By Syed Atiq ul Hassan, Sydney Australia
From a Muslim perspective, the history of Palestine’s occupation by Israel is deeply distressing. The Palestinian lands have significant religious and historical importance to Muslims, as they include Holy sites such as Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The occupation began in 1948 when Israel was established, leading to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, an event known as the Nakba (catastrophe).
The conflict has its roots in the early 20th century. It revolves around competing national and historical narratives, territorial disputes, and deep-seated grievances. The origins of the conflict can be traced back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Jewish immigrants began moving to the region of Palestine, then under Ottoman rule. The Zionist movement, which sought to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, gained momentum during this period.
After World War I, the League of Nations granted Britain a mandate to govern Palestine. The British Mandate period (1920-1948) saw increasing tensions between Jewish and Arab communities. The UN proposed a partition plan in 1947 to create separate Jewish and Arab states, but this plan was rejected by the Arab states and Palestinians.
Zionism is a political and ideological movement that emerged in the late 19th century, with the aim of establishing a Jewish homeland in historical Palestine. This idea was largely a response to centuries of antisemitism and persecution faced by Jewish communities in Europe and other parts of the world. The movement gained momentum during and after the Holocaust, as the international community became more sympathetic to the idea of a Jewish state. Zionism played a prime role advocating for the establishment of a Jewish homeland on indigenous Palestine land which has an native ownership of the people of Palestine.
On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was declared, leading to a war between the newly established Israel and neighbouring Arab states. This conflict, known as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War or the War of Independence, resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, which remains a central issue in the conflict.
The occupation of Palestinian land and created established, (1948) leading to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes. This event is known as the Nakba, which means “catastrophe” in Arabic. Approximately 700,000 Palestinians were forced to leave their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, according to estimates by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
It is a pivotal and deeply traumatic event in Palestinian history. Palestine holds immense religious importance for Muslims. Al-Aqsa Mosque, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, is one of the holiest sites in Islam.
The Dome of the Rock, also located in Jerusalem, is another significant religious site for Muslims, believed to be the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens during the Night Journey (Isra and Mi’raj).
The Palestinian refugee problem emerged as a significant humanitarian issue, with millions of Palestinians forced to leave their homes and becoming refugees in the aftermath of the 1948 war. This issue continues to be a major point of contention in negotiations.
The conflict has seen several wars, including the Six-Day War in 1967, which resulted in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. There have also been two Palestinian uprisings, known as Intifadas, in the late 1980s and early 2000s, marked by widespread protests, violence, and Israeli military responses. Israeli settlements in the West Bank have grown steadily, with over 200 settlements and outposts housing hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers. These settlements are considered illegal under international law.
Numerous peace initiatives and negotiations have taken place over the years, including the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, which established the Palestinian Authority (PA) and divided the West Bank into areas under Israeli and PA control. Then peace treaty and two-state solution were signed between Israel and Egypt at Camp David (USA) in September 1978. Nevertheless, these efforts never led to a comprehensive and lasting peace agreement.
Numerous United Nations resolutions have affirmed the rights of Palestinians, including their right to self-determination, the right of return for refugees, and the condemnation of Israeli settlements.
UN Security Council Resolution 242 and 338 have been central to the peace process, calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territories and the negotiation of a peaceful settlement.
One of the major points of contention is the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law and are seen as an obstacle to peace. Israel argues that some settlements are necessary for its security. However, the core conflict is the ownership of Jerusalem which is a highly contested city, with both Israelis and Palestinians claiming it as their capital. The status of Jerusalem has been a major obstacle to peace negotiations.
The United States, the United Kingdom, and several European countries have historically played a significant role in the establishment and support of Israel. This support includes diplomatic, financial, and military aid to Israel. The reasons for this support are multifaceted and include historical ties, shared values, and strategic interests of the West in the Middle East. Many in the Muslim world and beyond have criticized the Western support for Israel, viewing it as a factor that has perpetuated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Critics argue that this support has emboldened Israel to maintain policies, such as settlements in the West Bank, which are seen as obstacles to a two-state solution and detrimental to Palestinian rights.
