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Global issue 20

the Israeli government and Hamas, the Islamic party that currently governs Gaza – Israel sees Hamas as a terrorist organisation and Hamas refuses to recognise Israel as an independent state. Darweish believes that negotiators have come very close in the past to finding an acceptable plan for to how to divide Jerusalem and a solution for the many Palestinian refugees who would like to return. But the continued building of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories is proving to be the biggest problem – there are now more than half a million of them. “With the settlements and the settlers, it’s growing, it’s a stronger movement – they are in government, they have the resources. People forget that this is in violation of UN resolutions and international law.” He stresses that international pressure on Israel is the only way to Arena Politics bring about progress. “Really the bottom line is that the Palestinians don’t have the leverage to do anything. They can try again with civil disobedience, but that’s not enough. Without the international backing to translate that into political actions, the Palestinians are not in a position to be able to achieve real change.” Northern Ireland’s problems were eventually solved with the support of other countries helping to mediate between the two sides and formulate a plan that could be taken forward. Plenty of other countries have been involved in the past in trying to help Palestine find a solution, particularly Egypt and the USA. Let us hope that the outrage provoked by the Gaza bombings last summer will finally translate into action this time, so that a lasting two-state solution can be found. Ancient wars set the scene for 20th-century disputes The first humans arrived in the Levant from Africa around 2.6 million years ago, with various prehistoric groups coming and going from the area until city-states were established in the Bronze Age. The Jewish religion is thought to have begun around 2000 BCE, when the area was dominated by Egypt, with Israel emerging as the name of a nation a few hundred years later. But in around 721 BCE the Assyrians conquered Israel, followed by the Babylonians. The first mass migration of Jews out of the area was in 587 BCE when King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon exiled the Jewish population to Babylon. This was the origin of the Jewish diaspora, which saw Jews resettle in communities all over the world. By the time of the Roman occupation, beginning in the year 6 CE, there was just a small Jewish community in what was now known as the province of Judah. Sixty years later, the Jews staged a revolt, claiming an area for themselves that they named ‘Israel’, but the victory was short lived. They were soon banned from living in Jerusalem itself – a banishment that did not end until the Arab conquest in the seventh century. It was around this time, 131 CE, that the Roman province of Judah, comprising parts of modern-day Israel, Syria and Jordan, became known as Palaestina. A further Jewish revolt from 132 to 136, led by Simon Bar Kochba, was crushed by the Roman emperor Hadrian, with Jews exiled from Judea, but not Galilee. The third century saw further persecution of Jews under the Romans and an economic crisis, which prompted migration to Persia’s Sassanid Empire, where a growing Jewish community was already prospering. Constantinople became the capital of the eastern Roman Empire, with Christianity adopted as the official religion. The Romans – now referred to as Byzantines – continued to rule Palaestinia. A short-lived Jewish Commonwealth governed Jerusalem 614-17 when the Persians briefly captured the area, with Jewish help. But the Byzantines soon re-took it. The Arab conquest of Palestine came in the seventh century when Muslim armies from the Arabian Peninsula defeated the Byzantines. The Middle Ages saw low-level Jewish immigration to Palestine, mainly to escape persecution in Europe, but the Crusades were soon to change the composition of the area. The first Crusaders arrived in 1099, massacring Jews and Arabs or selling them into slavery and establishing the Catholic faith in Jerusalem. Next, it was the turn of the Egyptians to dominate the region again, when Egyptian sultans conquered and ruled Palestine from 1260 for more than 250 years. In 1517 the Turks returned – by now known as Ottomans. By the 17th and 18th centuries, the steady trickle of Jewish immigrants were joined by tribes from the Arab Peninsula and Mesopotamia, which also began to settle in the area. The occupying Ottomans were briefly ousted by Napoleon and then Muhammad Ali of Egypt. Napoleon planned to invite Jews to form a state, but did not get chance to take this forward after he was defeated at Acre. By 1840 the Ottomans were back in charge, remaining in power until 1920. The foundation of the modern state of Israel in 1948 was not the end of warfare in the region. The 1956 Suez War saw Israel take the Sinai and Gaza from Egypt, though it returned the Sinai under international pressure. In 1967 the Six Day War saw Israel gain more territory, this time taking the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Sinai again. This triggered another mass exodus of Palestinians out of the now occupied areas, many of whom had already relocated once during the War of Independence. Detail from Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez, a 19th century depiction of the siege in the year 70 CE www.global global f i rst quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 39


Global issue 20
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