The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Primer

There are some basic requirements to understanding this conflict, a conflict I’ve studied for over 35 years – and I still don’t know all there is to know.  One basic requirement is studying the history of the region. It is completely impossible to understand this conflict without that basic foundation. I’ve especially found that most people who took an anti-Israel position are uninformed about the history and tend to view a very complex matter in an extremely simplistic way.  Below are some highlights that can give even the most oblivious person on the planet some basic foundational knowledge that will hopefully assist in understanding this conflict on a deeper, more intellectual level.  This is not a short post and though I know some people respond well to 2 minute video synopses rather than read many paragraphs, this post hopefully provides a bit more detail than those 2 minute videos on the topic.  It is my hope that once this is read, a better, more balanced understanding of this conflict is the outcome.

The movement to re-establish the Jewish homeland in Palestine was called Zionism.  It began in the late 1800s when the entire region of Jordan, Israel, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria was called “Greater Syria” under the Ottomans.  The first wave of Jewish repatriation began around 1881 as a result of the pogroms that were occurring in Russia, and from the oppression Jews in Yemen were facing.  The land was desolate and the people who came to Palestine from Russia and Yemen resettled by buying land from the Arab landowners or the Ottoman Turks.  Jerusalem had a consistent Jewish presence for over 3,000 years and there were still families that lived there at this time.  Mark Twain described the “holy land” in his 1867 book, The Innocents Abroad, as “…a desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but it given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse… a desolation… we never saw a human being on the whole route…  hardly a tree or shrub anywhere.  Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” From 1881 to 1889, as the population of Jews increased, so too did the population of Arabs, because with the Jewish population influx, also came work opportunities.

As an aside, although the Zionist movement called for the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, it did not include displacement or disrespect of anyone who already lived there and the original Mandate of Palestine included that caveat.  Once the State of Israel was established, Zionism became merely the support of the Jewish State of Israel’s existence and has no imperialistic or genocidal tenets.  When someone is anti-Zionist that would mean that they do not support Israel’s right to exist as the Jewish homeland and therefore, do not support the right for Jews to have self-determination in their country of origin.  People try to separate Jews and Zionists, but at the end of the day, it’s just not really possible to do that.

Following the Dreyfus affair in France, and obviously seeing how much anti-Semitism still affected Jews living in the Diaspora, Theodore Herzl established the World Zionist Organization, whose goal was to have Jews re-settle the “holy land.”   Lord Balfour of the United Kingdom issued a declaration in the form of a letter in 1917 stating that the British monarchy supported the establishment in Palestine of a national Jewish home and would do what he could to facilitate this.  This Mandate in establishing Palestine as the national Jewish home was ratified by the League of Nations.  After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and after much posturing between the parties, Britain was given the task of overseeing the various Ottoman Sanjaks in “Syria” (areas that would be called Palestine) at the San Remo Conference and the final version of the Mandate of Palestine was ratified in 1923.  The British made conflicting promises to both the Arabs and the Jews.  The Mandate included the area known as Trans Jordan, but in 1922, the British agreed to hand over that land (73% of Mandate Palestine) to the Hashemite clan from Hejaz in Arabia to create a separate country without Jewish presence or influence due to the assistance the British received from the Hashemites in their fight against the Turks.  Jordan became independent from the British in 1946, just two years prior to Israel’s independence.  This was the first partition of Palestine that separated out an area that was exclusively for the Arabs.

Simultaneously there was an Arab Nationalist movement that sought independence from the Ottomans and the establishment of a single Arab country that spanned Syria to Yemen.  The Arabs revolted against the Ottoman Turks (with the help of the British, i.e. Lawrence of Arabia) in 1916 and against the British Army and Palestine Police Force (Jewish) in 1936 in opposition to Jewish migration and British colonial rule.  The revolutionaries numbered approximately 5,000 people.  We also saw the massacre of approximately 60 Jewish civilians who lived in Hebron by Arab nationalists in 1929.

