The conflict between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians has raged on for over a century but this is only the prelude, I believe. With the present climate of leadership among the key countries, the conflict will end only one way.
Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in human records and its locality been of pivotal interest for many factions since as early as 40,000 BC when the first culturally inclined hominids settled in the Levant. As humanity grew and diversified, the Canaanites named the area after an important deity and from thereon, the area was recognised as a place of religious significance.
“…Jerusalem has been destroyed completely at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked an additional 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, been the scene of 20 revolts and innumerable riots, had at least five separate periods of violent terrorist attacks during the past century, and has only changed hands completely peacefully twice in the past 4,000 years…” Eric Cline, Archeaological Institute of America
The Battle of Jerusalam in 1917 was key to the formation of the Israeli State when Jerusalem fell to the British Empire during the final months of the war. The locale, controlled by the Ottoman Empire quickly became under British control.
The fate of Palestine was sealed in the letter sent from the then Foreign Secretary to the prominent leader of the British Zionist Movement, the influential Walter Rothschild:
“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country…”
After the war, the Levant was divvied among the League of Nations (now the United Nations) and a mandate was drawn up for the area known as Palestine, now under British rule. The area known as Palestine was vast and encompassed the city of Jerusalem along with other areas. It was agreed that, in line with the wishes of the Zionist movement that the Jews would be allowed to resettle in their ancestral homeland.
Now, as an impartial observer who has no vested interest in religious rights it seems clear to me that the League of Nations are directly responsible for the tensions in the Middle East. However, the Ottoman Empire made a catastrophic mistake in signing a secret treaty with the Germans in 1914 and the question persists; would things be the same in the Middle East if the Ottoman Empire had not entered the war in support of the Central Powers?
Weak as it was, the Ottoman Empire agreed to assist Germany and signed its own death-warrant. Their lands were seized by the League of Nations and partitioning began (see the above maps for details).
The rest, as they say is history.
Details about the establishment of the Israeli state, its ascendance to power as custodian of Jerusalem conflict greatly and you may spend the rest of your life picking through history to corroborate fact and dispel fiction. I found a very enlightening article written by a Jewish scholar that summarizes the power struggle between the Jews and the Muslims, both indigenous to the area yet unable to coexist due to the way in which the land was apportioned by the League of Nations and the conflict of religious views concerning the holy city.
After the fall of the Ottoman empire many now strong Arab states were under the control of the League of Nations. Jews resettled in Jerusalem and other parts of Palestine and quite naturally, were met with opposition from the evicted Arabs. Even though they were compensated, the tenants did not want to leave their land for religious and cultural reasons. It is quite understandable to see why.
Tensions rose quickly and civil wars broke out as the enraged Arabs fought against the British occupation of Jerusalem. Not only was the land their home but it held significant religious value in the Islamic faith, the site known as Temple Mount being recognized as a mosque in which Mohammed received a revelation as well as being connected with the prophet, Abraham. Muslims used to pray towards Jerusalem before the direction shifted to Mecca, making it the holiest of places.
To the Jews, the Temple Mount is pivotal to the faith and accepted as the site of Mount Zion.
Christianity also reveres the land, being the birthplace of the prophet, Jesus.
Power continued to shift as the Second World War erupted. Under the Balfour Declaration, the Jewish state was still growing as tens of thousands fled from the persecution of Hitler and his conspirators, back to the holy city of Jerusalem. Britain closed the doors eventually, allowing only a trickle of wealthy Jews into Palestine and condemned hundreds of thousands to death as the Third Reich were, at first eager to expel the Jews. Sending them halfway across the world seemed like a great idea but it soon became apparent that building up a collective of Jews in one place might enable the formation of an independent Jewish territory:
“The influx into Palestine of German capital in Jewish hands will facilitate the building up of a Jewish state, which runs counter to German interests; for this state, instead of absorbing world Jewry, will someday bring about a considerable increase in world Jewry’s political power…”
Talk about predicting the future; the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs knew well the implications of sending the wealthy and powerful Jewish community out of Germany, both politically and economically. In 1948, the State of Israel was officially recognized by world superpowers and its land was partitioned from the remaining Arab lands of Palestine.
Entire communities found themselves displaced by the influx of Jewish settlers and the Palestinians occupied territory as close to the holy city as they could, primarily in the regions known as Gaza and the West Bank. The hostilities in the region intensified as Palestinians fought for their independence from British rule, reaching a crucial in the years 1936-1939 during an uprising among the unhappy people of British-occupied Palestine. The Balfour Declaration was scrapped and a new White Paper drawn up that recognized the creation of a Jewish nation within an independent Palestinian state. The notion of partitioning Palestine and creating a seperate Jewish entity was shelved. Or so it seemed.
