If you have read our earlier article titled ‘Israel-Palestine Conflict: Pre-1948’ the you would know the historical background of Judaism and Christianity rivalry? Why Jerusalem is so special for Christians, Jews, and Muslims? How and why, Israel was created? What was the role of Britain in its creation?
When Britain realized that it could not handle the mess it has created in Palestine it took no time to refer the Israel-Palestine issue to the UN in 1947. In 1947, UN Resolution 181 recommended partitioning Palestine into two states one for Jewish (Israel) and the other for Arabs and Jerusalem as an International City. This resolution was followed by violent conflict. However, this proposal became the basis for Jewish people to legalize the establishment of the State of Israel. Despite the Arabs refusal of Resolution 181, on 14 May 1948, the State of Israel came into existence.
1948: Israel War of Independence and Palestinian Nakba
The very next day newly formed Israel has attacked by five neighboring countries i.e., Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. The stated reason for the invasion was
- Maintain law and order as the British left in hurry (this does not seem very convincing)
- Immigration of Arabs to these nations
- In response to incidents such as that at Dayr Yasin (on 9 April 1948 Jewish extremist group Irgun Zvai Leumi and Stern Gang attacked the Arab village of Dayr Yasin and brutally massacre Arabs)
The fighting ended in early 1948 after several ceasefires and with separate armistice agreements with each of these Arab nations and creating the boundaries of what came to know as the Gaza Strip (occupied by Egypt) and East Jerusalem and West Bank (occupied by Jordan). But this cannot be considered as a final solution. Further, these occupations by Jordan and Egypt were not legally recognized. Israel called this as War of Independence and Arabs remembered it as Nakba (meaning ‘the Catastrophe’).
These partitions and divisions of boundaries seem very simplistic on maps but what are their consequences on the ground, on people? The creation of Israel led to the displacement of Arab people, many were forced to leave by Zionist forces (Pre 14 May 1948) or the Israeli army (Post 14 May 1948) or left just out of fear. These Arabs who were living there for centuries, had an occupation, shelter, way of living, children who were going to school, friends and family, etc. Suddenly they had to leave all this behind and had to go to a foreign place. More than 400 Arab villages disappeared.
Where did these Arab people go?
Around 1,400,000 Arabs were living in Palestine when this Pre-1948 war. Out of these more than 700,000 people were displaced from their original homes. They went to neighboring Arab countries (where they were put into poorly maintained and congested refuge camps), the Arab-dominated West Bank, and the Gaza Strip (the Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated places in the world), to remote and underdeveloped areas. These Arab people were thrown into poverty, their lands were confiscated, their children were deprived of health and education facility which pushed them towards crime and violent activities.
However, it will be a disaster to not consider the context in which all this was happening. This was happening post World War2, we are well aware of how Jews were persecuted and killed in Europe, that too systematically by building dedicated gas chamber for the mass killing of Jews especially in Germany. Thus, the entire world was sympathetic towards Jewish people at this point in time.
1956: Suez Canal Crisis
In 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized Suez Canal, which was crucial for Britain and France for trading with Middle-East and Asian countries. He did this in retaliation, to the American and British decision not to finance ‘Aswan High Dam’, which they earlier promised, as Egypt was becoming closer to communist Czechoslovakia and the USSR.
Further, He also barred ships of Israel at the southern port of Elat. As a result, Britain and France found a ready ally i.e., Israel. Therefore, Britain, France, and Israel came to an agreement, as per this Israel will invade Egypt, and Britain and France will intervene as peacemakers and get back the control of the Suez Canal. Everything went as per plan Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula then the Anglo-French intervened and the Elat blockade was dropped by Egypt. Britain and France also asked the UN to deploy a buffer force in the Sinai region.
1964: Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO)
As the Arab Palestinian population scattered after the formation of Israel, they failed to generate a collective and adequate force against Israel aggression. Although, after the 1948 war neighboring Arab nations especially Egypt considered themselves as representative of Arab Palestinians. Apart from them, there existed many local small guerrilla groups but failed to build sufficient political pressure.
