January 21, 2024
On the 7th of October 2023, hundreds of members of the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented assault on Israel, infiltrating several communities near the Gaza Strip and killing 1,200 innocent Israeli citizens. In addition, over 200 Israeli soldiers and civilians were taken into Gaza as hostages. The Israeli military responded by carrying out ongoing air and artillery strikes on Gaza, which have resulted in the deaths of over 14,000 Palestinians, according to the health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas. However, this has not been the only incident in which Israel and Palestine have clashed. The Israel-Palestine conflict is a deeply rooted dispute that has spanned several decades, resulting in immense human suffering and geopolitical tensions. Throughout this period of tension, Western media outlets and world leaders have constantly described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as intractable and deadlocked.
Understanding the historical context of this conflict is crucial to grasp the complexities that have hindered its resolution. This article aims to provide an overview of the history of the Israel-Palestine war, shedding light on key factors that have shaped this conflict.
The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict can be traced back to the early 20th century, after Britain took control of the region of Palestine following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War 1. During this period, the Zionist movement emerged, which said that Judaism was not just a religion, but a nationality. The movement also advocated for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration of 1917, issued by the Foreign Secretary of Britain Arthur Balfour, expressed support for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, promising the Zionist movement a country where Arab communities made up more than 90% of the population. This further fueled tensions between the Jewish and Arab communities.
Partition and Statehood
Following World War I, the League of Nations granted Britain a mandate over Palestine. However, the conflicting aspirations of Jewish and Arab communities intensified, leading to violence and clashes. After the Holocaust, many more Jews fled Europe for British Palestine, galvanizing the world in support of a Jewish state. In 1947, the United Nations proposed a partition plan that would divide Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. Jerusalem, however, would be a special international zone. While Jewish leaders accepted the plan and declared independence as Israel, Arab leaders rejected it, leading to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
The 1948 War and Its Aftermath
The 1948 War marked a significant turning point in the conflict. Following the declaration of the State of Israel, neighboring Arab states, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, launched military interventions to support the Palestinian cause and help Palestine regain all its land. The war resulted in the displacement, expulsion, and forced migration of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, leading to a refugee crisis, and a decadeslong battle over land ownership. Israel, backed by foreign powers, emerged victorious in the war, gaining control over a significant portion of the territory including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, initially allocated to the Arab state.
Six-Day War and Occupation
In 1967, tensions escalated once again, leading to the Six-Day War. Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, resulting in a swift Israeli victory. As a result of this war, Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. The occupation of these territories led to many Palestinian refugees fleeing from Gaza and the West Bank and has been a major point of contention and a significant obstacle to peace negotiations.
Peace Process and Ongoing Challenges
Efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict have been ongoing for decades.
A Palestinian Intifada erupted in the Gaza Strip in December 1987 after four Palestinians were killed when an Israeli truck collided with two vans carrying Palestinian workers. Protests spread rapidly to the West Bank and led to the establishment of the Hamas movement. The Intifada was ended by the formation of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, which was signed by the then Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin, and the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Yasir Afrat. It aimed to establish a framework for negotiations, the creation of a Palestinian state, and the declaration of the PLO as a representative of the Palestinian people.
A second Intifada occurred on September 28th, 2000, when clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces killed five Palestinians and injured 200, sparking a widespread armed uprising. During this Intifada, Israel caused unprecedented damage to the Palestinian economy and infrastructure. Israel reoccupied areas governed by the Palestinian Authority and began construction of a separation barrier that destroyed Palestinian communities. The Second Intifada, which ended in 2005, led to the Palestinian people's control of the West Bank and Gaza.
In 2005, Israel uprooted its settlements in the Gaza Strip, and the following year, the militant group Hamas won an election to control the Gaza Strip, kicking out representatives of the PLO. Since then, militants in Gaza have fought several wars with Israel, which along with Egypt has maintained a partial blockade on the strip to isolate Hamas and restrict the movement of people and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip. These restrictions have been a concern of humanitarian groups around the world about the conditions in which Palestinians are forced to live, and the UN has reported roughly 6,400 Palestinians and 300 Israelis have been killed in the ongoing violence since 2008.
The history of the Israel-Palestine conflict is complex and deeply intertwined with the identities of both Israelis and Palestinians. Thousands of people have died and thousands more have been injured since the militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7. The attacks by both Hamas and Israel's military have put a harsh spotlight on the region's ongoing war, and it is important to understand the history of this decades long conflict.