The below paper is going to provide an in-depth analysis of the conflict in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestine. At the beginning of the paper the history of the conflict will be presented followed by the main current issues of dispute. This will be followed by information about how the conflict, and suffering in particular, is represented by media around the world. The paper will also discuss such concepts as Zionism and anti-Semitism, relating them to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Additionally, the papers will touch upon two recent big happenings in the history of the dispute: the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit and the destruction of Abu Aisha building in Jerusalem. It has to be mentioned that the paper deals with a very controversial and very difficult topic, the point of the paper is not to take a side of one of the countries, but to provide information on the conflict that is objective and unpretentious.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is part of a wider Israeli-Arab conflict. The term is used to refer to earlier conflicts between Zionist Jews and the Arab population living in the area under Ottoman or British rule, though the State of Israel was established only in 1948. In a nutshell it can be said that there are two solutions to the conflict: the two-state solution and the one-state solution. The two-state solution accepts creation of the independent Palestinian state alongside the Jewish State or next to it. On the contrary, the one-state solution assumes that all of Israel, the Gaza Strip, and West Bank should become a bi-national state with equal rights for all.
It is clear that the conflict generates a variety of views and opinions in the region and far beyond its borders. The lengthy conflict has caused great divide not only between Israelis and Palestinians but within each of the mentioned groups. What makes the conflict unfortunately remarkable is its cruelty and significant bloodshed. In this conflict bloodshed is not conducted only but regular armies but also by civilians, terror and paramilitary groups, and even young children.
As the problem of land is one of the main issues in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, it is very important to briefly mention the concept of Zionism. Zionists were the Jews, mostly Holocaust survivors of European origin that came to now known Israel to reclaim the land promised to the Jews by God in the Torah. Of course, the Arab population could not be unhappier about the new settlers because they were a serious threat to the lands they occupiedv (Dershowitz, p. 176). The Arab communities tried to do everything to prevent further immigration and purchasing of land by the Jews, however they were unsuccessful. It has to be pointed out that the negative attitude of the Arabs towards the Jews was not based on anti-Semitism, for the reason they are themselves Semites, but it was based on fear of the dispossession of their people. In such state of things, one can argue for both sides: the Jews, having survived the horror of the Holocaust wanted their land where they could live without oppression, while the Arabs, wanted to keep the land where they had always lived (Dershowitz, p. 176-177).
Periods of Conflict
For the convenience of the reader I find it useful to briefly mention the stages of the conflict. The latter can be more or less accurately divided into six time periods. The first period is the one during the rule of Ottoman Empire in Palestine. At that time the Palestinians saw themselves as part of all the Arab population, thus their conflicts with the Jewish inhabitants of the area were regarding religion and not territories. The second period is the one of British Mandate of Palestine, during this time now known Israel and Palestine were part of one entity, both under British rule. At that time the conflict was known as a conflict for the Land of Israel, called by the Arab population, “the Jewish-Arab conflict over Palestine”. The third period of time was between the declaration of the State of Israel and the Six Day War. As the result of those military activities the State of Israel was fully established, separating Gaza Strip and West Bank (Jordan) in separate political entities. During the fourth period between the Six Day War and the Oslo Accords, the casualties between Israelis and Palestinians living in the western Palestine controlled by Israel increased. The fifth period is the period up till the Second Intifada, during which Israel existed next to semi-sovereign Palestinian Authority. Finally the sixth period lasts until today (Sela, p. 335). This period is characterized by the fact that Israel returned to perform arresting operations in the West Bank and Gaza, retreated from the Gaza Strip in 2005 (Sela, p. 336). The above led to the strengthening of the Hamas which in 2007 took control over the Gaza Strip (Dershowitz, p. 176-177).
Main Issues of the Dispute
Without a shadow of the conflict, on the scale of a conflict between Israel and Palestine, has a lot of obvious and hidden motives. Though, when it comes to this conflict there are several issues that are said to be the six core or “final status” issues which need to be resolved in order to achieve peace in the Middle East. The first issue is the city of Jerusalem. This city is of greatest importance to people of different religions, for this matter it is called the city of three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Israel believes that the city should not be divided and should be governed purely by Israel, while Palestine believes that at least the parts of the city, which were not part of Israel should be returned (Khalidi, p. 29-30). Next issue is the Palestinian refugees that fled Israel and now they or even their ancestors are willing to have the right to come back to the country (McGeown and Asser). One other issue is the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. It is considered that peace cannot be achieved unless this issue is solved, as these settlements for long already have been the site of conflict and violence (Israel Foreign Ministry website, 2007).
