Israeli–Palestinian Conflict: A Historical Background
During the 1880s, the Ottoman Empire declared the region in conflict the Land of Palestine (Mandel, 1976, p. xx).
At the conclusion of the 19th century, Palestine and the outer region was populated mostly by Arab Muslims with insignificant numbers of Arab Christians and Jews. It is however disputed, whether Palestine area was by and large sterile or populated, as is the question of the size of the Arab population at that point in time.
At that time, the majority of Jews settled outside Palestine, after migrating throughout the Jewish Diaspora, mostly in eastern and central Europe.
The Zionist movement, which started in Europe at the end of the 19th century, claimed that Jews had a claim to Jewish state, and assertively maintained that this state should be in their ancient motherland, which they termed as the Land of Israel.
Despite the fact that there had been much Arab disputes with the Ottoman authorities in the 1880s in opposition to land sales to foreign Jews, the most critical resistance started in the 1890s when the scale of the Zionist venture became well-known. This opposition was intensified in the early period of the 20th century when Zionists tried to build up an economy on socialist ideology designed to establish a Jewish masses, working class and autonomous agricultural societies. They looked for creating communities which were commanding project “exploiting” cheap Arab labor. Nevertheless, this policy had the consequences of eliminating Arabs from the settler activities. The basic Zionists also had a strategy of acquiring Arab land for Jewish farming activity. When land was acquired, the Arabs who formerly controlled the land were generally incapable to find job on the new Jewish community.
Later, The Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the establishment of the British Mandate of Palestine in 1922 founded on the Declaration deeply raised Arab fears.
After the British Mandate in 1948, the extent of “Palestine” has become complicated as a result of opposing and conflicting political reasons. The All-Palestine Government of 1948 announced a nation in the whole of Palestine although this was never more than a state in theory. Likewise, different assertions for example the 1988 proclamation of a State of Palestine naming this region as Palestine with conflicting levels of clarity.
Roots of the Israel-Palestine Conflict
The major reason of Israel-Palestine conflict is the political, military and economic involvement of the main western imperialist powers to secure what they consider as their political and economic benefits, specifically oil. The Western imperialists by employing the carrot of economic support and the sticks of ‘diplomatic’ seclusion, sanctions and armed intimidations, has gained the support of segments of the Arab leaders and the entire Israeli capitalist class.
In the past, the Palestinians lived under feudal establishments whose leaders were lackeys of the Turkish Ottoman Empire and then British and French imperialism. This occurrence resulted in the growth of Arab nationalist thoughts towards the end of 19th century, which demanded an ending of foreign control.
Jewish inhabitants like many minorities, experienced regular state repression in the countries they inhabited during the time of economic catastrophes. Governments stirred up fright and intolerance regarding minorities to redirect the fury of the rest of the population over and above the actual reasons of economic catastrophes.
Thus Zionism expanded in the 19th century, with its major backing among the Jewish middle class and intelligentsia, as a response to this repression. It was rooted in the proposal of establishing a national home for the Jews. This homeland was to be Palestine, viewed by the movement’s creators as a land for a Jews as they were without a land.
On the other hand, Palestine was very much populated – by millions of Palestinians. When Jews moved there from the end of the 19th century onwards conflicts and disagreements started with the Palestinian Arabs who settled there.
When the Ottoman Empire eventually split up due to the First World War, Turkey supported the Germany against the allied powers. Arab leaders were assured a sovereign Arab state by British imperialism after the war, if they supported a rebellion against the Turkish Ottoman Empire for the allied nations’ war objectives. Nevertheless British and French imperialism came to a secret agreement labeled ‘Sykes Picot’, which split the Middle East up into regions of influence under their command. However, the pledge of an Arab state never materialized.
With the growth of dictatorship in Germany, Zionism won extensive support among Jews worldwide. The holocaust was a massive motivation for Jewish immigration to Palestine. By fleeing the horrors of war and capitalist economic miseries, many Jews had fundamental thoughts and found Palestine homeland as a safe place.
On the contrary these thoughts did not take into consideration the aspirations and wants of the Palestinians, who lived there for many centuries. Consequently, conflicts grew between Jewish immigrants and Palestinians. The Jews created armed militias as to drive the majority of the Palestinian inhabitants from their homes, after the declaration of the independent state of Israel in 1948. The United Nations which had decided Palestine should have a sovereign Palestinian and a Jewish state in 1947, reacted by recognizing the State of Israel. By support the establishment of an Israeli state founded on the removal of the Palestinian people, imperialism permitted the start of a conflict which has continued to this day.
The US imperialism after the creation of Israel increased economic aid to Israel, endangering capitalism’s continuing interests in the region’s oil assets. Israeli capitalism has obtained about $4 billion a year in US loans and economic assistance from that time.
Israel’s ruling class supported Jewish migration from all over the world, with assurance of material and monetary security. At present Israel claims to have one of the finest welfare systems in the world for her Jewish population to make sure its solidarity. This was vital since they had to be organized to wage war against neighboring Arab nations. In fact this implied protecting the Israeli ruling elite’s authority and control.
