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Israel-Palestine dicussion

  • How can such a delicate situation be resolved

A bit of history.


In the late 1800s a group in Europe decided to colonize this land. Known as Zionists, they represented an extremist minority of the Jewish population. Their goal was to create a Jewish homeland, and they considered locations in Africa and the Americas, before settling on Palestine.

At first, this immigration created no problems. However, as more and more Zionists immigrated to Palestine – many with the express wish of taking over the land for a Jewish state – the indigenous population became increasingly alarmed. Eventually, fighting broke out, with escalating waves of violence. Hitler’s rise to power, combined with Zionist activities to sabotage efforts to place Jewish refugees in western countries, led to increased Jewish immigration to Palestine, and conflict grew.

UN Partition Plan

Finally, in 1947 the United Nations decided to intervene. However, rather than adhering to the principle of “self-determination of peoples,” in which the people themselves create their own state and system of government, the UN chose to revert to the medieval strategy whereby an outside power divides up other people’s land.

Under considerable Zionist pressure, the UN recommended giving away 55% of Palestine to a Jewish state – despite the fact that this group represented only about 30% of the total population, and owned fewer than 7% of the land.

1947-1949 War

While it is widely reported that the resulting war eventually included five Arab armies, less well known is the fact that throughout this war Zionist forces outnumbered all Arab and Palestinian combatants combined – often by a factor of two to three. Moreover, Arab armies did not invade Israel – virtually all battles were fought on land that was to have been the Palestinian state.

Finally, it is significant to note that Arab armies entered the conflict only after Zionist forces had committed 16 massacres, including the grisly massacre of over 100 men, women, and children at Deir Yassin. Future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, head of one of the Jewish terrorist groups, described this as “splendid,” and stated: “As in Deir Yassin, so everywhere, we will attack and smite the enemy. God, God, Thou has chosen us for conquest.” Zionist forces committed 33 massacres altogether.

By the end of the war, Israel had conquered 78 percent of Palestine; three-quarters of a million Palestinians had been made refugees; over 500 towns and villages had been obliterated; and a new map was drawn up, in which every city, river and hillock received a new, Hebrew name, as all vestiges of the Palestinian culture were to be erased. For decades Israel denied the existence of this population, former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir once saying: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian.”

Current Conflict

There are two primary issues at the core of this continuing conflict. First, there is the inevitably destabilizing effect of trying to maintain an ethnically preferential state, particularly when it is largely of foreign origin. The original population of what is now Israel was 96 percent Muslim and Christian, yet, these refugees are prohibited from returning to their homes in the self-described Jewish state (and those within Israel are subjected to systematic discrimination).

Second, Israel’s continued military occupation and confiscation of privately owned land in the West Bank, and control over Gaza, are extremely oppressive, with Palestinians having minimal control over their lives. Over 10,000 Palestinian men, women, and children are held in Israeli prisons. Few of them have had a legitimate trial; Physical abuse and torture are frequent. Palestinian borders (even internal ones) are controlled by Israeli forces. Periodically men, women, and children are strip searched; people are beaten; women in labor are prevented from reaching hospitals (at times resulting in death); food and medicine are blocked from entering Gaza, producing an escalating humanitarian crisis. Israeli forces invade almost daily, injuring, kidnapping, and sometimes killing inhabitants.

According to the Oslo peace accords of 1993, these territories were supposed to finally become a Palestinian state. However, after years of Israel continuing to confiscate land and conditions steadily worsening, the Palestinian population rebelled. (The Barak offer, widely reputed to be generous, was anything but.) This uprising, called the “Intifada” (Arabic for “shaking off”) began at the end of September 2000.


U.S. Involvement

Largely due to special-interest lobbying, U.S. taxpayers give Israel an average of $8 million per day, and since its creation have given more U.S. funds to Israel than to any other nation. As Americans learn about how Israel is using our tax dollars, many are calling for an end to this expenditure.







