Conflict between Palestine and Israel: Religio-Political Perspective

Authors: Asfandiyar Khan and Areeja Syed

Palestine is a disputed territory between Palestine and Israel. The West Bank and Gaza has been a disputed territory throughout history. It still is today. The Arab-Israeli conflict is a contest over a particular territory. The parties to this conflict are mainly Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews, and the territory is called Palestine by Arabs and Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) by Jews. The West Bank and Gaza is disputed territory in the eyes of great powers Washington, New York, London, Cairo and other capital cities of the Middle East and Europe, and in the hearts and minds of Israelis and Palestinians, as well as Jews and Muslims around the world. The dispute between Israel and Palestine have also been considered a very massive contest in the world’s Media among historians and scholars. The conflict between Palestine and Israel is very intense, and it have very little chances that it will end in the near future. It will not end until there is an agreement, not only on today’s contested issues but also by all sides on the need to recognize and acknowledge the wrongs and injuries inflicted by each on the other.

The disputed territory have been interpreted by Israeli and Palestinian differently. Zionist interpretation: many Jews have a particular interpretation of their history and the place they call Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel). This is often called a Zionist view because Zionism was the ideology of those who promoted the state of Israel in the 1948 and have supported it since. The central idea of Zionism is that Jews have a historical birthright to Israel as a homeland or state. This historical claim is based in part on a narrative of continuous Jewish entitlement to the region over the past 4000 years, and in part on a religious tradition in which the God of the ancient Israelites- and the same God worshipped by Christians and Muslims-promised the land (which they believe included modern Israel) to Moses and his descendants, the Jews. Zionist [1] narratives and beliefs portray the reestablishment of a Jewish state in the ancient homeland of Israel as a heroic epic, involving great sacrifice and hardships, against overwhelming bitter European and Arabs. Palestinian Arabs also have an interpretation of their history and the territory they call as Palestine. It is very different from that of the Zionists. They believe that they are descendants of the original inhabitants of the region, and that Palestine is theirs by birthright. They regard the Jews who have arrived in the past century are unwelcome intruders. They believe they have been engaged in an equally heroic attempt to resist the takeover of their homeland, first by Zionists and later by Israelis, to create an independent Palestinian state against overwhelming belligerent powers (European, Israeli and American Zionist) (Hill, 2005).                                                   

The modern boundaries of Palestine and the other Arab states were established by the British and their allies after World War I. Palestine is a small region on the east coast of the Mediterranean sea, measuring approximately 230 kilo-meters north-south and extending inland to the east between 51 and 117 kilometers (Hill, 2005). The term “Palestine” for the time before 1948, refers to the area west of the River Jorden, extending south from the borders of Syria and Lebanon to the Gulf of Aqaba, the Sinai and the Egyptian border. Palestine, with a total area of about 27000 square kilometers, would fit into New South Wales (with an area of 800640 square kilometers) about thirty times (Hill, 2005). Palestine have different cities but the most important and sacred city is Jerusalem, One city, three faiths (Armstrong, 1997). British religious scholar Armstrong has

 Written a provocative, splendid historical portrait of Jerusalem that will reward those seeking to fathom a strife-torn city. Jerusalem has been a central to the experience and “sacred geography” of Jews, Muslims, and Christians and thus has led to deadly struggles for the dominance (Armstrong, 1993).

 The most secular Israelis and Palestinians pointed out that the Jerusalem was “holy “to their people. The Palestinian even called the city al-Quds, “the Holy, “though the Israelis scornfully waved this aside, pointing out that Jerusalem had been a holy city for Jews first, and that it had never been as important to the Muslims as Mecca and Medina (Armstrong, 1999). Palestinians claim that there is absolutely no archaeological evidence for the Jewish kingdom founded by King David and that no trace of Solomon’s Temple has been found. The kingdom of Israel is not mentioned in any contemporary text but only in the Bible. It is quite likely, therefore, that it is merely a “myth.” Israelis have also discounted the story of the Prophet Muhammad’s ascent to heaven from the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem- a myth that lies at the heart of the Muslim devotion to al-Quds-as demonstrably absurd. One of the earliest and most ubiquitous symbols of the divine has been a place. People have sensed the sacred in mountains, groves, cities, and temples. When they have walked into these places, they have felt that they have entered a different dimension, separate from but compatible with the physical world they normally inhabit. For the Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Jerusalem has been such a symbol of the divine. This is not something that happens automatically. Once a place has been experienced as sacred in some way and has proved capable of giving people access to the divine, worshippers have devoted a great deal of  creative energy to helping others to cultivate this sense of transcendence. Jerusalem turned out to be one of those locations that “worked “for Jews, Christians, and Muslims because it did seem to introduce them to the divine.

