Throughout the 20th century, the search was on for the appropriate region concepts of social development, which would possess the minds of the majority and have the most positive impact on the course of history in the Middle East. In this process, there were two ideological currents: religious, from which the doctrine of Pan-Islamism was developed, and national, which served as the starting point of view of the Arabs as a single nation, known as Pan-Arabism. Both of these trends have found their supporters in the ruling circles and among the masses in the various countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Moreover, many of the doctrines’ provisions were the basis of political party programs created in the first half of the 20th century, as well as practical actions and political declarations of many Arab governments and regional organizations. In view of the trends emerging in the Arab world, the scientific study of the problem of Arab unity in the context of the Palestinian settlement is extremely important and relevant. The paper will discuss historical roots, causes and reasons, scope, and the current state of the Palestine-Israeli conflict.
Beginning of The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has formally existed since the proclamation of Israel, though in fact has deeper roots. It started in the British Mandate era, in which the Zionist movement has received rights to the project of the Jewish homeland’s creation. The state of Israel appeared on the world political map in May 1948 (Peters 48). However, the preparatory work for the establishment of a Jewish state was carried out long before. For many centuries, the Jews, who were scattered around the world, had a strong desire to return to their ‘promised land.’ This movement had a religious-political nature. In the late 19th – early 20th centuries, the first Jewish settlements were created in Palestine. In time, Zionism (returning to Zion), which is the support for the establishment of a country for the Jews, has acquired the character of politically organized movement. Exactly Zionist parties created the basis of the Israeli political system (Peters 18). Later, the British colonial rule established in Palestine, which significantly helped to develop the social and economic structure of the future country (Ross). By the end of World War II, the vast majority of the Palestinian industrial sector was Jewish. However, the desire of the Jewish community to obtain the national and state sovereignty has encountered stubborn resistance of the Palestinian Arabs. Being led by the religious leaders, the Arabs flatly refused to discuss the possibility of the partition of Palestine.
In time, the political confrontation and armed conflict between the Jewish and Arab communities have grown into a real war, gripped much of the country. Such a situation made the British authorities discuss the future position of Palestine in the organization of the United Nations. The UN General Assembly voted in favor of the abolition of the British mandatory regime in Palestine and the creation on its territory of two independent states – Jewish and Arab (Ross). At the same time, the representative body of the Jewish population, the People’s Council, was established. Exactly on its first meeting, the well-known politician David Ben Gurion proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel.
Immediately after this historically important event, the troops of few Arab states invaded the Israeli territory. Thus, the first Arab-Israeli war started (Peters 110). Through the joint efforts, Israel managed to repel the Arab forces. However, together with the birth of the State of Israel, one of the most painful problems of modern time appeared – the Palestinian issue. After the first Arab-Israeli conflict, the foundation of the Israeli statehood happened. Almost all the officials of the interim government that were put forward earlier by the National Council received ministerial portfolios in the first government of Israel. Finally, the National Council has passed the position of the Israeli parliament – the Knesset (Peters 130). Thus, there is a clear continuity of the legislative and executive bodies of the former community and the new state.
England and the USA played a significant role in inflaming of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In the initial period, military actions developed in favor of the Arab armies. Later, the position of the Arab side was complicated by such factors as the conflict in the Arab camp and the treacherous policy of monarchical regimes of Transjordan and Egypt, which prevented the coordination of the war efforts, as well as the superiority of the Israeli army in organization and armament. In 1949, military actions in Palestine were finally discontinued (Ross). However, the armistice system had to operate until the political agreement on the establishment of peace in Palestine. Importantly, all subsequent attempts of the Conciliation Commission to achieve a shift in dealing with the Palestinian problem have failed, primarily because of Israel’s refusal to return the captured during the war territories and allow the repatriation of refugees. Consider the statistics, in the course of the conflict, “almost three-quarters of a million Palestinians had to leave their homes within the nascent Jewish state and seek refuge from the war” (Peters 110). In short, the Palestinian question started including the following aspects: the territorial issue, the status of Jerusalem, and the issue of Palestinian refugees.
With the support of the United States, Israeli started aggression against the Arab countries aimed at suppression of the Palestinian resistance movement and the new territorial conquests. In the occupied territories, the Israeli military administration was immediately established. After creating a range of emergency laws, military authorities of Israel introduced the following policies and actions: a nighttime curfew, a policy of collective responsibility, the destruction of homes, taking of hostages, arrests, selective deportation of persons suspected of sympathizing with the Palestinian resistance movement, and restricted freedom of movement within the country.
In 1967, the Palestinian issue once again gained the priority in the Arab world, which allowed expanding the scope of guerrilla operations. The armed struggle of Fatah and other Palestinian factions during a forced passivity of Arab armies quickly gained pan-Arab recognition and high popularity (Ross). In other words, fighting Palestinians have become the heroes of the Arab world. Moreover, the rise of the Palestinian resistance movement was accompanied by the fragmentation of new and existing resistance organizations. Being united by the goal of the Palestinian liberation struggle, all these groupings were actually different in their political orientation and tactical settings. Such ideological and organizational fragmentation was the result of the social heterogeneity of the movement, as well as the exposure to various forces in the Arab world.
