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DUPS LWOB: Israel and Palestine Conflict

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is a landmark in modern-day history. Whilst the debate over territory has been under discussion for many years, little progress has been made. The turbulent past has been plagued by human rights and international abuses and a lack of consensus over which party should have territory. This article presents a history; it examines progress and restrictions, with an emphasis on the ‘humanitarian crisis’.[1]


The political narrative is shaped by three viewpoints. The Palestinian stance focuses on victimhood and injustice from the dispossession, but omits the initiation of Intifada and violence. The Jewish narrative stems from migration after the Holocaust, but ignores the escalation of extreme Zionism and the nation state law, which makes Jewish people superior by establishing Hebrew as the official language and sets out a distinctively ‘Jewish State.’ The Israeli narrative stresses their long-term attachment to the land and legitimacy granted by the UN partition plan, however it glosses over their hostility towards Palestinians and rejection of multiple proposals.


Brief History:

The conflict goes back a century; in the early 1900s the region had a distinctive Palestinian identity. Simultaneously, more Jewish people began identifying with Zionism and felt deserving of a nation of their own. After the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of World War One, the British carved up the Middle East, creating the British Mandate for Palestine. Jewish people migrated to Palestine but by the 1930s, the British began limiting movement.


In 1947, as sectarian violence between the Jews and Arabs intensified, the UN approved a plan to divide British Palestine into two separate states: Israel and Palestine. The plan was to give Jews a state and establish Palestinian independence. The Jews accepted this plan and declared independence.[2]

However, Palestinians saw the UN plan as European colonialism, and many Arab states declared war on Israel. Israel won this war, known as the ‘Israel war of independence’, however it extended well past the borders outlined by the UN plan. Israel took the western half of Jerusalem and expelled large numbers of Palestinians from their homes. This led to a massive refugee population which remains significant in magnitude.[3]


The ruling of the region continues to be dictated by the 1967 Six-Day War, which led to Israel occupying a substantial amount of Palestinian territory. Israel rose as dominant in the Yom Kippur War and there were no significant territorial changes as a result. In 1978 Israel and Egypt signed the US broker for the Camp David accords and Israel returned Sinai to Egypt.[4] This was very controversial at the time, however other Arab states gradually made peace with Israel.


Notably, Israel’s military was still occupying the Palestinian territory and the outrage caused led to violent action. Fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) has continued for years. However, groups of Palestinians in Gaza considered the PLO too secular and compromising, so created Hamas. The sole aim of Hamas is the destruction of Israel, and it has failed to condemn appalling crimes against Israelis.[5]


The first Intifada involved large-scale uprising against Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many civilians were killed, with Israel’s policy being ‘to break Palestinians’ bones’.[6] According to Save The Children, 7% of Palestinians under 18 years of age suffered from shootings or other harm.[7]


Negotiations:

By the early 1990s it became clear Israelis and Palestinians had to make peace. Thus, leaders from both sides signed the Oslo Accords; Israel’s withdrawment from Gaza, Jericho and later the West Bank meant this was a positive advancement.[8] This marked a crucial step towards Israel possibly withdrawing from Palestinian territory and allowing an independent Palestine. However, members of Hamas launched suicide bombing attacks to try to sabotage the Oslo Accords, and a far right Israeli assassinated Yiftach Rabin in Tel Aviv.[9] This is a direct example of how extremists on both sides derail peace and infringe open the livelihood of peaceful citizens.


The negotiations have become tiresome and led to minimal success. In fact, the second Intifada broke out in 2000 and involved intensified violence until 2005.[10] Both sides became ever more sceptical that there could ever be peace.

The Gaza War from December 2008 until January 2009 escalated the conflict and involved ongoing rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Operation Protective Edge from July to August 2014 was a military offensive on the Gaza Strip as a response to the collapse of American-sponsored peace talks, the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas, and increased rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas. It was launched by Israel and saw more than 2,000 Palestinian deaths.[11]


Human Rights:

Systematic human rights abuses within this conflict are extensive. Israeli forces unlawfully killed Palestinian civilians and held hundreds in administrative detention without charge or trial. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including children, remained pervasive and was committed with impunity. However, Palestine is also guilty of derailing peace. Palestinians carried out stabbings, car-rammings, shootings and other attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and in Israel. People on both sides have been unlawfully killed while posing no threat to life.


Arbitrary arrests and detentions are rife and Israel continues to detain or imprison thousands of Palestinians from the OPT. The authorities continued to substitute administrative detention for criminal prosecution, holding hundreds of Palestinians, including children, civil society leaders and NGO workers, without charge or trial under renewable orders, based on information withheld from detainees and their lawyers.


