Written By: Nasser El-Morshidy
Because of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, wars and violence ripped the Middle East for many decades. Most people are not aware of the reasons behind the ongoing fighting between Israelis and Palestinians in the Land of Peace: Palestine. The following is a summary of the main stages of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the last hundred years.
In last decades of 19th century, the Zionist movement was very active in Europe. The Zionists called for establishing a national home for the Jews in Palestine depending on vague historical claims. Logically, Jews around the world today had no right to claim to Palestinemerely because they ruled that land two thousand years ago.
Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire until World War I. Palestine at that time had a large Muslim majority, a Christian minority and a Jewish minority. For many centuries, the Palestinians of different religions lived together in harmony with no history of animosity among them.
During World War I, the Zionist movement was strong enough to influence the British Empire to support their demand of establishing a national home for the Jews in Palestine. In February 1917, Arthur Balfour, British Foreign Secretary, promised Lord Rothschild, head of the British Zionist movement, to establish a national home for the Jews in Palestine.
Britain does not hold any right to issue such a promisesince it does not own Palestine. Undoubtedly, Palestine belongs to the Palestinians of different religions living on that land for hundreds of years. Moreover, the Jewish Zionists were citizens of European countries and therefore had no legal right to obtain a national home or establish a state in Palestine. Naturally, the Palestinians rejected such an unjust and unreasonable British promise.
After the defeat of the Ottomans in World War I, The League of Nations put Palestine under the Mandate of the British Empire. Under British influence, the Mandate included an item about facilitating immigration of Jews to Palestine. The Mandate emphasized that there should be no prejudice to the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.
In 1922 the British undertook the first census of Palestine after being granted the Mandate over Palestine. The total number of the population in Palestine was 752,048, comprising 589,177 Muslims, 83,790 Jews, 71,464 Christians and 7,617 persons belonging to other religious groups.
Against the will of the Palestinians, Britain allowed hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants from Europe to settle down in Palestine from 1920 to 1947. It was apparent that the British authorities in Palestine favoured the demands of the Jewish immigrants against the essential rights of the local Palestinians. This led to many revolts by the Palestinians against the British and the Jewish immigrants during the Mandate period.
In 1939, the British revision of the immigration policies which proposed limiting the number of Jewish immigrants to Palestine turned the Zionists against the British authorities. The Jewish immigrants formed terrorist groups that launched horrific acts of terror against the Palestinians and British troops during the last few years of the British Mandate over Palestine.
In 1945, a demographic study showed that the population of Palestine had grown to 1,764,520, comprising 1,061,270 Muslims, 553,600 Jews, 135,550 Christians and 14,100 people of other religious groups. Due to the increase of the number of Jewish immigrants, clashes erupted frequently between the Palestinians and the Jewish immigrants. Thus the British authorities faced a difficult situation in Palestine.
In 1947, Britain decided to pass the issue to the United Nations, which under immense Americanpressure, adopted Resolution 181 dividing Palestine into two states; giving the Jewish immigrants 56% of Palestine and only 44% to the Palestinians who are the indigenous people of Palestine.
The UN Resolution 181 was invalid as it is against the basic principles for which the world organization was established upon, namely, to uphold the people’s right to self-determination. By denying the Palestinians, who formed the majority of population in Palestine, the right to decide for themselves, the United Nations had violated its own charter. Therefore, the legitimacy of Israel is questionable because it depends mainly on such an illegal resolution.
Moreover, the UN Resolution 181 was issued due to American intimidation of newly-established UN member-countries in Latin America. It is worth mentioning that the UN Resolution 181 was voted down by all UN member-countries in the Middle East. Therefore, Israel is like a strange organ that is transplanted in the body of the Middle East.
Although the Palestinians rejected such an invalid and unjust resolution, the Jewish immigrants declared their state on 14th May 1948. Consequently, the Jewish terrorist groups, such as Irgun, Haganah and Lehi had a free hand to continue their campaign of terror against the Palestinians. Moreover, the British authorities extended their help once again and handed over government buildings, train stations and military camps to the Jewish Agency before withdrawing the British troops from Palestine.
Aiming at protecting the Palestinians and the integrity of their land, the neighbouring Arab countries declared war against Israel. However, the Arab armies were less in number and weapons than that of the Israeli army which received full support from the USA and some European countries. The United Nations negotiated a truce between warring parties in Palestine in 1949. Nevertheless, the Israelis violated the truce and gradually seized 22% of the land of Palestine in addition to what was allocated to them according to UN Resolution 181.
