Conflict & Hope: Day 1, Speaker 3

I am going to backtrack here a little bit. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the time these past few weeks to write an adequate entry on our education seminar. However, I will randomly post them as I find the time. Here is my third one on the topic, summing up our first day.

Our final speaker of the day was a man by the name of Steve Israel. He spoke on the topic of “Zionist Attitudes Toward Arabs.” Steve was a bit tough; upon sitting, he first said to us that if we didn’t take this seriously then we should just leave before he begins. After verbally kicking our butts into shape we told him we were ready to listen.

Steve provided me with more information in those next two hours than I have tried to get a basic grasp on over these past five years. He gave us a timeline of what we would cover during our discussion – we were to focus on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict between the years of 1850-1948. He broke these years up into three categories:
1.) Jewish/Zionist Timeline
2.) Arab/Palestinian Timeline
3.) British Timeline
He noted how all of these develop with their own logic, they all coincide, and more and more they all react to each other.

In 1850 the land of what is now Israel was under Ottoman rule. The 1880s marked the first wave of Zionist Jews making Aliyah to Israel. In 1896 Theodor Herzl wrote The Jewish State which is a book that, in fact, can be judged by its cover. It is about the creation of a Jewish state. Jewish State history in three sentences, go!: In 1897 the first Zionist Congress was created in Basle, Switzerland. Over the next 25 years a couple of tens of thousands of people would come to Israel to make Aliyah. By 1908 things begin to really happen when the young Turks revolted against their Ottoman empire.

The result of this revolt freed up corruption and bureaucracy — it allowed for the beginning of free press. The young Turks were considered democrats and they wanted the Turkish culture imposed all over their empire. Those who were non-Turks were not pleased and this is when Young Arab nationalism rose and the desire for an Arab state based on Damascus increased. Why Demascus? This fits into the religious and political history of the Arabs capital during the 7th – 8th century which is when they started.

At this point the British and French had already made a deal that divided up the area. Keep in mind that Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and other parts of North Africa was all a part of this land at the time.

In June 1918, Emir Feisal [Arab state supporter] and Dr. Chaim Weizmann [Jewish state supporter] [Fun Fact: There is a Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot named after him] met near Aqaba and made a deal that accepted the Zionist movement to Palestine. In return, Feisal had to receive an Arab state based on Demascus. In 1919 the French stepped in and said, “This land is ours, and we don’t agree to this deal.” Since they saw Feisal as British they booted him out. To make up for it, the British eventually made Feisal the King of Iraq which then became the modern Arab state he wanted.

I am randomly placing this sentence in here, but it’s interesting to note that in 1903 the British offered what is today Kenya, as a proposal to be the land of the Jewish state. Anywho, when the Jews first came to what is now Israel, they legally bought land from wealthy Arabs who were living in Lebanon. The villagers got upset of what was being sold under them.

Up to World War I this land was a pan-Arab world. After World War I it was an Arab world that had become separated. Over and over the same problems were occuring. In the Beaufort decision, signed in 1917, the British government said they should push for a “Jewish homeland in Palestine.” But the trend of Palestinian nationalism was also growing.

A series of riots began due to the terrible conflict that the Arabs and Jews had fallen into with each other. In 1920 the first act of violence occurred when the Arabs attacked the Jews. Haganah, the first Jewish small self-defense group, was formed in reaction to these riots. Another riot occurred in 1929 when Arabs attacked Jews again. From 1936-1939 the first intifada happened which was an Arab uprising/rebellion against the Jews.

In 1937 the British the proposed, for the first time, the idea of a two-state solution. While Ben Gurion responded saying, “Fine, let’s take it,” the Arabs responded saying, “No way,” as did many of the British. This resulted in the Jews striking and developing their own self-sufficient community. The Arabs, in turn, lost a lot of business.

From 1932 – 1939 a couple hundred thousand Jews were making Aliyah to Israel from central and eastern Europe. The dynamics at this point were still two national movements trying to get a hold of each other. In 1939 Zionism started to come to a strop in the Jewish people reacting to the British. Really, all hell began to break loose.

This time marked the beginning of the Holocaust. 11 million lives later, international politics come together, and the world, this time, accepted a two-state nation. The British gave up, they could no longer deal with everything and so the United Nations announced the independence of Israel in May, 1948.

Of course there is a lot more detail than this, I could in fact get a college degree based on Middle Eastern studies. But I wanted to give you a very basic summary of why the Palestinians think the land of Israel is their land, and why Israel thinks the land of Israel is their land. From this standoff point we got the basic background we needed to have four more days of education regarding the conflict, all from a more current and modern-day perspective.

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