As the Second World War reached its maturity, agreements were in place between the Zionist movement and the Third Reich to resettle the exiled Jews of the General Government in line with the newly drafted White Paper. According to the new terms, immigration was limited and taxes were imposed on the fleeing Jews for resettlement in the Middle East. Britain refused to resettle more Jews in Palestine and in turn the Jewish communities of Palestine launched their own partisan offensive aimed at expelling British forces from the region. It seemed as though Britain had managed to piss off both the Jews and the Muslims with its contrary mandates on territorial classification.
As the war ground to a halt, Britain faced a backlash from the world concerning its treatment of the Jews it had willingly agreed to help resettle in Zion. Separatist Jewish paramilitary groups and Arab’s alike were fighting against the British occupiers in Palestine and the costs were weighing heavy. In another 60 years or so, Britain would be repeating its history in Iraq but for the nonce, the almost bankrupt Britain agreed to terminate its authority in Palestine, agreeing to accept a mutually agreeable resolution to both Jews and Palestinians.
In order to facilitate a peaceful deal between Arab states, the Arab League was set up in 1945 at British behest and included states such as Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the Lebanon among others who had been granted independence.
The problem was, there was never going to be a mutual agreement about Palestine given the way in which Britain had implemented the resettlement of the Jews.
The United Nations had now also been formed and the League of Nations abolished. America was by far the strongest member of the United Nations and had consolidated its position of power through the nuclear bombings of Japan. No state would dared have invoked the wrath of such a deadly weapon and deals had been made with the five prominent leaders of the United Nations to begin manufacturing their own nuclear devices. This still stands today as only five countries are supposed to have the ‘legal authority’ to manufacture these weapons of mass destruction. The UK is one of them along with America, Russia, China and France although other countries have sharing and stockpiling privileges. Nine countries are now believed to have capability to manufacture nuclear WMD’s and Israel is one of them.
Back to 1947 and the UN (made up of many member states) proposes a resolution that is easily pushed through given the overwhelming majority votes. The resolution propses a partitioning of Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state. The sensitive city of Jerusalem is to be under international control thus negating any ownership issues between the warring factions of Palestine. Only nine years prior, exactly the opposite had been proposed to end the Arab uprising in Palestine. The war had changed everything and more so, most of the Palestinian economy was now supported by Jewish capital.
The UN and the Zionist Movement accepted the deal whilst the Palestinians and all independent Muslim states refuted it completely. The deal was done, the United Nations exerting its authority. The State of Israel was officially declared on May 14th 1948 and a day later, the Six-Day war began.
Violence erupted on a grand scale and insurgent armies from other Arab Leauge states joined the war. The Zionists, established and militarised by sympathetic states (not to mention heavily endorsed by the myriad of millionaire Jews in exile around the world) fought back against their attackers. The war lasted less than a year (technically, it never ended) and at its climax, over a million had been displaced and tens of thousands killed or wounded in the many skirmishes.
When the dust settled in March 1949, treaties were signed with the Arab League nations. It is interesting that when the war concluded in diplomatic terms, Jordan had seized nearly a quarter of Palestinian land, Syria had extended its borders and Israel’s originally allocated partition had grown by a significant proportion to around 78% of the territory meant to be called the Palestinian State. Egypt also had control of the Gaza regions. Room for the indigenous Palestinians was running out and many migrated across the Middle East rather than be herded into available space by the new borders. On the contrary due to the hostility against them in mainly Arab states (and across Europe, the residue of Nazism), Jews were forced to leave their homes and go to Israel. Unlike the Palestinians, they had a welcoming haven and the Israeli State increased its population by over a million.
Remember, at this time, Jerusalem, the holy city was split between Israeli and Jordanian control with the Jordanians holding the East and the Israelis, the West. The city was meant to be under the governance of international parties in accordance with the 1947 treaty but tensions reached a head in 1967 and the Six Day war saw Israel and members of the Arab League clashing dramatically (namely Jordan, Egypt and Syria).
The Suez crisis precipitated the 1967 conflict, in itself a long and complicated affair that is debated on another blog. For now, let’s just say it was an underhand attempt by Israel, Britain and France to assume control of the vital shipping route and strategic stronghold of the canal in a response to the Egyptian ruler’s decision to assume complete control of the integral oil route. Prior to that, Britain and France among others held interests in the Suez Canal.
The Suez crisis was so dramatic that it incurred the threat of nuclear attack from the Soviet Union on the three conspiring states. The Americans and the UN in general also applied pressure on the trio to stop their attack on Egyptian controlled territory, threatening harsh repercussions.
