Photo: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli PM.
Israelis and Palestinians: Hate without end
By Afe Babalola
Contextually, proximity is the defining factor of neighbourhood, regardless of nationality, religion or belief. Most religions urge that neighbours submit to a mutual lifestyle of love, mercy, forgiveness and tolerance, even in the face of differences of opinions.
Christianity in particular advocates that you should love your neighbour as yourself. In the Bible, it is written: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for the one who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the Law” (Romans 13:8). In other words, a person should love, rather than hate.
However, the Israeli-Palestinian relationship appears to be one of the major exceptions to this neighbourhood rule over the years. Palestine and Israel have been entangled in a recurrent tale of hate, wars and deaths from time immemorial.
In October 7, 2023, the Hamas launched several rockets into Israel and armed militants broke down the hi-tech barriers to gain access into Israel. This led to the death of about 1,200 Israelis, and the capture of several others whose whereabout are still unknown.
After 44 days of war and the death of over 14, 000 people, who also had the inalienable right to life, I ask myself, will there be an end to this hate? Is the relationship between Israel and Palestine one of hate without an end?
I have attempted to answer these questions hereunder by tracing the origin of the wars between Israel and Palestine, and lending my voice to the suggestion for a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.
Who owns Canaan?
The land of Canaan in the Middle East has been ravaged by frequent political conflicts and violent land seizures. This is because of its strategic geographical location of Canaan land.
Modern-day wars in the Canaan Region are due to the Palestinian refusal to recognise and accept the proclamation of the State of Israel as a neighbouring country. Israel has also refused to acknowledge Palestine as an independent country.
To sum it all, the major cause of the recurrent battle between Israel and Palestine is the ownership of the land of Canaan. So far, the three most contentious areas in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian wars are the Gaza strip (which is between Modern day Israel and Egypt), the Golan Heights (between Syria and modern-day Israel) and the West Bank between modern day Israel and Jordan.
History has it that the original inhabitants of Canaan were the Canaanites. These are the Kushites, Edomites, red and black Nubians, Nilotes, Egyptians, Sudra, Horties and the Ainu.
None of these tribes became the present-day Palestinians or Israelites. Rather, archaeological and DNA evidence reveal that inhabitants of the present-day Lebanon and Sidon were the original historical owners of the land now occupied by the Israelites and the Palestinians.
The name Palestine, was the name given to the areas under the Jewish domain by the Romans, following their conquest of the region. All the inhabitants were referred to as Palestinians at this time, including the Israelites (these were referred to as the Palestinian-Jews).
Later, the inhabitants of this region were referred to as Christians, then in 600 CE, Arabs. Prior to 1948, the Israelites considered themselves as Palestinians. However, following the War of Independence in 1948, the Arabs appropriated the name exclusively for themselves.
Archaeological evidence revealed that the present-day Palestinians are descendants of the Philistines, who were said to have been Aegean immigrants into Canaan from Europe in 12th Century BC.
They arrived shortly before the Israelites. However, they integrated themselves peacefully with the indigenes until they acquired the five Philistine cities of Gath, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron and Ashdod.
The Israelites on the other hand, were also immigrants in Canaan. From Biblical accounts and historical texts, they originated from what is now the modern-day Iran/Iraq. They were Arabs who migrated to Egypt and back to Canaan, acquiring the land they now live in by conquest.
Therefore, neither the Palestinians nor the Israelites have an original historical claim to the land.
History also has it that one of the key antagonists to Israel’s peaceful possession of the land won by conquest was the Philistines (the Palestinians).
However, the Israelites gained total independence from the Philistines under the reign of King David in the 11th Century. There was no mention of an invasion of Israel by the Philistines since this time, either in historical texts, or in the Bible. The Kingdom of the Philistine was completely destroyed in 7th century BC by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
The lordship over Palestine passed from the Israelites to the Assyrians in 722 BC, the Babylonians in 568 BC, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Fatimids, the Seljuk Turks, Crusaders, Egyptians, Mamelukes, and the Ottoman empire until 1917.
In the late 19th century and the early 20th Century, Zionism emerged among the Jews. This was a religious and political movement for the re-establishment of a Jewish hometown in Palestine.
This movement led to the migration of about 75, 000 Jews to the ancient holy city between 1882 to 1914. At the time of this re-location to Palestine, the land was recorded in history to have been sparsely populated and a desert.
The Jews were said to have played significant roles in the victory of the World War I which ended in 1918. In recognition of the contribution of the Jews, the League of Nations gave Britain the administrative control over Palestine through the British Mandate for Palestine.
However, they also included a mandate for the establishment of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine, a movement which was fuelled by Zionism and the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
This led to the Mandatory Palestine(the United Nation’s Partition Plan for Palestine into two states, one for the Arabs, and the other for the Jews) in 1948, and laid the foundation for the Israeli-Palestinian wars which metamorphosed into the Hamas-Israeli wars that had ravaged the Middle East in the 20th and 21st centuries.
From time immemorial, therefore, Palestine and Israel had been entangled in a recurrent tale of hate, wars and death. The area known as Canaan was not an empty land nor an inhabited land when the Israelis came into Canaan sometime in 12th Century BC. They met the Palestinians – number unknown.
They were referred to as Philistines. The Israelis were not welcome. The question is: why were they not welcome? Afterall, the place now known as North America was inhabited by the Aborigines when the English who were not happy with the new Christian Ideology found their way to America which was sparsely populated.
