The issue isn’t black and white: it’s history that can’t repeat
The Arab-Israeli conflict, as ever, divided world opinion this past summer. As the proverbial dust settles, as Gaza is rebuilt, and as Western legislatures debate recognizing the state of Palestine (if they have not already done so), the two warring parties must learn the lessons of this latest battle.
Complete, unbiased takes on the topic are rarely found. In Western media, various outlets are often either pro-Israel, or pro-Palestine—a product of a conflict which has produced countless dichotomies.
I, without any personal affinity to either Israel or Palestine, have been profoundly influenced by my research and by my friends who are both Arab and Israeli. Undoubtedly, they both present reasonable cases for the existence of their respective states.
As far back as Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Jews in Europe were subject to pogroms and isolated from the societies who believed them to be too resistant to assimilation or whatever the case may be.
Similarly, the history of the Palestinian people has not been particularly rosy either. The Mongols dominated the region for several centuries during the Middle Ages until the expansion of the Ottoman Empire reached Palestine in 1516.
The Sikes-Picot agreement of 1916 sought to chop up the soon-to-be defunct Ottoman Empire into spheres of British and French influence under the facade of League of Nations mandates. This was despite the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence, which had promised an Arab homeland for revolters against the Ottoman Empire (watch Lawrence of Arabia if you haven’t already).
The British Mandate of Palestine, as it became known, experienced massive Jewish migration, particularly after the Balfour Declaration which promised a Jewish national home. Arabs and Jews throughout the Mandate both fought and lived in peace, as contradictory European (mainly British) promises began to have fatal consequences.
When 1945 came along and the Allies found themselves with even more parts of the world to award to whoever they preferred, it seemed logical to go along with the UN partition plan which would allow for both Arabs and Israelis to share the historic lands of the region. (Particularly considering the horrors of the Holocaust, Eastern European pogroms, and the reluctance of European states to accept Jewish immigration.)
Brief history lesson over, we are in 2014 and the Israelis and Arabs still don’t seem to be able to peacefully coexist. The Palestinian Arabs are increasingly being pushed to the margins of society as much as they are geographically.
As long as the U.S.A exercises its veto power at the United Nations continuing to afford Israel practically unconditional support for their actions—which have recently included further annexation and settlement of occupied territories—the legitimate aims of the Palestinians will be ignored.
Perhaps they have gone past a point of no return, which will see Israel eventually swallow the remainder of the lands which are not theirs to claim. Or, perhaps Palestine will continue to rally support and international opinion condemning these acts which would make further Israeli expansion politically untenable.
It is a tragic story that is still being written. A consequence of religion, of European power politics, of circumstance and of war. I don’t think anyone has any answers, but the recent conflict where Hamas fired rockets at Israel from civilian locations for Israel to happily return fire, will surely not solve anything.
Indeed, it is a religiously charged struggle for land and power, which goes back several millennia and is still being settled. A strange notion today, in our world with fixed nation-state borders.
I hasten to not exhibit bias to either side, for I hope that I understand the bewildering historic complexities which have led us to today, where two people continue to wage an unsettled feud of the past.
All I know is that la haine attire la haine.