As these Arab nations, every time lost to Israel, a perception among Palestinian developed especially among young Palestinian that these Arab nations were not trying enough. As a result, to take control of their own destiny, in 1964 at an Arab summit, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) came into existence. It had its own legislature called the Palestinian National Council (PNC) whose members were from the civilian population representing various Palestinian communities (however, by 1969 it will be dominated by members of various militant groups especially ‘Fatah’).
However, it gained prominence only after the Six Days War of 1967.
June 1967: Six days War
Tension escalated when the frequency of attacks from Palestinian guerrilla groups based in neighboring Syria, Lebanon and Jordan increased. In retaliation, Israel attacks a village of Al-Samu in Jordan occupied West Bank in Nov 1966, and when Israeli Air Force shot down 6 Syrian MiG fighter jets in April 1967. Apart from this, in order to help Syria and Jordan, in May 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Nasser Abdel mobilized his forces in Sinai (where UN Emergency Forces were stationed since Suez Canal and Nasser formally requested the UN to remove them). Further, he again barred ships of Israel at the southern port of Elat.
On June 5, the war started with Israel’s sudden assault which destroyed 90% of the Egyptian Air Force. Similarly, the Syrian Air Force was attacked and without Air Force coverage to their troops overland, Arab power again lost (Jordanian Forces were also defeated in East Jerusalem and West Bank). After the war, Israel occupied Sinai Peninsula (Egypt), Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, West Bank, and Golan Heights (Syria).
This War caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian and brought more than one million Palestinians under Israeli rule which meant they will be further oppressed and persecuted.
In Nov 1967, the UN passed Resolution 242 in order to establish peace among these nations. This resolution asked Arabs to recognize Israel’s right “to live peacefully” and demanded the withdrawal of Israeli forces from “territories occupied in the recent conflict.” However, this was never fully implemented, Israel did not withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula. This led to the ‘War of Attrition’ between Israel and Egypt in 1969-70 which also failed this territorial dispute.
Meanwhile, in 1969, Yasser Arafat (who founded a militant group named ‘Fatah’ in 1959) became chairman of PLO and found bases to attack Israel in Jordan. In a reprisal of these attacks, Israel frequently launched military operations against Jordan which led to instability in Jordan. As a result, in 1970-71, PLO and Jordan’s government came into conflict with each other. Finally, Jordan King Hussein forcefully pushed PLO out of Jordan.
PLO found its new bases in Lebanon and continued its militant operations against Israel from there.
1973: Yon Kippur War
As Israel still occupied Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula, conflicts again converted into a devastating war. Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on 6 Oct 1973, on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. After the death of Nasser, Anwar Sadat came to power in Egypt, he wanted a peaceful solution as per UN Resolution 242, but Israel refused it. Therefore, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on two fronts, Israel took it as a surprise and was failing to defend itself. Israel quickly turned to the US for support, but the US was reluctant, as it could bring US-Soviet into direct confrontation. But when the Soviets openly supported Egypt, the US also came to the forefront. With US support Israel started defeating enemy nations.
UN adopted Resolution 339 and 340 and demanded an immediate ceasefire, under international pressure both sides signed a ceasefire agreement. Israel partially withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt also reduced its forces in the East Bank of the Canal. Further, UN peacekeeping forces were deployed. However, conflict was still not adequately resolved.
Finally, in 1978, The Camp David Accords, a series of agreements between Israel and Egypt that provided a framework for peace in the Middle East, was signed between two countries US being the mediator. It called for a Self-Governing Palestinian government in Gaza and West Bank, full implementation of UN Resolution 242, and recognition of Palestinian rights. As a result, the following year Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty that was on the lines of the Camp David Accords. As per this Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt opened Suez Canal for Israeli ships. These leaders of both countries received Noble Peace Prize.
However, PLO, whom Arab nations recognized as the status of sole representative of Palestinians in 1974 and also got membership of Arab League in 1976, refused to accept the Camp David Accords.
