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Conflict in the Middle East: When Will This Bloodbath End?

The Middle East has probably suffered more rivalry and conflict than any other part of the world. The 1948 Arab-Israeli war was the first outbreak of hostilities triggered by the declaration of independence for the state of Israel on 14 May 1948. From that year till date there has been no steady atmosphere of peace in the region.

After what looked like some years of calmness and tranquillity, the ageless war between Israel and Palestinians seems to have resumed after the latest land dispute in East Jerusalem which quickly escalated as Palestinian militants fired rockets into Isreal from Gaza, while the former responded with airstrikes.

Interestingly, the war has triggered a social media frenzy with the hashtag #PalestinianLivesMatter. While this cycle of violence isn’t new to the region, what could be different this time is how social media is now increasingly being used to spread the message.

As of last week, the hashtag #PalestinianLivesMatter was trending on Twitter with nearly a quarter of a million new tweets alongside #FreePalestine and #BoycottIsrael.

PalestinianLivesMatter also had some 71,000 posts on Instagram and there are now multiple “Palestinian Lives Matter” groups on Facebook.

Dozens have already died in the fight between Israel and Hamas and more will perish if the fighting continues to escalate. This is because the Israeli-Palestinian warfare has almost become routinised. It follows a familiar script that repeats itself over the years endlessly.

Since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, the world has seen three full-scale wars and numerous rounds of high-level conflict. But the basic structure of the conflict — Israel’s blockade of Gaza and occupation of the West Bank, and Palestinian rule divided between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank — has remained remarkably durable.

It would seem as if the current round of violence emerged out of a complex series of events in Jerusalem, most notably heavy-handed actions by Israeli police and aggression from far-right Jewish nationalists. But in reality, these events merely triggered the underlining enmity made almost inevitable by the way the two major parties have chosen to approach the conflict.

Interestingly, the recent war between the nation of Isreal and Palestine reminds one of the 1948 war that was caused by a number of “international and intraregional factors” intertwining to create some complex situations and catalyst for war. The war resulted in Israel’s victory, yet had significant consequences on not only regional politics of this area, but also international relations, which are still visible today.

It is a highly complex and intricate topic that has been subject to great historiographical debates. These historic two movements of Arab nationalism and Zionism had been building up significantly since the nineteenth century with the aims of achieving emancipation and self-determination, both revolving around the concepts of identity, nationhood, history, religion and culture.

According to findings, the Classic Zionist idea originated in the ‘deep-rooted biblical tradition’ in the idea of a proclaimed ‘land of Israel’ where Jewish independence would be restored. However, it was within the context of centuries of European anti-Semitism and persecutions that modern political Zionism arose.

The ‘ideological foundation’ was based on: the desire of the Jewish people to be constituted into a nation.

Furthermore, the idea that anti-Semitism could only be overcome by physical separation from Europe and by self-determination made Zionism popular. The ‘religious and cultural ties to the Land of Israel made Palestine the logical territorial claim and was perceived as the only viable and permanent solution to the nationhood problem of the Jews’.

Therefore, Zionism promoted the belief that Jews were entitled to Palestine, especially Jerusalem and environs, and fuelled their zeal in pursuing their fight and struggle to have self-determination. Moreover, the holocaust in Europe ‘generated a renewed and intense determination to create a Jewish state.

Without antisemitism that brought Zionism to life, Arab-Israeli conflicts may never have occurred as the Jews perhaps would never have had any desire to create a Jewish state, or at least not enough organisation and global support to do so.

Arab nationalism, on the other hand, was born out of the shared language, religion (Islam) and history of the Middle East region and therefore Arab nationalists ‘aspired to greater political co-operation’ through the Arab League. Modern Arab nationalism arose at the end of the eighteenth century, partly as opposition to European colonialism, which they believed was ‘superfluous in its attainment.

The Arabs often perceived western rulers to be pro-Israel. To Arab nationalist radicals, Israel was not just an enemy because of the ‘injustice against their brethren in Palestine’, but also because of its ‘close association with what is perceived as Western imperialist aspirations towards the region’, particularly regarding the region’s oil reserves.

As a result of this, when the United Nations General assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish state, this confirmed their criticisms and suspicions of the West. Arab leaders did not understand why they should be made to suffer and lose their lands as a result of the holocaust.

Therefore Arab nationalism was an important cause of the 1948 war and it gave Arab nations a common enemy, enabling them to unite and fight against both Zionism and the western power. It can even be argued that the Arabs worsened the situation by boycotting The United Nations Special Committee for Palestine. This was intended to consider the views of both Arabs and Jews in the area and improve tensions.

A major consequence of the Arab-Israeli war was the territory changes. For Israel this was arguably positive, having increased its territory by 21 per cent in comparison to the partition resolution boundaries. Contrarily, this could also be viewed as negative as it increased hostility from the Arabs who believed Israel should have no land whatsoever.

The Arab states also exhibited a passion for territorial expansion, with Transjordan gaining the West Bank and Egypt gaining the Gaza strip. This all proves that the Arabs also had the intention of expanding their power and territory. Palestine, however, ‘lost any possibility of a state of their own due to the acquisition of land of the Arabs or Israel.

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Despite tremendous effort exerted since the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution, peace has been elusive. Today, there is a growing feeling among Palestinians, Israelis and the international community that the two-state paradigm may no longer be viable.

However, many analysts opine that retaining the “binational state,” might not attract lasting peace and will not help the two nations involved. Many believe a better option now would be to create one democratic, secular state in which both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs would live as citizens with equal rights.

It is worthy of note that, those who support a one-state solution generally see separating Israelis and Palestinians into two states as just not realistic and sustainable. The populations are too intertwined, and reaching an agreement on things like ethnic borders, the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees is too complicated.

The Israel and Palestine war is a highly complex conflict with its origins going as far back as biblical times. The impacts of the First and Second World War contributed to the foreign policy of the British in handing over the Palestine Mandate to the UN, which consequently resulted in the declaration of independence for Israel. It was this declaration that created an uproar amongst Jews and Arabs alike and instigated the war. The consequences of this war have been catastrophic in shaping Middle Eastern politics even until today.

It is vital that the United Nations, Arab League, the US and other interest groups step in now to defuse tension and prevent the conflict from escalating. The world must prevent an imminent bloodbath by not allowing this conflict to lead to an invasion of Gaza as Isreal’s rampaging army are currently at the borders awaiting orders to proceed to “uproot Hamas militants” firing rockets endlessly into Isreal.