Furthermore, Israeli soldiers and police subjected Palestinian detainees to torture and other ill-treatment with impunity. Freedom of expression is also severely curtailed, with the Entry into Israel Law banning entry into Israel anyone supporting or working for an organization that has issued or promoted a call to boycott Israel or Israeli entities, including settlements.[12]

It is therefore clear that the restrictions to human rights are abhorrent and unsustainable: something must change. Indeed, the Human Rights Watch stress that the deteriorating human rights situation in Gaza demands action.[13]


The Current Situation:

Walls and checkpoints have been erected by the Israelis to control Palestinians and security is intense. Commuters face a potentially dangerous and arduous journey across these checkpoints. The Israeli security services hold voluminous files on Palestinians and will frequently deny work and travel permits for ‘security’ reasons. Furthermore, Palestinians cannot leave Gaza and Israel maintains a land, sea and air blockade with restrictions on both travel and trade.[14]


There is a sense of resigned deadlock towards the conflict as opposed to any hope of resolution. Years of animosity, divisive restrictions and checkpoint hostility are entrenched in the mindset of citizens on both sides. When speaking to both Israelis and Palestinians, it was immediately obvious that neither side is positive of reaching any meaningful, peaceful agreement in the near future.[15]

The very sad aspect of this discord is that it is the ordinary citizens who are so affected and frequently traumatised by the warring parties. Civilians lack normal lives absent of conflict, but as long as extremist groups derail progress and negotiations are refused, Israel will not advance.


Although this narrative portrays an unquestionably bleak picture of the conflict, it must be remembered than Israel is far more than a troubled country. It is rich in historical and religious culture and beautiful in landscape. It is technologically advanced and environmentally engaged. The people are passionate in their beliefs and in spite of their many difficulties and divisions, they do their best to navigate a way towards a near ‘normal’ existence. However, there is no doubt that the future remains very uncertain and unsettled for this most unique country.


[1]Amnesty International, ‘Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories’ (Amnesty International, 2018) <https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/> accessed 1st January 2019


[2] Official Gazette, ‘The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel’ (Official Gazette, 1948) < https://www.knesset.gov.il/docs/eng/megilat_eng.htm> accessed on 19th January 2019


[3]Alexander Bligh, Israel and the refugee problem’, (JSTOR, 1998) <https://www.jstor.org/stable/4283921?seq=10#metadata_info_tab_contents> accessed 1st January 2019


[4] CNN News, ‘Camp David Accords’, (CNN News, 2018) <https://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/23/world/meast/camp-david-accords-fast-facts/index.html> accessed 19th January 2019


[5]Amnesty International, ‘Gaza: Palestinians tortured, summarily killed by Hamas forces during 2014 conflict’ (Amnesty international, 2015) <https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/05/gaza-palestinians-tortured-summarily-killed-by-hamas-forces-during-2014-conflict/> accessed 2nd January 2019


[6] Shatha Hammad, ‘Stories from the first Intifada’ (Aljazeera, 2017) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/stories-intifada-broke-bones-171210111414673.html> accessed 2nd January 2019


[7] Wendy Pearlman, ‘Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement’, (Cambridge University Press, 2011) Page 114


[8]CNN Library, ‘Oslo Accords Fast Facts’, (CNN, 2018) <https://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/03/world/meast/oslo-accords-fast-facts/index.html> accessed 3rd January 2019


[9] Ibid


[10] Jeremy Pressman, ‘The Second Intifada: Background and Causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’, (The Journal of Conflict Studies, 2003) <https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/jcs/article/view/220/378> accessed 20th January 2019


[11] Amnesty International, ‘Gaza: Operation Protective Edge’ (Amnesty International, 2015) < https://www.amnesty.org.uk/gaza-operation-protective-edge> accessed on 20th January 2019


[12]Amnesty International, ‘Israel and Occupied Palestinian territories’ (Amnesty International, 2018) <https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/> accessed 3rd January 2019


[13] Human Rights Watch, ‘Deteriorating human rights situation in Gaza demands action’ (Human Rights Watch, 2018) <https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/09/24/deteriorating-humanitarian-situation-gaza-demands-action> accessed 3rd January 2019


[14] William Booth and Sufian Taha, ‘A Palestinian’s daily commute through an Israeli checkpoint’ <https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/world/occupied/checkpoint/?utm_term=.c19609da6e60 > accessed 3rd January 2019


[15] Hadara Arbel, interview with Emily Ball, December 2018




Disclaimer: The views expressed are that of the individual author. All rights are reserved to the original authors of the materials consulted, which are identified in the footnotes above.

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