Another issue is the security concerns of Israel. Currently, the country is in constant fear of Qassam rockets fired from the Palestinian Territories. Thus, Israel is demanding control over the Palestinian borders, while Palestine, of course, denies Israel of this privilege (Rydelnik, p.78). Lastly, Palestinian authorities believe that Israel deprives their country of the needed resources and by this prevents the country from flourishing. As a consequence, the Palestinians believe that they should not be forced to give up too many resources to Israel, as this may cause economic collapse to their country (Palestine Facts).
Media Coverage of the Problem and the Topic of Suffering
The topic of the Israeli-Arab conflict has been a hot topic for the news for decades already. What makes this topic even more controversial is that it deals with the two nations that have always been sort of refugees for the European countries and the Americas. Thus, the aura surrounding the conflict of these two nations and these two territories (Palestine and Israel) in particular is primarily biased because of the even-lasting stereotypes people have about the people of these lands.
There are several interesting facts that can be noticed about the media coverage of the conflict. First of all, the way the facts from the region are presented range from country to country. While American reporting companies tend to usually take the side of Israel, the reporting companies in Europe and in Russia mostly tend to be pro-Palestinian. The difference in attitudes towards one or another side is shown through various journalistic tools such as, for example: the word choice, failure to include information, selective reporting and decontextualization (Gutmann, p. 45-46). Another tool used by the pro-Palestine reporting companies is presenting the audience with videos of poor Palestinian children that had been hurt by the Israeli soldiers and the Israeli invasion in particular. At the same time, the Israeli kids are never shown this way, even though, for sure, such occurrences had also taken place. Such videos are usually placed on top of WebPages, as well as at the beginning of the news, pictures of this kind often appear on the first pages of the newspapers (Gutmann, p. 47).
When it comes to portraying suffering in the region, Israel is usually presented as a prosperous country with vibrant democracy and a deeply imbedded dream of peaceful co-existence with its neighbours. Though, after that this country is shown to suspend the pleasantries when security and dominance of its borders are at stake and take cruel actions. Thus, for this matter the image of Israel for the rest of the world focuses on that ferocity of Israel towards the Palestinian victims. There are now hundreds of satellite channels in Arabic that provide non-stop, live coverage of Israeli bombardments. Moreover, the humiliation and suffering Israel has imposed on the Palestinians is a permanent undertone in the European press, where Palestinian corruption and self-destructiveness tend to not be included.
So, to sum it up, for sure in the conflict between the two nations both of the sides suffer, what is very unfortunate is that the innocent people are the ones that suffer the most. However, for some reason the media almost all over the world bothers to show the suffering only of the Palestinians, finding them in a more humiliating position of living on the occupied territories, while Israelis are presented to simply prosper on the suffering of their neighbours (Gutmann, p. 48).
What is also well noticed is that very often the news very brightly and lengthy discuss military operations launched by the Israelis. In such stories the Israeli soldiers are shown to be the dangerous warriors that abruptly attack and murder thousands of people. However, such news is usually ended with the words that only three people were killed. On the other side, when the Palestinian attack that took away made Israeli lives is discussed, very often the language used is not as emotional and the amount of victims, though being high, stays unnoticed.
One thing that both Israelis and their advocates along with Palestinians and their advocates point out is the present anti-Semitism, anti-Arabism, or Islamophobia that serves as an explanation for biased reporting about the conflict (Rydelnik, pp. 79-80).
Two important occurenaces
In this section of the paper I would like to mention two very important recent occurrences in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These two events are the demolishing of Abu Aisha Building in Beit Hanina and the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. These two events have grabbed attention of the whole world. When looking at every incident separately, one can clearly say that the offending side is violent, however only looking at two of these incidents together one may see that no situation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be black and white, and it is very hard to say, which side is guilty in the conflict. The demolishing of Abu Aisha Building in Beit Hanina is a story connected with the policy adopted by the occupation municipality of Jerusalem against Palestinian building and housing. This policy insists on demolishing and fining houses that had been built without a legal permission for it. Lately many of the Palestinian buildings had been admitted illegal, thus they were ordered to be demolished by the officials or by the residents themselves. Following the policy the authorities of the city of Jerusalem in July 2008 tore down a 5-story building that was located near Al Dajani Hospital in Beit Hanina, belonged to Mr. Majed Abu Aisha and used to shelter seven families (Applied Research Institute Jerusalem).
