Understanding the Israel-Palestine conflict
Recent developments are particularly distressing for students with personal connections
On October 7, the Hamas – a Palestinian government and militant organization – launched an air raid into Israel across the Gaza Strip borders, the likes of which has been termed “unprecedented” by many mainstream media outlets. Next came Israel’s response, in the form of bombing and air strikes as the government ordered a complete siege of the Gaza Strip. Thus began another bloody chapter in the history of the long running Israel-Palestine conflict.
Governments and their officials from across the world poured in with their condolences and solidarity: some for Israel, some for Palestine, and some for general world peace. As is the nature of information obtained from commonly consumed media these days, opinions of all kinds are making rounds. Truth and the history of the conflict has once again taken the backstage.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict dates to the end of the First World War. The territory of Palestine, which was a part of the Turkish-ruled Ottoman Empire, fell to the governance of Great Britain after the Empire’s fall in the war. The terms of the mandate entrusted Britain with establishing in Palestine “a national home for the Jewish people,” so long as doing so did not prejudice the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities there.
Jewish immigration into Palestine continued over the next years, but the influx saw a significant spike during and after the end of the Second World War in 1945. The Jewish population from in and around Germany that had survived years of barbaric genocide and persecution sought a haven for themselves in Palestine.
In 1947, Britain was still governing Palestine, but was intent on withdrawing from the Middle East region, exhausted in the aftermath of the Second World War. Not being able to come up with a solution for the mandate issue in Palestine, Britain turned to the United Nations (UN).
The UN formed the United Nations Special Committee of Palestine (UNSCOP) to investigate and come up with a suitable course of action for the issue. After much deliberation over the issue, UNSCOP developed Resolution 181. Known as the Partition Plan, they sought to divide the British Mandate of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, with the city of Jerusalem to be governed by a special international regime. The resolution was passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1947.
On May 14, 1948, following the end of the British colonial mandate in Palestine, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. Harry S. Truman, President of the United States at the time, recognized the new nation on the same day.
The creation of the State of Israel sparked the first Arab-Israeli War. The war ended in 1949 with Israel’s victory, but 750,000 Palestinians were displaced, and the territory was divided into 3 parts: the State of Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan River), and the Gaza Strip.
Multiple incidents of war, occupation, and siege have followed the first Arab-Israeli war, and the borders of what is known as the State of Israel have been constantly changing. One of Israel’s land borders was formalized for the first time in 1979 when Egypt became the first Arab country to recognize the state. In 1994, Jordan became the second Arab state to recognize Israel, formalizing its long border with the Jewish state in the process. While there has not yet been a peace treaty between Israel and Lebanon, the two countries’ 1949 armistice line serves as Israel’s northern border, while Israel’s border with Syria remains unsettled.
The final status and contours of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem are meant to be decided in negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinians living there under Israeli occupation, but decades of on-off talks have so far proved fruitless.
The recent incidents of violence in the region therefore did not come suddenly, but are a result of a long-running history of dissent and discontent amongst the major groups inhabiting the war-torn territories. The ‘surprise’ attack on October 7 killed and injured hundreds of Israelis. Children have been orphaned and thousands of people are missing.
In one of its retaliations against the Hamas’s attack, Israel ordered the entire population of northern Gaza to evacuate south. The United Nations said it was, “impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequence.” The order left more than one million people to decide whether to abandon their homes or face a certain doom. Following the order, over 70 people were killed after Israeli airstrikes hit convoys of Palestinian evacuees heading south in Gaza along the path they were told would be safe to evacuate through.
As per the latest reports, at least 1,300 people, including 258 soldiers, have been killed in Israel and more than 3,300 have been injured. In Gaza, at least 1,900 people have been killed and more than 7,600 have been injured, and the displacement of thousands continues in both the regions.
Those who have survived relay stories of unfathomable atrocities and unthinkable circumstances. Scenes of decimated buildings, torn down homes, and bodies strewn over streets continue to strike horror in the people watching from all over the world. The plight of those who must live through this terrible reality is unimaginable.
Considering the history of the conflict, it is important to be mindful and cautious of consuming information which may be propaganda. Misinformation and disinformation in situations like this has been known to have devastating consequences. It is easy to criticize and form opinions when multiple mainstream media outlets attempt to sway mass opinions in one direction or the other, but the truth in most cases is a lot different to that which is presented.
As the situation continues to develop in the war-torn region, thousands of civilians are killed, displaced, and taken hostage each day. Such is the horror of present day, that unthinkable war crimes have become normal. We hope that peace in some form is restored for civilians on both sides.
For University of Regina students affected by the terrible suffering that we are witnessing, the Carillon encourages you to follow advice from Student Affairs and reach out to uregina.ca/student/counselling/contact, or contact the staff at UR International who have a toll-free emergency help line at 1-(855)-874-1700.