The Arabs were fighting for the promises made to them, and the Jews eventually fought for the promises made to them.  Ultimately, the Jews maintained that it was their right to have the area that was originally theirs, and the Arabs maintained that it was their right to control the entire thing, without compromise.

So, as you can see, there were a lot of contradictions, alliances, and broken alliances that took place during this tumultuous time.

In 1939, the British reneged on their promise of the establishment of a Jewish home in Palestine via a White Paper and restricted immigration of Jews to Palestine.  This resulted in many Jews being unable to flee Nazi Germany. After the slaughter of six million Jews during WW2, one-half of the world’s Jewish population, the United Nations decided to recognize the sovereign state of Israel and plans went forward to re-establish Israel in that region, though the borders were not clear cut.  The UN proposed the UN Partition Plan of 1947, which delineated an Arab nation and a Jewish nation out of the land that remained, which would mean a second Arab country (since Jordan was already cut from Palestine).  This Plan was accepted by the Jews but rejected by the Arabs.  At this point, the Jews began to fight for their sovereignty as they saw it was not going to be honored as previously promised by the British and their Arab counterparts were not likely to compromise.  The Jews ended up fighting the British, including a bomb attack on British military headquarters at the King David Hotel, an attack that was forewarned by the Jewish fighters via a phone call to the British military and via the Jewish daily paper, The Palestine Post (later known as The Jerusalem Post).  This attack was not on civilians enjoying time at a hotel, contrary to how this is portrayed in modern-day anti-Zionist rhetoric.

Finally, Israel declared independence officially in 1948.  In its Declaration of Statehood, Israel specifically appeals to its Arab inhabitants stating that together they can make a strong country that has equality for all.  Israel further calls upon its Arab neighbors to work together to make the region flourish. The day after Israel declared its independence, five armies from surrounding Arab countries, including the brand new country of Jordan, attacked it.  Jordan took control of the West Bank and the eastern portion of Jerusalem (which included the Old City and the holy sites within).  The Jews living in the eastern portion of Jerusalem were marched out of the city at gunpoint by the Jordanians with just the clothes on their backs.  The dance between Israel and Egypt over Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula continued for decades, with these plots of land in control of one of the two parties at various points in time, until 1967. In the battles that occurred both prior to and after declaration of independence of the Jewish State, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, encouraged the Arabs living within what would be the State of Israel to leave and promised they could return once the Jews were defeated.  Hajj Amin al-Husseini also met with the Nazis prior to 1948, including Hitler himself. Some Arabs fled at his urging, some fled as a result of war in general, most fled out of fear based on false Arab army reports on the radio (for which I will provide more detail in the paragraph to follow), and yes, some were pushed to flee by the Israeli Army, though this was not an official position of the Israeli army and this occurrence was not widespread.  In fact, David Ben-Gurion made an official plea to the Arabs of Haifa to stay, which may explain why Haifa has a large Arab population to this day.

In reference to the Arab army reports on the radio, they have to do with Deir Yassin.  Deir Yassin was an Arab village and there is a falsehood that has been perpetrated so much about this village, that it has become more widely believed than the facts. The Arab witnesses who were there stated that the village was a militant stronghold at the gates of the Old City of Jerusalem. When the Jews and Arabs fought each other here, it was a bloodbath. The Irgun and Lehi had the definite upper hand in this battle and won. Civilians, unfortunately, were also killed.  However, when this battle was lost by the Arabs, the militants who survived convened at the Hebron gate to the Old City where they met with the Arab Higher Committee leader, Dr. Husayn Fakhri al-Khalidi. Dr. Khalidi stated that they needed to exaggerate what occurred to alarm the surrounding Arab armies enough to come in and attack the Jews. Dr. Khalidi authored a press release that lied about what took place at Deir Yassin and stated that the Jews had massacred children (they hadn’t), raped pregnant women (again, not true), and were stealing people’s gold (also untrue). This press release exploded and what took place as a response was mass hysteria with Arab families fleeing their homes.  This press release and lie about Deir Yassin was the single biggest contributory factor in the Arab exodus from Israel. What actually occurred was recounted by Hazem Nusseibeh of the Palestine Broadcasting Service in the PBS documentary that aired in 1999 called, The 50 Years War:  Israel and the Arabs, a 5-hour documentary that I highly recommend. What actually happened has virtually been lost forever despite the eyewitness accounts of those who were fighting the Israelis. The false narrative has been so successfully propagandized that even some on the pro-Israel side believe there was a massacre of civilians at Deir Yassin because the lie has been so severely ingrained in the discussions of this conflict.  There were civilians killed, but the numbers were highly exaggerated, on purpose, and there were no rapes that took place.

