Israel / Palestine Conflict Explained: Sheikh Jarrah, Hamas, East Jerusalem & Occupied Territory
Right now, the region is experiencing some of the worst violence it's seen in years. It's escalated from clashes in the streets to deadly rocket attacks and air strikes. What's happening is the result of a number of different, recent events. Palestinians have accused Israeli police of heavy-handed policing during Ramadan. Also there have been viral social media posts of Palestinians attacking Jewish people, Anti-Arab slogans being chanted at marches in the streets and a general increase in cases of harassment of Palestinians and attacks by both sides. All of this is happening against the backdrop of a high profile court case surrounding the potential eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Most of the people who live in Gaza and the West Bank call themselves Palestinians. They have their own governing bodies and speak mostly Arabic whereas the official language of Israel is Hebrew.
Within the UN, 136 nations currently recognise the state of Palestine. Before the first World War, there was no Israel. After defeating the Ottomans in the First World War Britain established the British Mandate for Palestine. Meanwhile the area was seeing a significant increase in Jewish migration.
It had a lot to do with a movement known as Zionism which aimed to create a Jewish state in the region, the ancient homeland of the Jews. At this time Jewish migrants bought land in the area. Then came the 2nd world war. and the Holocaust one of the worst genocides in modern history that resulted in the deaths of six million Jews.
After the war Britain decided to hand Palestine's future to the UN that came up with a partition plan to split the region into two separate states
one Arab one Jewish with Jerusalem as a separate international territory.
The Palestinians thought it was unfair and rejected the plan as they were a considerable majority at the time but were assigned less than half the land.
The Jewish leadership were also unhappy but ended up agreeing to the decision and blamed the Arabs for the initiating violence in the aftermath.
On the 14th of May 1948 Jewish leaders declared Israel an independent state. What followed was a war between the Israeli army & Palestinians. Fast forward to 1967 there was another war between Israel and its Arab neighbours. It’s known as the Six-Day War and ended with Israel controlling Gaza, the West Bank and the Sinai Peninsula. Israel also unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem in 1980. In 1987 there was a Palestinian uprising known as an Intifada which involved a series of protests and violent riots. Then in 2000 there was a second more deadly Intifada that lasted almost 5 years. In 2005 Israel left the Gaza strip. Hopes for peace were further complicated in 2006 when a militant Islamic group known as Hamas won the Palestinian election. Today the Palestinian Territories’ leadership is divided. Hamas controls Gaza while a coalition government dominated by the Palestine Liberation Organisation and it’s biggest faction Fatah oversee the West Bank. All of this history is an important part of understanding some of the reasons behind the conflict today. Israel maintains tight control over Gaza’s borders with severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory.
And In the West Bank. Israel has boots on the ground and significant control over everyday life. Over time Israel's governments have allowed more and more Jewish settlers to move in which has stirred up new tensions.
Jewish settlements and forced expropriation of Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories are illegal under international law.
Israel also built a structure known as a Separation Wall in response to mounting terrorist attacks but it was found to be Illegal by the International Court of Justice as it separated communities and runs through parts of the West Bank.
A recent report by the Non-Governmental Organisation Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of acts of apartheid, persecution and apparent deliberate attacks on civilians in Gaza.
Israelis blame Hamas for escalating the conflict by firing rockets from Gaza at the Israeli civilian population and say that their aerial strikes on Gaza are a justified response. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also said militants will ‘pay a heavy price’ for their actions. Palestinians argue they’re not the instigator of the violence, and their rockets are in reaction to Israeli oppression and are part of the ongoing resistance to occupation. Also, that the conflict is imbalanced as Israel has a far superior and more deadly military which has contributed to more damage and a much higher death toll in Gaza in this conflict so far. Things are changing quickly and many are hoping that we're not seeing the start of another major round of violence in this part of the world.