court of Justice as they did not believe that the UN should have the ability to partition a country against the wishes of the majority of its inhabitants, although they were defeated.
Nearly as soon as this plan was approved attacks broke out against the Jewish population living in what was to have been the new Palestinian state. Throughout the resulting war Zionist forces outnumbered all Arab and Palestinian forces combined, sometimes by as much as 3 to 1. By the end of this was Israel had taken control of nearly 80% of Palestine, destroying over 500 towns and villages and leaving 750,000 Palestinians in refugee status. In an attempt to erase the Palestinian culture the Israelis then redrew the map of the area replacing all pre-existing names with new Hebrew names.
The next major attack occurred in 1967 when Israel simultaneously attacked Jordan, Egypt, and Syria in a pre-emptive strike against the Arab troops along its borders. Israel was able to capture key pieces of land, such a Golan Heights to the north of Syria, the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt. In this 6 day war Israel nearly doubled in size, although since then negotiations have been in place with the UN to return this land to the pre 1967 states as it is stated in international that acquiring territory by war is inadmissible. During this 6 day war Israel also attacked a US Navy Ship, the USS Liberty, killing and injuring over 200 Americans.
Since then there have been multiple attacks between Israel and neighbouring states and still today there are many key issues that have not yet been resolved. There are two major factors which have had the largest contribution to this long lasting conflict. Firstly, there is the fact that Israel is an ethnically preferential state and that Palestinian refugees are not allowed to return to their homes that are situated in the Israeli territory. Secondly, there is Israel’s continued military occupation of land in the West Bank and control over Gaza, which leaves the Palestinians with very little control over their lives. It is estimated that there is over 10,000 Palestinian men and women who are being held captive in Israeli prisons, most of whom never had access to a fair trial and are frequently being subjected to abuse and torture. Palestinian borders are also controlled by Israeli forces that often block food and medicine from entering into Gaza all contributing to the humanitarian crisis.
Israel Palestinian Conflict Timeline
1250 BC Israelites began to conquer and settle the land on the eastern Mediterranean coast
63 BC The Jewish state, Judea, was incorporated into the Roman province of Palestine.
133 AD Under the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s rule Jews were exiled after an attempted revolt against the Romans.
638 AD The state of Palestine was conquered by Arab Muslims.
1897 AD The World Zionist Organization was founded at the first ever Zionist Congress, which was held in Basle, Switzerland. Their primary purpose was to discuss ideas set forth by Theodor Herzl who believed that Jews should have their own state, primarily due to the anti-Semitism which was taking place throughout Europe and Russia. They believed that they should make this Jewish state in Palestine, as that had significant historical importance for the Jewish culture. Before this date many Zionist immigrants had already began to arrive in Palestine, mainly from Eastern Europe.
1903 AD There was now over 25,000 Zionist immigrants living alongside half a million Arabs in Palestine.
1904 – 1914 AD 40,000 more Zionist immigrants arrived to the region.
1916 AD The British Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, had promised independence to former Ottoman Arab provinces. Although at the same time Britain and France with the assent of Imperial Russia had a secret plan to divide the region amongst themselves, as stated in the Sykes-Picot Agreement (16th May 1916).
1917 AD The British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour offered Britain’s support for the creation of a national Jewish homeland in Palestine, as stated in a letter to leading Zionist Lord Rothschild. This letter became known as the Balfour Declaration.
1920 AD On the 25th of April Britain was assigned mandatory power over Palestine by the League of Nations.
1922 AD About 11% of Palestine’s 750,000 residents are now Jews.
1929 AD Zionist and Arab antagonism finally breaks out into violence when 133 Jews were killed by Palestinians and 110 Palestinians died in the custody of British police.
1937 AD In July of this year, due to the continuous violence between the Zionists and Arabs, Britain proposed the partitioning of Palestine into 2 separate states although the suggestion was declined by Arab and Palestinian representatives.
1947 AD Britain handed over the responsibility of solving the Arab-Zionist problem to the United Nations due to the seemingly unresolvable unrest within Palestine. The situation had just become much more critical as hundreds of thousands of Jews were fleeing the Nazi forces in Europe. The United Nations decided to setup a special committee for this issue, which had the suggestion yet again to split up Palestine into two separate states. 56.47% of Palestine would be given towards the creation of a Jewish State, 43.53% would be given to the Arab state and the United Nations would remain in control of Jerusalem. Also the General Assembly voted in favour of the plan, the Palestinians rejected it and it was never put in place.