Once the dust settled, any Arabs who remained in the new State of Israel were now under the government of Israel and any who fled were not allowed to return, as they were seen as an enemy of the State of Israel.  Israel was again attacked by the surrounding Arab countries in 1956.

In 1963, Arabs in Egypt formed the Palestine Liberation Organization under the auspices of the KGB, who were establishing militias in various unstable areas around the world as a Cold War tactic. Another group established at this time was the Bolivian Liberation Army with Che Guevara at the helm.  The objective was to establish Soviet influence in areas that could easily fall.  At this point in time, the term “Palestinian” was coined to refer to Arabs who had roots in Palestine prior to the establishment of the States of Israel and Jordan.

The war in 1967 started as a result of Egyptian troops blocking the Strait of Turin, which was considered an Act of War under the UN for blockading a waterway.  In Israel’s only preemptive war, Israel responded by launching attacks on Egypt and Jordan, successfully pushing the Egyptians out of Gaza and the Jordanians out of the West Bank and eastern portion of Jerusalem, which the Jordanians had captured and held since 1948.  Once Israel had control of East Jerusalem, for which access had been completely barred for Jews under the Jordanians, General Moshe Dayan approached the Jordanian religious council, the Waqf, who oversaw the al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock, and gave them sovereignty over these holy sites as an olive branch, despite the fact that this site was also the Temple Mount and the holiest place for Jews.  The Old City of Jerusalem, under Jordanian occupation, saw religious sites desecrated and vandalized, with pages of the bibles in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher used as toilet paper and the Western Wall of the Old Temple used as a urinal.  This gesture of kindness and peace by Moshe Dayan was one of the biggest fatal flaws that Israel has ever made and it has haunted Israel to this day.

Once the war in 1967 was over, Israel annexed East Jerusalem to reunite the city and to preserve and maintain access to the holy sites within that were important to many visitors and residents, and it annexed the Golan Heights for strategic purposes.  The Jews who were forced out of the Old City at gunpoint in 1948 did not all return as their homes had been taken over by Arabs during the 19-year Jordanian occupation. Israel did not annex the West Bank, Gaza or the Sinai Peninsula because it hoped to use these areas as a bargaining tool for peace.  Despite this intention, Israel did fund and allow for Jewish settlements to be built in these areas, because the borders of 1967 (also known as the green line or the armistice line of 1949) were indefensible and the settlements would provide a required buffer should a land for peace deal emerge.  Israel maintained control of these disputed unannexed territories during this time.  There were no checkpoints and the Arabs within these territories had the ability to travel in and out of Israel at will for work, shopping, visiting family, et cetera.  There was a distinction between Arabs from the territories and Israeli citizens (whether Jewish or Arab).  Arabs from the territories had blue license plates on their vehicles and a different ID card than Arab and Jewish Israelis had. Jews and Arabs from Israel proper had yellow license plates to distinguish them as Israeli citizens versus Arab residents of the territories.  Meanwhile, Jews living in the territories shared the same identity as a Jew or Arab living in Israel proper.  This was a clear cut case of ethnic segregation by Israel. Israel feared that annexation would have tilted the population away from the Jewish majority, which is really the main basis for Israel’s support of a two-state solution. The Arabs in the territories, though under Israeli control, were not technically Israeli citizens, and therefore did not vote in Israeli elections and had no self-determination. Had Israel annexed the West Bank, it would have maintained its Jewish majority and we might have peace today as Israel proper (mostly) does between its Arab and Jewish citizens. It was a very ill thought scenario and only achieved animosity and hatred by the population in this situation.  This was Israel’s second fatal flaw in the handling of this conflict.