However, Israel was able to exact its dominance over Palestine in the 7th Century under the warrior King David. This seems to be the beginning of the hate and wars which generations after generations have witnessed.
Jewish settlement in Palestine
In 1882, the Jews began purchasing lands and properties in the Ottoman Palestine. These purchases were financed by large Jewish corporations and private Jewish buyers and continued even after the establishment of Mandatory Palestine (British rulership of Palestine).
Two of such areas that were purchased at the time was the Jezreel Valley and the Bay of Haifa under Sursock Purchases. The Jezreel Valley was a marshy area, and gave opportunity for agriculture to Jews from Russia, who were excellent agriculturists.
In 1920, the Jews formed the Haganah because of the brewing hostility from their Palestinian Arab neighbours.
The Palestinian Arabs were unhappy with Jewish settlement in Palestine. In 1920, the Arabs attacked the Jewish farming village of Tel Hai and burned it to the ground. This is known in history as the 1920 battle of Tel Hei.
Also, when the Arabs celebrated their Nebi Musa festival in Jerusalem, they attacked Jewish settlements and destroyed them. This led to war in Jaffa between the Arabs and the Israelites in 1921.
Regardless of the hostility from the Arabs, the population of Jewish settlements in Palestine increased exponentially. There were 80, 000 Jewish immigrants in 1921, about 50, 000 more in 1935, and another over 170, 000 immigrants in 1936.
This increase in Jewish population was a cause of concern for the Arabs. This led to the Arab Revolt of 1936.
The Independence of Israel and the birth of the Israel-Palestinian Wars
In recognition of the contribution of the Jews to winning World War I, Britain showed its support for the political independence of Israel. This support encouraged the immigration of Jews into Palestine.
The discontent with the growing population of Jews in Palestine led to the Arab Revolution in Palestine of 1936-1939. This was because the Arabs feared displacement in their own country.
In order to focus on the World War II, and to stem disturbances in the Palestinian region, Britain issued a policy that imposed an immigration cap of Jews to Palestine to 75,000 over a period of five years.
The Jews resisted this restriction and, using the expertise they amassed from the intelligence training offered to the Palmach (the strike force of Haganah, Israel’s underground militia), guided ships carrying Jewish immigrants toward Palestine, in violation of the restriction.
Following the end of the World War II, about 600,000 Jews were displaced. Also, no European nation was willing to allow Jews settle in their lands. Consequently, the Yishuv in Israel, propelled by the Zionist propaganda, offered sanctuary to Jewish refugees in Palestine. Also, the British were viewed as enemies of Israel.
In 1944, radical Zionists launched an armed revolt against Britain. British symbols of power in the region were bombed, and a war that lasted three years, with casualties on both sides, started. The British government called for a Jewish-Arab Conference in London, in September 1946.
Nevertheless, deliberations at this conference ended in a deadlock. In 1947, Britain admitted that it could not manage the problems of Palestine and referred it to the United Nations. Later in 1947, Britain announced its intention to leave Palestine by 1948.
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted for the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab States. This was through adoption of Resolution 181(II), which is popularly referred to as the Partition Resolution, or the Partition Plan for Palestine.
By the Partition, Jews would receive 56% of the land that was initially under the British rule, since about 82% of the Jewish population were living there. Jerusalem was however not partitioned.
Taking into cognisance the religious significance of the areas surrounding Jerusalem, it was voted to remain under international control and would be administered by the United Nations.
This plan was agreed to by the Jews but was rejected by the Arabs. The reason for this rejection is that the Arabs queried the competence of the UN General Assembly to partition a country on one hand, and they felt it was favourable to the Jews and unfair to the minority Arab populace that will remain in Jewish territory under the partition.
In response to the resolution for the partioning of Palestine, the Arab Liberation Army was created. This was made up of volunteers from Palestine and neighbouring Arab countries. The Arab Liberation Army launched attacks on Jewish cities, settlements and armed forces.
The intention beyond the attack was to prevent the establishment of a Jewish State. Regardless of the opposition by the Palestinian Arabs and determined to gain control over the territories allotted to it, Israel was officially declared an independent state by the UN on May 14, 1948. David Ben-Gurion, who was the head of the Jewish Agency, became Israel’s first Prime Minister.
The 1948 Israeli-Palestinian War
The declaration of the state of Israel led to intensive war between Israel and the Arab Liberation Army. Other Arab forces from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, joined the Palestinian Arabs. British trained forces from Transjordan joined Israeli forces, and they were able to gain offences over the Arabs.
The war subsisted till February 1949, by which time Israel gained some territories formally granted to Palestinian Arabs. According to the Israelis, any area captured by the war will be part of the state of Israel. This is because Israel refused to obligate itself to accept boundaries that the Arabs did not accept. However, Egypt and Jordan retained control over the Gaza strip and the West Bank.
The Birth of the Palestine Liberation Organisation
In 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, PLO, was formed. Its purpose was to establish a Palestinian Arab state on the land previously under the British Mandate. At this time in history, it was dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel as the means for Palestine to achieve statehood.
The Six-Day War
In April 1967, Egypt received a wrong intel from the Soviet Union that Israel was moving its troops to its northern border, and that Israel planned a full invasion of Syria.
In response to this intelligence, Egypt advanced its forces into the Sinai Peninsula and expelled the UN peacekeeping forces in the region.
On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive aerial attack on Egyptian forces. This drew in Jordan and Syria into the battle.
The war ended on June 11, 1967, with significant land gains for Israel. It was this battle that brought the Gaza strip, the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights under the control of Israel.