1948 AD On May 14th Israel was finally declared its own state. The next day neighbouring Arab states attacked Israel but were unable to beat the Israeli forces. As a result, Egypt kept the Gaza Strip while Jordan annexed the area around Eastern Jerusalem known as the West Bank. In total these territories had made up about 25% of Palestine.
1964 AD Arab governments decided to create a Palestinian organisation called the Palestine Liberation organisation (PLO) which to this day is the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
1967 AD A 6 day war broke out due to mounting tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbours. It began June 5th and ended June 11th. During these 6 days Israel seized Gaza and the Sinai from Egypt, Golan Heights from Syria and pushed Jordanian forces out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Egypt’s extremely powerful air force was bombed while on ground by Israeli jets in a pre-emptive strike on the first day of fighting giving Israel a large advantage. In the end the Israelis nearly doubled the amount of territory they controlled while also showing the neighbouring Arab nations just how powerful they were, although the UN Security Council stated that any territory obtained through war was inadmissible and called for the withdrawal of all Israeli troops from the newly obtained territory. The UN claimed that this conflict displaced another 500,000 Palestinians who fled to the neighbouring Arab nations.
1973 AD Unable to regain the territory they had lost in 1967 through diplomatic reasoning, Egypt and Syria launched attacks on Israel in an attempt to retrieve it forcefully. Although at first they did gain some territory, Israel eventually pushed them back farther than they had been before. The USA, Soviet Union and UN all intervened and brought a ceasefire agreement into effect although it is estimated that Egypt and Syria jointly lost 8500 men, while Israel lost approximately 6500. The result of this war was that Israel was now much more dependent upon outside nations, primarily the United States for diplomatic and economic support. It is estimated that at this current time, the United States is giving Israel about 7million dollars daily, making it the largest recipient of US funds in history.
1972 AD The PLO, under Yasser Arafat’s leadership began to launch a series of attacks on Israelis and other targets. An example of such an attack was the Munich Olympics, where 11 Israeli athletes were killed.
1974 AD Yasser Arafat made his first appearance at the United Nations looking for a peaceful solution to the issue which was a turning point in Palestine’s search for international recognition of their cause.
1977 AD The Egyptian President Anwar Sedat flew into Israel and made a speech in front of the Israeli parliament. He was the first Arab leader to actually recognise Israel as a separate state, this coming only 4 years after Egypt had launched several attacks upon Israel.
1978 AD Egypt and Israel signed the Camp Davis accords which outlined peace for the Middle East and returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt which had been seized in the 1967 war. Because Egypt had negotiated a separate peace treaty with Israel, other Arab nations were furious and boycotted Egypt altogether.
1981 AD Egyptian President Anwar Sedat was assassinated by a member of the Egyptian army who opposed peace with Israel. This was done during national celebrations marking the anniversary of the war.
1982 AD Israeli forces invaded Lebanon and massacred hundreds of Palestinians located in refugee camps.
1987 – 1993 AD Mass uprising of Palestinians began in Gaza and quickly spread to the west bank. What began as civil disobedience, general strikes, boycotts on Israeli products, graffiti and barricades quickly escalated to stone-throwing demonstrations against Israeli troops. It is reported that over 1000 Palestinians died in these uprisings.
1988 AD The PLO viewed the uprisings as a threat to their role as a key player in the Palestinian revolution and decided something had to be done. The Palestinian National Council then gathered in Algeria and voted to accept partition resolution 181 which had been proposed by the UN back in 1947 which would partition the land into 2 separate states and resolution 338 which would require Israel to withdraw from any territory captured in the 1967 war. The United States began to talk with the PLO, but Israel viewed them as a terrorist organisation and refused to negotiate.
1993 AD When Yitzhak Rabin was elected in Israel in 1992 peace with the Palestinians was one of his main interests. Possibly the largest step forward was when Rabin and Yasser Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles on the White House lawn which was watched by over 400 million people.
1994 AD Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation reached an agreement in Cairo which would begin the initial implementation of the Declaration of Principles. It included the withdrawal of Israeli forces from most of the Gaza strip and the town of Jericho in West Bank.