The Sinai was given back to Egypt as part of the peace treaty with them in 1979, the Jewish settlements dismantled, and the Jewish population relocated to Israel proper.  Gaza was offered back to Egypt as part of this peace treaty, however, Egypt declined.  Gaza had never been a sovereign region unto itself, so Israel maintained its presence there, despite the majority Arab population living there.  Israel ultimately withdrew from Gaza as well in 2005, with every Jewish settler removed from that land.  The people of Gaza now had complete autonomy and held elections.  They voted for HAMAS over Fatah (formerly the PLO) because Fatah was corrupt and HAMAS did a lot of social welfare work.  Unfortunately, HAMAS, which was originally established as an Islamic social welfare organization and was registered as such in the State of Israel when Israel still had control of Gaza, was actually cover for an extremist religious group that had begun engaging in violent acts against Israel with the introduction of its Covenant in 1988.

Israel also offered the West Bank (minus East Jerusalem) to Jordan during their peace negotiations in 1994. Jordan had previously been the object of a PLO coup attempt and in response to the coup attempt, the Jordanian army killed 100,000 Palestinians during Black September in 1970.  The PLO was expelled from Jordan and they re-located to Lebanon.  Jordan refused to take back the West Bank, however, because of its heavy PLO presence, putting it in the same situation as Gaza.  Part of the peace treaty included instruction from Jordan to Israel to establish a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank.  Israel agreeing to this caveat was its third fatal error in handling this conflict. In my opinion, Israel should have never agreed to this and should have demanded that the King of Jordan take back the West Bank.  Putting the establishment of a Palestinian state in the hands of the Israelis was basically asking for trouble.  The Arabs in the territories did not trust Israel, number one, and number two, because of either Arab Nationalism or Islamic pride, they had no intention of taking direction from Israel on issues that they deem internal Arab matters.

I’m intentionally leaving out Hezbollah and Lebanon because it’s not germane to this brief history and it would take up another page at least.  Suffice to say that Hezbollah (translated as “Party of God” in Arabic) uses the Israeli Palestinian issue to foster hatred and animus toward Israel.  It’s mainly a Shia-party in Syria that has used this conflict to take control of Lebanon, as Syria sees Lebanon as part of its territory. As a result, since 1932, Lebanon has gone from a majority Christian country to a majority Muslim country in a very short time.

Now we come to the Oslo Accords, which were in process from 1991 to 1993.  At this point, Israel sat down with Yasser Arafat and hammered out a plan to achieve Palestinian sovereignty and a Palestinian state.  The purpose of this agreement was to establish an interim program that would give the Palestinians some autonomy and both sides’ goals to achieve that would lead to a permanent peace to begin in 1996.  Conditions of this included recognition of Israel’s right to exist, an agreement to stop funding and encouraging terrorist attacks such as suicide bombings and rocket attacks, both sides were bound by the agreement that the children in each area would be taught tolerance of Jews and Arabs, and the transfer of power to the Palestinians would occur, with the establishment of their own police force and government.  They agreed to cooperate on issues of commerce with regard to water, electricity, energy, finance, transportation and communications, trade, industry, labor relations, social welfare issues, communication and media, and to develop an environmental protection plan.  As a result of these accords, the PLO morphed into the political party, Fatah, and they won the elections in 1996 post-Oslo and have led the Palestinian Authority (PA) ever since. In fact, Oslo brought, for the first time in history, sovereignty to Palestinians.  Even Jordan’s Palestinian population were subjected to the ruling Hashemites, who are an exiled tribe from Arabia.  At Oslo, the West Bank was divided into Areas A, B and C.  Area A is fully under PA control.  Area B is also under PA control, however the Israeli Army still has jurisdiction here for security purposes.  Area C is under Israeli control.  Most people are completely unaware of that both sides agreed to this carving up of the West Bank which resulted in the placement of numerous border crossings aka checkpoints in this carved up piece of Swiss cheese.  These checkpoints and walls that people scream about as “apartheid” are actually as far as you can get from apartheid because what they delineate are areas of sovereignty and again, both parties, the Palestinians and Israelis, agreed to carving the land up in this manner.

