Yeshiah Grabie

The Practical and the Ideological of Israel’s Conflicts

The modern conflict between Israel and the Palestinians contains elements both practical and ideological. At its core, the conflict is a land dispute between two nations, each claiming itself as the rightful heir to the land, each with historical claims. Similarly, for the surrounding Arab countries, the establishment and continued existence of Israel has been and remains problematic. The displacement of the Palestinian Arabs in the wake of the Arab defeat in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War disrupted Lebanon’s fragile ethnic balance. Unlike in Israel, where Jewish refugees from Arab lands were resettled, the Palestinian refugee issue was never fully resolved in Syria and the issue has been allowed to fester until today. There are continued frictions over water rights, gas drilling rights, borders and defense matters that have flared up into violence and war. Iran, Turkey and Egypt each seek regional hegemony, and Israel is an impediment to that goal. For each of these participants there are practical explanations for the continuing conflict.

There are also ideological factors involved. Judaism serves as a base for Islam, as Islam incorporates elements of Jewish law and history into its own belief system, but Judaism also serves as a foil to Islam. The Koran tells of Mohammed’s army killing the Jews of Khaybar and in the hadiths, “The Day of Judgment will not arrive until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims will kill them.” The Pact of Umar informed Muslims of the rights of conquered non-Muslims, and Jews were essentially second class citizens within Muslim territories. Today, Israel controls important Muslim holy sites, and Iranian clerics have called for the liberation of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem from the impurity of the Jews and that the liberation of Jerusalem will precede the return of a Shia messianic figure, the disappeared 12th Imam. For some, Jewish control of formerly Muslim controlled territory is an affront. It is for ideological reasons that physically distant countries such as Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia impose restrictions against Israel and Israelis.

These ideological roots have spurred irrational thinking about Israel and Jews. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school textbooks glorify martyrdom in the cause of Palestinian liberation and claim Jews are inherently treacherous. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has engaged in Holocaust denial. The original 1988 charter of Hamas stated that Jews were planning to conquer the land from the Euphrates River to the Nile River and then beyond as laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Iranian clerics have claimed that Israel was created by the western powers to weaken Islam.

In western societies, a popular trend is the emergence of an ideology focused on systemic inequalities. Central to this ideology is the concept of “systems of oppression,” that societies are structured to benefit certain groups while marginalizing others, specifically that white people as a group have historically held a disproportionate amount of power and privilege in society, reinforcing  discrimination and inequality based on factors such as race, gender, sexuality, and class. Further, this philosophy claims that different forms of oppression are interconnected and cannot be understood in isolation. In this intellectual scheme, despite the tragic Jewish history and wars launched against it by the Palestinians and the surrounding Arab nations, Israel represents the privileged white colonizer and ethnic cleanser of the Arabs, whose oppression of the Arabs is connected to oppressions in the west.

That Jews were long persecuted in Christian and Muslim lands, that Jews legally purchased land from Arabs prior to 1947, that Zionism was a Jewish led movement, that Jews did not colonize Palestine by the common understanding of the term “colonization,” that Arabs may live in Israel but no Jews save a number of hostages can live in Palestinian areas, that Israel captured lands in wars launched against it by its Arab neighbors, that similar numbers of Jews and Arabs were forced from their homes, that Israel is a western style democracy with protected rights while its neighbors are not, that Israel’s successes of the last 75 years have been the result of sacrifice, hard work, innovation and partnership with the west is all given short shrift. In this new ideological scheme, Israel is a racist colonizer oppressor which occupies other people’s lands and has only a questionable right to defend itself.

According to these Muslim and western ideologies, Israel’s existence is at the heart of the region’s ills.

Second in a series

About the Author
Yeshiah Grabie is a trained economist and M&A professional who is leveraging his Wall St. skillsets and applying them in the field of Jewish history. He is the author of a blog on the weekly parshah and archaeology, geared towards a maximalist audience while staying true to the archaeological science, at