Causes and Reasons for Conflict
The Jews’ desire to create their own state was the initial reason for the development of Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Furthermore, the dramatically aggravated situation in the Middle East at the beginning of the 21st century has revealed the difficulties that stood in the way of the Israelis’ dream. At the same time, the bloody events have highlighted the significant schism in the Arab world concerning Israel issue and the differences in approach to the plight of the Palestinians. Essentially, Western countries played a significant role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Specifically, in May 1941, the British government acted in support of the idea of Arab unity (Ross). With such a political step, the British ruling circles hoped to strengthen their position in the Middle East as well as resolve a complex problem of the Palestinian state, the core of which was the issue of national rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination and establishment of their own country.
Along with its general causes, the Arab-Israeli conflict is characterized by strongly pronounced ethno-territorial and ethno-political components. The confrontation, which laid the foundation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, systemically and structurally differs from the relationship between Israel and the Arab states. Firstly, it is not an inter-state conflict. Secondly, Israel was surrounded by hostile Arab countries, which did not hesitate to fix the situation by the power and declare war on the territory of the new state. Occasionally, subsequent decades of war and terror forced the leaders of the conflicting parties to sit down at the negotiating table and resolve mutual claims peacefully. However, compatible interests and contradictions of the parties again led to conflicts.
Moreover, religion plays a crucial role in the analyzed conflict. Initially, religious factor in the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation was not extremely significant and the Palestinian resistance movement was inherently secular. Its leaders sought the ideological base in the socialist theories, often addicted to Marxism and leftism and tied their political fate to the orientation of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. Additionally, not all of the Palestinian Arabs were Muslims. Regarding Israel, its Zionism also began as a secular and intricately united movement of socialists, Marxists, populists, liberals, and conservatives.
However, problems of identity determined the special attitude to religion in both countries. Specifically, Judaism defines Jewish identity no less than ethnic origin and does not separate religious institutions from the state. In general, the secular forces continued to dominate in Zionism, but religious factor already appeared. However, not all religious groups became allies of the Zionist movement, the representatives of which believed that only they had the right objectives and that the movement should be enriched by the religious tradition. Finally, the results of the war contributed to the radicalization of religious platform both of the Israeli and the Palestinian societies. In the Palestinian movement, they reflected a reaction to the occupation and the nation’s disappointment in the policy of leaders, who were unable to return the territories. Furthermore, the following issues influenced the determination of religion’s key role in the conflict: the rise of Islamism in the Middle East, the lack of prospects for the solution of the Palestinian problem, corruption among the national leaders, the failure to provide social support for the poor, and high unemployment. The spiritual and historic bond with the conquered land also motivated policy of religious settlers. Especially clear the impact of the religious factor on the development of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was manifested during the last intifada when the Israeli government implemented the decision on the evacuation of troops from Gaza and several West bank settlements.
Therefore, the role of religious parties in Israel is extremely high and, most importantly, increases all the time, creating a serious national problem. These religious groupings constantly require legislation and support of the government, which dramatically enhances the position of the extremely reactionary extremist forces. Thus, one can deduce that the essential role in the Arab-Israeli conflict belongs to religion, which remains an active force in the ideological and political life of society, the whole atmosphere of struggle, and in some cases, the state of bilateral relations. In short, religion is the long-term factor that affects all processes in the countries. Frequently, violent conflicts are attributed to Islam. Confrontation as an inevitable factor in the political processes of the Muslim world cannot be seen in isolation from the centuries-old traditions. Specifically, the hostile attitude of many Muslims to Western cultural values and policies has not diminished over time. Moreover, the most orthodox Islamic jurists and scholars believe that jihad is one of the highest religious duties of the Muslims and the ultimate goal of Islam is the hegemony on a global scale. In contrast, the culture of dialogue is not a strong point of Islam, which promotes the emergence of radical movements and terrorist groups.
In essence, the major reasons of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict include a range of ethno-territorial and ethno-political components such as the Jews’ desire to create their own country, the Palestinians’ right to self-determine and protect their state, the rise of Islamism in the Middle East, and Western countries’ intervention in the conflict. However, the issue of religion has the most significant impact on the development of the analyzed confrontation. Thus, Judaism does not separate religious institutions from the state ones while Islam opposes Western cultural values and defines jihad as one of the major Muslim duties. Exactly because of such worsening of the relationship between ethnic and religious groups, an essential part of the world conflicts and wars happens. Such confrontations pose a threat to security and stability not only in the separate regions but also in the global system.
Scope of Conflict
Globalization encompasses the entire world although not all countries play the same role in this process. Participating in numerous international organizations, the states make joint decisions and express their opinions. The problem of the Palestinian-Israeli relations has gone far beyond the Middle East region – it has become an integral part of the whole world politics. In the course of the conflict, the main trends of world development starting from the end of the Second World War were reflected. This refers to the confrontation between two socio-economic systems in the conditions of the cold war. Specifically, the geopolitical aspirations of the Soviet Union and Washington’s policy of rolling back communism deeply affected the situation in the Middle East. The latter one also reflected the post-confrontational processes, resulting from the collapse of communism. This is especially important in the sense of understanding the history of international relations and foreign policy.
