Why is Israel waging war against Palestine

Israel and Palestine: Middle East Conflict Explained

The history

The traces of Jewish life in the region go back more than 3000 years. An inscription on a stele from the year 1208 BC is the oldest document with the name "Israel." Later, the Romans conquered the area and expelled the Jews, who no longer had any land of their own. After the crusades in the late 11th century, Christian crusader states emerged in Palestine. In 1187, Sunni Muslims defeated the Crusaders, occupied the area and conquered Jerusalem.

The Zionist Movement

With the growing anti-Semitism and the strengthening of the nation states in Europe, the Zionist movements emerged at the end of the 19th century - with the aim of creating a state of their own for the Jews. One of their masterminds was the Austro-Hungarian writer Theodor Herzl. In his book “Der Judenstaat” in 1896 he drew up detailed plans for the construction, mass immigration and financing of such a state. He suggested Palestine or Argentina as possible territories.

The British mandate

During World War I, Great Britain occupied Palestine, which had previously been part of the Ottoman Empire. Several waves of immigration soon made the proportion of the Jewish population there grow to 30 percent. Opposite it stood the Arab-Palestinian national movement. Violent clashes between Jews and Arabs were the order of the day. With the so-called Balfour Declaration, London agreed to the goal of a state of its own for the Jewish people.

Failing to find a solution, however, Britain turned responsibility to the United Nations. On November 29, 1947, their general assembly voted for the establishment of two states, one Jewish and one Arab. While the Jewish side accepted the partition plan, the Arab side rejected it. The 1.3 million Palestinians received around 43 percent of the British mandate area, the 600,000 Jews a good 56 percent, including the Negev desert. Jerusalem, the holy city for Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, should be under international administration.

The founding of the state

After the Holocaust, people of Jewish origin should be able to live safely in their own state. On May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion proclaimed the State of Israel in the Tel Aviv City Museum. At the age of 20 he emigrated from Poland to Palestine in 1906 and quickly rose to become the leader of the Zionist labor movement. Exact boundaries have not been set. “Why should we commit to boundaries that the Arabs do not accept anyway?” Asked Ben Gurion at the time.

The Israeli-Arab Wars

The day after the founding of the state, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq attacked Israel. Israel won the first Israeli-Arab war and occupied Palestinian parts of the country. Around 700,000 people were displaced or left the country simply because they did not want to live under Jewish rule - what their descendants still refer to today as “Nakba”, a catastrophe.

Conversely, there was a wave of pogroms against the Jews living there in the Islamic world. At least 500,000, possibly even 850,000 Jews immigrated to Israel from Muslim countries - there are no more precise figures. In the 1967 Six Day War, Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip. The Arab League then decided its famous three no: no to peace with Israel, no to recognition of Israel, no to negotiations with Israel. In 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur, the highest Jewish holiday, but were defeated despite high Israeli losses. In 1982, after a Palestinian assassination attempt against the Israeli ambassador in London, Israel invaded Lebanon, where thousands of Palestinian fighters had withdrawn.

The first and second intifadas

The goal of the PLO liberation movement, founded in 1964, was not primarily a state of its own, but the destruction of Israel. After tensions between Israel and the Palestinians had increased again and again in the meantime, two Palestinian uprisings broke out in December 1987 and September 2000. In the second Intifada in particular, radical Palestinians relied not only on street fights and mass protests, but also on terrorist attacks in Israel. The number of suicide bombings skyrocketed. Israel responded by building a 700-kilometer-long barrier, which consists of an eight-meter-high wall near populated areas. Since then, the number of attacks has decreased significantly.

The refugee question

From the Israeli point of view, the 700,000 Palestinians left their homes voluntarily in 1948 or at the direction of the Arab troops so that they had a free run. The Palestinians see themselves as victims of displacement and demand a right of return. The special thing about it: Unlike in other conflicts, the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the displaced persons born outside the disputed areas are also counted as refugees, the refugee status is quasi inherited - and with it the right to financial support from the aid organization UNRWA. The original 700,000 Palestinian refugees have grown to more than five million. Most of them live as stateless persons in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria and in official refugee camps in the region.

The Oslo Treaties

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, with which many Arab states lost the Soviets as their patron saint, the tense relations in the Middle East began to move. With the Oslo Treaty of 1993, for which the then Prime Minister Ychtzak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat received the top peace prize, the basis for Palestinian self-government was laid. In a further step, the West Bank was divided into different zones, some of which are still controlled by the Israelis and some by the Palestinians.

The goal of creating more autonomy for the Palestinians and more security for the Israelis, however, was repeatedly undermined by terrorist attacks, the Israeli settlement building and the second Intifada. In addition, important points were left out of the second treaty from 1995: the future of the Jewish settlements and Palestinian refugees, as well as the course of the border and the status of Jerusalem. Israel only has internationally recognized borders with Egypt and Jordan, with which it concluded peace treaties in 1979 and 1994. In 1999, the Palestinians turned down an offer made by then Prime Minister Ehud Barak to finally negotiate a peace treaty.

The settlements

Today more than 600,000 Jewish settlers live in around 200 settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan. The Palestinians justify their resistance to this “land grab” primarily with the Geneva Convention of 1949, according to which states are not allowed to resettle their own civilian populations into occupied territories. Israel, on the other hand, doubts that this law is even applicable in the West Bank, since it was annexed by Jordan in 1948 in violation of international law.

The United Nations Security Council has repeatedly criticized the construction and expansion of the settlements as illegal. While the Palestinians see the settlements as a thorn in their flesh, the settlers with their industrial and agricultural businesses are also employers for more than 25,000 Palestinians. With the withdrawal of all settlers and military posts from Gaza, the then Prime Minister Ariel Scaron tried to exchange peace for land in 2005 - without success. The current fight with the Islamist Hamas is now the fourth Gaza war that Israel has been waging since 2008.

You can also read about this:

We want to know what you think: The Augsburger Allgemeine therefore works with the opinion research institute Civey. Read here what the representative surveys are all about and why you should register.