“Israel maintains entrenched discriminatory systems that treat Palestinians unequally. Its 50-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza involves systematic rights abuses, including collective punishment, routine use of excessive lethal force, and prolonged administrative detention without charge or trial for hundreds. It builds and supports illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, expropriating Palestinian land and imposing burdens on Palestinians but not on settlers, restricting their access to basic services and making it nearly impossible for them to build in much of the West Bank without risking demolition. Israel’s decade-long closure of Gaza, supported by Egypt, severely restricts the movement of people and goods, with devastating humanitarian impact. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza both sharply restrict dissent, arbitrarily arresting critics and abusing those in their custody.”
– Human Rights Watch, 2017
The Israel/Palestine conflict has been splashed all over the news for years. But what are they really fighting about? To fully understand such a complicated conflict one must first go back a hundred or so years and understand the history of the region.
The conflict brings about the age old question humans have been struggling with since the dawn of time- who can claim the land in which people live? Zionism is a movement for (originally) the re-establishment and (now) the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel. Zionists believe that Judaism is not just a religion, but a nationality, and that after years of persecution Jews should be able to create their own nation-state in their homeland of Jerusalem and Israel. However, there are a few problems with this. Not only is Jerusalem a holy spot for all three Abrahamic religions, but Arabs were living on the land of what is present day Israel for years before Zionists decided to claim that land back. And to make things even more complicated, after the Ottoman Empire (the ruling empire of the specific region) collapsed, Imperial Britain decided to take over the land. This all happened in the early 1900s, and it’s only gotten more complicated since then. Below is a timeline created to help understand the history and current events of the Israel/Palestine conflict.
1918 – After WW1 the Ottoman empire collapsed and British took control of the area, renaming it “The British Mandate for Palestine”.
1930s- The Holocaust caused many Jews to flee from Europe to “The British Mandate for Palestine”. So much so that the British limited Jewish immigration.
1947- The UN proposed to split the British Mandate for Palestine into Israel and Palestine (Jerusalem was to be an international zone).
1948-1949- Arabs declare war on Israel the establish a unified Arab Palestine where the British Palestine had been. Israel won the war but pushed way past the borders under the UN plan. They also expelled huge numbers of palestinians (7 mil). After the war Israel controlled everywhere except Gaza (which Egypt controlled) and the West Bank (which Jordan controlled). In the next decades, many refugees (both Arabs and Jews) expelled from their countries came to Israel.
1967 – A violent skirmish know as the Six-Days War took place. After which Israel seized Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan, Gaza and Sinai from Egypt
Once Israel took over all of Palestine they were left responsible for governing the Palestinians
Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) formed in the 1960s fought against Israel (including acts of Terrorism).
1978- Israel and Egypt signed the US brokered Camp David Accords and Israel gave Sinai back to Egypt.
1982- Israeli military invaded Lebanon to kick the PLO out of Beirut. Meanwhile settler Israelis moved into the Palestinian heavy West Bank & Gaza whether the Palestinians wanted them to or not. Soldiers came with settlers to protect them and forced Palestinians off of their land.
The international community considers these settlers to be illegal.
1987-1993 – The First Intifada (uprising) began with protests and boycotts but escalated. A couple hundred Israelis and over 1,000 Palestinians died. Around the same time of the First Intifada, Hamas was created in Gaza (a violent extremist group dedicated to the destruction of Israel).
1993- The Oslo Accords take place. It is important to note that these are meant to be the first big step to Israel someday withdrawing from West Bank and Gaza and allowing an independent Palestine.
The Oslo Accords also created the Palestinian Authority (PA) which allowed Palestinians some rights in certain places.
Members of Hamas launched suicide bombings to try to sabotage the process and the Israeli Right protested peace talks.Tensions were so high, that after the signing of the second Oslo Accords the Israeli far right shot the Israeli Prime Minister.
2000- A Second Camp David Accords is held and comes up empty.
2000-2005- A second Second Intifada occurs, this time much more violent. By the end of the Second Intifada 1,000 Israelis and 3,200 Palestinians died.
2003- Israel withdraws from Gaza. Hamas gains power but splits from the Palestinian Authority. Israel puts Gaza under a blockade and unemployment rises to 40%
2005- Israeli politics shift right, the country builds walls and checkpoints to control palestinians movements. Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but, citing security concerns, to this day maintains tight control of its land and sea borders, reducing Gaza’s economy to a state of collapse.
2006- Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry was created, and since then has dedicated significant resources to monitoring critics of Israeli policy.
2012- Under intense Egyptian and American pressure, Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas halted eight days of conflict. In one week, violence had killed more than 150 Palestinians and five Israelis. The deal called for a 24-hour cooling-off period to be followed by talks aimed at resolving at least some of the longstanding grievances between the two sides. According to the New York Times, The deal demonstrated the pragmatism of Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi. However, the cease-fire deal was reached only through a final American diplomatic push: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
2013- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to revive the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, in order to secure a two-state solution. However, peace talks were disrupted when the Fatah, the PA’s ruling body, formed a unity government with its rival faction, Hamas.
