A discussion of the problems in the Middle East, illustrating the conflicts between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Israeli Palestinian Conflict The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is a dangerous and volatile situation that has attracted American attention for some decades. The conflict is a sensitive subject that produce strong emotions in people. This conflict deals with Jewish nationalism, distribution of resources, and politics. About a hundred years ago, Jews underwent a drastic change in their view of themselves. At first a few, and then more, began to call themselves Zionists. Zionism is a term that in its broadest and early sense meant simply the “return” of Jews to their ancestral homeland. That homeland was called Zion (or Israel) and its heart was Jerusalem, known as the “City of Zion.” Early Zionists were simply pious, nonpolitical, religious Jews who thought they could best practice their faith in the Land of Zion. Some went primarily to pray, to study their religious books, and to await the arrival of the Messiah. Politics played a influential role in their thinking. By the beginning of the 20th century, however, Zionism came to have a political meaning: that Jews were not just a religious or ethnic group but were a nation of people who should have their own state. Today Zionism is the term for Jewish nationalism. Not all Jews agree upon what Zionism is, but to a point there is agreement, it is upon three things: there should be a Jewish state; it should be permanent, independent, and secure; and Jews who are threatened anywhere in the world should be able to go there to be safe. All other issues the boundaries of the state, the nature of government, relations with the Palestinians, relations with American Jews, religious law are in dispute. It is important to understand the Palestinian views . Keep in mind two points. First, people respond to the circumstances in which they live. If one is rich, one sees problems one way; if one is unemployed, one sees it a second way; if one owns a small shop, one sees it a third way. One must understand the circumstances in which Palestinians live if we are to understand their positions and actions. Second, there are about five million Palestinians. Like Americans, they disagree on political issues. They also change their minds as new circumstances develop. It is wrong to think Palestinians have a common view that remains unchanged. Their view changed considerably over the years. They view that the Israelis are taking the land rightfully theirs, and are being “bullied” by Israelis. They are the ones who had their land taken away from them and are left with no where to live. In 1948, there were approximately 860,000 Palestinians inside today’s Israel. About 700,000 were driven out or fled during the fighting that followed the declaration of Israeli statehood. The Palestinian population of Jerusalem went from 75,000 to 3,500; of Jaffa from 70,000 to 3,600; of Haifa from 71,000 to 2,900; of Lydda-Ramle from 35,000 to 2,000; of Tiberias from 5,300 to zero. All refugees lost their property (about 800,000 acres were taken for Israeli use.). The 160,000 Palestinians still in Israel in 1949 when the fighting stopped lost another 250,000 acres. The Palestinians in Israel were left without resources or strong leaders. When the Likud Party took power in 1977, it intensified colonization, pouring some $1 billion into settlement building over the next seven years. Today, land taken from the Palestinians and earmarked for military purposes or Jewish settlements amounts to more than 52% of the most fertile areas of the West Bank and 40% of the Gaza Strip. Only a very small percentage of this land was sold willingly by Palestinians. Most of it was confiscated, and is held to be for Jews only-not just Jews from Israel, but Jews from anywhere in the world. Many newly-arrived immigrants from the United States and Russia are given heavily financed housing in the settlements built on seized Palestinian land. By 1990, according to Israeli estimates, 83% of the water from the West Bank will be diverted to Jewish settlements and Israel. The indigenous Palestinians will get only 17% of their own water. This taking of natural resources from the Palestinians, are the reasons for the rise in conflict. To a large extent Jews and Palestinians are geographically concentrated. Most Jews live in Israel and most Palestinians live in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. There are exceptions of course. Many Jews live in the new ring of suburbs around East Jerusalem and in the new settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. And many Arabs live inside of Israel, particularly in Galilee, including Nazareth, and in the Negev Desert in the South. The first comprehensive peace talks between Israel and delegations representing the Palestinians and neighboring Arab states began in October 1991. After Likud lost the parliamentary election of June 1992, Labor party leader Yitzhak Rabin formed a new government. Rabin took a more conciliatory line toward the Palestinians and imposed strict limits on new Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. In 1993, after decades of violent conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, leaders from each side agreed to the signing of an historic peace treaty. Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin met in the United States on September 13 to witness the signing of the treaty, which paved the way for limited Palestinian self-rule in Israeli-occupied territories. The Gaza-Jericho Agreement was signed in Cairo on May 4, 1994, and applies to the Gaza Strip and to a defined area of about 65 square kilometers including Jericho and its environs. The Gaza-Jericho agreement addresses four main issues security arrangements, civil affairs, legal matters, and economic relations. The document includes agreement to a withdrawal of Israeli military forces from Gaza and Jericho, a transfer of authority from the Israeli Civil Administration to a Palestinian Authority, the structure and composition of the Palestinian Authority is a Palestinian police force, and relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. After intensive diplomatic efforts by the United States, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Yasser Arafat agreed on September 29, 1996 to go to Washington the following week to seek ways out of a war that has put the entire Israeli-Palestinian peace in jeopardy. Despite the historical tensions of the Middle East, recent issues have arisen to intensify the conflict. Angry Palestinians protested Israel’s decision to open an archeological site, the issue becoming one more in a growing number of Middle East tensions. The Muslim crowd feared the excavation of an ancient tunnel, right beside the foundations of Jerusalem’s al Aqsa Mosque compound, would undermine what is the third-holiest shrine in Islam after Mecca and Medina. The tunnel excavation dispute is only the latest indication of rising tension between Arabs and Israelis. And the latest death count is 76 ( as of October 1, 1996). In conclusion, this is an issue that deals with politics, uneven distribution of resources, and nationalism, and will take a great effort to come to an agreement. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a “battle” that has a long history that will continue till a mutual understanding and agreement is settled. Until the Israelis and the Palestinians can settle there differences and cooperate with each other, the “battle” will continue on. BIBLIOGRAPHY CNN Interactive. http://www.cnn.com/, Sept 28, 1996 THE JERUSALEM POST NET EDITION. http://www.jpost.co.il/, Sept 30, 1996 Israel-Palestinian Negotiations. http://www.israel-mfa.gov.il/peace/palest.html, Sept 29, 1996 Israeli conceptions of the enemy . http://www.hf-fak.uib.no/institutter/smi/paj/Lonning.html, Sept 24, 1996 Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. http://www.umich.edu/~inet/cmenas/StudyUnits/israeli-palestinian- conflict/studentindex.html, Sept 27, 1996 The New York Times on the Web. http://www.nytimes.com/, Sept 30, 1996 WashingtonPost.com: International News . http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/digest/int3.htm, Sept 26, 1996