Violence in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict: Wikis


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The conflict between various Palestinian groups and Israel has existed in one form or another since the first half of the 20th century, and has left much bitterness and death on both sides. This article summarizes some aspects of the violence.


Overview and Background

The conflict has undergone 5 or 6 distinct phases since it began. (Timings are approximate):

Early clashes

The first groups of Hovevei Zion started arriving in Palestine and forming settlements in spring 1882 and the first recorded violent incident of the Israel-Palestinian conflict was the shooting dead of a Palestinian man in Safed in December 1882 by a guard at the newly formed Rosh Pina.[1]

These first settlers (known as the First Aliyah) created other new settlements (including Rishon Le-Zion and Zikhron Ya'akov) and reestablished Petach Tikva on a 14,200-dunam-site which had been bought by Jews from Jerusalem in 1878 and abandoned.

It was at the re-settled Petach Tikva that the first land clashes are recorded, since local villagers disputed that one part of the plot, an area of 2,600 dunams, had ever belonged to the Jaffa effendis who had sold it. In early 1886 the settlers demanded that their tenants vacate the disputed land and started encroaching on it. On March 28 a settler crossing this land was attacked and robbed of his horse by Yahudiya Arabs and the settlers confiscated nine mules found grazing in their fields, though it is not clear which incident came first and which was retaliation. The settlers refused to return the mules, a decision that some Zionist officials, such as Elazar Rokah, viewed as a foolish provocation. The following day, when most of the settlement's men folk were away, fifty or sixty villagers attacked Petach Tikva, vandalizing houses and fields and carrying off much of the livestock. Four settlers were injured and a fifth, an elderly woman with a heart condition, died four days later.[2]

After a three months exploratory visit to Palestine in 1891, Ahad Ha'am reported that the settlers, finding themselves in a land "with limitless freedom" (the Turkish authorities being extremely lax) had begun to exhibit "a tendency to despotism" and "behave towards the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, trespass without justification, beat them shamefully without sufficient cause and then boast about it." Two years later, he wrote: "The attitude of the colonists to their tenants and their families is exactly the same as towards their animals".

By 1908, thirteen Jews had been killed by Arabs but only four of them in what Benny Morris calls "nationalist circumstances", the others in the course of robberies and other crimes. Up until this point, Zionist commentators normally spoke of "natives," "inhabitants," or sometimes "fellahin," "city folk," "Bedouin," "Christians," and so on. From around 1908, the use of "Arabs" came to predominate. But in the next five years twelve Jewish settlement guards were killed by Arabs. Settlers began to speak more and more of Arab "hatred" and "nationalism" lurking behind the increasing depredations, rather than mere "banditry." [3]

Prior to 1940-45

Up until World War II, violence in Palestine was sporadic, and intensified in relation to increased Jewish immigration as part of the Zionist movement, which sought to create a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. At the time, it had an overwhelmingly Arab population, however some cities, most notably Jerusalem, had a Jewish majority (see also Demographics of Jerusalem).

Jews settled in what was then part of the Ottoman Empire, which includes the modern day Gaza Strip, Jordan, Israel, and West Bank. They bought land for farming.

After 1917 and the Balfour Declaration, Arabs became concerned at the British support and influx of Jews, whose policy was to buy land and immigrate to what was then the British Mandate of Palestine. Initial violence was small and localised, such matters as new land purchases, or synagogue locations. After the 1920 Palestine riots, the Jewish community (Yishuv) set up its own defence irregulars, Haganah, and intelligence operation. The aim at this time was to gain foreknowledge of future attacks and be able to protect the Yishuv against such attacks.

Violence escalated in 1929 after confrontations between Jews and Arabs over control of the Western Wall, of the Temple Mount, the second holiest site in Judaism and third holiest in Islam. After rumours that Arabs had been killed in one such confrontation, Arab riots broke out across Palestine. The worst affected localities were Hebron, where rioters killed 67 Jews, and Safed, where 18 Jews were killed and 80 wounded. A total of 133 Jews and 116 Arabs were killed during the unrest (the latter mostly by the British authorities).

The years 1930-1935 were marked by activities of the Black Hand Islamist militant organization led by Izz ad-Din al-Qassam who was killed by the British in 1935.

In 1936-1939, the Arabs - led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini - launched the Great Arab Revolt, a campaign of violent riots and attack on Jews - which lead to hundreds of casualties and ended after the British officers deported Husseini and hanged many rioters. While mainstream Zionism, represented by Vaad Leumi and the Haganah, practised the policy of Havlagah (restraint), Irgun chose to retaliate, furthering chaos in the region.

WW2 and prior to formation of State of Israel

With the rise of Nazism in Europe, and again after World War II, Jews sought to relocate to this area in larger numbers. Although this plan to create a Jewish state in Palestine has its roots as far back as the 1897 First Zionist Congress in Basel, the Nazi Holocaust provided an urgency to the Zionist project.

