Term Paper: Israel Is a Country Caught

Pages: 5 (1514 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: History - Israel  ·  Buy This Paper

Israel is a country caught in multiple kinds of crossroads. The country is in the middle of the Middle East, an area fraught with tensions literally for millennia. The land currently called Israel has been fought over from Biblical times, and who should and should not be allowed to live on that land remains a topic of debate among some to this day. Many people are acutely aware of the long history of the region. Put the words "Israel" and "History" into GOOGLE, and the first two websites found trace Israel's history back to events in Genesis. Although some groups of people dispute that claim in important ways, the view Israel has of its history plays an important role in the historical events of the modern country called Israel. Because of the very long history of various civilizations in the region, multiple groups claim historic rights to the land of Israel.

RECENT HISTORY:

Although Zionists, Jewish people who believed that Jews should return to their ancient homeland, became active as early as the 19th century, it was events of the 20th century that resulted in the formation of the country of Israel. While Jews had been persecuted many times and in may places throughout history, Hitler's persecution of Jews reached such an appalling level that all rational people could see that the Jewish people needed a homeland of their own, a place where they could live safe from further persecution. While many Israelis wanted to return to the land of their Biblical heritage, Palestine, Arabs in the Middle East did not think they should have to give up land for the new country. A scene in the movie Lawrence of Arabia expresses the Arab view in a unique way: an Arab leader acknowledges that the Jews have been treated terribly and that they need a homeland. However, he points out that since Germany committed the atrocities, Germany should give up some of its land instead of taking land from Palestine. Zionists, however, got their name from a hill in Palestine believed to be the location of the Temple of Jerusalem (Kjeilen, et. al.,-PAGE), and they focused their efforts on forming a country in the Middle East.

However, these events did not take place in a political vacuum. Great Britain had strong interests in the region at the time, and at the beginning of World War I wanted the support of Jewish people, who generally had been neutral regarding the war. With the support of President Woodrow Wilson, Great Britain issued the "Balfour Declaration," which supported the idea of a country for Jews in Palestine. With such a country as their ally, Great Britain would be in a better position to protect their interests in the Suez Canal (Kjeilen, et. al.,-PAGE). This resolution was adopted by the League of Nations in 1922. The League also charged Great Britain with overseeing Palestine and with helping the Jews, who made up a little more than 10% of the population, to form a nation (Kjeilen, et. al.,-PAGE). This modern decision may have been designed to settle disputes that went back for millennia, but displaced Palestinians did not accept this modern solution to a longstanding dispute.

As with any country's history, the victors write the history. Since Israel has managed to defend itself in multiple wars, Israel is the one who tells the story of those wars. Because of the Balfour Declaration endorsed by the League of Nations and supported by major powers of the world, Israel felt both morally and legally entitled to the land they occupied in Palestine. Critics note that this may have engendered an attitude by Israel that they were not responsible for the resulting Palestinian refugees. Cesarani (PAGE) notes that recent research by historians has shed new light on these issued. Although there was no organized "top-down" plan to force Arabs out of Israel after the UN partition in 1947 that created Israel, it was clear that Israel wanted to reduce the number of Arabs living within its borders (Cesarani,-PAGE). In fact history records numerous actions by the Israelis that resulted in forced dispossession of land owned by Palestinians as well as incidents of what can only be called massacres (Cesarani,-PAGE).

While Israel has clearly been the victim of unprovoked guerilla attacks as well as wars, the country has also made some serious mistakes in its responses.

One note should be made about any discussion regarding Israel: few people who report events involving this country do so neutrally. Although Cesarani claims that only about 11% of the population in Palestine were Jewish, another source places the number significantly higher, at 17% -- 860,000 Arabs, and 175,000 Jews, in 1931 (Kjeilen, et. al.,-PAGE). The difficulty in finding unbiased reports only highlights the central conflict regarding Israel, which is how groups' rights to the land in question should be determined. Palestinians rejected the declaration from the League of Nations, believing that one group should not be force off its land to make room for another group; while Jews argued that it was they who had first been forced off the land. Undoubtedly some ethnocentrism was at play: the Jews who wanted to move to Palestine were seen as Europeans, and likely seen as superior to Arabs by some people in power at the time.

Two events in Israel's history since its formal establishment in 1947 show important facts about the country's history: the Six Day War and the Intifada.

At the time of the Six Day War, in 1967, most other Arab countries had the elimination of Israel, the country, as a stated goal. In 1967, several Arab countries joined together in an effort to make that happen. Egypt, Jordan and Syria massed armies on Israel's border with economic support from Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Algeria (Kjeilen, et. al.,-PAGE). Israel literally won the war in slightly less than six full days by managing to threaten the capital cities of the three main attackers' capital cities: Cairo, Amman, and Damascus (Kjeilen, et. al.,-PAGE). This war was crucial to Israel's security. The Arab countries thought, since they had Israel completely surrounded, that the conquest would be relatively easy. They completely underestimated both the quality of Israel's intelligence and the strategic skills of the country's military leaders.

Unfortunately such actions, along with such events as suicide attacks by Palestinians, only maintained Israel's view that with Palestinians living within their borders, they had potential enemies living within their borders. Friction between Israelis and resident Palestinians, always present, became quite serious during the period from 1987 to 1993 (Kjeilen, et. al.,-PAGE), known as the "Intifada." Palestinians repeatedly protested what they viewed as Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West bank, a result of the 1967 war. Palestinians held demonstrations and strikes, and violent riots occurred. While Palestinians had protested in many ways from the time Israel was founded, the Intifada was unique because it had such wide popularity among Palestinians. In addition, the movement garnered support from a variety of Islamist organizations (Kjeilen, et. al.,-PAGE).

Taken together, the two events illustrate the ongoing problem that is Israel in the Middle East: in the 48 years since Israel's founding, the major point of contention -- that Palestinians were pushed aside to provide a homeland for Israel and have no homeland of their own -- has, as yet, had no satisfactory solution. This conflict, one in which both sides can be seen as both "right" and "wrong," represents the greatest problem facing Israel today. Until Palestinians have a solution they can accept, Israel will continue to experience attacks on it by those fighting for the "Palestinian Cause." Since many Palestinians believe that the only equitable solution is to be given back the land that was given to Israel in 1947, finding a real solution will… [END OF PREVIEW]

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