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Conflict between Palestine and Israel: Religio-Political Perspective

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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).

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Middle East

Iraq: Three Years of Drastic Changes (2019-2022)

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When the wave of the protests broke out at the beginning of October 2019 in Iraq, the Iraqi politicians did not realize the size of the gap between the demands of the protesters which were accumulated more than seventeen years, and the isolation of the politicians from the needs of the people. The waves of the protests began in a small range of different areas in Iraq. Rapidly, it expanded as if it were a rolling snowball in many regions of Iraqi governorates. Moreover, the platforms of social media and the influencers had a great impact on unifying the people against the government and enhancing the protest movement.

Al Tarir Square was the region where most protesters and demonstrators were based there. At that time, they stayed all day in this region and set up their tents to protest and demonstrate against the public situation of their life.

The protesters demanded their looted rights and asked for making economic reforms, finding job opportunities, changing the authority, and toppling the government presided by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. The protest stayed between ebb and tide, pressuring the political authority in Iraq.

A new period began in the history of Iraq where clashes between the protesters and the riot forces broke out in Al Tahrir Square and many governorates in the south of Iraq. Tear gas and ductile bullets were used against the protesters to compel them to retreat and disperse them. But the protesters insisted on continuing their demands. Many protesters were killed and wounded due to the intensive violence against them. The strong pressure with falling many martyrs gave its fruit when the Iraqi representatives of the Parliament endeavored to achieve the protesters’ demands by changing the election law into a new one. On 24 December 2019, the Iraqi Parliament approved of changing the unfair Saint Leigo election law into the open districts. The new law divided Iraq into 83 electoral districts.

Moreover, this violent protest led to the collapse of the Iraqi government presided by Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. He was compelled to resign by the end of 2019. Many political names were nominated by the Iraqi politicians but the protesters refused them all because they were connected with different political parties.

Finally, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who worked in the Iraqi Intelligence Service and had no party, was nominated by the politicians to be the new Prime Minister. He was well-known for ambiguity and far from the lights of media.

Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has become the Prime Minister in March 2020. The protests were over at the beginning of April 2020. With the taking of responsibility of helping Iraq, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi promised the protesters, who were called “Octoberians”, to hold a premature election, and the election was fixed on 10 June 2020.

Many politicians tried to postpone or cancel the premature election. Under their pressure, the premature election was postponed and fixed on 10 October 2020. During Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s period as a Prime Minister, he opened new channels with the Arab states to enhance the cooperation and held many summits to support Iraq in the next stage.

Attempts to postpone the premature election by the Iraqi politicians were on equal foot, but all these attempts failed and the election occurred on the due time.

Before the election, many Octoberians and influencers encouraged the people not to participate in the election. On the day of the election, it witnessed low participation, and people were convinced of not happening any change. These calls gave their fruits in the process of elections in Iraq where the election witnessed very low participation, and most Iraqis refused to participate and vote to the nominees even though there was a new election law. When the elections were over, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Iraq announced that the results would be within two days. After announcing the results of the election partially and defeating many political factions in the Iraqi arena, many convictions were directed to the commission, and it was convicted by fraud and manipulation with the results. This aspect affected the activity of the Commission and led to put great pressure on it. After two weeks of pressure and convictions, the final results of the elections were announced and many political elite Iraqi leaders were defeated gravely.

The results of the election gave a new start through new leaders who were supporting the October revolution that happened in 2019. And most names of these winning movements and alliances were inspired by the October Movement. Those, who represented October Revolution, were also convicted by other Octoberians that Octoberian winners in the election deviated from the aims of the October Revolution.

A new struggle has begun between the losers in the election and the new winners who will have the right to be in the next term of the Iraqi Council Parliament of Representatives. Moreover, many independent individuals won in the election, and the conflict would deepen the scope of dissidence between the losers and winners. Finally, all raised claims of election fraud have not changed the political situation.

