The Israel/Palestine conflict is never far from the news. It divides politicians and opinion across the globe and the solution, if there even is one, seems further away than ever at this point in time.
I decided to look into the struggle a little more just to make sure that I formed my opinion based on facts rather than emotions and hearsay. I’m not a political scientist or a historian and I don’t have an axe to grind. No doubt opinion on this article will be split so if you disagree with the facts please let me known your source and I will amend this piece gratefully.
I get the feeling that a lot of people don’t really understand this long running beef, I didn’t until I wrote this, and I’m glad that I now have more of an idea about what’s been going on. Before the late 1800s Palestine was a relatively peaceful place. Around 86% of its occupants were Muslim, 10% Christian and the remainder were Jewish… Enter the Zionists.
The Zionists are a group of Jews who believe in keeping Jewish people separate from other humans. They were (and are) incredibly keen for the Jewish people to have a homeland, a whole country to themselves. Those in favour of the Zionist movement consider them protectors of Judaism and responsible for bringing the people of Israel back to a land they happily inhabited a millennia ago. To those opposed to the Zionists they are racist colonialists bent on wiping out Arabs.
Initially, as the Zionists began to move into Palestine everything was calm. The local Muslim Palestinians weren’t too disturbed in their spacious home. But as the trickle turned to a deluge, and some of the Jewish newcomers unashamedly declared their intention of taking over as much land as possible, the tide of peace turned. Riots broke out and there were casualties on both sides. It hasn’t stopped since…
As Hitler came to power there was a mass exodus of Jews leaving Europe as you would expect. Many Jewish people wished to move to Israel, others merely wanted to move to other Western countries, they were European after all.
Zionists were so desperate to increase Jewish occupancy in Israel that they sabotaged some Jewish attempts to move to other Western countries. They effectively forced them to move to Israel for their own ends.
In 1947 the UN stepped in to try to sort things out. The UK had attempted to halt the never-ending procession of Jews into Palestine and the ensuing land grab, but failed. After WWII people had great sympathy towards the Jewish population (and rightly so, they had an unimaginably awful time as we all know). Britain was financially on its knees and the pro-Zionist USA cut aid to Britain to punish them.
The UN decided to apportion land like it was the good old medieval days. They gave Zionists 55% of Palestinian soil (despite only making up 30% of the population) and left the Palestinians with the smaller remainder.
The divvying up of land inflamed discontent from both sides. The Palestinians (and surrounding Arab nations) were not impressed that an external force had given away their land. On the other hand the Zionists didn’t think they had been given enough land.
Five Arab armies picked a fight with Israel. Five to one seems a bit unfair, but Israel’s troops outnumbered all Arab and Palestinian troops, sometimes by as many as two or three times.
The war ended with the map being redrawn again giving Israel 78% of Palestine, and places were renamed in Hebrew. Hundreds of towns and villages were destroyed and around 750,000 Palestinians became refugees.
In 1967 during the Six Day War Israel successfully robbed the remaining 22% of Palestine and portions of Egypt and Syria. International law states that you can’t claim land that you’ve attained through war, so these Palestinian territories are in reality occupied territories i.e. not theirs. Now Palestinians are left with virtually no land, they are treated as second class citizens and face daily oppression and fear. I think this map speaks a thousand words, bear in mind that the Partition Plan in 1947 was signed by the Israelis and the countries of the UN. Despite this legal document Israel saw no particular reason to stop the takeover.
So that’s a very rough overview of some of the main events in this ongoing upheaval. Pro-Israeli groups claim that because Jews lived in Palestine thousands of years ago, that they have a right to take it back by force. That would be like the Scottish and Welsh suddenly rising up and occupying England because hundreds of years ago the Celts lived here. I don’t think it’s a particularly good argument.
Other Zionist apologists point to the guerrilla tactics of Palestinian dissenters as being barbaric. You never hear of Israeli suicide bombers for instance, it’s always the Palestinians that become human bombs. But that’s because Israel has weaponry financed by the USA whereas the Palestinians have been backed into a corner with very little fire power and have become a desperate underdog with very little hope.