2014- In the summer of 2014, the murders of three Israeli teenagers and one Palestinian teenager ignited clashes in the Palestinian territories and precipitated a military confrontation between the Israeli military and Hamas. In August 2014, in violation of the November 2012 ceasefire, Hamas fired nearly three thousand rockets at Israel. In retaliation, Israel launched air strikes on rocket launchers and other suspected terrorist targets in Gaza. The skirmish ended in late August with a cease-fire deal brokered by Egypt, but had killed 71 Israelis and 2,220 Palestinians according a report by the United Nations.
2015- A wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians emerged after clashes erupted at a Jerusalem holy site in September 2015. Amidst calls from the United Nations Security Council to ease tensions, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that Palestine could no longer be bound by the Oslo Accords. Fall 2015 witnessed further increases in violence with near-daily stabbings of civilians and Israeli security force crackdowns. These included the arrest of Hassan Yousef, cofounder and senior official of Hamas. Kerry renewed separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in October 2015 in order to quell the emerging violence.
2016- Israeli military authorities have demolished or confiscated Palestinian school buildings or property in the West Bank at least 16 times since 2010, with 12 incidents since 2016, repeatedly targeting some schools, Human Rights Watch found. Israel has repeatedly denied Palestinians permits to build schools in the West Bank and demolished schools built without permits, making it more difficult or impossible for thousands of children to get an education, Human Rights Watch said. The Israeli military refuses to permit most new Palestinian construction in the 60 percent of the West Bank where it has exclusive control over planning and building, even as the military facilitates settler construction.
The military has enforced this discriminatory system by razing thousands of Palestinian properties, including schools, creating pressure on Palestinians to leave their communities. When Israeli authorities have demolished schools, they have not taken steps to ensure that children in the area have access to schools of at least the same quality.“Israeli authorities have been getting away for years with demolishing primary schools and preschools in Palestinian communities,” said Bill Van Esveld, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Israeli military’s refusal to issue building permits and then knocking down schools without permits is discriminatory and violates children’s right to education.”
According to Human Rights Watch, an independent, international, nongovernmental organization that promotes respect for human rights and international law, “The Israeli government continued to enforce severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights; restrict the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip; and facilitate the unlawful transfer of Israeli citizens to settlements in the occupied West Bank. Punitive measures taken by the Palestinian Authority (PA) exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Gaza caused by the closure enforced by Israel. The PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza escalated crackdowns on dissent, arbitrarily arresting critics, and abusing those in their custody.”
Between January 1 and November 6, 2017, Israeli security forces killed 62 Palestinians, including 14 children, and injured at least 3,494 Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel, including protesters, suspected assailants or members of armed groups, and bystanders. Palestinians killed at least 15 Israelis during this same time, including 10 security officers, and injured 129 in conflict-related incidents in the West Bank and Israel.
In April and May, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners spent 40 days on hunger strike seeking better conditions. As of November 1, Israeli authorities incarcerated 6,154 inmates on what they consider security grounds, the overwhelming majority Palestinian, including 3,454 convicted prisoners, 2,247 pretrial detainees and 453 administrative detainees held without charge or trial, according to the Israel Prison Service.
May 7, 2018, the Israeli Authorities revoked the work permit for Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director, and ordered him to leave Israel within 14 days. Authorities based the decision on a dossier a government ministry compiled on Shakir’s activities spanning over a decade, almost all of them predating his Human Rights Watch employment. “This is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling Human Rights Watch and shutting down criticism of Israel’s rights record,” said Iain Levine, deputy executive director for program at Human Rights Watch. “Compiling dossiers on and deporting human rights defenders is a page out of the Russian or Egyptian security services’ playbook.”
In July-August 2017 tensions around the Al-Aqsa/Temple Mount compound triggered an escalation in violence. Israeli security forces used lethal force against demonstrators and against suspected attackers in the West Bank and at the Gaza border. Palestinian assailants, most of them apparently acting without the formal sponsorship of any armed group, carried out stabbings and occasional shootings against Israelis.
Israel operates a two-tiered system in the West Bank that provides preferential treatment to Israeli settlers while imposing harsh conditions on Palestinians. While settlements expanded in 2017, Israeli authorities destroyed 381 homes and other property, forcibly displacing 588 people as of November 6 2017, in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as part of discriminatory practices that reject almost all building permit applications submitted by Palestinians.
Israeli restrictions on the delivery of construction materials to Gaza and a lack of funding have impeded reconstruction of the 17,800 housing units severely damaged or destroyed during Israel’s 2014 military operation in Gaza. About 29,000 people who lost their homes remain displaced.
Israel also has maintained onerous restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank, including checkpoints and the separation barrier, a combination of wall and fence in the West Bank that Israel said it built for security reasons. Israeli-imposed restrictions designed to keep Palestinians far from settlements forced them to take time-consuming detours and restricted their access to agricultural land.
