Written by Prakriti Panwar, a grade 12 student
The last ten days have seen violent fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which has led to hundreds of deaths, including those of children.
To understand why this is happening, here’s a background
What needs to be understood first is that this is a land that is sacred to three religious groups – the Muslims, the Christians, and the Jews. The city of Jerusalem, which is the capital of Israel is home to three of the holiest sites for all these three religions.
Now, if you go back to ancient times, then we see that this land – called Palestine now, but which was once called Judea – was where Jews lived in large numbers. However, the Romans drove the Jews out and named this land Palestine.
Fast forward to 1918 – after World War 1.
An international body gave the British the task of sorting out this issue. The Jews had been asking for their own state and Britain was supposed to help in creating that – carve out an area from this land.
At this time something called the Zionist movement (which aimed at establishing a Jewish presence in Israel) was trying to convince Western powers to support the mass migration of Jews to Palestine and give the Jewish the right to claim the land. Thousands of Jews moved to Palestine at this time. The entry of Zionists (supported by the British) to Palestine was not appreciated by Palestinians because when the Jews purchased land for Zionists, they did so by displacing thousands of Palestinians from their homes.
Though the Palestinians organised rebellions against this, they were quashed by the British. Hence, the Palestenains now had two enemies: The Zionist militia groups and The British. Palestinians were outnumbered and eventually, they were ethnically cleansed by zionists. This “slow and deliberate” process was known as the ‘Nakba,’ which when translated, refers to ‘The Catastrophe.’
In 1947 the United Nations Resolution passed a resolution that called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. The Jews accepted this, but the Palestinians did not. However, Isreal is created and the first Israel- Arab war is fought in 1948.
Ever since, there has been fighting between the two sides.
View the Israel map here
How is this related to what is happening now?
So, the Palestinians primarily live in a part of this region called Gaza. And what is currently happening in Israel and Gaza indicates a second Nakba.
The “conflict” was sparked when the Jerusalem District Court ruled that six Palestinian families would have to leave their homes in Sheikh Jarrah (a neighbourhood there). Families living in Gaza (which has been under an air and sea blockade by Israel since 2007) too, are facing the threat.
Watch a video of an Israeli forcing his way into an Arab home
The actual clashes between Israelis and Palestinians began when the Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, was attacked. On 7th May, when tensions between Israelis and Palestinians were escalating, the Israeli Police deployed several officers on the street near the mosque, to disperse protesters. By the evening, the forces had used tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber-coated bullets to make the worshippers leave the mosque, injuring at least 163 worshippers and 6 Israeli police officers.
On 10th May, Hamas (a Palestinian Islamist militant group) launched rockets towards Israel in “solidarity.” Israel responded with heavy strikes. Soon after, Israeli forces organised an airstrike that took down a Caza City tower block. In return, Hamas struck rockets on Tel Aviv. An emergency was declared in Lod, Tel Aviv after.
Over the next few days of unrest, Russia asked for an emergency meeting with the Middle East Quartet, the EU, the UN, and the US, an airstrike on Gaza killed 10, a strike took another building in Gaza down and leaders from other countries expressed their concern.
After 11 days of fighting and violence on both sides, Israel and Hamas finally settled for a truce on 21st May. Israel declared a ceasefire under the mediation of Egypt and US president Joe Biden promised to “salvage” the Gaza strip. He also said that he would provide humanitarian assistance and urged renewed talks of the Israel- Palestine issue.
The cause of this truce can also be attributed to diplomatic pressure and the general dissent of citizens. As soon as the news of the attack on Al Aqsa spread, social media users started using #SaveShiekhJarrah and #SavePalestine and even wrote letters/ signed petitions to express their solidarity.
This truce was declared after the death of 243 people, which included 66 children and more than 1900 injured.
What makes Jerusalem so holy? Read here