Many of us are astonished at Hamas’ violent attack on Israel. In the war that erupted, several thousand Israelis and Palestinians now have died, most of them ordinary citizens. Many wonder why this blood feud persists, with Hamas and Hezbollah determined to destroy Israel.
There is a clear historical reason which many of us forget or have never learned. This passionate struggle began with the establishment of Israel in 1948, when the United States and other nations encouraged the creation of a “new” home for Jewish people. The problem was, there already were people living in the “holy land.” The Arab Palestinians had lived there for hundreds of years. A minority of Jews and Christian Arabs lived among the Muslims peacefully for centuries. A census taken in 1914 showed Palestine population of 689,272 with less than 9% being Jews.
Around that time the Zionist movement gained energy, bringing more Jews to Palestine from Europe. Then WWII and Hitler’s holocaust, killing millions of Jews, brought a surge of Jewish refugees to Palestine. Even so, by 1948, Jews were still only 29% of the population of 2 million. The Jewish folks lived mostly in urban areas of Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, while Palestinians raised dates, grapes, and other crops, fished Galilee and the like. Could they not all live in peace?
What happened is that in May 1948, Zionist Jewish militias attacked and expelled 750,000 Palestinians from their historic homeland. About 600 Palestinian villages were destroyed, their village wells poisoned to prevent them returning. This brutal process established Israel as a nation, but planted hatred in the Arab world. It led to terrorism, airline high jacking, suicide bombers, and the 9/11 attack on America.
We, the USA, recognized this new state of Israel immediately. We helped create its modern armed forces with dollars and weapons the USA gave. By now our aid has totaled over $150 billion since 1948. Israel eventually succeeded in seizing further areas to enhance its security. The Israeli Jews have developed a modern government and a national identity. They are mostly of European origin, so they seem to be like us, while to Americans, the Arabs appear as angry terrorists. They are the latest generation of those displaced Palestinians. Even now, Jews are building new settlements on Palestinian land in the “west bank,” often threatening the Palestinians who live there to leave.
Those refugees of 1948 went to “camps” in Jordan, Lebanon, and Gaza. Today their grandchildren are young men and women crammed into small spaces like Gaza with 80% unemployment. Why wouldn’t they hate Israel and us, too?
Israel will no doubt win the current war, but will they ever win the peace? Maybe the refugee descendants will find a way to survive, just as Native Americans eventually have in North America. Some people want a different future, like the Jewish Voice for Peace organization. Perhaps someday Israel can become a nation not only for Jews, but one where Muslim and Christian Palestinians will have full rights as citizens in Israel. I doubt if real peace will come before that happens.
Note: When I submitted this piece to a local newspaper about a month ago, they chose not to print it in their letters to the editor section, perhaps considering too dangerous or controversial. I am amazed that these simple historical facts cannot be made known.
© 2023 Stanley Hagemeyer