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Updated: Mar 10, 2016
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A Brief History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


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On June 12, 2014, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in the West Bank and murdered shortly after their abduction. When the bodies were found on June 30, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni organization, was directly responsible, vowing, “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay,” (qtd. in Eglash and Branigin). While Hamas and the Fatah party maintained their noninvolvement, and with the United States’ President Barack Obama urging both sides not to escalate the situation, the heavy tension between the two territories soon broke into violence (Eglash and Branigin). To find those responsible, Israel began arresting large numbers of Palestinians and began conducting air strikes inside of Gaza. Palestinian militants in Gaza responded by firing rockets into Israel, further angering the Israelis, which resulted in six Israeli men murdering a Palestinian boy. Israeli police called it “an act of revenge” and the murdered boy’s cousin was beaten while in the custody of Israeli police. In the early morning on July 8, Hamas into Israel launched a volley of 40 rockets with very little guidance or aim. The attack wielded few casualties; but produced a heightened sense of fear in Israel, prompting Israel to retaliate in what Netanyahu said “was an effort to make Hamas pay a heavy price,” (qtd. in "The Israel-Gaza crisis...”). By July 14, the total casualties from less than a month of fighting exceeded those from the last major Israel-Palestinian conflict in 2012, ("The Israel-Gaza crisis...”). It was late July before Israeli officials admitted that Hamas was not responsible for the initial kidnapping and murdering of the three Israeli teenagers, but by then it didn’t matter (Zavadski). This ongoing conflict demonstrates the amount of animosity between Israel and Palestine and how even the slightest provocation can lead to mass casualties of not only the soldiers and militants fighting, but also the innocent civilians hurt in the collateral damage; however, this violence is nothing new. The ill will between the two territories can be traced back to when the Ottoman Empire (1299–1923) still existed, and even though the world, and its understanding of diplomacy, has profoundly changed so drastically in this -past century, the conflict shows few signs of ending or at least some alleviation of it.


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, thousands of Jews began immigrating to Palestine in what was then the Ottoman Empire. It was due to the escalating persecution of Jews in Europe. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the British took control over Palestine, which at the time was referred to as British-mandate Palestine. The land east of the Jordan River is given away to create modern-day Jordan. Soon after the partition of land to Jordan, the first episode of violence during the British mandate breaks out along the Jaffa-Tel Aviv border. The result was many on both sides dead in what the Israelis refer to as a riot and the Palestinians called a revolt (Katirai 1). In November of 1947, more violence erupted after the General Assembly of the United Nations advocated splitting Palestine into two states. Zionist leaders accepted the proposal for tactical and strategic reasons, while all of the surrounding Arab states rejected the proposal due the fact that the Palestinians felt that the partition was “unrepresentative of the demographic distribution of Jews and Arabs living in Palestine at the time,” (qtd. in Katirai 2). Next May, as the British are in the process of withdrawing from Palestine, Zionist leaders announce their newly formed state of Israel – then fighting breaks out between the state and the surrounding Arab populations. During what is known as the “War of Independence” by Israelis, and “The Catastrophe” to the Palestinians, about 700,000 Palestinians leave, flee, and, or, are driven from what was once British-mandate Palestine, with Israel now controlling large sweeps of land, (Katirai 2).



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Almost twenty years of fighting and violence between Israel and the Arabs comes to a head in what is popularly known as the “Six Day War” or as the Palestinians call it, “the Setback.” On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a preemptive attack on Egypt, gaining control over lands formerly held by Egypt, Syria and Jordan, nearly tripling the amount of territory under Israeli control. The League of Arab States passes the Khartoum Resolution on September 1, 1967, known for the “three no’s” in the third paragraph: “[N]o peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, [and] no negotiations with it,” (qtd. in “Khartoum Resolution). Soon after, Israel began to settle areas they consider to be the biblical lands of the Jews. The Palestinians see this as a violation of international law, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) moves its base of operations from the West Bank into Jordan and after a brief war in September, 1970, between Jordan and the PLO, to Lebanon, (Katirai 3). Almost a year after the massacre carried out by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, in which 11 Israeli athletes were murdered, Egypt and Syria launch an attack on Israeli forces the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and during the Muslim month of Ramadan. The war is known as the Yom Kippur War and the Ramadan War to the Israelis and Arabs, respectively, with Israel retaining its territory, but only because the United States reinforced Israel with weapons, according to the Arabs, (Katirai 4).


The first Palestinian Intifada, meaning “uprising” in Arabic, in protest of the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank began on December 9, 1987. The Israeli forces implemented curfews, deportations and restrictions on economical activities; they closed universities, and arrested many in an attempt to suppress the uprising. The uprising gained public support not only in Israel sbut also around the world. A year later on December 14, 1988, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat formally recognized the state of Israel, allowing U.S. President Ronald Reagan to allow the U.S. to enter into dialogues with the PLO. Even though Israel remains steadfast in its hostility towards the PLO, Jordan renounces all claims to the West Bank, (Katirai 5). After six years of violence, Palestine and Israel sign a Declaration of Principles known as the Oslo Accords on September 13, 1993, in which Israel formally recognized the PLO, giving them limited autonomy over the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank, and in turn, the PLO gave up its claim of the Israeli territory that was defined as the land Israel held before the war in 1967. The Oslo accords ended not only the Intifada, but also “the existential conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The two sides were no longer claiming that the other did not have the right to exist as a state or people on that land,” (qtd. in Katirai 6).


Unfortunately, between 1987 and 1993, over 20,000 people were killed or wounded in these conflicts, (Katirai 5). In fact, as of 2008, there have been over 8,000 Israeli and Palestinian civilian casualties, over 1,500 of whom were under the age of 18, (“Fatalities in the First…” and “Fatal Terrorist Attacks…”). But while there have been multiple violent conflicts, there have also been signs that all is not lost. There have been prisoner exchanges and multiple attempts to attempts to make peace, but the mutual destruction of human lives continues in between the short periods of peace that may one day become something more long lasting and diplomatic. There are those who say there will never peace in the Middle East, and unless both sides – not only those in power, but the people – can recognize each other’s right to live and coexist peacefully, that sad thought may become a truth.


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