According to the United Nations Resolution 181, Israel should protect the interests of the large Palestinian population in the lands allocated to the Jewish state. On the contrary, the Israeli army, composed of Jewish terrorist groups, launched an organized campaign of terror against the Palestinians to force them out of these lands.
Such campaign of Israeli terror resulted in the killing of hundreds of Palestinians and forcing around 800,000 out of their own lands. Refugee camps were established in neighbouring Arab countries for those refugees and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are still living in these refugee camps until today.
In 1967, Israel launched an attack against neighbouring Arab countries. The Israeli army occupied the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Security Council issued its Resolution 242 calling upon Israel to withdraw from the lands it occupied during that aggression. Israel challenged the United Nations and did not apply the Resolution 242.
As the USA has given full military support to Israel, the Arab countries were unable to win a decisive military victory against the newly-established state. Accordingly, the Palestinians realized that they themselves should lead the struggle against the Israeli occupation.
In 1987, the Palestinian youth had launched the First Uprising against the Israeli occupation. The Palestinian youth threw stones at the Israeli soldiers who responded with live ammunitions and in many cases broke the arms of Palestinian young people who were captured by Israeli soldiers. Due to Israel’s strong support from the USA, the United Nations was unable to stop the Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian civilians.
In 1991, a peace conference, cosponsored by the United States and the Soviet Union, was held in Madrid. The Palestinians agreed to accept the existence of Israel in the biggest part of their land in exchange for ending the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, each new Israeli government rejected what the previous government agreed upon with the Palestinians. The negotiations between the two sides continued for almost ten years but ended in failure. That was mainly due to Israel’s insistence that it will not end its occupation of East Jerusalem and will continue building new settlements in the Palestinian lands.
The Palestinians who suffered daily under Israeli occupation realized that there was no hope of gaining their freedom and establishing their state even on a small part of theirland. Moreover, life under Israeli occupation became increasingly impossible. Israeli forces regularly confiscated private lands, imprisoned individuals without trial, demolished family homes, bulldozed orchards and crops, destroyed shops and businesses, placed entire towns under curfew and shot and killed Palestinian civilians indiscriminately.
During more than six decades of Israeli occupation, the Palestinians were deprived of any military power to defend themselves against the Israeli aggressions. On the other hand, the Israelis with full support from the USA, was able to build one of the strongest armies in the region. The majority of young Palestinians, out of hopelessness, frustration and daily humiliation under the Israeli occupation, had decided to resist the Israeli occupation by all means. Under these circumstances, the Second Uprising erupted in the year 2000.
The Second Uprising witnessed many suicide bombers who blew themselves up among civilians inside Israel. While these acts are condemned, there is a need to condemn the main reason behind such actions and put an end to it: the Israeli occupation of the land of Palestine. The suicide bombers were victims of the Israeli occupation which humiliates the Palestinians daily, destroy their morale and practice the worst types of apartheid against them.
The Western Media often shows the destructions that a suicide bomber inflects on the Israelis, but it rarely shows the destruction caused by Israeli attacks against the Palestinians. A comparison between the victims on both sides will show the Israeli excessive use of force against the Palestinians. According to statistics from B'Tselem, The Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, 1,097 Israelis and at least 6,638 Palestinians have been killed. On another hand, According to statistics from The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 9,226 Israelis and 49,518 Palestinians have been injured from September 2000 till August 2012. It is an irony that Israel is still claiming that it is in a state of self-defense against the Palestinians.
However, there was a glimpse of hope for achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The Arab countries declared the Arab initiative of peace in 2004. They offered peace and normalization of relations with Israel in return for the lands that it occupied in 1967: Golan Heights in Syria; East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza Strip in Palestine. According to that initiative, the Palestinians could establish their state on just 22% of the historical land of Palestine. Unfortunately, even with these huge concessions, this initiative fell on deaf ears in Israel.
The suffering of Palestinians has been continuing for 66 years. Peace negotiations failed because of Israel’s unwillingness to return even a small part of Palestine to thePalestinians to establish their independent state. While the borders of the Jewish state are the ones which appeared on the UN Partition Plan of Palestine issued in 1947, the Israelis did not declare the borders of their State until today. This shows their clear intention to usurp more Palestinian lands.
In spite of Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights and its defiance of the United Nations resolutions, the USA continued its unflagging support of Israel. The bias of the USA towards Israel has been apparent in the UN Security Council when American veto blocked all the resolutions that condemned the Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.