Hamas is the largest and most influential Palestinian militant movement that, along with the more moderate Fatah party, serves as one of the two primary Palestinian political factions. Founded in 1987 during the first Intifada, Hamas is a Sunni Islamist group and a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization violently opposed to the state of Israel. Hamas, an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawana al-Islamiya (Islamic Resistance Movement), has exercised de facto rule over the Gaza Strip since wresting the territory from its rival Fatah, which governs the West Bank, in 2007. The two parties have made overtures of reconciliation in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions, but progress on this score has proved elusive. Despite its militant reputation, Hamas’ local support, in many ways, can be traced to its extensive network of on-the-ground social programming, including food banks, schools, and medical clinics.

Hamas was founded by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a Palestinian spiritual leader who became an activist in the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood after dedicating his early life to Islamic scholarship in Cairo. Beginning in the late 1960s, Yassin preached and performed charitable work in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, both of which were seized by Israeli forces following the 1967 Six-Day War. In 1973, he established al-Mujamma’ al-Islami (the Islamic Centre) to coordinate the Brotherhood’s political activities in Gaza.

Yassin established Hamas as the Brotherhood’s local political arm in December 1987, following the outbreak of the first Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli control of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Hamas published its official charter in 1988, moving decidedly away from the Brotherhood’s ethos of nonviolence.

The first Hamas suicide bombing took place in April 1993, five months before Yasir Arafat, then-leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and Yitzhak Rabin, then-prime minister of Israel, sealed the Oslo Accords–a historic peace pact that, among other things, established limited self-government for parts of the West Bank and Gaza under the Palestinian authority. Hamas subsequently condemned the Oslo Accords, and has since launched a campaign of terrorism in efforts to undercut peace negotiations. The U.S. State Department officially designated Hamas a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 1997.

Hamas combines Palestinian nationalism with Islamic fundamentalism. Its founding charter commits the group to the destruction of Israel, the replacement of the PA with an Islamist state on the West Bank and Gaza, and to raising “the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Its leaders have called suicide attacks the “F-16” of the Palestinian people.

In July 2009, Khaled Meshaal said Hamas was willing to cooperate with the United States (WSJ) on promoting a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Hamas, he said, would accept a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders provided Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to Israel and East Jerusalem be recognized as the Palestinian capital. The proposal fell short of recognizing the state of Israel, a necessary step for Hamas to be included in peace talks.

But while some Hamas leaders have stated a conditional willingness to accept peace with Israel and a Palestinian state that does not include all of historic Palestine, some analysts say that a clear majority of Hamas is reluctant to give up violence and compromise on territory.

In addition to its military wing, the so-called Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade, Hamas devotes much of its estimated $70 million annual budget to an extensive social services network. Indeed, the extensive social and political work done by Hamas–and its reputation among Palestinians for being averse to corruption–partly explain its defeat of the Fatah old guard in the 2006 legislative vote.

Hamas funds schools, orphanages, mosques, health-care clinics, soup kitchens, and sports leagues. “Approximately 90 percent of its work is in social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities,” writes the Israeli scholar Reuven Paz. The Palestinian Authority often fails to provide such services, and Hamas’s efforts in this area–as well as a reputation for honesty, in contrast to the many Fatah officials accused of corruption–help to explain its broad popularity.

Hamas has a history of fluctuating public approval. In the wake of the regional upheavals in the spring of 2011, a June survey of public opinion found that 67 percent of Gazans would support demonstrations seeking regime change, and that 50 percent of them would participate in such demonstrations. Gazan youth in particular are dissatisfied with Hamas, according to the polls by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research.

According to Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki, in late 2006, Hamas enjoyed public backing, though most Palestinians also wanted to see a negotiated settlement with Israel. In late 2008 and early 2009, during a violent flare-up that resulted in Israeli land raids into the Gaza Strip, several news agencies reported that Hamas’s popularity had stayed constant or even increased. By the end of June 2009, public support for Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip fell to 18.8 percent, according to polls conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre.

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