Israel? Palestine? Who has a stronger claim? Who was there first? Who deserves to have a country there? We can't answer this question without understanding the history, geography, politics, and morals of the region.
Excellent dispassionate look at the claims and counter claims to the land. If we accept that Native Americans are the true owners of the USA because they got there first, then the same logic would reveal the Jews as the legitimate owners (the Native Palestinians) and the modern Palestinians as the colonisers. The genetic heritage of the Canannites muddies the waters a little but I would argue that the Jews were the first distinct group to establish an organised state (in the form of a kingdom) and therefore are the legitimate owners. What is clear though is that the world is not effing Braveheart with clearly defined oppressed and oppressors. It's complex shades of grey. Which means no one should be cheering the deaths of babies.
Excellent article. Very difficult subject to tackle but it was written objectively.
A very reasonable analysis. However in the final analysis, though your conclusion (both people deserve a state) should be reasonable there is a flaw in the execution. As has been said by prior Israeli leaders, the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Had the Arabs (and Palestinians) foregone the maximalist drive (to wipe Israel off the map, and drive the Jews into the sea -i.e. genocide of the inhabitants of Israel) there could have been a state decades ago. If you look at education of children by the PA and even in Gaza by Hamas, the Jews are evil and deserve to be removed by any means possible. Gaza had relatively open borders when Israel left, but when suicide bombers and rockets started coming over the border Israel and Egypt both closed the borders, and Israel eventually build an extensive fence/wall. Same for the West Bank- suicide bombers walking across the border and exploding themselves in buses, in cafes, pizza parlors, etc. resulting in the construction of a barrier wall. As it has been said, if the Arabs laid down their arms there would be peace, if the Israelis laid down their arms they would be massacred. This is not a minor distinction. Perhaps some day the Palestinians will realize that giving up the maximalist return will give them greater returns for them and their children, but until then Israel will need to defend itself from against what we have just seen- what Israel already knows, and what the world has just seen when the veil has been lifted.
Great article, a much more helpful discussion than most of the sensationalist chaff in the news media!
A few thoughts.
1. "Who lived there first" is problematic. In the UK we would be returning most of England to the celts (welsh, cornish, maybe irish). Or to whoever preceded them. Neanderthals? It gets too remote.
2. Some of the behaviours in palestine are problematic. Zionist settlers carving out chunks of additional territory for the jewish community. Rocket attacks. Police brutality and racist discrmination. Should these be allowed to retian the gains that they accrue? If so... is this a good way to move forward in a disputed region?
3. It is clear to me that both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples have strong claims to live in the region and to have their own state. Relative to what preceded it, the current allocation of territory does seem generous the jewish community (and it worked great for the european countries that wanted to see their jewish populations exit) - the best land and the most land and the contiguous space. However, much of the gains have accrued as a result of conflicts started by neighbouring countries attacking Israel and israel fighting them off. Harder to argue that these should be returned.
4. As a result, my instincts are that a two state solution is the only sensible way forward, with effective international guarantees for israel's protection and survival (when non belligerent) and for the protection of the palestinians (when non belligerent). Maybe three states (gaza and west bank and israel) with the former under UN protection.
5. Is it fair to say that other arab /muslim countries are generally not sympathetic to palestinian people, not assimilating them as refugees etc? Compared with eg the massive syrian diaspora in Lebanon and elsewhere. Or indeed the accommodation of ukranian refugees in europe. True? If so then why? And what might change it?
Hi Tomas, thank you for your fair and insightful contribution! I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the series and I have a question I hope you will consider: why does Israel-Palestine dominate public discourse all over the world? It’s a phenomenon. Israel is only a tiny nation, yet it generates disproportionate attention and an emotionally driven debate. Why are activists drawn to the Palestinian cause while mass scale atrocities in other parts of the world can barely sell newspapers? Myanmar, Ethiopia, Haiti, and Rwanda all come to mind. Does it have something to do with the Abrahamic religions? Does antisemitism play a role? Hoping this series provides some insight.
