Tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians have flared up again.
The world waits for the illusive Two-State solution. Nothing happens. And neither can it. The endgame for Palestinian extremist organisations like Hamas is the destruction of Israel. There isn’t any real compromise. To them, a Palestinian state is “from the river to the sea.”
So, what is happening, and why? Let’s dive into some history to find out:
The end of Israel
War ravaged Israel for decades. The Roman armies destroyed the Temple and much of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Tensions and attacks on Jews around the Roman Empire led to a massive Jewish uprising against Rome from 115 to 117. In 131, Emperor Hadrian renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina and constructed a Temple of Jupiter on the site of the former Jewish Temple. Hadrian banned Jews from living in Jerusalem itself (a ban that persisted until the Arab conquest).
In 136 CE, the Roman Empire finally crushed any rebellion from the Jews. The Roman province, until then known as Judaea, was renamed Palaestina (Palestine in English). There was no country called Palestine.
No Palestine. No Israel
From 136 to 1945, there were no indigenous nations in that region. There was no Palestinian state. There was no Israel. The land was controlled by:
Roman Empire (64 BCE – 390 CE)
Christians (Byzantine period, 390 – 634)
Muslims (634 – 1099)
Crusades and Mongols (1099 – 1291)
Mamluks (1291 – 1517)
Ottoman Empire (1517 – 1917)
There were always Jews present in this region along with other indigenous peoples. The Mosque that exists in Jerusalem now was a church when the Christians held the territory.
In the first half of the 20th century, the Zionists who came to Palestine invested a lot of money in creating schools and infrastructure. If a Jewish state did eventuate, it would survive. At least that was the hope.
The Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of the first world war. British foreign minister, Arthur Balfour, sent a public letter to the British Lord Rothschild, a leading member of his party and leader of the Jewish community. The letter subsequently became known as the Balfour Declaration of 1917. It stated that the British Government “view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The declaration provided the British government with a pretext for claiming and governing the country. An agreement decided new Middle Eastern boundaries between British and French bureaucrats. From then on, Diaspora Jews began migrating to Palestine from many nations.
In 1947, The United Nations approved a Partition Plan for Palestine. The Partition Plan recognised an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem to be under “an International Trusteeship System”. Jewish people received this with joy, but the Arab community did not agree. Civil war broke out in the region. More than 250,000 Arabs fled the area.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews and Palestinians have significantly suffered for centuries. People have lost their lives, their homes and possessions, and their loved ones.
Hala is a longstanding member of Bayside Church. She is Palestinian and was born in 1949. The previous year her family fled from the Holy lands in an event called Al-Nakba (Palestine Devastation).
Hala’s father, Abdo, was a soldier in the British Army Palestine corps. The household comprised his parents, wife, three sisters, and three brothers. Like so many others, they reached Jordan, where they stopped and set up a home.
The advice was for the Palestinian public to vacate their homes and lands until the problem passed. They would then be able to return. Weeks, months, and years passed, and there was no opportunity to return. The majority of Palestinians settled in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan.
With his dying breath, Hala’s grandfather asked to be buried in Palestine. A request that could never be honoured as Israeli law forbade any right of return – dead or alive.
In 1949 a United Nations Commission (UNRWA) was created to deal with the Palestinian ‘problem’.
Hala writes, “What is most touching with today’s people of Gaza, is that for many up to seven times they have had to move on, as increasingly more of Palestinians’ land was taken. The horror of today is that they have never known respite, and this last stance may well be their last! The call to return has never come. And every time, thousands more Palestinians died. In Jordan (1970) Lebanon (1982) and now Gaza.”
After leaving the army, Hala’s father befriended an Australian soldier. Later, working with Shell Aden, he met another Australian, an owner of a bus company and a Shell client. That was his and his family’s good fortune, and they were to come to Australia. Hala remains very thankful to God that she and her family were given the privilege of resettling here.
A Nation is Born
On May 14, 1948, the last British forces left from Haifa, the Jewish People’s Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum on the day. It proclaimed establishing a Jewish State in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel. The USA (Truman) and Russia (Stalin) recognised the new State but not the Arab nations, who marched their forces into Israel to “drive it into the sea’. Thus, began the first Arab-Israeli war.
Many Jewish immigrants, who were World War II veterans and Holocaust survivors, now began arriving in the new State of Israel. Many joined the IDF. War ended early in 1949 when Israel signed armistices with its neighbours (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria). Israel’s new borders were internationally recognised, except by the Arab States. Land that had been granted to Israel remained under the control of various Arab nations.
Most importantly, Egypt had control of the Gaza strip and Jordan the West Bank. There was little or no outcry from the international community about this. But when in 1967 Israel took those areas back again, the International community WAS outraged.
Over the next several years, Israel grew as Jewish people returned from the nations to which they had been scattered. The new country developed its land; desert reclaimed, infrastructure built.
The Six-Day War
In the 1967 six-day war, Israel captured territories that it had lost in 1949 ~ the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights (from Syria), the Gaza Strip (from Egypt), and the West Bank (from Jordan). Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. The war created what we know as modern Israel.
Much has happened since 1967. There is still no end in sight to the tensions between Israel, the Palestinians, and much of the Arab world. The Two-State Solution is no closer to being realised. It cannot happen until all parties are willing to compromise.
Arab countries want a pan-Arabic Empire as in days of old. But the Jewish State is in the way. Their agenda is to keep Palestinians in displaced persons’ camps in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon as pawns for a larger agenda.
The PLO and Hamas
The Intifada of the late 80s and early 90s led to Israel transferring governmental authority in the Gaza Strip to the Palestine Authority (1994). Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian government struggled with a stagnant economy, divided popular support, stalled negotiations with Israel, and threatened terrorism from militant Muslim groups like Hamas. Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2007. (Visit Britannica Online for a more detailed history).
By 2005, Israel had withdrawn all troops and citizens from Gaza. Israeli settlers had to leave their homes in the same way Palestinians did in 1948. Homes were left intact, as was infrastructure. The hope was the Palestinians would create a healthy state. Instead, Hamas destroyed houses and infrastructure. Much of the money donated by nations to help the Palestinians was (is) used to buy rockets and build tunnels to commit terrorist acts in Israel.
The Covenant of the Hamas makes for fascinating (and terrifying) reading “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” Hamas rejects any negotiated peace settlement and views every Israeli citizen as a combatant. So, in their mind, it’s acceptable to bomb civilian targets because there is no such thing as an Israeli civilian. Hence the firing of approximately 2000 rockets indiscriminately from Gaza into Israel since Monday.
Compare that recklessness with the conduct of the IDF:
First, they make phone calls to anyone in (or near) a targeted building to warn them of an impending attack.
Next, they drop leaflets on the area, giving the same warning.
Thirdly, small unarmed (dummy) missiles are aimed at the roof of the building to be destroyed in a warning dubbed “Knock, Knock.”
Even with the greatest care, some civilians get killed because Hamas operatives don’t let them leave. Dead civilians get mileage with the media and create international outrage against Israel.
I was speaking with a Jewish friend about the conflict this week, and here’s what he said: “We live in the hope of a free Palestine that is free from Hamas and Hezbollah and corrupt leadership.” Both Jews and Palestinians have a right to their homeland. But if things continue as they are, it’s only a distance aspiration.