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Global issue 20

Arena Unholy wars in the Holy Land When Israeli bombs and Palestinian rockets explode on to international TV news channels, it’s hard for outsiders to grasp the origins of the strength of feeling on both sides that has led to so much bloodshed. A look back at the history of the land that became modern-day Israel, and its people, helps put it into context Katie Silvester Israel provoked perhaps the strongest international condemnation in its checkered 66-year history so far when it repeatedly dropped bombs on Gaza in the summer of 2014, hitting schools and hospitals, killing women, children and the elderly. In the bombings, which lasted seven weeks, more then 2,100 Palestinians were killed. By contrast, there were 68 Israeli fatalities during the same period, most of which were soldiers. How could any state so wilfully target civilians? And why did the most militant Palestinians keep goading their much more powerful neighbour with rocket strikes that only prolonged the bombings? The immediate trigger for the hostilities had been the kidnap and murder of three young Israelis, followed by the revenge killing of a young Palestinian. But, in reality, the conflict was just the last in a long line of clashes between the Israelis and Palestinians in which the stakes seem to grow ever higher. Yet, for all the loss of life, little seems to have changed and a lasting peaceful resolution to the Israel–Palestine conflict seems as far away as ever. Marwan Darweish, principal lecturer in Peace and Reconciliation Studies at Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, says: “The key drivers of this conflict, in my view, are the end of the occupation and mutual recognition between Israelis and Palestinians that will allow them to live as two separate entities. Without that it’s not possible to find a sustainable solution.” But, he adds, Israel’s current focus is simply to contain the situation – there is no real drive to move forward and find a solution. And the Palestinians don’t have the leverage to bring about change without international backing. To really understand the Israel–Palestine conflict, you have to look further back in history – much further. For the last few thousand years, the area known today as Israel has been of great interest to most of the major civilisations, so power struggles are nothing new. Israel, and its surrounding area, is in a key geographical location at the gateway between Africa, Asia and Europe, which has seen it conquered many times over by empires wanting to take advantage of its strategic position. Since the first civilisations emerged in Asia thousands of years ago, governance of the region has passed back and forth between Egypt, Turkey, Persia and Arabia, with a long period of Roman rule and a brief British presence. Napoleon even had a short stint of leadership, as did Alexander the Great. The Jewish religion came into being around 2000 BCE in a region known as Canaan, part of which is now modern-day Israel. Since then, there has almost always been a Jewish presence in the area, but Jews have frequently been in conflict with the ruling powers. The Jewish population has been exiled several times, with some individuals always managing to return – Jewish migration back to Israel has usually peaked when persecution against Jews increases in other countries. At several junctures during the last 4,000 years, Jews have tried to form their own state, but – until 1948 – their efforts had been shortlived. Today’s Palestinians are Arabs, culturally and linguistically, as a result of the gradual Arabisation of the Middle East. Though predominantly Muslims – mainly Sunni – some are Christians and a few are Druze or Samarians. Analysis of the DNA of Muslim History of Israel and Palestine 131 The Roman province of Judah is renamed Palaestina. After another Jewish revolt, Jews are exiled from some parts of the province 928 BCE Israel splits into Israel (north) and Judah 1209 BCE First mention of ‘Israel’ in an inscription for the Egyptian King Merneptah 587 BCE King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon conquers Judah, exiling the Jewish population to Babylon 66 CE The Jews of Judea rise up against Roman occupiers in the first Jewish- Roman War, naming their new state ‘Israel’ Bukvoed CC BY SA 3 611 From the Middle Ages onward, there is small-scale individual Jewish migration to escape persecution elsewhere 1099 Crusaders massacre Jews in Jerusalem 1600 Tribal immigrants from the Arabian Peninsula and the Mesopotamian Valleys arrive. Jewish immigrants continue to arrive from Europe, to escape persecution and expulsions 36 l www.global -br ief ing.org f i rst quar ter 2015 global


Global issue 20
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