The final results of the election had been announced, and the date of holding the first session of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives was fixed to nominate and elect the spokesman of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives.  The Shiite Sadrist movement, which represents 73 seats, has wiped out its competitors. This aspect has compelled the losing Shiite competitors to establish an alliance called “Coordination Framework” to face the Sadrist movement, represented by the cleric Sayyed Muqtada al-Sader. On the other hand, Al-Takadum Movement (Progress Party), represented by the spokesman of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives, Mohamed Al-Halbousi, has taken the second rank with 37 seats.

The final results of the election had been announced, and the date of holding the first session of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives was fixed to nominate and elect the spokesman of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives.

Finally, the first session of the Iraqi Council Parliament of Council was held. Mohamed Al-Halbousi has been elected as the spokesman of the Iraqi Council Parliament of Council. During the next fifteen days, the president of the republic will be elected.

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China-US and the Iran nuclear deal

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian that Beijing would firmly support a resumption of negotiations on a nuclear pact [China Media Group-CCTV via Reuters]

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian met with  Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi on Friday, January 14, 2022 in the city of Wuxi, in China’s Jiangsu province.  Both of them discussed a gamut of issues pertaining to the Iran-China relationship, as well as the security situation in the Middle East.

A summary of the meeting published by the Chinese Foreign Ministry underscored the point, that Foreign Ministers of Iran and China agreed on the need for  strengthening bilateral cooperation in a number of areas under the umbrella of the 25 year Agreement known as ‘Comprehensive Cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the People’s Republic of China’. This agreement had been signed between both countries in March 2021 during the Presidency of Hassan Rouhani, but the Iranian Foreign Minister announced the launch of the agreement on January 14, 2022.

During the meeting between Wang Yi and Hossein Amir Abdollahian there was a realization of the fact, that cooperation between both countries needed to be enhanced not only in areas like energy and infrastructure (the focus of the 25 year comprehensive cooperation was on infrastructure and energy), but also in other spheres like education, people to people contacts, medicine and agriculture. Iran also praised the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and said that it firmly supported the One China policy.

The timing of this visit is interesting, Iran is in talks with other signatories (including China) to the JCPOA/Iran nuclear deal 2015 for the revival of the 2015 agreement. While Iran has asked for removal of economic sanctions which were imposed by the US after it withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, the US has said that time is running out, and it is important for Iran to return to full compliance to the 2015 agreement.  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an interview said

‘Iran is getting closer and closer to the point where they could produce on very, very short order enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon’

The US Secretary of State also indicated, that if the negotiations were not successful, then US would explore other options along with other allies.

During the course of the meeting on January 14, 2022 Wang Yi is supposed to have told his Chinese counterpart, that while China supported negotiations for the revival of the Iran nuclear deal 2015, the onus for revival was on the US since it had withdrawn in 2018.

The visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister to China was also significant, because Foreign Ministers of four Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — and Secretary General of GCC,  Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf were in China from January 10-14, 2022 with the aim of expanding bilateral ties – especially with regard to energy cooperation and trade. According to many analysts, the visit of GCC officials to China was driven not just by economic factors, but also the growing proximity between Iran and Beijing.

In conclusion, China is important for Iran from an economic perspective. Iran has repeatedly stated, that if US does not remove the economic sanctions it had imposed in 2018, it will focus on strengthening economic links with China (significantly, China has been purchasing oil from Iran over the past three years in spite of the sanctions imposed by the US. The Ebrahim Raisi administration has repeatedly referred to an ‘Asia centric’ policy which prioritises ties with China.

Beijing is seeking to enhance its clout in the Middle East as US ties with certain members of the GCC, especially UAE and Saudi Arabia have witnessed a clear downward spiral in recent months (US has been uncomfortable with the use of China’s 5G technology by UAE and the growing security linkages between Beijing and Saudi Arabia). One of the major economic reasons for the GCC gravitating towards China is Washington’s thrust on reducing its dependence upon GCC for fulfilling its oil needs. Beijing can utilize its good ties with Iran and GCC and play a role in improving links between both.

