A few days ago, the tension between Israelis and Palestinians has re-exploded, and the ancient conflict, now more than ever, does not seem to subside.
Israel and Palestine: an ancient dispute
The clashes between Israel and Palestine have a very ancient origin and, in order to retrace their reasons, we have to go back 70 years. In the 1990s the Oslo Accords tried to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but to no avail. At stake is East Jerusalem, considered Palestinian “property” but annexed by Israel after the 1967 war.
When Jerusalem was divided
Before 1949, Arabs, Israelis, and Christians coexisted in Jerusalem and recognized themselves in one large united city. This was split in two by the end of the first war between Arabs and Israelis: West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. The armistice enshrined that the western part of the city belonged to Israel and that Jordan retained control over East Jerusalem, inhabited mainly by Palestinians. Between the two parts of the city, a boundary was drawn: the Green Line. The situation changed again in 1967, at the end of the so-called Six-Day War: Israel won and conquered several territories of a Palestinian character, including East Jerusalem, and of which it still maintains military control. However, the UN and major Western countries have never recognized the annexation of East Jerusalem to Israel.
Israel and Palestine: the new causes of the dispute
Tensions have been brought back to the surface following an attempt to evict some Palestinian families from the Arab quarter of Sheikh Jarrah. The action immediately resulted in violent clashes between the Israeli police and Palestinian citizens. However, it wasn’t enough. The Palestinian resistance has also caused retaliation by Hamas, a Palestinian resistance movement, also classified as a terrorist group, which has started firing rockets at Israel. Israel’s response was not long in coming, with raids and night bombings on the Gaza Strip that continue to bring upon civilians.
Sheikh Jarrah: the history of the neighborhood at the center of the dispute
The historic district of Sheikh Jarrah owes its name to the personal doctor of Saladin, the Kurdish military leader who in 1187 reconquered Jerusalem by defeating the Crusaders. According to the legend, the doctor was buried in the neighborhood area. The latter remained in the “silence” of the city until, in the nineteenth century, some wealthy Arab families moved here to escape the busy streets of the Old City. Nevertheless, a small representation of the Jewish community has always existed in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. According to their tradition, that Simeon the Just, the one who, according to the Bible, welcomed Alexander the Great to Jerusalem, is buried in a hidden cave in the neighborhood. Thus, to ensure greater stability for the Jewish population, in the late 1800s, some community leaders bought land and built housing for some Jewish families. The dispute between Arabs and Jewish people linked to the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood has done nothing but lead to the umpteenth tensions between Palestinians and Israelis.
In 1956, Jordan having the authority over Eastern Jerusalem, gave displaced Palestinian migrants coming from Tel Aviv, Haifa, and other cities, as a result of the 1948 war, houses and lands in Sheikh Jarrah. Their ownership of the neighborhood is documented in legal documents owned by Jordan.
The eviction of Palestinian families
The recent clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces are linked to the protest for the evictions of dozens of Palestinian families from their homes. The Israeli judiciary postponed the planned evictions hearing for four Arab families residing on Jewish-owned land in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood for a month. For the time being, Judge Yitzhak Amit has ordered the suspension of the evictions, decreed by a district court. The Jewish side showed that the land and houses were lost during the Jordanian aggression on Israel in 1948. Palestinian families had received the houses in the 1950s from the Jordanian authorities who controlled East Jerusalem at the time, providing appropriate documentation. The legal controversy has led to the umpteenth violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and Jerusalem continues to remain one of the critical points of the conflict between the two countries.
Why is Palestine not on the map?
When using the search engine to look for “Palestine” maps, neighboring countries appear on the image, but the name Palestine is nowhere to be found. A side note on Wikipedia states: “The state of Palestine is a term that refers to political entities demanded by various parties, or belongs to political entities that are not currently independent, or could also refer to previous political entities in Palestine that are demanding its creation on part or all of the historical territories of Palestine, which is what many Palestinians aspire to. None of these entities is independent so far.”
Reham Owda, writer and political analyst, said previously the name Palestine was not officially on Google Maps or Apple Maps, but in the past, Google used the term “Palestinian Territories” to refer only to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Owda said one reason why Google and Apple refuse to add the name Palestine on their maps, even though the State of Palestine is a non-member observer state of the UN, is because they do not want to start a quarrel or litigation with the government of Israel which closely monitors any map updates and has close and influential relations with Jewish businessmen who own shares in these companies. One must also factor in technological and economic ties between Israeli IT companies and Google and Apple, which means these two US companies do not want to spoil their economic and technological relations with Israel or be subject to a possible smear campaign by the Jewish lobby in the US.
The silence of diplomacy
It must be recognized that the expression “peace process” has lost all credibility after the failure of the Oslo accords, by dint of going around in circles and exhausting generations of diplomats. Every US President has grappled with the issue after the famous handshake between Rabin and Arafat in the White House on September 13, 1993. The latest, Donald Trump, has experienced what has been called “the deal of the century”, but ultimately it was only an attempt to buy the Palestinian renunciation with dollars.
On the website of the French Foreign Ministry, the last speech related to the “peace process” chapter dates back to 13 January 2017. We can read a text in which Jean-Marc Ayrault, French Foreign Minister at the time, states that Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Mazen, Israeli Prime Minister, and Palestinian President, both know well that “there is no alternative” to the two-state solution for the two peoples. At the time, seventy countries and organizations had met in Paris, but nothing had changed. The same would happen today if only someone took the trouble to organize such an event. But now no one intends to take this risk anymore, for fear of clashing with Israeli intransigence or Palestinian dysfunctionality. Israel feels too strong, Palestine knows it is too weak. But the truth is that the world should face the crisis and act. Too many UN resolutions went unheeded and too many international responsibilities ignored. Every day that passes for thirty years has made the solution of the conflict more inextricable, if not impossible. But the current situation is unbearable. Even today, only the United States could influence the actors of this perpetual confrontation. Of course, for a fireman to arrive, there must be a fire, with its corollary of suffering. Today no one has the courage to break this vicious circle.
What could happen?
The tensions could lead to an armed conflict that could involve other European countries, not to mention the repercussions within our societies. Because the confrontation between Israel and Palestine is not a confrontation like any other. It is rich in a certain symbolic charge, with a conflict that affects three great monotheistic religions. But what is the European Union doing now? This has so far been stuck with the ritual declarations of condemnation, in which it attributes responsibility for the entire conflict to both sides, Palestinians and Israelis. “Lukewarm” statements, without really spending on a ceasefire, which instead comes from the major humanitarian associations. World diplomacy should not remain silent.
Once again, violence becomes the only outlet, in the absence of the slightest political perspective. The whole world stands by, helpless even before it poses the problem. Of course, there are massacres and wars elsewhere too, but this conflict has a particular symbolic charge in a city where the three great monotheistic religions coexist and have negative repercussions within our societies and on a human level.
Giulia Francesca Pressani
- “Israeli–Palestinian Conflict.” Last modified March 27, 2002. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli%E2%80%93Palestinian_conflict.
- “The Israel-Palestinian Conflict Explained.” BBC News. Last modified May 14, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-44124396.
- “Please Wait…” Please Wait… | Cloudflare. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/50/1203/375087/AlAhram-Weekly/World/Will-Google-put-Palestine-back-on-the-map.aspx.
- Samara, Noor. Interview. conducted by Giulia Pressani, 18th of May 2021.