The election of HAMAS in 2006 in Gaza basically turned the Oslo Accords on their head.  While Israel withdrew from the agreed upon areas of the West Bank, HAMAS declared that any agreements made between Fatah and Israel were null and void.  We still see anti-Israel and anti-Jewish programming on Palestinian TV in both Gaza and the West Bank, including some of the same propaganda and blood libels Josef Goebbels employed.  We see Fatah naming public squares after suicide bombers and compensating convicted terrorists in Israeli jails.  The young men who broke into the house of the Fogel family and stabbed them to death, including three of their children (one of which was an infant), are lauded as heroes by the PA and HAMAS.  In 2000, not long after the Oslo Accords were ratified, two Israeli soldiers got lost in Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority, and stopped at a police station to get directions.  They were immediately attacked by the police and thrown out of the window to a bloodthirsty crowd below.  They were literally torn apart from limb to limb and disemboweled.  A French television crew captured this on video.

So, although there is sovereignty of Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank, they have not done the work necessary to move toward establishing peace with Israel and as a result, Israel maintains military oversight of portions of the West Bank and a military blockade against Gaza. HAMAS has vowed that it will never recognize Israel or make peace with Israel and they believe that they are religiously bound to destroy the Jewish state and to destroy Jews everywhere.  HAMAS are religious extremists comparable to al Qaida.

That said, there are also problems from Jewish settlers in the West Bank and their treatment of Palestinians.  Where the IDF stands guard over these settlements, and settlers deliberately antagonize and dehumanize Palestinians with name-calling, the soldiers stand by and don’t do anything about it.  While acknowledging this disgusting behavior by Israelis, I must interject that the comparison between name-calling and ridicule cannot touch the evil of murdering people in cold-blood for being Jews.  We have seen some Jewish extremists attack or murder Palestinian civilians, but the difference is that Israel doesn’t reward these crimes or name squares after the criminals. Israel hunts them down, arrests them, puts them on trial and convicts them.

Contrary to popular belief, there are 1.7 million Arab Israeli citizens in Israel proper (not in the West Bank or Gaza).  They are equal citizens who own property, businesses, vote, hold positions in the government, and enjoy the same freedoms as every other Israeli.  There is no apartheid in Israel separating the population based on religion, color, ethnicity, gender, or anything else.  The alleged apartheid refers to the checkpoints that everyone, Jew or Arab, must go through when going to or from Israel-controlled land to PA or HAMAS-controlled land.  These are essentially border crossings.  It would be like calling California apartheid because of the San Ysidro checkpoint going into Tijuana.  However, apartheid does exist among the Palestinian-controlled areas.  If someone in the West Bank sells any real property to a Jew, the person is sentenced to death.  This is not the case in Israel.  The sole segregation that exists as institutional segregation is via the school system.  Arabs tend to send their children to Arab schools and Jews tend to send their children to Jewish schools.  There are schools with mixed populations, but they’re rare.  There should be more.  These kids should be growing up together and learning about each other via the educational system.

Now I’d like to address bulldozing homes.  Israel has employed this method for a number of reasons.  First, when it occurs in the West Bank, it is done against both Jews and Palestinians because they are building homes either on land that they do not own or without proper permitting.  Oftentimes there are Jews who start building settlements or outposts without approval of the Israeli government and those settlements are dismantled and bulldozed.