The geopolitical landscape of the Middle East is likely to become more complex, and while there is not an iota of doubt, that the US influence in the Middle East is likely to remain intact, China is fast catching up.

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Egypt vis-à-vis the UAE: Who is Driving Whom?

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Image source: atalayar.com

“Being a big fish in a small pond is better than being a little fish in a large pond” is a maxim that aptly summarizes Egyptian regional foreign policy over the past few decades. However, the blow dealt to the Egyptian State in the course of the 2011 uprising continues to distort its domestic and regional politics and it has also prompted the United Arab Emirates to become heavily engaged in Middle East politics, resulting in the waning of Egypt’s dominant role in the region!

The United Arab Emirates is truly an aspirational, entrepreneurial nation! In fact, the word “entrepreneurship” could have been invented to define the flourishing city of Dubai. The UAE has often declared that as a small nation, it needs to establish alliances to pursue its regional political agenda while Egypt is universally recognized for its regional leadership, has one of the best regional military forces, and has always charmed the Arab world with its soft power. Nonetheless, collaboration between the two nations would not necessarily give rise to an entrepreneurial supremacy force! 

Egypt and the UAE share a common enemy: political Islamists. Yet each nation has its own distinct dynamic and the size of the political Islamist element in each of the two countries is different. The UAE is a politically stable nation and an economic pioneer with a small population – a combination of factors that naturally immunize the nation against the spread of political Islamists across the region. In contrast, Egypt’s economic difficulties, overpopulation, intensifying political repression, along with its high illiteracy rate, constitute an accumulation of elements that serves to intensify the magnitude of the secreted, deep-rooted, Egyptian political Islamists.

The alliance formed between the two nations following the inauguration of Egypt’s President Al Sisi was based on UAE money and Egyptian power. It supported and helped expand the domestic political power of a number of unsubstantiated Arab politicians, such as Libya’s General Khalifa Haftar, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied and the Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council, Lieutenant-General Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan. The common denominator among these politicians is that they are all fundamentally opposed to political Islamists.

Although distancing political Islamists from ruling their nations may constitute a temporary success, it certainly is not enough to strengthen the power of the alliance’s affiliates. The absence of true democracy, intensified repression by Arab rulers and the natural evolution of Arab citizens towards freedom will, for better or for worse, lead to the re-emergence of political Islamists. Meanwhile, Emirati wealth will always attract Arab hustlers ready to offer illusory political promises to cash in the money.   

The UAE has generously injected substantial amounts of money into the Egyptian economy and consequently the Egyptian State has exclusively privileged Emirati enterprises with numerous business opportunities, yet the UAE has not helped Egypt with the most critical regional threat it is confronting: the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El Sisi’s exaggerated fascination with UAE modernization has prompted him to duplicate many Emirati projects – building the tallest tower in Africa is one example.

The UAE’s regional foreign policy that hinges upon exploiting its wealth to confront the political Islamist threat is neither comprehensible nor viable. The Emirates, in essence, doesn’t have the capacity to be a regional political player, even given the overriding of Egypt’s waning power. Meanwhile, Al Sisi has been working to depoliticize Egypt completely, perceiving Egypt as an encumbrance rather than a resource-rich nation – a policy that has resulted in narrowing Egypt’s economic and political aspirations, limiting them to the constant seeking of financial aid from wealthy neighbors.

The regional mediating role that Egypt used to play prior to the Arab uprising has been taken over by European nations such France, Germany and Italy, in addition of course to the essential and ongoing role of the United States. Profound bureaucracy and rampant corruption will always keep Egypt from becoming a second UAE! Irrespective of which nation is in the driver’s seat, this partnership has proven to be unsuccessful. Egypt is definitely better off withdrawing from the alliance, even at the expense of forgoing Emirati financial support.

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