According to a 2017 Human Rights Watch report, Israeli military authorities detained Palestinian protesters, including those who advocated nonviolent protest against Israeli settlements and the route of the separation barrier. Israeli authorities try the majority of Palestinian children incarcerated in the occupied territory in military courts, which have a near-100 percent conviction rate.
HRW also added that Israeli security forces arrested Palestinian children suspected of criminal offenses, usually stone-throwing, often using unnecessary force, questioned them without a family member present, and made them sign confessions in Hebrew, which most did not understand. The Israeli military detained Palestinian children separately from adults during remand hearings and military court trials, but often detained children with adults immediately after arrest. As of June 30, Israeli authorities held 315 Palestinian children in military detention.
As of October 2017, Israel held 453 Palestinian administrative detainees without charge or trial, based on secret evidence, many for prolonged periods. Israel jails many Palestinian detainees and prisoners inside Israel, violating international humanitarian law requiring that they not be transferred outside the occupied territory and restricting the ability of family members to visit them.
In December 2017, President Donald J. Trump recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced his intention to construct a U.S. embassy there, reversing longstanding U.S. policy. Israel considers the “complete and united Jerusalem” its capital, but Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of their future state according to the Council of Foreign Relations’ website.
On Monday, May 14th the United States Embassy was formally relocated to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, on the 70th anniversary of the formation of Israel. The shift of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem reflects the close alliance that has developed between Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu, which Palestinian leaders say has worsened prospects for peace. “Today is a day of sadness,” said Sabri Saidam, the Palestinian minister of education reflected on the 14th. “It’s a manifestation of the power of America and President Trump in upsetting the Palestinian people and the people who have been awaiting the independence of Palestine for 70 years”.
Many Palestinians protested the opening of the Embassy. Outside the Qalandiya refugee camp north of Jerusalem, youths released bunches of black balloons that carried aloft black Palestinian flags, showing their disdain for the American move. Clashes pitted demonstrators throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails against Israeli security forces firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
A mass attempt by Palestinians to cross the border fence separating Israel from Gaza turned violent, as Israeli soldiers responded with rifle fire. More than 2,700 Palestinian demonstrators were injured, at least 1,350 by gunfire, along the border fence with Gaza, the Health Ministry reported. Israeli soldiers and snipers used barrages of tear gas as well as live gunfire to keep protesters from entering Israeli territory. The Israeli military said that some in the crowds were planting or hurling explosives, and that many were flying flaming kites into Israel; at least one kite outside the Nahal Oz kibbutz, near Gaza City, ignited a wildfire. A spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces, Lt. Colonel Jonathan Conricus, cast doubt on the casualty numbers from the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry; he said a large number of those listed as injured had suffered only tear-gas inhalation (although one infant died from tear gas inhalation). Israel said its soldiers had exercised restraint and that many more protesters would die if they tried to cross into Israeli territory. But Doctors Without Borders, the international medical charity, said that it had treated more Palestinians at its Gaza clinics in the past month than during the 2014 conflict and that some of the exit wounds from Israeli ammunition were “fist-size”. B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights organization, criticized the military’s use of lethal force, saying that the demonstrations were no surprise and that Israel had “plenty of time to come up with alternate approaches.” “The fact that live gunfire is once again the sole measure that the Israeli military is using in the field evinces appalling indifference towards human life on the part of senior Israeli government and military officials,” the group said.
Though Colonel Conricus, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said the Palestinian fighters were carrying firearms, he acknowledged that there had been no reports of Israeli troops coming under gunfire. An Israeli soldier was wounded by shrapnel from what was believed to be an explosive device, he added. Israel has made clear throughout the protests that it holds Hamas responsible for any violence emanating from Gaza, and Colonel Conricus made no apologies for the one-sided body count.
On May 30th 2018 Hamas said that armed groups in the Gaza Strip had agreed to a deal with Israel following a night of air attacks targeting several Hamas and Islamic Jihad positions, so long as the “occupier” (Israel) did the same. However, on Sunday, June 2, Israeli warplanes hit at least 15 targets belonging to Hamas’ armed wing, the Al Qassam Brigades. The attacks targeted at least three Hamas compounds in the northern part of the strip. Sunday’s attacks came a day after Razan al-Najjar, 21-year-old volunteer paramedic, was killed by Israeli live fire during a protest. According to witnesses, al-Najjar was shot in her white uniform while running towards the fortified fence to help a casualty.
To conclude, that is where the conflict is at as of now. It’s a bloody and terrible dispute with casualties on both sides, although the number of casualties have been much higher on one side ever since Israel won the war against Arabs fighting for a unified Arab Palestine in 1949. Israel has more money, more land, more fighters (every Israeli citizen must work for the IDF in some capacity due to conscription of citizens over 18), and the backing of powerful world powers such as the United States of America. In contrast, Palestinians are not allowed to form their own government to lead the people, so terror groups such as Hamas have taken the stage to represent Palestine in the fight for freedom. However, Hamas does not represent Palestinians as a whole. Many Palestinians that protest are not affiliated with any particular group, but are just average people that want the freedom and human rights they deserve, as well as to live and thrive on the land they see as rightfully theirs.
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