Fine work, as always! - I disagree somewhat with the whole thing being a very open question. When WARS are fought, the borders are drawn by the winner. And if the other side is as unhappy to go to war over it again: "in the GoT you win or you die". See: Alsace–Lorraine - A "German" region, belonged to France since Louis XIV. In the war of 1869/70 Bismarck takes it "home" to Germany (against the will of the people there, but the German generals wanted it very much.) In 1918/19 Germany loses WWI and France gets it back. And when 1870-1918 there were "partisans" in Alsace fighting Germans: they could expect death or prison. And no one would wonder: "Maybe the Germans have no right to execute them?" (one side would have see them as "heroes" or "martyres", sure) - As before 1870 and after 1918 if some idiot in Alsace was to fight the French government. And if the French gov would have gone to organise marauding attacks on Germany - Hamas-style - the obvious result would have been a new war. With the potential loss of all France if lost. Of course. Because this is how borders were and are decided. Not by history-books or DNA-analysis. If 2 million Palestinians let Hamas rule them and lead them - again - into a hopeless war with Israel: Vae victis.
Great job Tomas! Very balanced and nuanced review of the historical background to this conflict. Both the Israeli and Palestinian people are entitled to a home whose borders are intentionally recognized, in which they can live peacefully and live their lives. As you show so clearly, I don't think history is a good basis on which to decide who "owns" territory since it depends on one's time frame and bias. Pragmatism is important: neither the Jewish nor Palestinian populations are going to leave, and suggesting otherwise as Hamas and Hezbollah do is foolish and destructive. I appreciated that you pointed out the roles that Egypt, Jordan, and Syria have played in placing Palestinians in their plight. This is too often ignored in debate. As for the desire of early Zionists to establish a state in Palestine, an important factor is the theme of exiled Jews longing for their homeland that it is so prevalent in the Old Testament. For us Jews, Israel was the obvious place to establish a state. A final observation is the attention that the claims for nationhood by Jews and Palestinians command, whereas claims by other stateless people like the Kurds and Uighurs receive much less attention. Why is that?
Israeli historian Ilan Pappé writes in his book "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine":
> To bring their project to fruition, the Zionist thinkers claimed the biblical territory and recreated, indeed reinvented, it as the cradle of their new nationalist movement. As they saw it, Palestine was occupied by 'strangers' and had to be repossessed. 'Strangers' here meant everyone not Jewish who had been living in Palestine since the Roman period. In fact, for many Zionists Palestine was not even an 'occupied' land when they first arrived there in 1882, but rather an 'empty' one: the native Palestinians who lived there were largely invisible to them or, if not, were part of nature's hardship and as such were to be conquered and removed. Nothing, neither rocks nor Palestinians, was to stand in the way of the national 'redemption' of the land the Zionist movement coveted.
This is by far seemingly the most collective and factual summary I have seen so far.
Say the Israel and Palestine solve this.. what about the balance of the levant territories? Lebanon and Syria have immense issues. Same for Iraq. What if we were to look at how say a “UAE” of the Levant could look like? ( United Territories of the Levant)
Kind of like a future project to build some aspiration and appease this pico-Sykes disaster; etc.
As for the "how" this could happen, very interesting proposal from a Palestinian-Israeli think tank:
“Assholes all the way down.” Thanks for all the info and flashes of wit. I’ve long been baffled by the left’s contention that Jewish people are somehow less indigenous to the Middle East than Palestinians. You got white American college students sounding like the Pharaohs. I’m Native American, a Spokane Indian, but I often call us “Here-Firstians” rather than indigenous. And didn’t our earliest ancestors all originate in a relatively small part of what we now call Africa? So much of who we are is the result of people walking away from their homelands...
Thank you so much! I will be sharing the article with anyone who wants it. One question left:. When Egypt and Transjordan 'took over' Gaza and the WBank, what happened? Did they move in, displace people, govern with new laws to their own benefit, pilfer resources? How did they surrender control?
This is an exceptionally detailed dissection of this topic.
I like the article. On the historical end it should be noted Israel was in its second existence as a nation when the Romans conquered. They regained their independence as a sovereign state from the Greeks in 167 BC as a result of the Maccabean Wars under the name of Judea.
As usual, I like the structure of the article and its approach*: start with the facts/history as far as we can know it. Judging from the comments, it seems we can at least agree on most of what is presented here.
Once we have agreed on what IS, then we can move on to a framework for discussing what COULD be Alas (as you point out), people often start from what they think SHOULD be and work backwards. Unsurprisingly, the "should" can usually be translated as "I want..." and people proceed to choose not only the option that best suits them personally, but also to choose the "facts" that support their argument.
* I'm also a fan of any article that has 48 question marks in it!