Palestine have strategic importance to the western world: Palestine is not only a geographical place with shifting and imprecise boundaries: it has political, strategic, and culture significance as well, and is why the rest of world is also interested in this conflict. To the protagonists in the Arab –Israel conflict, Palestine /Israel represents a homeland and is the repository of their history and culture. To the rest of the world, Palestine is located at the crossroads of three continents: Europe, Africa, and Asia. Developments from the mid-nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth, such as the building of the Suez Canal, World War I and world war  II, the discovery and the use of the oil reserves of the Middle East, as well as the establishment of the first Jewish state in two thousand years and the subsequent conflict, highlighted its strategic importance. Palestine/Israel is also the home of the three monotheistic religions-Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For all these reasons, the area has been the site of innumerable wars over the centuries (Hill, 2005). Jewish immigrants to Palestine from the late nineteenth century on ‘knew’ the landscape from their knowledge of Hebrew/Jewish history and religious tradition, but most did not see the Arab population or acknowledge the impact they had made on the landscape. Thus, in ‘making the desert bloom’, Jewish settlers destroyed existing, ancient olive groves tended by Palestinian farmers because they were ‘unseen. They created a new landscape of farming settlements very different from those they found, but to do so they destroyed the existing one. For their part Palestinians refused to see or accept the Jewish settlers and their transformation of the landscape. They were determined to resist any changes-even beneficial ones- and destroy the landscape created by the intruders. The first contests in the Arab-Israeli conflict were over the changing shape of the landscape. The military combat of 1948 that resulted in the establishment of Israel was, therefore, inevitable.

The current Arab-Israeli conflict had its origins in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. During that period a number of Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe began arriving in Palestine. These Jews called themselves Zionists and they came with the view of settling on the land and building, or as they saw it ‘rebuilding’, a Jewish homeland in Palestine. They purchased land, built farming communities and established a new town, Tel Aviv, on the coast near Jaffa. The local Arab population looked on these developments with alarm regarding the arrival of the Zionist and the growth of Jewish settlements as a threat to their own economic, culture and national future. They tried to prevent the sale of land to the new immigrants, formed anti-Zionist groups and in some cases physically attacked Jewish settlements. Both sides disagree about almost all aspects of what happened in Palestine (and why) during the period from the first arrival of Zionist groups in the 1880s to the outbreak of World War I. Since 1948, the physical boundaries of Israel/Palestine have changed a number of times as the result of wars and treaties. In addition, Israel has ‘redrawn’ the map of the area within its own boundaries erasing many Palestinian/Arab landmarks, renaming and replacing them with Israeli towns and historical markers. Israelis have reshaped and made Israel their own. In so doing they have denied Palestinians their experience and their ‘signposts’ of memory.

More than 400 Arab villages were demolished and depopulated, after over 700000 Palestinians fled during the war of 1948 (Hill, 2005). Before 1948, Palestinians had a thriving urban culture as well as village life, and more than one-third of the population lived in sixteen substantial towns and cities. There was a flourishing, affluent, Palestinian middle class in Palestine before 1948. Much of the tension between Jews and Muslims in Palestine/Israel has historical centred on the occupation and use of the land, which is holy to both religions. It is no accident that Jerusalem and its future are the core of the conflict. AS the site of the first and second Temples, the focus of the Jewish worship, Jerusalem is the holy city for Jews and Palestine/Israel is dotted with Jewish sacred sites. Jerusalem is holy for Muslims as the site of the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, from where Muhammad briefly ascended to heaven, symbolizing to Muslims the beginning of their journey to God. It is clear that the historic and current landscape is far more important to people than it might at first seem, and any changes that occur produce violent reactions unless handled with great care and understanding by both sides.

Statement of the problem:

The most significant factor shaping the attitudes and actions of Arabs and Jews to each other, and the contested space, is differ religious traditions of Islam and Judaism respectively. Despite the fact that both are monotheistic religions that believe in the same one, God (Hill, 2005). Islam and Judaism are not only religious faiths of the present, they are religions with a history. Each has shaped the world and transformed entire civilizations as well as influenced each other. The main problem between Jews and Muslims is politics: religions is using as a tool to achieve the national interest of country. By the sixteenth century, attacks by Christian’s armies on the Islamic world had transformed Muslim attitudes toward Christians and Jews, who were seen as Christian’s allies. During the nineteenth century, the British and French found Jews to be attractive agents for their commercial and colonial activities in the Ottoman Empire. Jewish-Muslim conflicted increased in the Arab state as Jews were seen as foreign and instruments of colonial designs. It’s means that western powers have also a great role in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian Arabs. The creation of Israel in 1948 became a focal point for Muslim-Jewish relations, which had steadily deteriorated since the end of World War I.

[1] Zionism is Israel’s national ideology. Zionists believe Judaism is a nationality as well as a religion, and that Jews deserve their own state in their ancestral homeland. OR- Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people that supports the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland in the territory defined as the historic land of Israel (roughly corresponding to Canaan, the holy land or the region of Palestine).

Asfandiyar Khan
Asfandiyar Khan
MS. Student of IR Comsats University, Islamabad