From the time since Israel’s creation, there have been five wars and two Palestinian revolts (Intifadas). In the war of 1967, Israel attacked neighboring Arab countries and invaded Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), established in 1964, came to be regarded as the major force devoted to their national liberation. Nevertheless the PLO had weak policies of diplomatic pressure and military attacks on Israel. Its organization felt comfortable while in exile and wasn’t accountable to the Palestinian people it declared to represent.
Israel-Palestine Conflict: Its Impact on Palestinian Society
The Arab-Israeli war of 1948 resulted in about 156,000 Arabs being left in that part of Palestine, which had now become the state of Israel. There were cut off from their families who became migrants in other Arab countries, they formed a socially and politically much destabilized group. The majority of the Palestinians were no longer present in Israel, at the same time as many others had been expelled (Al-Haj and Rosenfeld, 24). The huge mass of Palestinians who remained behind was farmers, some 80 % of inhabited rural regions like the Galilee, the Little Triangle and the Negev (Kanaana, 1975). The earlier Arab urban populace had nearly moved out because of Arab-Israeli wars, and only 6 % stayed behind (Lustick, 1980). In addition, some 20 % of the Arab inhabitants in Israel turned into “internal refugees,” having been relocated by force to new areas after their villages had been devastated in and after the war (Al-Haj, 149-165).
Ever since the creation of Israel, the number of its Palestinian citizens has grown over six-fold, as a result of high fertility and falling mortality rates. In 2000 there were more than one million Palestinians in Israel (not including East Jerusalem) (Statistical Abstract of Israel 2001: 2.50).
Thus, even though both national and citizenship issues are important for the Arabs in Israel, Palestinians see their future as linked to the State of Israel even after the establishment of a Palestinian state (Al-Haj, Katz and Shai, 619-632).
Vital statistics among the Palestinians in Israel has been related with a noticeable social change, which is obvious in the several areas. Nevertheless, this social change has developed under a number of restrictions that are caused by the low standings of the Arabs in Israel, the official policy, which has been implemented for them and the ethno-national nature of Israel.
Policy towards the Palestinians in Israel
The official policy for the Palestinians in Israel has been shaped by three major features: the self-governing nature of the state, the Jewish-Zionist character of the state, and security concerns. When these three principles come into clash, the latter two gain the ascendancy (Al-Haj and Yaniv, 139-164; Rouhana, 38-59; Smooha, 1990:389-413). The self-governing nature of Israel is declared in its Proclamation of Independence, fundamental laws, and institutions. Free, independent, and proportional elections are carried out at both the local and national levels. This has given the opportunity for Palestinians in Israel room for political activity, by means of which they have looked for improving their conditions and negotiate for the improvement of the Palestinian case.
Yet, Israeli democracy is not constantly in agreement with the ethno-national nature of the state. Israel was established by Jews to be the homeland of the Jewish people. This inclination is indicated not only in the communal and official identity of the state however as well in its institutional structure, distribution of resources, spatial policies, and character of national preferences (see Lustick 1980; Smooha, 1990:389-413; Rouhana and Ghanem, 321-346; Yiftachel, 285-307).
The continuing Arab-Israeli conflict has caused deep the rift. The relationship between the Palestinians in Israel and those in bordering countries, and particularly the Palestinians who are not citizens of Israel, Jewish Israelis are inclined to recognize the former as creating a “belligerent minority” and “security risk”. This view has had a key impact on the relationships between Jews and Arabs in Israel and on the official policy of scrutiny and monitor (Lustick 1980; Smooha, 1989; Al-Haj 1996). Because of the ongoing conflict, security and safety measures has assumed the core of the political, social, and cultural practice and has legitimized the war tendencies in Israel, at the cost of its civilian nature (Ben-Eliezer, 1999). Thus, the attitude of security concerns has also ethnocentric meaning, closely related with the Jewish-Zionist nature of the state. In fact, this principle is attempted to help the Jewish majority, while the Palestinian people are thought to be part of this “security problem.”
Social change amongst the Palestinians in Israel is multifaceted, the effects of different local and external dynamics working simultaneously. There is nearly a total separation between Palestinians and Jews in Israel. The Palestinian people lives in three geo-cultural regions namely the Galilee, the Little Triangle and the Negev, the big majority, around 85 %, in distinct Arab neighborhoods and only about 15 % in mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhoods (SAI, 1989). However in the latter the Arabs live in distinct regions (Waterman, 151-170; Ben-Artzi, 1980).
Palestinians in Israel are put through a constant process of economic dependence. It is apparent in the suppression of the Palestinians economic base and intensification of dependence on the Jewish center. Land confiscation was a central aspect of the Israeli policy. Palestinians land was trim down to below one-third of what it was in the British Mandate (Abu-Kish 1981: 31). Nearly all of these lands were annexed during the first ten years after the establishment of Israel. At that time the Palestinians were powerless and under the tight control of the Israeli government. A number of laws and regulations were ratified by the Israeli government in this regard.