Intense conflict arose as the Arab and Jewish sides jockeyed for position and the land, under British rule. The first Jewish defence forces such as Haganah were set up, along with the Lochamei Herut LeIsrael (Lehi), led by Yitzhak Shamir, and the Irgun Tzvai Leumi (Irgun or Etzel), led by Menachem Begin, which sought to obtain security for the Jewish community, but were also preparing for the day when open conflict would break out. At this point the conflict was characterised by sporadic violence, and small scale terrorist incidents and guerilla attacks, until 1946.

In a failed chemical attack organized by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini in 1944, five parachutists were supplied with maps of Tel Aviv, canisters of a German–manufactured "fine white powder," and instructions to dump the chemicals into the Tel Aviv water system. District police commander Fayiz Bey Idrissi later recalled, "The laboratory report stated that each container held enough poison to kill 25,000 people, and there were at least ten containers." [1]

On the 22nd of July 1946, the conflict took a significant turn with the bombing of the King David Hotel - Jerusalem's most famous hotel and the fortified military and civilian headquarters of the British occupation. Operation Malonchik was led by Menachim Begin, head of the militant Zionist underground assault unit, the Irgun. Dressed as Arabs, the Irgun militants drew a truck up to the kitchen of the King David Hotel and began to unload a cargo that looked like milk, but was in fact at least 500 lb of high explosives. Despite several warning phone-calls from the Irgun, the British commander refused to believe them, and refused to evacuate. As the BBC put it "the entire wing of a huge building was cut off as with a knife" [2]. At least 88 people were killed - including British, Arabs and 15 Jews who worked inside.

As Begin - later elected Prime Minister of Israel - wrote in his famous book The Revolt: Story of the Irgun: "The revolt sprang from the earth... A new generation grew up which turned its back on fear. It began to fight instead of to plead. For nearly two thousand years, the Jews, as Jews, had not borne arms, and it was on this complete disarmament, as much psychological as physical, that our oppressors calculated... We fight, therefore we are" [1].

As David Ben Gurion admitted to the Jewish Agency in regard to stopping the upsurge in Jewish terrorism in Palestine: "We cannot do it because, as I told you, it is futile, sir, it is futile." [3]

1947 to 1970 (approx)

The conflict at this point was characterised by being inter-state. Israel was attacked twice by its neighbours, in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and launched two invasions of its own, of Egypt in 1956 and - in what it characterised as a pre-emptive strike - of a combined Arab alliance in the 1967 Six Day War and was attacked in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In the course of the 67 war Israel captured and occupied the territories of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula, areas which included several million mostly Palestinian Arabs. Disputes over the final status of these occupied territories - and the ultimate destiny of the Palestinian population within them - would do much to shape the course of the conflict in coming years.

1970 onward

Popular Palestinian guerilla movements came to the fore in this time. Aircraft hijackings and bombings took place, the 1972 Israeli Olympic team was attacked and eleven athletes were killed. This led Israel to launch reprisal assassinations in Operation Wrath of God. Palestinian groups later on adopted suicide bombings. These actions were operated by a large number of groups and individuals, which made detection and prevention difficult, and were targeted not only at Israelis, but also at the nationals of other countries felt to be aiding them, principally America. Many of these actions were supported at State level, with countries such as Syria, Libya and others openly sponsoring attacks of this kind.

There were several attacks by the Israelis, including armed incursions into Lebanon, especially the 1982 Lebanon War.

Various peace initiatives, such as 1978 Camp David Accords and 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, 1993 Oslo Accords with Palestinians, 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty and 2000 Camp David Summit with Palestinians were brokered. Those countries which agreed to peace, such as Jordan and Egypt, were given back by Israel the land which had been occupied, upon conclusion of the peace process.

1987 onwards: The Intifadas

The popular uprising known as the First Intifada in 1987, and the Second Intifada (al-Aqsa Intifada) in 2000, brought violence to the everyday street in a greater way than previously, and the response by the Israelis was also escalated.

Timeline of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: 2000 - 2001 - 2002 - 2003 - 2004 - 2005 - 2006 - 2007 - 2008 - 2009

List of organisations on both sides which are or have been responsible for violence

Palestinian, Arab, Islamic

Israeli, Jewish

Before 1948:

After 1948:

  • Kach (banned by Israel government, membership is illegal)

See also


  1. Begin, Menachim. The Revolt. WH Allen, London. 1951
  1. ^ Morris, Benny, Righteous Victims. p.19.
  2. ^ Morris Benny, Righteous Victims, p.54.
  3. ^ Morris, Benny, Righteous Victims. p.54

External links

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