For as long as I can remember I’ve known about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Young and impressionable, I believed Palestine was the “bad guy” and Israel was the “good guy”, trying to return to reclaim its rightful homeland. As the years have passed, I’ve become aware that history is no one-dimensional, black/white slab, but rather a multi-dimensional, multicolored prism which changes in appearance depending on the light. For this reason, I have never been able to fully decipher the conflict in its entirety.
This past November, when Israel launched a massive airstrike on Gaza called “Operation Pillar of Defense by Israel” I decided to investigate a little further. Additionally, even earlier before the election, I had many friends oppose my pro-Obama views solely on the basis of Obama’s relations with Israel. Although I had, and still maintain, a neutral stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict, I wanted to educate myself on the matter. Even now, I can’t fully comprehend the reasoning behind the fighting and, unfortunately, I have been lead to believe there isn’t much rationale, the main culprit being residual victimization from decades ago and World War II, as well as humanity’s apparently innate need for conflict.
Many are familiar with the fact that Jews were one of the first inhabitants of the area we now know as Israel (I want to clarify that Israel and the Jews refer to separate entities within this article, the former is Israel and its varied population, while the latter refers to the ethnic group), but over centuries they were expelled and returned, wash, rinse, and repeat. Eventually the area came to be inhabited by a variety of people’s mainly Arab like the surrounding countries. Then in the 19th century with the rise of Zionism the first signs of conflict arose.
Years passed, and with the rise of Hitler in Europe, many Jews fled to Palestine creating even more discomfort. In 1947, before things got any worse, the United Nations stepped in and divided up the land. The UN suggested giving 55% of the Palestinian land to the Jews although they were the minority. This sparked a three-year war between Zionists and five Arab states.
Here’s the interesting bit: The Zionists started off the war with 16 separate massacres. Also, nearly all of the battles occurred on what would have been Palestinian land.
Israel conquered about three-quarters of Palestine and even attempted to deny the existence of the Palestinian people. Pass forward to 1967, during the Six Day War Israel conquered additional land, and followed up with an attack to Egypt which successfully captured the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Over the half-century since, the conflict continues especially in Gaza, which is where the most recent conflict occurred this past November. The previous conflict culminated in 2009 and was called Operation Cast Lead. Both of these issues have resulted in many deaths, with the Palestinian casualties totaling higher than those of Israelis. Although both sides have continued using the same tactics, the turn of events this November came when Hamas rockets began landing closer and closer to major Israeli cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, though many were stopped by Israel’s “Operation Iron Dome”. Israel retaliated with air strikes which succeeded in killing Ahmed Jabari, a chief leader of Hamas. Unfortunately, Hamas was reportedly committing what is known as a “double war crime”, meaning they fired at Israeli civilians from behind their own people.
For now the conflict has died down, but, if we go by historical example, it will rise up again in the near future. Not much has been done long-term and much of Israel’s action has been containment not resolution. There are many ideas floating around on how to solve this issue, but not one can be agreed on. Perhaps one of the most obvious is the “Two State Solution”, where Palestine would become independent of Israel; the main issue with this plan lies not only where to draw the borders, but on the fact that neither side seems to want to back down. I, personally, like this plan because it seems the most reasonable, and although I feel Israel has the right to exist, so does Palestine. Additionally, the surrounding Arabic countries, although they could be said to be on the Palestinian side, are not willing to take in the Palestinians.
Regardless on how we solve this conflict one thing remains certain: we need to come to a solution effectively and quickly. We cannot wait for more blood to spill from both sides. I see this conflict stemming from decades of trauma and conflict, but sometimes the only path to peace is to move towards healing while keeping in mind the lives lost to conflict. Much like clashes between religions and political parties, we must reach across the aisle and see life from the other sides perspective. And somewhere along the way, find a resolution.
To learn more about the conflict here’s a list of resources and books by Jewish Voice for Peace.