The Arab Mistake and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

A man looks over the ruins of buildings destroyed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip. (Hatem Omar, Maan Images)

This recent escalation of violence between the Israelis and Palestinians (Hamas Faction) has got me thinking about how this whole problem could have been solved in a much more peaceful way. Now quickly let has recap the origins of the conflict.

Issues between Palestinians and Jews living in the Palestinian territory began to occur during the late 19th century with the rise of Zionism and Arab Nationalism. Both these philosophies claimed to represent the freedom their people desired. The Zionist a freedom from persecution in a new land and for the Arabs, self rule away from the Ottomans. The territory was largely an Arab-Muslim majority with a minority group consisting of Arab-Christians, Arab-Shia and Jews. With Zionism encouraging immigration to Palestine and Arab Nationalism encouraging establishing a majority Arab nation, the two sides were destined to collide at one point or another. 

Violence began when Jewish immigrants arrived in droves into the country. As more and more Jews arrived, they would purchase land from wealthy Arab owners and replace the Palestinian workers with Jewish workers who could not afford to buy their own farm so they would work on someone else's. This caused a feeling of displacement in some Arab-Palestinians. Coupled with a threat to their national identity the Palestinians chose to respond to these encroachments with violence. This meant to scare away settlers, but in response to this violence, the Jewish population organized its own fighting force known as the Haganah. From this point on the Arab and Jewish populations of this region have been in bitter conflict, with factions and whole nations rising on both sides in an unrelenting struggle in which no one truly wins and everyone loses. The biggest defeat and easily the largest mistake made by the Arab Nationalists was to attack Israel on the day it declared itself independent.

Now I do not claim the Arab Nationalist are the ones that started the conflict nor did the Zionist movement. The demographic situation in Palestine coupled with an unrelenting Jewish zeal that only wanted Palestine and no other country and an uncompromising, stubborn Arab population that turned down any negotiation attempt was perfect for this type of territorial conflict. Therefore, both sides can share some responsibilities for the continuation of the violence. With that being said, I repeat: The biggest mistake was to attack Israel instead of recognize it. By attacking Israel in 1948, Arabs across the region committed themselves and the Israelis to half a century of chaos. The war in 1948 and the subsequent Arab defeat allowed Israel to establish its borders and presence in the Middle East as well as doom the Arabs in a cycle of revenge. As the years went on the Arabs invested money in their military and tried a number of times to defeat the Israelis, such as in 1967, 1973, and the terrorist campaigns starting in the 1980's and continuing on into the present day. All this has led to a shrinking of Palestinian territory, military defeat or stalemates and finally plenty of atrocities and despair on both sides. 

A Palestinian man sits beside the body of child killed by Israeli tank fire in Gaza City on Wednesday afternoon. (Mohamed Al-Zanon, Maan Images)

Some of you are probably wondering how the Arab-Israeli conflict could have been solved peacefully if only the Arabs would have recognized Israel and not have attacked it. If Arab nations had been able to accept Israel, it would have opened up the doors to a solution possibly sooner in the century and in a much more peaceful and just manner. How? Well the Arabs having accepted Israel could focus on providing their Palestinians Kin the resources they needed to establish a state alongside Israel such as schools, hospitals, and basic infrastructure. Aside from aiding the Palestinians, the Arab states could have begun to invest in their educational systems, modernizing their countries and establishing political and economic relationships with countries like the United States. These investments would have led to a much different Middle Eastern situation. With an educated population and stable modern economy the Arab world would not be the hot bed of terror and conflict it is today. Instead of the resort to violence to achieve its goals, this union of Arab states or league of Arab states or whatever you want to call it would be able to use its political and economic influence to lobby the United States the same way Israel does with AIPAC. AIPAC'S ability to persuade both Republican and Democratic politicians with the promises of finances and votes really plays a key role in the Palestinian and Israeli conflict. Instead of having politicians that only represent the interests of Israel; you would have an organization garnering support for Palestinians on the other side, in theory creating a much more balanced American involvement in Palestine. Sadly, the Arabs did not choose this route, instead they chose violence and the lobby groups now present in the United States are fractured and focus on self-interest rather than unified efforts at helping the Palestinians. Instead of learning from this endless violence, they continue to fight and have now Islamized the situation in order to garner greater Islamic support from around the world. In response, the religious right in Israel is moving in on making Israel a much more Jewish state, turning this in into a religious conflict. Out of this conflict, we also get the terrorist conflict of the 20th and 21st century. Seeing as how America favors Israel more than Palestine, several Anti-American terror groups and nations emerged promising to bring the war to America. A series of hijackings and attacks led up to the 9-11 attacks that pit America directly in conflict with the fringe of the Arab/Muslim world. So in theory if the Arabs would have accepted Israel and concentrated on developing a Palestinian state, internal improvements such as education and by modernizing the country the Arabs could have secured a free and much more territorially acceptable Palestine with little to no violence (again depending on things play out).

Due to the current movements in the Arab world dubbed the Arab Spring nations like Tunisia and Egypt have moved toward a much more representative version of government. Yes they elected "Islamist" to rule over them, but guess what? It was a democratically run election and both Egypt and Tunisia have a long way to go before they reach the levels of democracy found in the West, but they are on the right path. With that being said these two nations alongside an aggressive Turkey and a wealthy Qatar can hopefully push the Arab world and the greater Islamic world toward a much more civilized way to deal with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Again this will all take time! 

This is just an un-researched theory and not to be taken as fact. If anyone has another alternative theory or something to prove me wrong or help me understand please email me with it or leave it as a message! 


Ash Barakat graduated from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee with a degree in History and Education with a concentration in Middle Eastern and North African studies. He can be reached thecontextualarab His blog

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