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The Arab Israeli Wars: Was Religion The Main Cause?

jxtcman By jxtcman on
Badge: Author | Level: 1 | Other Culture & Society Expertise:
A sign of hope

The Arab-Israeli conflict goes back over hundreds of years, starting back when the Romans threw the Jews out of Palestine in AD 135. From there, the Jews spread out across the world, but were not welcomed by other countries, being seen as Christ killers. This meant they had to face anti-semitism such as the pogroms in Russia and persecution under Hitler in Germany. However, this was thought to change with Theodor Hurzl putting forward the idea of Zionism, a Jewish National State. Britain had a mandate over Palestine shortly afterwards, during WW1, so promised the Jews land there, starting the immigration of Jews into Palestine. From here onwards fighting was continued between the Muslim Arabs and Jewish Israelis.

Religious Causes

One of the causes of the conflict is the religious importance of Jerusalem to both religions involved. Jerusalem is a holy city in Judaism and Islam, meaning its ownership is of incredible importance. For the Jews Jerusalem has been sacred since 10th Century BCE when it was announced their capital by King David, and was the site of the Solomon and Second temples. This meant the Jews fought against the 1947 UN partition of Palestine as Jerusalem was not included in their area, meaning peace could not be achieved at this time. It is important the Arabs as it was, at one point, the quibla (point to which Muslims pray) and was the site of a miracle in the Qur’an.

Source 1: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/oren/UN%20Palestine%20Partition%20Plan.gif (Will take you off sharereviews.com)

Non Religious Causes

The British Mandate of Palestine, 1918-1947, also caused many problems. During the British mandate of Palestine in 1918, the Jews were promised a National homestead in Palestine, in the Balfour Declaration. For this reason, the Jews have believed that Palestine is rightly theirs and have not compromised in this matter. Violence was directed towards the British as well as well as both of the groups in Palestine, causing tensions to rise. Throughout May 1921 there was violence at the port of Jaffa, leaving 200 Jews dead and 120 wounded. The British then stopped Jewish immigration, but restarted it shortly after. As more Jews moved to Palestine the violence got worse, and the British attempts to stop this violence through punishments such as hanging, torture and hostage taking caused more hatred among the Arabs. The British left suddenly in 1947, after causing hatred and violence to build in the two groups for almost 29 years. This was an important cause of conflict, as Britain’s sudden leaving meant the Jews declared the land their independent state, Israel, causing much more violence in future as well as starting the tension between the Arabs and Israelis.

Other counties have also contributed to this conflict. When Nasser, the leader of Egypt, bought weapons and training from specialists from Russia in 1955 Western nations were shocked. As the Cold War was taking place, America viewed this as the Russians trying to move into the Middle East, so America and England stopped their loans to Egypt. The USSR then leant money to Egypt, increasing the tension between the countries. The main shareholders in the Suez Channel Company at this time were British and French, so when Nasser nationalized the company in 1956 there were worries that he would have total control over the oil coming through here. Britain, France and Israel then started to hold secret talks to discuss the invasion of Egypt, allowing the British and French to regain the Suez Channel and the Israelis to destroy Fedayeen (an Arab freedom fighter group) bases. Egypt was defeated, however as the worlds opinions of English and French involvements changed and as Nasser had been able to hold them off, Nasser was a hero in the eyes of the Arabs. This war caused more tension between the two groups, and had been exacerbated by England, France and America, and also had nothing to do with religion.

Another reason which caused conflict between the Arabs and Israelis was their inability to compromise. One example of this is when the U.N. attempted the partition Palestine into two states in 1947 (shown on map in source 1), one Arab and one Jewish. Neither side could accept what they considered their homeland being divided, so fights soon broke out. These lack of ability to compromise also eventually lead up to Deir Yassin, where hundreds of Arabs were killed by Jewish forces. A report by a Red Cross official wrote source 2 in a report on Deir Yassin, showing the effects of Deir Yassin on the Arabic people. Many of the people who fled the towns after this ended up in refugee camps in neighboring countries. This started more conflict as many small groups of freedom fighters started in these camps, attacking Israel and escalating the tensions even further. This was a large factor in the conflict, as the Fedayeen started in these camps, causing huge problems at later points.

Source 2

“The affair at Deir Yassin had tremendous effects. The press and radio spread the news everywhere among the Arabs as well as the Jews. In this way a general terror was built up among the Arabs. Driven by fear, the Arabs left their homes to find shelter among their kin. First isolated farms, then villages, and, in the end, whole towns evacuated”

Natural resources have also played a part in the conflict. Oil prices were used by the Arabs in the Yom Kippur war to influence the U.S.A. and other western countries, who then placed diplomatic pressure on both sides to reach a peaceful solution. Neither side seemed to have won this war, however tensions between them increased highly because of it. However, this was only a small factor in the conflict.

Overall it is difficult to give one reason for the horrible conflict between the Arabs and Israelis, but I hope this article has helped to shed some light on the issue. Thanks for reading