As far as bulldozers in Gaza, they are employed to close off weapons smuggling tunnels.  There is an elaborate tunnel system in Gaza with which to smuggle weapons since a blockade exists (thus, the reason for the blockade), and when Israel finds tunnel openings, they bulldoze them closed.  If everyone in the house is aware of this tunnel, then they are all culpable in participating in terrorist activities, according to Israel.

The above are justifiable reasons for bulldozing homes, in my opinion. Where the justification ends, however, is when Israel bulldozes the homes of alleged terrorists’ families in the absence of a tunnel.  It’s extrajudicial, collective punishment. I would be ok with arresting any family members if there is sufficient evidence they contributed to terror attacks, but bulldozing homes of family members as a deterrent is wrong, and it doesn’t work. It does more to fuel aggression than it does to deter it.

From time to time you’ll hear about settlements in East Jerusalem.  Well, there are no settlements in East Jerusalem because, as mentioned earlier, that was annexed by Israel in 1967 and Israel has no plans to include dividing Jerusalem as part of any agreement.  I recall a time when Hillary Clinton was upset for some apartments going up in East Jerusalem by a Jewish developer.  The problem is that the developer was building apartments on land he owned.

Sometimes people refer to this conflict as a religious conflict.  It’s only a religious conflict for one of the three parties involved, and that would be HAMAS. They maintain the strictest and most fundamental version of Islam, which includes seeing Jews as lesser beings that Allah dictates must be destroyed by Muslims to bring about Judgment Day. This is not a secret agenda and it is spelled out in the Hamas Covenant, including a hadith citation from Sahih Muslim that supports this position.  Fatah, while they are Arab Nationalists and largely secular, will still use religion to appeal to its population, and a portion of their nationalism stems from the belief that once a land has been conquered by Muslims, it is forever Muslim land. But ultimately, their objectives are not religious in nature.

Something both Fatah and HAMAS share is the goal to keep the conflict going without a Palestinian state.  The conflict is what funds them.  Without  a conflict, the money train dries up.  The establishment of a Palestinian would deem the cause resolved, and that’s not something the leadership wants.  The cause brings donations, sympathy, and has made Ishmail Haniyeh, Mahmoud Abbas, Khalid Meshaal, and the late Yasser Arafat multimillionaires. They get rich while convincing their people to blow themselves up.  I think there is probably a secret contingent of Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank who just want to live their lives and raise their families and stop focusing hate and wrath on the Jews.  They can’t, of course, say so or they’d be arrested as spies.  So the cycle continues.

Israel is secular.  Israel is an extremely liberal and diverse country.  There are equal rights for all citizens, be they male, female, gay, straight, black, white, Asian, Arab, Muslim, Jewish, Baha’i, Christian, or atheist.  The headquarters for the Baha’i faith are in Haifa because they were kicked out of Iran.  Israel has socialized medicine for all.  Israel has protections for workers that include requiring employers to give a month notice if someone is going to be fired, and that person automatically receives unemployment compensation.  Israel has legal gay unions.  Tel Aviv is consistently voted best gay friendly city.  Declawing of cats is banned.  Medical marijuana is legal and Israel leads the world in cannabis research.  If you go to a dentist in Israel, he might be Arab.  If you go before a judge in Israel, she might be Arab.  The mantra that God gave Israel to the Jews is only employed by religious individuals who believe this religious edict.  It is not the position of the Israeli government and it is not the position of most Israelis.