Suez did nothing to help the status of the Israeli State in former Palestine. It was an embarrassment that facilitated further tension between nations. What Britain, France and Israel did was akin to bullying and the world superpowers refused to allow it, quite rightly.
That in 1967 the Israeli’s managed to not only repel the Arabs but also seize Jerusalem and the Sinai region in virtually its entirety (the parts that count, anyway) was a monumental military victory. The State had grown powerful through endorsement and investment and the recently elected Governments had passed bills allowing Jews the world over to resettle in the Promised Land with no fear of taxes or reprimand. The population grew and grew as the decades turned and with heavy investment, the State of Israel was truly a mighty and prosperous nation. It is amazing, really that in less than fifty years, a part of Palestine had been turned into an economic powerhouse, right in the heart of hostile territory.
Israel reclaimed parts of East Jerusalem from Jordan, consolidating its power in the Old City and took the West Bank and the Sinai regions from Egypt’s control, including Gaza. It also took the Golan Heights from Syria in the conflict.
Displaced Palestinians fled the war into East Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt; many eventually occupying the West Bank and settling in Gaza. The Palestine Liberation Organisation, set up in 1964 to combat the threat of Jewish insurgency gained prominence around this period, fighting proxy wars from exile in East Jordan and the Lebanon.
The partitioning had failed, by 1968 the Israeli State occupied the majority of their available Palestinian land. By 2005 this Palestinian land decreased to 12% of its original mass available for Arab settlement. Bear in mind that prior to 1948, 100% of the land was Palestinian. The indigenous Arabs had now been driven into Gaza and the West Bank, the only available regions left to populate in the name of an independent state.
The Palestinians wanted at least some part of their lands returned in order to acheive the State of Palestine but because the West Bank and Gaza are recognised as still being under Israeli control, in geopolitical terms they have no land left to call home.
In 1973, some of the Arab League nations tried again to reclaim territory in former Palestine, gained during the 1947 conflict. As Egypt was seen top have violated treaties, the United Nations sided with Israel and the Soviet Union, already influencial in the Arab world as an arms supplier provided arms for the invading Arab states. This caused severe tensions between America and the Soviet Union, already simmering since the Suez crisis when both parties were drawn into the conflict.
The war lasted only three weeks yet once again changed the political climate of the world.
Egypt was pushed out of the Sinai region by the Israelis and they took even more land from Syria at the Golan Heights despite heavy reinforcement from the Soviet Union. The outcome of the failed invasion by Egypt resulted in its expulsion from the Arab League and it broke off ties with the Soviet Union. It also exposed Syria’s weakness in terms of military strength and made them depend even more on the Soviet Union.
It strengthened relations between Egypt (who now officially recognised the Jewish State) and Israel and eventually, Israel would return the Sinai regions to Egypt in an offer of goodwill and peace. Similarly, Syria also received their lands back in return for a peace deal.
Egypt offended the Arab world with its display of recognition for Israel and their leader through the short war, President Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by radical Islamists. It fought border conflicts with its neighbours, primarily Libya who to this day refuse to accept a peace deal with Egypt. However, this is the least of Libya’s problems at the minute.
Israel was officially recognised as the independent Jewish state by the world with the exception of around sixty countries including most of the Arab League (understandably) and a smattering of others. Many of these countries still refuse Israeli passports and do not entertain diplomatic relations.
America, Great Britain and Russia now have close ties with Israel with Vladimir Putin stating that the two states have a ‘special relationship… (based) on friendship, mutual understanding and the long common history…’
The return to Zion has been a long-standing issue since biblical times and as the world developed and the Zionist movement grew, a number of different sites for Zion were discussed by different countries. Has Britain not acquired Palestine through their war with the Ottoman Empire then Israel may well have been sited in Australia, perhaps? Maybe Canada?
The West Bank of former Palestine, along with the Gaza strip are disputed by both the Palestinians and the Israelis and tense communities of mixed faiths tenant the area giving rise to frequent bloodshed.
This dispute can never be solved, not due to the way it was implemented by the British. The Jewish people deserve a homeland, perhaps more so than any other faith as they have been historically subjugated time and time again. Adolf Hitler, contrary to his own ideals actually strengthened the Jewish State and gave it a platform. Had the idiot had the benefit of hindsight, he may have retired immediately rather than see his nemesis rise to become one of the most powerful countries in the Middle East.
Erm…where’s Iran in all this, you may well ask?
They hate Israel passionately, have vowed to destroy the Jewish State in the next quarter-century. They view the United States as the epitome of Satan and have no love for the European Union. Where the hell were they when all this was kicking off in 1917?
Well, you can find out in another post because that is another story altogether and guess what, it concerns our old friend, crude oil!
Thanks for reading.