Another consequence of this agreement was Egypt’s membership was revoked for 10 years from Arab League, an alliance of nations in the region, as Egypt formally recognized Israel. This also laid the foundation of 1993, Oslo Accords, signed between Israel and PLO.
1982: Lebanon War
In 1970, PLO was forced to move out of Jordan (their earlier base), as their presence caused a lot of violent disturbance in the nation. They found a new base in Lebanon and from Southern Lebanon, they initiated attacks on Israel. Less than 6 weeks after Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, Israel attacked Southern Lebanon with the objective of push back PLO guerrillas from its northern border.
Another objective of Israel was to establish a puppet government in Lebanon, which will provide it a base away from the homeland to attack neighboring enemy nations. In order to do so, it allied with a local militant group in Christian-dominated Eastern Beirut called Christian Maronite, a Phalangist militia. In September 1982, Bashir al-Jumail, the Phalangist leader, was finally elected as President but soon was assassinated. In reprisal, Phalangist militia entered Sabra and Shatila, Palestinian refugee camp, and massacre more than 1000 people. Over years tensions escalated and in 1985, Israel withdrew its forces from Beirut.
As PLO’s bases in southern Lebanon were destroyed and due to the presence of Israeli forces, PLO shifted its bases to Tunis, Tunisia. As these new bases were geographically far, a reduction in the frequency of attacks over Israel by PLO was inevitable. Therefore, over the period PLO opted for peaceful ways to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.
PLO’s newly developed less-aggressive-attitude towards Israel gave birth to new militant groups like Hamas which was founded in 1987. Hama was an Islamist extremist group.
1993: Oslo Accords
It was a breakthrough agreement between Israel and PLO. Since, the inception of PLO in 1964, it did not recognize the State of Israel and believed in its complete destruction. However, as per this agreement, PLO and Israel recognized each other. Israel promised to allow Self-government and withdrawal of Israeli force from Gaza and the West Bank in return for recognition, this was one of the objectives of the Camp David Accord, 1978. This came to be known as Oslo I. This also meant that PLO accepted the ‘two-nation solution.’ This was followed by the Oslo II Agreement in 1995, which dealt with the government in the city of Jerusalem (both sides claimed this as their capital).
However, this momentum gained for peace was short-lived as both started blaming each other for not sticking to the Accords. Palestine blamed Israel for the insufficient and slow pace of withdrawal of troops from the Gaza Strip and West Bank and Israelis blamed the rise of cruelty against Israeli citizens in these areas. Despite these conflicts over the years Gaza Strip and West Bank gradually came under Palestinian Authority (PA). PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat became elected President of PA-administered areas.
2006: Second Lebanon War
In July 2006, Hezbollah, a political party and militant group which first emerged during the Lebanon war of 1982 attacked the Israeli army in southern Lebanon. It killed many soldiers and capturing two. It demanded the release of Lebanese prisoners. In reprisal Israel attacked southern Lebanon, killing many civilians and displacing about 1 million people. After 34 days of fight, the ceasefire came with UN Resolution 1701. Although, Hezbollah lost the war its efforts were appreciated throughout the Arab world.
Hamas and Fatah
After the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004, Mahmood Abbas became Chairman of PLO and first Prime Minister of Palestine National Authority. In the following years, ideological conflicts between Hamas (Islamist) and Fatah (Secular) parties turned into violent conflicts. Hamas surprisingly came into power in 2006 defeating the Fatah party and a coalition government was formed. However, this was followed by a week-long arm conflict between forces of these two parties in the Gaza Strip. Fatah got defeated and Gaza Strip came into the dominance of Hamas. Over the year both parties tried to resolve conflicts but conflicts still persist.
We could observe from above that the recent conflict at Al-Aqsa is just another conflict in this long series of conflicts. The reasons are the same as earlier, both sides are failing to agree on what territory one should have? What to do of Jerusalem city which both claim as their capital and is considered as the holiest place by both groups? What to do Jewish settled in West Bank and similarly of Palestinian who lives in Israel?
Until these issues are resolved adequately, the world and people of Israel and Palestine will keep on witnessing such violent and armed conflicts.