With regard to Israel’s incursions into Gaza, these only happen after Israel has endured hundreds or thousands of rockets raining on their civilian population, mostly in the South.  HAMAS does not wear a uniform and HAMAS shoots rockets from residential areas on purpose.  They make it as difficult as possible to root them out; therefore Israel is restricted to seeking out the rocket launchers and destroying them.  Israel sends out flyers, makes telephone calls to homes, and sends text messages as they are about to embark on a campaign against HAMAS.  Israel attacked the television antennae for al-Aqsa (HAMAS’ official channel) television during the summer of 2012.  Reporters from other news agencies were outraged because they were put in harm’s way.  Israel’s goal was to destroy the antennae, which they did, without harming anyone else.  Eight journalists were injured and no one was killed because Israel was incredibly tactical in their delivery of that bomb.  Israel has made it very clear that if you are not part of HAMAS, stay away from HAMAS outposts, including their antennae.  Al-Aqsa TV is a propaganda arm of HAMAS that airs programming that incites hatred, including hateful children’s programming encouraging young children to become martyrs for Allah.  These can be seen all over YouTube.

Finally, there is the accusation of white phosphorus use by Israel as a war crime.  Israel did use the compound to form a smokescreen for their troops during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, and this use is allowed under international law, although extreme caution is advised if there are populated areas nearby.  Since HAMAS conducts their rocket launches from residential areas, Israel has decided to no longer utilize that option. Even though the International Red Cross cleared Israel from any misuse of white phosphorus, Israel conducted internal investigations as well and reprimanded two commanders who they felt had not exercised the caution needed in using white phosphorus in populated areas.  Upholding its statement that they would limit the use of white phosphorus in future conflicts, we did not see Israel use white phosphorus in Operation Pillar of Cloud.  According to the UN and Red Cross, a total of four to ten people were burned as a result of Israel’s use of white phosphorus during Operation Cast Lead.  HAMAS has also used white phosphorus against Israel, and the UN has instructed both sides to demonstrate caution when utilizing this option.

Last but not least, I want to look at the bus bombing that took place in Tel Aviv just before the cease-fire agreement from the HAMAS campaign against Israel in 2012.  The bomb was placed on a civilian bus in Tel Aviv, the bomber ran off the bus, and the bomb exploded.  The reaction in Gaza was rejoicing.  Candy was passed out to children.  There is no distinction for HAMAS and sadly, for most Gazans, between civilian Israelis or the IDF.  As I mentioned before, Jews are the ultimate targets for HAMAS, pursuant to their extremist religious edicts. Some people like to point fingers at Netanyahu and his right-wing government and paint them as “hawks.”  But what they fail to understand or take into account, are two things:  First, Netanyahu, much to the chagrin of Israelis, gave up Hebron in the West Bank to become part of the Palestinian-controlled land during his last sojourn as Prime Minister, an act no hawk would’ve undertaken.  Hebron is extremely important to the religious Jews as the location of many holy sites.  Second, every major war Israel has been involved in was during a Labor government.  This notion that if only Israel had less hawkish leaders there would be less conflict is a pipe dream.  Israel could have Gandhi as the Prime Minister, and it would be met with the same attacks, both verbally and weapon-wise. Third, every Israeli leader knows that if there is war, their own children and grandchildren will be in uniforms fighting the enemy.  The population of Israel is approximately 8 million people and every 18-year old boy or girl are required to join the military, though if they are Arab they are allowed to be exempt from military service.  It’s a small country with a small population and they do not enter war lightly.  There is no benefit to Israel in going to war other than to defend itself.

The narrative of the white, European colonist invading a sovereign, Arab country called Palestine is a false narrative.  The region was a dismantled Turkish empire as of 1920 and Jews have never been accepted as white Europeans by white Europeans, even if their skin was white and even if they lived in Europe.  Jews, whether Ashkenazi or Mizrachi or Sephardic or Ethiopian or Maghrebi, are people who are indigenous to the Levant.  DNA markers specific to Jews are now found in every DNA test available and for $100, you too can determine if you have Jewish markers among your DNA.  Jews were persecuted in Europe, persecuted in the Maghreb, persecuted in the US, persecuted in Arab countries.  It didn’t matter if we looked similar to the inhabitants of those countries, we were always considered from elsewhere, because we were.

About the Author
Debbie Hall is a writer and activist living in the diaspora.
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