In order to fully understand Israel’s current status in the Middle East, we have to recognize some of the root causes of its conflict with surrounding countries. Throughout history, many different groups of people have ruled the land. Due to this, there has been a lot of conflict between small communities. Only much more recently did the Israeli conflict get labeled as the Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinean conflict. While there are other reasons, the root causes of the conflict are land, religion, nationalism, and Arab rejectionism.
Due to the fact that Jews and Arabs have all ruled the land over a period of time in history, each believes that it belongs to their people. The Jews, who have had presence in the land since King David, feel as though they are the indigenous people, and therefore the land is rightfully theirs. Following the Jewish exile, there was much turnover in Israel; first the Babylonians, then the Persians, Romans, and Christians took over. Finally, about 1300 years ago, Islam grew larger and gained control of the land. At the point, Arab presence became permanent in the land. As such, both Jews and Arabs have claims and rights to Israel because of living there for such a long time.
Both groups also have important religious sites in the land of Israel. The Temple Mount is a holy site in Judaism and Islam. Believed to be the site of both the first and second Temple, the Temple Mount is the holiest site for the Jewish people. The Temple Mount was declared the 3rd holiest site in Islam, giving them a permanent holy connection to the land as well. According to Deutsche Welle, this place signifies where Muhammad went to “the Divine Presence.”
In addition, nationalism plays a big role in the Israeli conflict. During Ottoman rule from 1517 to 1917, the idea of nationalism flourished. All citizens were granted equal rights. Jews, who had previously been treated as second-class citizens, by having to abide by laws such as wearing identifying clothing and working in certain areas, began to rise in power. Subsequently, antisemitism grew as well. When multiple pogroms occured, Jews decided that they would not be safe unless they had a state of their own. Towards the late 1800s came the rise of Zionism and the dream of a Jewish state. Pioneer, labor, political, and revisionist zionists worked together to rally for a Jewish homeland. However, just as Jewish nationalism was growing, so was Arab nationalism. In their minds, the Jews wanted to establish a country on their land. This led them to feel hatred towards the zionists.
Finally, the Arab’s unwillingness to recognize Jewish rights to the land has added to the conflict. From 1882-1903, pioneer zionists bought land in then-Palestine with the intention of building communities and growing crops. The land, which they bought from Arab land-owners, sometimes had civilians occupying it. When the zionists arrived and found people living on their land, they had a choice: let the civilians continue to live there or kick them out. Sometimes, they decided on the former and other times, the latter. The displaced Arabs felt robbed, and tensions grew. For many years to come, compromises and plans were made for a Two-State solution. Each of them were turned down by the Arabs. As the Palestinians reject more and more, Israel moves further away from the idea of a Two-State solution.
Land, religion, nationalism, and rejectionism have all played a part in the Israeli conflict. However, there are so many other factors that have influenced it as well. Although both sides have valid rights to the land, the conflict is harming innocent civilians, killing both Palestineans and Israelis. Without a trusting relationship between both sides, a compromise may never be reached - even though there is dire need for one. As such, it is important to continue learning about the conflict, both at its roots and where it is today. With education and conversation, perhaps we can eventually reach a point of peace.
photo credit: The IMW Post