So which side has suffered the most casualties over the decades?
When you look at casualty levels on either side of the fence the story is always the same, Palestinian victims far outweigh the losses on the Israeli side.
For instance, in the recent conflict that’s been all over the news there have been 100 Palestinians reported dead and not a single death on the Israeli side. 2012 saw Operation Pillar rolled out. This 6 day revenge attack on Palestine by Israel saw 167 dead Palestinians compared to 6 Israelis. In 2008-09 Gaza War 1166 Palestinians died and only 13 Israelis.
These skewed battle stats are due to a number of things: Palestine has crap, old, unreliable missiles. Palestinians have virtually no bomb shelters or protection unlike the well armed and well readied Israeli areas. Added to that, Palestinians in the Gaza strip are all packed into a relatively small area whereas the Israelis have more than adequate space to mill around in. The Gaza Strip is a bit smaller than the Isle of Wight but houses about 13 times more people (around 1.8 million).
How does Israel afford all of this weaponry? In short – the USA. Why does the US pay out so much cash?
Israel has the might of the US of A to help them maintain their status as the lords of someone else’s manor. It’s estimated that America gives them around $8 million per day making them the largest benefactor of foreign aid from the US. That in itself is a little odd don’t you think? Even if you think that the Israeli takeover of Palestine is fair enough, it seems strange for them to be getting so much cash when they’re already a pretty wealthy and small nation; and there’s plenty of other desperate causes around the world (and within America itself). The vast majority of the cash that goes into Israel is in the form of military assistance.
Israel, despite now having peaceful borders with other Arab states and despite having consistently shown its dominance over Palestinians, receives more cash than it ever has. Why?
The US still says that aid to Israel is humanitarian, it clearly isn’t. Even a pro-Zionist can see that the country doesn’t need any more cash. So there must be some other reason for their continuing, extensive and expensive support. Here’s some of the tactical reasons why US aid increases as Israel gets more and more powerful:
- Israel has prevented radical nationalist movements in Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine
- Syria is a Russian ally and Israel helps keep it in check
- Israel’s frequent and decisive wars act as an excellent way to test new military hardware
- Israel is used by the US to support other military regimes that would be too unpopular with Americans to receive direct funding e.g. the Islamic Republic in Iran and the military junta in Guatemala
- Missile bases in Israel can easily reach into Russia and beyond.
Whenever Israel beats down an army that the US wants beaten down, their aid goes up. After the huge victory over Palestinians in 1967 US aid to Israel shot up 450%. After fighting and defeating Arab and Russian forces in 1973 aid jumped up by 800%. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 there was another huge cash injection.
So it seems that US support and financing is nothing to do with ethics or humanitarian concern, it simply uses Israel as a seat of power. Israel is America’s pit-bull in the desert.
Another reason for US financial support is the general feeling of sympathy for what the Jews have endured. Of course the Jews have had an incredibly bad time as a people, but that’s not a reason to support ethnic cleansing and ousting a whole other set of people from their homes.
Another big slice of Zionist support comes from the Christian right in America who view the battle between Israel and Palestine as a continuation of the Biblical battle between the Israelites and the Philistines, with the Israelites being the rightful owners of this section of desert.
Unsurprisingly the arms industry is big supporter of an ongoing and expensive Israeli war too. Will it ever end?
Of course there are many more facets to this complicated picture, some known, some assumed and some hidden. Whilst the US props up this vicious anti-Muslim financial policy little can be done to try to emancipate the down trodden, over crowded Palestinians. The tide is slowly turning against US pro-Zionist policies but it’s a disturbingly slow process. Even the supposedly neutral BBC has only recently started to be a little more fair in their reporting of the problems in Palestine. The political machinery is too vast to be moved with any speed.
I’ll end with a Noam Chomsky quote seeing as he knows more about this issue than the vast majority of humans:
When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing. You can’t defend yourself when you’re militarily occupying someone else’s land. That’s not defense. Call it what you like, it’s not defense.