The dilemma in resolving the Palestinian-Israel conflict is the unconditional support to Israel by the create of Israel by United Kingdom and then backed by United States of America (USA). These Western powers and the United States have provenly and openly played important roles in supporting Israel diplomatically and financially. Their unconditional support to Israel has been a point of contention for Palestinians. The US provides billions of dollars of aid particular weaponry and technological warheads to Israel, almost every year, on the name of security of Israel. The US always veto in security council that goes against the on-going war against Palestinians.
Accusations of war crimes and inhuman acts of terror by Israel against Palestinians primarily stem from events related to the Israeli military’s operations in the occupied Palestinian territories, such as the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians argue that Israel’s response to attacks is disproportionate and indiscriminate, resulting in a high number of civilian casualties. They contend that Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which severely restricts the flow of goods and people, amounts to collective punishment against the Palestinian population. Critics accuse Israel of destroying infrastructure such as homes, schools, hospitals, and agricultural land in the Palestinian territories, particularly during military operations by Israeli forces. The destruction of infrastructure in Gaza and West Bank exacerbates the humanitarian crisis including food, water, electricity and medical aids. It is considered as Israel’s deliberate strategy to systematically catastrophe of Palestinians.
The recent conflict between Israeli forces and the Hamas group, which began on October 7, 2023, has had devastating consequences in Gaza. According to the latest update, 11,600 people including 4,700 children killed and thousands of elderly, young, women and children been inhumanly injured Gaza by Israeli forces. More than 100 workers of UN agency and medical staff working in different hospitals in Gaza have also been killed. These figures of killing are growing on daily basis. Israeli forces are targeting and attacking inhumanly 0n residential areas, hospitals, schools, and other public shelters in Gaza. Moreover, Israel has disrupted access to food, water, electricity, and medical supplies in Gaza, rendering hospitals non-functional. Many healthcare facilities have been destroyed by rocket attacks from Israeli forces.
What is particularly distressful is that efforts to halt the fighting and establish an immediate ceasefire, aimed at saving innocent lives, were vetoed by the United States in the Security Council. The U.S. declared that Israel has the right to defend. Every country and nation have right to defend but on the name of defence Israel should not be allowed to kill thousands of innocent civilians, attacks on hospitals, schools, and residential areas this is clear a bloody action of war crimes. Hence, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and army generals, they must be prosecuted in the international court of law on the charges of killing of civilians and acts of war crimes. Sadly, the US, UK and European leaders are backing Israel by advocating that Israel has right to defend – this is disgusting, ethnic cleansing and destroying infrastructure of Gaza is not self-defence by Israel rather barbaric military action and terrorism against civilians of Gaza.
It is important to acknowledge that opinions on this matter may vary. However, some leaders in the Western world have indeed characterized the actions of Hamas as ‘Islamic Terrorism.’ It’s crucial to recognize that such characterizations can be divisive and oversimplified, as Islam, like any global religion, encompasses a wide spectrum of interpretations and followers. Many Muslims worldwide, including those in Australia, have consistently condemned acts of terror in the past, such as the 9/11 attacks, the Bali terrorist attack in 2002, the London bombings in 2005, and various other acts of violence and terrorism across the globe. It’s essential to promote understanding and differentiate between the actions of extremist groups and the beliefs of the broader Muslim community.
The recent Gaza conflict, which has involved the displacement and suffering of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli forces, has garnered widespread condemnation from peace-minded individuals worldwide. This condemnation transcends boundaries of faith, race, and nationality, uniting people from diverse backgrounds in their call for peace.
Across the globe, including in countries like the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, thousands are coming together to participate in protests and rallies, raising their voices against the ongoing tragedy unfolding in Gaza on weekly basis. It’s important to note that these protestors come from a wide array of faiths and backgrounds, reflecting the universal desire for peace and justice in Palestine.
Even human rights organizations, as well as individuals from Jewish communities who advocate for peace, are actively taking part in these on-going protests. This collective effort underscores the global commitment to finding a peaceful resolution to the Palestine-Israel conflict. (The writer is a Sydney-based journalist, political analyst and editor, Tribune International, Australia. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org ).