It is said that the Israeli forces surrounded the building at dawn while the residents were sound asleep, broke in to the building, and used physical violence, and assaulting with the butt of their rifles to move the residents out of their apartments. After that the Israeli bulldozers started to knock the walls of the building down. The destruction was protested by the peaceful Palestinian Jerusalemites, however the Israeli soldiers were said to attack the peaceful gathering using sticks, butts of rifles, sound bombs and teargas. In the evening of that day the employees of the Jerusalem municipality went to the neighbouring buildings to warn their residents that unless they possess all the documents needed the fate of their houses would be similar to the one of Abu Aisha Building (Applied Research Institute Jerusalem).
The actions of the Israeli officials have caused suffering to the family of Abu Aisha and other six families, leaving them without a roof above their heads. These actions have been further disapproved because the city council of Jerusalem did not bother to provide the residents with any kind of short-term dwelling to use while they are looking for a new place to stay (Applied Research Institute Jerusalem). The horror of the above story can only be compared with the horror of a story about Gilad Shalit – an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped in June, 2006 by the Palestinian militants in a cross border raid from the Gaza Strip on the crossing Kerem Shalom and has been held hostage by Hamas ever since. Gilad Shalit is the first Israeli soldier captured by the Palestinian forces since Nachshon Wachsman in 1994. For almost three years already Hamas refuses to release Shalit, agreeing to do it only, in case Israel lets go of four-hundred-fifty and then one thousand of Palestinian prisoners.
The negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit have been lengthy and problematic, Israel has even launched couple of operations, saying that the sky would fall in case Shalit is not released or moreover, hurt. All this effort was done because one of Israel’s main principals is to return all the soldiers back home (Rosenberg). The world has witnessed many cases when the Israeli government would swap dozens of terrorists or prisoners just to obtain the soldiers or even their corpses back. The actions of the Palestinians have been disapproved by many international legal and peace organizations, particularly by the European Union, because Shalit holds French citizenship. As for now, there are no news on Gilad Shalit, what is intimidating though, is that every once in while posters saying “To our heroic prisoners – every year a new Gilad” appear, that cannot leave the hearts of Jews all over the world untouched.
As a final point, the Palestinian Israeli conflict is the single issue that has generated the largest number of United Nations resolutions (Hanson, p.25). Moreover, this problem has been around on the international scene for decades and has attracted great amount of attention, not proportional to the small territory it is happening on and a small population involved. Today it is hard to say what would bring peace to the region, because none of the local or international peace plans seem to work out. Thus, aside from more devastating aggression, no one can really say what the outcome of the conflict will be or which side will overcome. All the media and the people can really do – is watch. Another final point that has to be made is that one should not try to take sides in this conflict because currently this would be impossible for both the insiders and the outsiders. This is because the countries winded up in a clutter, which is impossible to figure out (Hanson, p. 26).
- Dershowitz, A. The Case for Israel. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003. Pp. 176-177
- Gutmann, S. The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy. Encounter Books. 2005. pp. 45-48.
- Hanson, V. D. “Current Controversies: The Middle East”. Greenhaven Press. 2003. Pp. 25-26.
- “Israeli Occupation Forcers Demolished Abu Aisha Building in Beit Hanina”. Applied Research Institute Jerusalem. 2008. Retrieved from http://www.poica.org/editor/case_studies/view.php?recordID=1497 on April 19, 2009.
- McGeown, K. and Asser, M. “Right of return: Palestinian dream?” BBC News. 18 February 2003. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2001/israel_and_the_palestinians/issues/1099279.stm on April 19, 2009.
- Rosenberg, D. “Israeli Army Enters Gaza to Find Kidnapped Soldier”. Bloomberg.com. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601102&sid=avQ5sj2YpzXI on April 19, 2009.
- Rydelnik, M. Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict: What the Headlines Haven’t Told You. Moody Publishers. 2004. Pp. 78-80.
- Sela, A. “Hamas.” The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. Ed. Avraham Sela. New York: Continuum, 2002. pp. 335-336.
- “What about water issues? Is Israel using Palestinian water?” Palestine Facts. Retrieved from http://www.palestinefacts.org/pf_1991to_now_water.php on April 19, 2009.