It is a tussle between the Arabs and the Jews as to whom the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea belongs to. UN divided the land 50–50 between the Arabs (called Palestine) and Jews (called Israel) but Israel by force has captured much of Palestine, driving many Palestinians as refugees to the neighbouring countries.
Before going into the details of the issue we need to look at the geography of the region. Israel and Palestine together form the region called the Holy Land. This is divided into geographical parts like the
- Golan Heights
- West Banks
- Jordan River
- Cis Jordan and Trans Jordan
- Dead Sea
- Negev Desert
Also look at the neighbours of Israel:
The issue is of the region of Israel and Palestine which was earlier called the Holy Land. As of today Israel + Palestine = Holy Land. The same land has some other names too, like:
- Al Sham
- The Promised Land
This region is called the Holy Land because it one of the most sacred places for Muslims, Jews and Christians- all the Abrahamic religions and this is the bone of contention.
First we must acquaint ourselves with some nomenclatures.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ISRAEL AND PALESTINE (AS OF TODAY)
- Palestine is the region next of West Banks and the Gaza strip. Israel is the rest of the part of the Holy Land i.e., Golan Heights, Negev desert and the shores of the Mediterranean sea. In other words, the Holy Land without the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
- Palestine has 93% Muslims and 6% Christians and almost negligible size of Jews. Israel has 74.8% Jews 17.6% Muslims(20.8% Arabs). For the sake of simplicity we treat Muslims as the same as Arabs here.
- The official capital of Palestine is East Jerusalem, but the de-facto capitals are Ramallah and Gaza City, which is the largest Palestinian city (as of 2018 there are two separate Palestinian governments) since EJ it is currently under Israeli control. Capital of Israel is Jerusalem but not internationally recognised. Internationally recognised capital is Tel Aviv. All the embassies, with the exception of that of the United States and a few other countries, are in Tel Aviv.
ORIGIN OF THE CONFLICT
The Ottoman Empire(Turkish Empire) which was started around the 13th century and captured almost the entire of the North Africa, South Eastern Europe and the Middle East but started disintegrating at the end of 19th century.
The Holy Land was situated in Ottoman Empire at the confluence of Europe, Africa and Asia. Hence over the past many years it as witnessed many travellers among these regions.
In the 19th century, there was a spring of Nationalism in Europe. There was an urge to make nationalistic identities. Nations like Italy, Germany emerged which were, earlier, divided into many petty states. There was a unification on nationalism- Italians, Germans, etc.
Similar nationalism emerged in Jews. Theodor Herzl wrote much about the Jewish nationalism. He supported Zionism/Zionist movement . Zionist movement is the name of the movement in which the Jewish wanted to return to the Holy Land-
- the land where their religion originated and
- where there was a Jewish kingdom around 3000 years ago.
- One more reason for this migration was the persecution of the Jews in different parts of the Europe. Not only in Germany but also in France, Russia, Italy, Poland and especially in the East European countries were they persecuted, their religion was banned at different times.
But this migration was not on a large scale when it started but it increased in leaps and bounds by the WW1.
- The main reason for this was the BALFOUR DECLARATION by the British in 1917. This is deemed to be the root of the entire conflict. When the WW1 was on and the Ottoman Empire was on the verge of defeat, the Foreign minister of England, Sir Arthur, gave a declaration that they(British) would give Jewish people the land in the Holy Land for their settlement and establishment if they fight in their favour. They did so to lure the Jewish to fight against the Arabs of the Ottoman Empire and drive the last nail in their coffin.
- At the same time, the British entered into a secret agreement with France and Russia. The SYKES-PICOT agreement. They had divided the entire Middle east among the three countries as to which country would belong to which country after the War was over. UK had kept the Holy Land for itself, along with Trans Jordan which together were called the British mandate of Palestine. The British also held Mesopotamia now called Iraq. Syria & Lebanon for France and Turkey for Russia. Therefore, on one agreement they kept the Holy Land for themselves and in another they promised to give it the Jews.
- UK also entered into a third agreement with the Arabs to revolt against the Ottoman(Turkish) Empire. So they pitted Arabs against Turks. In reward, Arabs were promised the Holy Land.
Just see the shrewd game of the British. They entered into three agreement on the same piece of land with three different parties and three different contradictory promises. Obviously, they could not fulfil all, yet they promised.
After the WW1, a new government is formed in the Holy Land called the British Mandate of Palestine. This led to a huge migrations as they had promised a separate land for the Jews in Balfour Declaration. Jews population rose to 30% which earlier during the Ottoman Rule was only 3%. But now the British followed the Divide and Rule policy and made different laws for Jews, Muslims and Christians. Jews started buying lands in the Holy land and evicting the Arabs(Muslims) from their land. They initially bought land in bits and pieces and later evicted the Arabs from the lands which were in between theirs. These formed the Jews settlements.
Owing to this Sykes-Picot agreement, the Arabs revolted against the British in 1936. To suppress this revolt the British took help of the Jewish Militias. Militia is a form armed group which is not trained for military operations and generally not the official manifestation of the legitimate violence by state. They are formed by local, unskilled people. British aided the formation of this militia. Also to pacify the Arabs, they put restriction on the migration of Jews. Like, this year more than 10,000 Jews cannot enter the Holy Land. This restricted back-fired and and the Jewish militia turned against the British and made Guerrilla attacks on their army personnel. These were but sporadic.
Soon, the WW2 started in 1939. So did the HOLOCAUST in Europe. This was the Jewish genocide in Germany by Hitler. Around 6 million Jews were killed as well as 5 million others. Then, there was a sense among the Jews living in Europe that the Hobson’s choice is to flee to the Holy Land or the Palestine as it is the only land where we would be safe. Thus the Zionist movement got fanned.
CREATION OF ISRAEL
The issue of the Holy Land had become very complex and the British withdraw from it and handed over the issue to the newly formed UN. Whether to make a separate country for Jews or not?
The vote went in favour of Israel- the new country for the Jews.
The entire Holy Land was divided into a Palestine State (for Arabs) and the Jewish State of Israel (for the Jews). The division of the land was 50-50. 50% land went to Israel and 50% to Palestine. Palestine got the West Banks and the Gaza strip. The rest of the land went to Israel.
The problem was with Jerusalem. Half of the population here was Jewish and the other half Muslims. So this went to the international control under the UN. Just like Chandigarh which is the capital of Punjab and but the control is the Central Government(UT). No sooner was the announcement made than the Israel’s neighbouring countries attacked Israel.