There are few conflicts as divisive to the world as that of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From its inception in the early 1900s and arguably before that, this conflict is one that is steeped in historical mysticism and debates over the authenticity of particular viewpoints. This sample history paper explores the historical context and background of the conflict and helps readers gain a better understanding of the entire situation.
Historical context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
For hundreds of years, the Israelis and the Palestinians have been engaged in a bitter and violent conflict over nationhood and statehood. The historical roots of the significance of the location contained within Israel can be traced back to the time of King Solomon in 957 BCE. Since then, the Jewish people have been harshly persecuted by religious zealots and political dictators. Through patience and occupation, the Jews secured the promised land in 1948 following two bitter global wars.
However, violence continues as Israel and Palestine are unable to resolve their differences because they are unwilling to forgive the past. The two state solution has been rejected and there is no good reason to believe that anything will change. One thing that could change is equalizing the playing field between these two warring factions by providing each side with an equal set of weapons.
The result could be a new version of the cold war, which as history shows, ended. Additionally, the use of spectacular force earned a victory for the United States in World War II. Before we give nuclear arms to Palestine, let’s trace the historical roots of the conflict.
Israel’s claim to the King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem
Israel is of significant religious significance because the Temple in Jerusalem is considered the holiest place for Jews. Originally built by King Solomon in 957 BCE, it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 568 BCE. Rebuilt, the Temple was again destroyed by the Romans in 70 BCE. The Temple has yet to be rebuilt but is still considered sacred as only the West Wall remains. Conservative Judaism supports the ultimate return to the Promised Land which is located in Israel.
First, the idea of Jewish return to the Promised Land had been embedded in the religious expressions of Jews-their liturgy and their traditions-ever since the Romans’ destruction of the Jewish synagogue in Jerusalem in 70 C.B (14). It is believed that Jews will return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. Therefore, Jews have been historically interested in control over their most sacred place.
Difference between a nation and a state
Struggles between the Jews and Arabs stem from the struggle between the difference between a “nation” and a “state”. Traditionally, a “nation” is a collection predominantly homogenous people sharing a common history, culture, language, ethnicity, and religion. Being Jewish represents usually both an ethnic and religious heritage.
Gerner describes nationalism as, “This group sense of oneness and of belief in a common destiny is what distinguishes a nation” (8).
For Jews, the ethnic and religious identity has deep roots in land considered sacred in Jerusalem. As Jews immigrated from Europe to Jerusalem, they displaced the Palestinians, so the conflict began more than two-hundred years ago. In contrast, a “state” is a political identity and a location with borders and independent government recognized by other nations as autonomous. Currently, there is the State of Israel but not a fully recognized Palestinian state.
For some time, Jews were not so Zionistic and were open to the idea of cohabitation with the Palestinians. However, this sentiment changed upon the publication of Herzl’s book, “The State of the Jews”, published in 1896.
This book, “Became a manifesto for the new movement. In this volume, Herzl presented the argument that Jews “are a people–one people,” and as such entitled to a separate state” (13).
Jewish ideology and views on the Palestinian nation
Herzl’s book began the Zionist ideology for the Jewish people. From then Jews were adamant about creating a separate Jewish state, the State of Israel completely separate from a Palestinian state. World Wars I and II effected the stability of Israel and the contested area including Palestine. With the rise of power of Hitler and the commission of genocide against the Jewish people, immigration to Israel soared.
“Whereas between 1919 and 1924, a total of only 35,000 Jews had moved to Palestine, between 1924 and 1939 an average of about 16,000 Jews Immigrated each year, with the bulk arriving between 1931 and 1935. Immigration peaked in 1935. This massive influx was one of the main factors that triggered the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt in Palestine” (23).
The Palestinians were extremely frustrated by the massive immigration of Jews during these years and ultimately revolted. The revolution was not successful, but violence has sustained in the region since then regardless of heavy influence from the international community.
The British were unsuccessful in bringing peace to the region. They favored a single state with national dualism. However, the Jewish people were not interested in sharing government with the Palestinians. Numerous international declarations including the Balfour Declaration, The San Remo document, and the UN Vote on Partition were unsuccessful, regardless, the State of Israel was formed in 1948.
Europe had not learned its lessons following World War I and thus World War II occurred. Following World War II there was a significant global push to provide a country for Jews. Beyond the State of Israel, Europe was in flux following the greatest war redrawing boundaries and imposing sanctions to prevent such a destructive conflict from occurring again.
Israel’s conflict with other Middle Eastern nations and satisfying its allies
In recent years, Israel has found itself cross ways with several Middle East countries including Iran and Egypt. It seems that Israel cannot get along with its neighbors and violence continues to be the mode of communication. However, anything that could be considered aggressive by Israel has been met with proportionally aggressive response from the affected countries. Additionally, Israel is a hard ally to support when they are so adamant against compromise.
Israeli’s will not consider a dual state solution out of stubbornness that, as this paper shows, has extended for hundreds of years. This historic territorial battle between Judaism and Islam has cost thousands of Israeli and Palestinian lives. However, the animosity is only maintained by teaching the history of being oppressed and vindicating the death of ancestors.
Both sides are guilty of not letting the past go and focusing their efforts on plausible peaceful solutions. A true and lasting peace will only be attained and sustained with a dropping of arms and a sincere exploration or peaceful alternatives. The religious and historical arguments in support of conflict eventually lose their validity over time.
Nuclear threat among Israel, Palestine, and other Middle East countries
There is great concern over other countries in the region gaining the power of the nuclear bomb. Israel has it, but others do not. The fear of nuclear proliferation is that one day one country will use the bomb and the world is back into a cold war situation. If history does educate, then one thing we learned from the cold war was that it ended. Eventually, the United States outspent and out gunned the USSR.
Considering the lesson from this history, there is some rational to arm Israel’s enemies to equalize the playing field if the conflicted countries cannot reach a peaceful accord otherwise. The consequences is that a nuclear weapon in the hands of untrustworthy autonomous governments is a dangerous thing. Indeed it is, but the alternative is perpetual conflict for hundreds of more years. Without some coming to terms and forgiving the past, the Israeli – Palestinian conflict is likely to continue.
Gerner, D. J. (1991). One land, two peoples: the conflict over Palestine. Boulder: Westview Press.