Bombed rubble in Gaza City
Relentless missile attacks on Israel exceeded 2,600 in the first 20 days of the Hamas/Israeli war. Fortunately, only 43 Israeli soldiers were killed because of Israel’s elaborate missile defense system, [which can knock missiles out of the sky.] [Israel’s] return fire, however, has reportedly left 1,035 Palestinians dead in a war that appears to have no immediate end, despite President Barack Obama’s appeal for a cease-fire.
At issue, and a major reason for the Israeli ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, are the million-dollar concrete-lined tunnels from the Strip into Israel, designed to launch internal attacks inside heavily populated areas — 28 discovered to date.
All this is commonly known. What isn’t — at least for those under age 35 —is the history behind the conflict.
Those who rush in with traditional answers to such conflicts like cease-fires and peace plans have no hope of ending the hostilities.
This is perhaps the single most complex area on the planet and Jerusalem is geographically the home of three of the world’s largest and competing religions -- Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
The most aggressive is Islam, which has a low tolerance for any faith other than their own. Hostilities between they and Judaism reach back 4,000 years to Father Abraham and his sons Ishmael and Isaac, each the ethnic father of one of the religions.
The “permanent feud” began when Ishmael and his mother Hagar were expelled from Abraham’s family.
Of course we should assist where possible in solving the feud, but the reality is, no other powers on earth has been able to do so for 4,000 years and there will be an Israeli/Islamic conflict decades to come. It, as in the past, will be resolved by “might is right” and today, try as they might, the Arabic countries cannot liquidate their unwanted neighbor.
History basically left the Israelis without a homeland during the Middle Ages and they were scattered largely throughout Europe, mostly because of Islamic intolerance.
England came to dominate the Middle East after World War I and they clearly favored the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. A constant trickle of Jews flowed into Palestine, joining those who had never left.
World sympathy for the scattered Jews was amplified during and after World War II, when Adolph Hitler annihilated at least 6 million Jews, and the trickle to Palestine turned into a river.
After WWII in 1947, the United Nations created the state of Israel. The plan was to divide the Holy Land between the Israelis and the Palestinians; each having its own homeland, but the plan was rejected by the Palestinians and all Arabic countries, who denied Israel’s right to even exist.
Their opposition was so staunch that the League of Arab States formed in 1945 (consisting of the six surrounding countries) and attacked Israel after it was recognized as a country by the United States.
In the resultant war, Israel retained its right to exist but the rest of the Palestine area was divided between competing Arabic states. Jordan had the West Bank and Egypt the Gaza Strip.
Now, because of their refusal to allow the Jews a homeland, the Palestinians were without one. Arabic states again attacked Israel in 1967, vowing to destroy them, and were soundly defeated in a six-day war.
By this time, the West had little interest in the original plan of providing the Palestinians a homeland and as a result of the wars encouraged by them, and the Arabic countries surrounding them, Israel had come to possess most of the land that would have made up a Palestinian state.
Moreover, Israel was building settlements on it.
The Palestinians longed to remove the Jews from “their” land. During the 1980s, the Palestinians initiated six years of uprisings, with more uprisings again in 2004 under Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The most contended Palestinian land included the West Bank next to Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip on the coast.
Israel has been receptive to removing their settlements in these areas, but the Arabic community still denies Israel’s right to exist.
Thus, peace is unlikely to come to the region for some time.
Enter Hamas, which began as a Palestinian political party and won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Authority Parliament in 2006. It divided the Palestinian people into moderates and extremists (even terrorists) who are quite willing to use tactics such as human shields and suicide bombs to achieve their objectives.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority. Hamas is the faction of Palestinian people that has attacked Israel and are responsible for the invasive tunnels into Israel.
Of course, money for the costly tunnels and the missiles almost entirely comes from the Islamic states around the Holy Land.
Hopefully, this historical overview will be helpful as we see the horrors of war from this part of the world.
Meanwhile, the missiles and death will continue.
Harold Pease, PhD, has taught history and political science from the perspective of the U.S. Constitution for more than 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his articles, see www.LibertyUnderFire.org.