Israel: A brief history of the fight over a land the size of New Jersey

What does the many Muslim states in the world want to do away with the one tiny Jewish state in existence? It is a 3,000 plus year struggle for dominance and diametrically opposing views of God’s will.

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2011 — Last week President Obama met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, telling reporters afterwards it’s “more urgent than ever that we try to seize the opportunity to create a peaceful solution between the Palestinians and Israelis.” 

For a generation we’ve been hearing about the need for “peace in the Middle East.” Leading to the question, why would the many Muslim states in the world wants to do away with the one tiny Jewish state in existence? 

In over simplified terms, the Muslim world wants specific chunks of Israeli territory back as well as the formation of a state called Palestine. The Jews, on the other hand, want security for their own state of Israel.

Mingled into these desires are over 3,000 years of struggle for dominance and diametrically opposing views of God’s will.    

The land for which they fight

According to the U.S. State Department, Israel is about the size of New Jersey at 7,850 square miles. It’s bordered by the Mediterranean Sea (170 mile coastline), Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Over half of the country is dominated by the 4,633 square mile Negev desert. 

The areas most vehemently fought over today include the approximately nine-mile Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean; the 2,270 square mile West Bank which includes the cities of Jericho and Bethlehem; a 27 square mile area called East Jerusalem; and the Golan Heights at 444 square miles bordering Syria. 

The conflict 101 

Following my careful study of research and articles containing both Muslim and Jewish sympathies, here’s the very short version of the conflict.

The struggle began about 3,700 years ago when descendents of Abraham called Israel (the Jews) departed slavery in Egypt bound for a land promised to them by God called Canaan. This land was already inhabited by people generally called Arabs, many who were also descendents of Abraham.

The Jewish line comes from Abraham’s son Isaac while the Arab line and future Muslims, in general, comes from another son, Ishmael. 

After many years of war and assimilation, the Jews formed the first ever recorded constitutional monarchy about 1000 B.C. (Before Christ). Their King David made Jerusalem the nation’s capital. 

This same land area would eventually be called Palestine after the Roman General Pompey put an end to Jewish sovereignty in 63 B.C. “Palestine” is likely derived from the Philistines who dominated what is now called the Gaza Strip until they were conquered by the Jews between 1200 B.C. and 1000 B.C. 

Between 1000 B.C. and 63 B.C. the land and people, including both Jews and Arabs, experienced rule by various aggressor nations including Cyrus of Persia, the Greek Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria.

The Romans, from the classical to the Byzantines, held power from 63 B.C. to 638 A.D. (Anno Domini, Latin for “in the year of the Lord”) when Muslim armies from Arabia invaded.

During the long Roman rule, the Jews attempted revolt on several occasions. The most notable being the Jewish-Roman War of 66 – 73 A.D. leading to destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and banishment of the Jews. It was not until 317 A.D., that the emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire. The Jews were still technically banished.

Jerusalem had already become a holy place of worship and pilgrimage for Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Around 1096 A.D., Christian Crusaders came from Europe, defeated the Muslims, and re-established Christian rule in the land until around 1290 A.D. At this point, Muslims re-conquered the whole area and would dominate until the end of World War I.

In 1917 the League of Nations’ Balfour Declaration gave the region to Great Britain with a mandate to re-establish a national home for the Jewish people. By 1937 the United Nation’s Peel Commission, concluded that a sharing of the land by Jews and Arabs was unworkable.

During World War II, Nazi Germany killed six million Jews and displaced many more across Europe. In 1947 the United Nations would pass a partition resolution dividing the region into a Jewish and Arab state.

In 1948 the British left and the armies of Egypt, Transjordan (now Jordan), Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and other Arab forces joined Arabs living in Palestine in a full-scale war against the Jews. The war ended with a Jewish state and four United Nations arranged armistice agreements between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria.

Gaza was under Egyptian control and the West Bank under Jordan.

Mideast Web says, “Of the more than 800,000 Arabs who lived in Israeli-held territory before 1948, only about 170,000 remained. The rest became refugees in the surrounding Arab countries, ending the Arab majority in the Jewish state.”

Israel was admitted to the United Nations in 1949. The Arab states refused to make peace with Israel. Wars broke out in 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982 accompanied by a long string of terrorism and reprisals that continue through today. Palestinian Arab nationalism became a serious political movement after the 1967 Six-Day War and Israel’s capture of the West Bank.

In 1978 Jimmy Carter brokered a peace deal between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Sadat was assassinated in Egypt by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1981. 

In 1998 Bill Clinton urged “legitimate rights for Palestinians, real security for Israel” in another deal between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat where Israel would relinquish control of portions of the West Bank in return for an end to Palestinian terrorism.

Legitimate claims 

Both Jews and Arabs have historical ties to the land. Since the late 1940s, in one way or the other, the Israelis have prevailed. As a nation created under the principles of the Jewish and Christian traditions, America has stood firm with Israel in the past. The next chapter is very uncertain, given unrest across the Middle East and what looks like growing support within the United Nations to proclaim a Palestinian State, with or without a solid peace deal.

Joseph Pruder predicts that Palestinian leader, “Mahmoud Abbas, will receive overwhelming international support for recognition of a Palestinian state” when the United Nations General Assembly opens in New York in September 2011.

Irwin Arieff, veteran correspondent of the United Nations Association, reports that Abbas believes President Obama has committed the US to this resolution.

Writer, Carla Garrison follows current events with one eye on history and one eye on the future.  Her goal is to encourage people to think critically about their lives and the world. Follow Carla at Twitter: CarlaMGarrison


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Carla Garrison

Carla writes about current issues and events with an aim toward telling the truth, using the writings of great thinkers, dead and living, as well as common sense.

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