Thursday, 17 July 2014

History Screws Everyone: the Israeli and Palestinian Conflict

This week's history question comes from deep in the heart of Saskatchewan, from Anna-Maria in Moose Jaw, "I don't get it: why does Israelis and Palestinians fight all the time? What's the history behind all this crazy crap?"

Let's look at one person's artistic interpretation:

A blunt and honest question, Miss Moose-Jaw. Right now, there's a lot of media interest in the area again as Hamas (who is in charge in Palestinian territory which includes the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) and Israel call a brief cease-fire after Israeli air strikes on a Gaza beach kills four Palestinian children. What the media is light on is historical events that have lead to about 2,000 people dying this year already in an area the size of my backyard. 
map of Israel
Not my backyard pictured.
So, gather around and I'll tell you one reason why things are so bad in Israel. Remember, history stories always end with "And a lot of people, Arabs, Jews...everyone - dies horribly and needlessly."

Once upon a time, there was an area called Palestine that was under the control of someone or another all the time: Cannanites, Assyrians, Romans, Crusaders, Mongols, and so forth. Everyone called it something different, but our story begins when this area was controlled by the Ottoman Empire since the 1500s. The people who lived there, mostly Arab Muslims, but Christians, Jews, and other groups as well, were not happy living under the Ottoman Turks because they treated them like lesser beings. You also have the Jewish people and the Pan-Arab movement looking at the area as their historical homelands. So there was a lot of tension. Then things got worse: a world war started.

You can blame a lot of the conflict today on British Imperialism after World War I.

The promise of liberation from the Ottomans led many Jews and Arabs to support the allied powers during World War I, leading to the emergence of widespread Arab nationalism. The British promised that if the Arabs supported then in the war, the British government would support the establishment of an independent Arab state including Palestine, when they defeated the Turks. I can just see an evil old silent film era villain smiling and promising the world to the Arab people.
"We've got other plans for Palestine!"
A revolt, led by T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and the Arab leader's son Faysal, was successful in defeating the Ottomans, and the British took control over the area including modern day Iraq and Palestine in 1917, along with France taking their chunk as well. The Arab people who fought so hard for their independence, were rightly pissed. Then the British decided to promise support for a Jewish "national home" in Palestine. The British sought legitimacy for their continued control of the region, which they got from the League of Nations in 1922. So, not only did the British screw them, but so did the rest of the world. Arab nationalists tried to revolt and created the Arab Kingdom of Syria in 1920, only to have crushed by the French.There was no way the British would give up anything either.

But look, you can have your own flag!
Under the British Mandate for Palestine, the land west of the Jordan River, known as Palestine, was under direct British administration, while the land east of the Jordan was a semi-autonomous region called Transjordan, which got independence in 1946. Jews began to immigrate (Zionist) once they heard of the British plan to create a homeland for them in the millions, and Palestinian Arabs saw this as being screwed out of their own homes. Again. They rioted in 1920, and in 1922 the British government tried to backpedal, saying they were not going to form a Jewish state.That really didn't help much as they knew how good the British were at keeping their word.

Riots broke out between the Jews and the Arabs, all leading to the huge 1936-39 Arab Revolt. Again the British wet their pants and tried to stop all Jewish immigrants. But now we come to the end of the road for many people: World War II and the Holocaust (Shoah) began and the Jews of Europe were being exterminated. The calls for a homeland continued as Jews fought with the British and many fled to Palestine illegally. Failing horribly to end the problems and economically broke from World War II, the British wanted and were informed by the UN to end their mandate over Palestine, and begged off the problem on the United Nations. The UN called for the creation of an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem. Well, that went over like a fart.
A man reads a document to a small audience assembled before him. Behind him are two elongated flags bearing the Star of David and portrait of a bearded man in his forties.
Leaders of Jewish Agency declaring the formation of Israel. No farts were reported.
The Arab League said no way, because they were being told again that their country was not under their control and they had to share. But the Jews said yes, because after the Holocaust you can bet they would say okay to anything, even if they had been given a birdhouse and told to live in it.

In 1948, the British gave up the area and the armies of four Arab countries—Egypt, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq—entered what had been British Mandatory Palestine, launching the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Then things got really complex and that would be a really long story.

And a lot of people died, and continue to die, horribly and needlessly.

No comments:

Post a Comment