Sunday, January 22, 2012

Were Jews and Palestinians in a Collision Course Right from the Start? A Basic Overview

Several questions must be raised before analyzing the complexities of the statement; “Jews and Palestinians were in a collision course right from the start.”  First, at what point in history is the statement referring to as the “start”?  Second, what factors, elements, and/or events are considered to be examples of Jews and Palestinians colliding?  

Although the relationship between Jews and Palestinians can be traced back hundreds of years, it is the more recent events of the 19th and 20th centuries that have shaped today’s reality of the conflict between Israel and Palestine.  Several events in the years prior to the 1948 War and the establishment of the state of Israel on May 15th, 1948 played key roles in setting the “collision course” between the two countries in motion.  In the broader sense, there are four major factors that would support the claim that “Jews and Palestinians were in a collision course right from the start.”

First, one must look at Palestine’s history, especially prior to the 1948 War.  The state of Palestine during this time was severely fractured and politically disadvantaged, not only in comparison to the rest of the world, but in stark contrast to the rest of the Middle East.  Palestine was denied any of the attributes of “stateness” and any access to the levers of state powers.  In addition, Palestine did not have international sanction for their national identity.  Prior to WWII, the Wilsonian Principles stated that sovereignty would ultimately reside with the national majority, this was true in every Arab nation- expect Palestine.  The signing of the Balfour Declaration by the British in 1917, followed by the 1920 British Mandate over Palestine, led to the first major uprising and defeat of Palestinians against British and Zionist colonial projects from 1936-1939.  Thus, Palestine entered the 1948 War, in the midst of recovering from the 1939 Revolt, with incohesive and broken political, social, and militaristic systems.  

Second, another major factor aiding the collision of Jews and Palestinians right from the start is found within the ideologies and goals behind the Zionist political movement.  Following the establishment of the first Zionist colony in Palestine funded by British Zionists in 1880, Theodore Herzl published Der Judenstaat in 1896- detailing the core beliefs of the Zionist movement's claim that all Jews constitute one nation, and that the only solution to anti-Semitism is the concentration of as many Jews as possible in Palestine/Israel- with the establishment of a Jewish state.  The problem with this political movement’s aim to establish a Jewish state in Palestine through colonization was the movement’s disregard for the Palestinian Arabs already living there. 

The third major factor that further supported Jews and Palestinians to be in a collision course right from the start was the impact of international pressure and policy.  The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement dividing the Middle East between Britain and France, contradicted public promises to allow Arab people to have independence and self-determination after WWI.  One year later, the British signed the Balfour Declaration supporting the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine- followed by the 1920 British Mandate over Palestine.  In 1937, increased Jewish immigration over native Palestinian objections was recognized as a major cause of problems in the Peel Commission “White Paper”.  The White Paper recommended partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab states- but ultimately failed. The multiple actions taken by international powers continuously denied Palestinians the right to self-determination. 

The final factor that must be addressed in analyzing whether or not Jews and Palestinians were on a collision course right from the start: is the process of colonalization itself.  History has shown us any time that one group attempts to gain control and establish a nation where another group is already living- regardless of whatever reason- the group that is already living there is going to resist.  Although the Palestinian Arabs and Jews have different religions- religious differences are not the cause of the conflict.  The root of this conflict is essentially a struggle over land. 

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