Palestinians as citizens of Israel were endowed the right to take part in an election for the Israeli parliament. However, the Palestinians share in the national mainstream has been limited. The conditions that existed amongst the Palestinians population following Israeli state helped political localization of this minority. The need of national leadership, together with the ineffective political awareness among the Palestinians, helped the customary hamula leadership to apply control of the whole populace by way of some important people, while the internal divisions among the Palestinians prevented the creation of a communal national character.
In addition to economic dependency and sociopolitical control, the Palestinians in Israel have been subjected to continuing cultural control, facilitated by the state’s control of the Arab education system. Even though the vast majority of Arabs live in segregated localities, and despite the segregation of Arab and Hebrew schools, the Arabs in Israel have not been granted cultural or other autonomy. Arabs have no say in setting the parameters of their education system, which is under the full control by the Jewish majority.
Israel-Palestine Conflict: Its Impact on Israeli Society
The Israeli internal background has been influenced till 1967 by the Zionist Labour movement (Mapai) to such a scale that the policy and program of Labour could be stated to be that of the State of Israel. The Labour movement represented the national Zionist accord that could be depicted in simple terms as the desire to establish an independent Jewish State over the majority of Mandatory Palestine. Mainstream Zionism was created ideologically from the beginning by the design of re-establishing a Jewish homeland in which Jewish people from all over the world could build a Jewish society that encompass all spheres of work and civilization. To be solely Jewish in makeup, such a society needed an enduring and great Jewish majority, a stipulation that required ‘purification’ the land of its mass Arab population.
During 1950s, soon after the establishment of the State of Israel, the ‘Law of Return’ conferred all Jews the entitlement to reside in Israel as a nation of the new Jewish State. The primary reason in the integration of the migrants and the making of a common Israeli citizenship clear of cultural and socio-economic disparities was a powerful identity-building endeavor rooted in the core Zionist doctrine, involving as well the acceptance of modern Hebrew as a common mode of communication.
This was made principally by means of the organizations established by the earliest Jewish immigrants’ population and enlarged by the Israeli State, especially the educational system, the Mapai-controlled army, the Mapai- controlled trade-union (Histadrut) and the political bodies of the new republic.
Between 1948 and 1989 Israel established the most effective state system in the Middle East.
In 1982, half of the Gross National Product went to the government in taxes and since all foreign aid and financial flows – especially from USA, the country about Israel was highly dependent – passed via the government’s hands and/or the different state agencies’, the state had an complete governing position, also controlling 92 % of the land via the National Land Authority.
In spite of the cultural-ideological and socio-economic attempts to produce a harmonized and equitable society, the job to absorb 1.75 million immigrants between 1948 and 1989 was enormous and as expected created intense socio-economic disparities and cultural division, especially between the rich politically-dominant Ashkenazi Jews of European origin and the Oriental or Sephardic Jews from Asia and Africa, needless to mention the second rate position of the non-Jewish citizens of Israel, heirs of the Palestinians dwelling in the regions occupied in 1948.
Domestic divisions are indicated without a national harmony on the part that religion should play in the modern state of Israel. The friction between religious and secular influences encompasses all parts of politics and culture, for example the party system, the educational system, the manner in which cultural groups are managed etc. Consequently Israel does not have a written constitution, nor has it ever delineated its territorial borders, leaving open both uncertainties of the founding nature of the State and of its territorial relationship with the Biblical Jewish Kingdoms (Greater Israel).
Moreover, mounting domestic disparities and racial division combined with the impacts of two Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973 were the causes to the erosion of the early Zionist-Labour agreement and to the continuing rise of the Zionist-right, more successful than the Ashkenazi-dominated Labour in attracting marginalized Oriental Jews.
All through the first few decades of Israel’s existence, Oriental Jews voted for the Labour Party, although Labour’s ideological combination of secular-socialist Zionism differed significantly with the Oriental Jews’ ethnic traditions, which had a tendency to be more religious. With increasing economic disparity and marginalization, hatred of Labour’s cultural, political, and economic domination enlarged as it did the Zionist-right appeal.
The claim of the conventional Zionist-Labour organization was the Revisionist Zionist Movement, which rebuffed Ben Gurion’s backing for the 1947 UN division plan of the Mandatory territory into two distinct bodies, calling for a more belligerent policy towards the Arabs and the British and declaring all of Mandatory Palestine and Tran Jordan as the promised land of Israel.
The revisionist ambitions looked nearer to attainment when after the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 Israeli forces invaded the Gaza Strip and the West-Bank. In 1973, Ariel Sharon, a member of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), set up a new party, the Likud, supporting the long-established revisionist application on Jewish national security, protection of the land of Greater Israel and refusal of Palestinian national demands.
A new factor of change on the Israeli domestic scenario was the bigger role of the IDF in politics and society as a result of war- making and resultant territorial invasion in 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, it became common for military officers to get themselves involved in Israeli politics after retiring from service. From 1973 to 1982 almost half of the state budget went to the IDF, consequently determining all political decisions on Israel’s expansion. The improved structural pervasiveness of the military operation within state organizations was the factors of the securitization and militarization of Israeli society. In 1975 the conscript service was enlarged to three years for men and two for women after that a long period of reserve service. The army increased its power to form political decision-making concerning the conflict, contributing to the existing ‘security’ discussion over civilian apprehensions.
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