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The city of Jerusalem has become the forefront of Israel-Palestine conflict.

The recent armed violence in the Gaza strip was one of the many confrontations between the Israeli Security Forces and an extremist organization called Hamas, that controls the Gaza strip. The struggle between the Jews and Arabs in the region is older than the countries, before the first World War the region was under the Ottoman Empire with Jews, Arabs and Christians sharing the space in Jerusalem and rest of the region.


Jerusalem has been a historic site for the Abrahamic religions, close to the inception of their faith as a community. While the Judaism is oldest among the three, during the Ottoman rule the Arab influence in the region grew to the extend that the Jews began migrating towards the north in Europe due to systemic religious persecution. But something changed around the beginning of the 20th century, Jews began to face anti-Semitism throughout Europe as well. Jews faced discrimination due to a social believe that they have created an imbalance in accumulation of wealth and properties.

Jewish men on street Jewish activists on the streets. Photo by Blake Campbell on Unsplash

The native Christian population began looking at them with contempt for being high earners and hoarders of wealth. This was due to religious limitation imposed over the Christians by their faith- both Christians and Muslims were not allowed to earn profit through lending, i.e. taking interest was a sin as per religious belief. Jews had no such limitation and this resulted in the financial growth of the Jewish community throughout the industrial period in Europe. Some even blamed the Jewish people for the state of poverty and misfortune among the European working classes.

This contempt and segregation by the Christian community reinforced the Zionism movement which demanded separate Jewish state for the Jews. Zionist leaders viewed Jerusalem as their historic homeland and a planned migration to the region began in late 19th century. In the World War I, the Ottoman empire sided with the Axis powers. Meanwhile in 1917, the British Foreign Secretary issued the Balfour Declaration supporting the Zionism movement and establishment of the Jewish state of Israel.

After the defeat of Ottoman Empire in WWI, the British took the territorial control of the region. Immigration into the British controlled Israel continued but this resulted in conflicts between the Arabs and the Jews. The Arabs viewed this immigration as a continued form of colonialism by the European forces. The holocaust in the Nazi Germany was the 'final nail on the coffin', the leadership of the Zionist movement further pushed the migration and settlement plans. After the independence of Israel in 1948 around 250,000 Jews migrated into the new state of Israel. But the proposed state of Israel did not accommodate Jerusalem. The word 'zion' means Jerusalem in Hebrew, thus, it is safe to assume that even thought the Jews had a Jewish state to them, they were far from their intended goal- their return to the holy city of Jerusalem.

International Intervention

Following the Jewish immigration, the sectarian violence grew into an armed conflict with militias forming on both sides. In 1947, the violence finally gathered international attention and the United Nations proposed a two-state solution and asked the then ruling British forces to divide the region into Jewish state of Israel and Arabian state of Palestine. The plan also proposed that the holy city of Jerusalem should become a special international zone because it was of religious importance to all the three Abrahamic religions.

UN delegation on Agreement between Israel and Egypt. Photo by Matthew TenBruggencate on Unsplash

The Jews accepted the plan but the Arabs denied it. The Arabs believed that it was just a continued form of colonialism and oppression by the European forces. According to the Arabs, the Jews had illegally occupied their land and pushed them out of their own territories. And according to the Jews, they had finally returned to their historical homeland after being persecuted for centuries.

In 1948, the British finally left and the Jews accepted the UN's proposal. Meanwhile the Arab League consisting Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Transjordan, had already joined forces in opposition of the new state of Israel and raised a liberation army of thousands of volunteers. Facing this eminent threat Israel had decided to train its population in military combat and outsourced arms from Europe. The now strengthened Israeli forces faced a full-fledged war right after its independence on 14th May 1948.

In 1949, Israel signed Armistice Agreements with its neighbors putting an end to the first Arab-Israel conflict. With this agreement Israel occupied a large chunk of the Palestinian region and western Jerusalem, Egypt annexed the Gaza Strip and Transjordan (later Jordan) occupied the West Bank. This agreement displaced thousands of Arabs into the neighboring sates as refugees and thousands of Jews in the Arab regions were forced to now migrate to either Israel or Europe for safe haven.

The Six-Day war (1967), fought between the Israeli forces and the neighboring countries, proved to be a turning point in the history of Israel. In just six days Israel had seized control of the Golan Heights in Syria, reclaimed West Bank from Jordan and annexed Gaza and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt. This regional conflict became a proxy ground for the Cold War when Arabs and USSR supported the Arab League and the United States of America supported the Israeli forces in upcoming struggles. As a result, in 1973-74, OPEC countries sought to punish the US and rest of the world by hiking the oil prices by almost 400%.

In 1978, US brokered a deal and the states of Egypt and Israel sighed the Camp David Accords that returned the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt. This was the beginning of the end of the major Arab-Israeli conflict.

Intifada and the Oslo Accords

'Intifadah' is an Arabic word meaning a rebellion or movement of resistance. The First Palestinian Intifada began in Dec. 1987 that ended in Sept. 1993, during this time the riots and protest resulted in nearly 2000 deaths put of which 75% were Palestinians (human rights report by B'Tselem). The main reason for the violence was the Israeli incursion of West Bank and continuous movement of settlers in the region.

Intifadah- is an arabic word meaning rebellion or revolution. Photo by Ömer Yıldız on Unsplash

In 1988, PLO signed and accepted the UN Security Council Resolution 242, which asked the Arab League to accept Israel's right to live in peace within secured and recognized boundaries, and resolution 338, which called for the implementation of resolution 242 in all its parts. In the following years through secret meeting and international involvement, Israel and PLO signed the Oslo Accords. According to the Oslo Accord, PLO re-instated its resolution from 1988 and Israel accepted PLO as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian public and agreed to withdraw in stages from the West Bank. This was the first major step towards a two-state solution.

But the peace was short lived, while PLO turned to negotiations another extremist organization called Hamas started an armed rebellion with a vision for complete Islamic dominion in the region. Hamas rejected the Oslo Accords and started mobilizing suicide attack on Israeli targets. Meanwhile, the Israeli's continued building a road network in the west bank to support settlers and attract more settlers from Israel and across the world. The Palestinians imported arms and raised a security force. The Oslo Accords failed, and talks broke down.

Shortly after, a prime ministerial candidate visited the Temple Mount as an assertion of Israeli dominance over their sacred site, the Islamic followers felt violated because the compound also houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque (third holiest site in Islam). As a result riots broke out and the Second Intifada began.

The second Intifada was much worse than the first and resulted in nearly 4300 deaths, with a similar ration of 75% Palestinians and 25% Israelis.

Keywords: Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem, revolution, Intifadah, Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Oslo


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