Current State of Conflict
Currently, the Middle East conflict consists of several blocks, each of which builds its political line around the core problem of the relationship between Israel and Palestine. According to Gunderson, “Today, Israel and Palestine are still fighting for the same reason that they originally fought.” The decisive role in this relationship belongs to the institutions of the policy and the process of its institutionalization. Moreover, during the first years after the war, Palestinians were in a state of shock and confusion; the apathy and political indifference were specific to their moods. Palestinian political parties disbanded and their leaders left the political arena. In time, a belief appeared among young Arabs that Palestinians should find the necessary strengths to unite and speak with one voice in defense of Palestine. The actual realization of this belief became the Palestinian Resistance Movement. However, the formation of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization can be regarded the main milestones of the mentioned resistance movement.
Later, spontaneously started uprising in the occupied Palestinian lands developed into a genuine war against Israel under the name of the intifada. It was a special kind of revolt without the use of firearms. Since the beginning of the intifada, the situation in the region has changed fundamentally. Specifically, the Palestinians started acting as an independent force, demanding the creation of their own state. In addition, many of the Palestinian political organizations adopted a radical policy, bordering on terror. Consequently, the party of Allah, Hezbollah, was created, and a jihad against Zionism and imperialism was proclaimed. The major purpose of Hezbollah is the destruction of Israel while an integral part of the organization is terrorism, including international. Lastly, Hezbollah’s militants are subjected to intense indoctrination and are taught that martyrdom in the name of Allah helps to redeem their sins.
Additionally, several radical Islamic groups have united in the Islamic Resistance Movement – Hamas. Throughout its history, the organization tried to act as an alternative to the PLO. Its activities are carried out at three levels: legal religious propaganda, semi-legal political leadership, and illegal network of combat units. Hamas withdraws money from the rich and redistributes them among the poor, thus, bringing them to their side. At the beginning, Hamas represented the interests of the minority, but today, the movement became a key player in the Palestinian politics. The representatives of the movement openly accused Yasser Arafat’s administration of corruption and improper management policy.
On the contrary, the movement of Islamic Jihad is the most mysterious of all the Palestinian militias. Its members are absolutely committed to the establishment of Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel by conducting a holy war (Peters 404). This group is also hostile to the governments of those Arab states that support normal relations with the West. Moreover, at the beginning of the 21st century, a militant Palestinian group Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades activated. They carried out actions against Israeli soldiers and settlers as well as the civilians in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. Their basic method is the shooting of passing cars.
Today, when the Palestinian people have lost hope for a peaceful solution of the Middle East problem, every militant and extremist organization is gaining points during its political movement. The political evolution of Israel has also undergone a significant transformation. Initially, the policy of the state was under the predominant influence of the following factors: the accelerated economic and social development, the formation of social structures, the complexity of the society’s ethnic composition at the expense of broader immigration, and the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict. Furthermore, the factor of the confrontation has acquired a special significance to the Israel after the Arab-Israeli war, the results of which revealed the futility of continuing the policy of the status quo in the occupied territories. Thus, a peace in the Middle East became one of the most important issues in the program of any political party in Israel.
Crimes Committed by Israel and Palestine
During the long war, both Israel and Palestine committed an essential number of crimes. Specifically, Israeli, Hamas and Palestinian armed forces committed war crimes under international law, but so far, the perpetrators on all sides have avoided punishment. Terrorist attacks also led to numerous victims among peaceful population. According to the international observers, “attacks on the civilian population by Israeli forces were frequent during the early days of the nation’s building” (Kapitan 107). Moreover, Israel uses discriminatory restrictions concerning human rights and builds unlawful settlements in the occupied territories. Israeli security troops use extreme force in opposition to Palestinian demonstrators as well as to the suspected attackers, which raises the issue of extra-judicial killings. In addition, there is a practice of penal home demolitions in Israel. At the same time, the Palestinian authorities arrest activists for the expression of criticism and political affiliation. Hamas also engages in the people’s torture and abusing. All the mentioned crimes committed by both sides present a major threat to the protection of human rights and world security.
In summary, the issue of unification of the Arab world became acute in the post-war rise of the national liberation struggle of the Arab people. Since its inception, the problem of Palestinian-Israeli relations has gone far beyond the Middle East region. The modern world continues witnessing strengthening of the religious component in the world ethno-political conflicts in general and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in particular. In the nearest future, the peaceful coexistence of two states on the land of Palestine is possible only with a constructive impact of the world community on the situation. The humankind has entered the 21st century with an understanding of the fundamental impossibility of avoiding the conflict that pushes two sovereign states to build their policies on the primacy of national interests and the establishment of appropriate resources. Therefore, the concept of military superiority in the conflict objectively cannot become a symbol of the humanity’s prosperity.