The Situation in Israel/Palestine
Tensions between Arab Muslims and Israeli Jews first surfaced in the nineteenth century, as nationalist movements for self-determination began to break up the global imperial order. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the League of Nations granted Great Britain a mandate over Iraq and Transjordan. The latter, once the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was divided out, became the British Mandate of Palestine, encompassing the present-day boundaries of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. On November 29, 1947, under UN General Assembly Resolution 181, the United Nations split the British Mandate into three territories: the Jewish state of Israel, the state of Palestine, and the international zone of Jerusalem which would be governed by the UN. This decision was followed by numerous conflicts, as well as subsequent peace talks, beginning with the 1948 War – known as the War of Independence to Israelis, and Al Nakba, or “The Chaos,” in Arabic. The most recent manifestation of the dispute resulted in demonstrations at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict boils down to the issues of ownership and persecution. On one hand, European Jews were experiencing a great surge of anti-Semitism and persecution in the late 1800s and early 1900s, culminating in the Holocaust. They also traced their religious roots back to the Holy Land of Israel where Jewish kings and prophets once lived and reigned. On the other hand, there are the Palestinians, a group of ethnic Arabs who can trace their connection to the land back for generations. With the passage in 1948 of UN General Assembly Resolution 181, the Palestinians saw the land they had long called home suddenly divided and shared with a group of mostly European Jews. The 1948 War which resulted led to at least 700,000 Palestinian refugees fleeing for Jordan and other regional states. In the nearly 70 years since the creation of the State of Israel, and beginning of the Palestinian refugee crisis, the conflict has only broadened to include other, mostly Arab states in the region, particularly Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. As the region’s most enduring and bitter dispute, it has drawn the constant attention of both the UN and major world powers.
The most recent iteration of this decades-long conflict took place in Jerusalem at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Al-Aqsa Mosque has played a very important role in the history of the conflict as the third most holy site in Islam, and it is situated next to the Kotel, or Western Wall, the most holy site in Judaism. In July 2017, three Palestinian attackers and two Israeli officers were killed in an attack at the entrance to the Mosque. In response, Israel closed the Mosque for Friday prayers, the Muslim equivalent of Christian Sunday services, before reopening with additional cameras and metal detectors in place at the entrances of the Mosque. Palestinians responded with mass prayers in the streets of Jerusalem and a call for Israel to reverse its actions. Though the conflict was resolved with Israel removing the metal detectors, this occurrence serves as a reminder that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no closer to being solved than it was in 1948. Looking forward, the international community must examine the effects of the continued conflict in their own countries, the effect of international politics on mediation of the conflict, and the enduring sources of disagreement between the parties.