1995 AD Conflict continued throughout the first year of Palestinian self-rule, and peace was jeopardized as Prime Minister Rabin was killed by a Jewish extremist.
1996 – 1999 AD Conflict returned and reaching peace began to once again become further and further away as the newly elected Prime Minister Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu was unable to uphold the peace deals.
2000 AD US president Bill Clinton hosts a talk with Arafat and Israeli premier Ehud Barak. After 2 weeks of discussion the parties were unable to come up with a solution to the status of Jerusalem and the return of the Palestinian refugees. As a result the second intifada (uprising) of the Palestinian population against the Israeli occupation began.
2003 AD The United States published a roadmap which outlined the step by step process to negotiating a Palestinian state. Although the negotiations were coming along very nicely, they crumbled apart as a result of Palestinian suicide bombings, Israeli raids and targeted killings.
2004 AD Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died of a mysterious blood disorder.
2005 AD Mahmoud Abbas is elected as the new Palestinian leader, and meets with Israel premier Ariel Sharon in Egypt and declare mutual ceasefire. Israel then carried out their part of the agreement and withdrew all settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip.
2007 AD Mahmoud Abbas and new Israeli premier Ehud Olmert restart negotiations in Annapolis, Maryland.
2008 AD Israel begins a 22 day military operation in the Gaza strip; as a result Palestine promptly ended talks with them.
2010 AD Palestinian officials begin to talk about UN membership for a Palestinian state modeled along the lines of what things were like before the 1967 7 day war.
2011 AD The lead Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Earakat declared that gaining UN admittance of a Palestinian state is their official strategy. Obama then urged to the United Nations General assembly that negotiations are required in order for a Palestinian state to be formed.
Application of Law for the Israel Palestinian Conflict
Through the Israel – Palestinian conflict, Israel alone has violated countless international laws, and continues to do so to this day. For starters with the creation of Israel (1947 – 1954) they violated 5 different international laws.
- 1. Illegal Acquisition of Land by Force – During the 1948 war Israel annexed land which was obtained through the use of force.
- 2. Forbidding Civilians the Right to Return to their Homes Following the End of Armed Conflict – The Israeli government created laws and used their military to prevent approximately 750,000 Palestinians from returning to their homes following the end of fighting in both 1948 and 1967. Israel then continued on to violate the United Nations resolutions ordering them to respect the rights of Palestinians to return home.
- 3. Illegal Population Transfer – Israel settled their citizens in Israeli settlements which were located on occupied land which was not given to them in the United Nations partition plan.
- 4. Destruction of Holy Places, and Interfering with Ministers of Religion Performing their Religious Duties – Israel destroyed manyMuslim holy places and also interfered with the religious work on Muslim ministers.
- 5. Illegal Practice of Collective Punishment – There have been multiple instances where collective punishment has been practiced by the Israelis in cases were entire Palestinian communities have been punished for the rebellious acts of a few.
Those were simply the laws violated through the creation of Israel. Throughout Israeli statehood (1948 to present) they yet again committed illegal practice of collective punishment, while also committing practice of racism, practice of apartheid and violation of Arab family unity. Furthermore throughout Israeli Occupation they executed illegal military occupation, illegal modification of local law, illegal de facto annexation, violation of rights to self-determination and genocide. The Zionists who triggered the whole event have also been accused with violation of human rights, violations of UN resolutions and practice of ethnic cleansing.
Although the Israelis did violate a significant number of laws, the Palestinians had their fair share of international law violations as well. Under the laws of war, many of the Palestinian attacks were illegal due to the fact that they did not comply with the rule of distinction, which requires combatants to aim their attacks at legitimate targets. This means that each one of the nearly 6000 rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian terrorists on civilian targets in Israel is considered to be a war crime. Due to Jews being the intended targets of these attacks, they are also in violation of the Genocide Convention. Under international law each one of the Palestinians involved in these attacks are also considered to be a terrorist as the intended targets were civilians. Therefore Palestinian authorities located in Gaza anti-terrorism provisions of international law, as they have provided a safe haven for Palestinian terrorists, and are themselves considered to be terrorists. Palestinian terrorist groups have also held Israeli soldiers, such as Gilad Shalit, with no communication and out of reach of the Red Cross which is a clear violation of international law concerning prisoners of war.
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