The word intifada is used to identify the first uprising against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank. In Arabic, the word means “shaking,” similar to an earthquake. Referring to Palestinian anger as an earthquake is an understatement, to say the least. Leading up to the 20th century, Palestine was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. By the end of the First World War, Britain had taken control of the region, and in November of 1947, the United Nations voted to divide the region into two states: an independent Jewish state and an independent Arab state. The city of Jerusalem, on the other hand, was deemed “international land,” which meant that no one owned it or had total control over it. The leaders of the Jewish state were happy with the decision as they had been petitioning to create an independent state for Jews. Arab leaders on the other hand argued that the geographic separation was a diminished representation of the population. In May 1948, Israel became an internationally-recognized state. Harry Truman, President of the United States at the time, declared that the U.S. would recognize Israel’s independence moving forward, which some argue resulted in many Jews feeling encouraged to immigrate to Israel from European countries. The subsequent influx of Jewish migration to Israel caused approximately 700,000 to 900,000 Palestinians to be forced to leave their homes, effectively stoking the anti-Israel fire growing within the Arab population. David Ben Gurion became the Prime Minister of Israel and made a proclamation which announced the establishment of the Jewish State. He stated that Jewish people have a “historic and national right” to the land. He also promised to care for the inhabitants of the State “in accordance [with] social ideals of [Jewish] prophets.”
During the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel managed to capture the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Old City of Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. The “small” war left between 776 and 983 Israelis dead, and between 9,800 and 15,000 Egyptian soldiers dead (1).
Israel - 776–983 killed, 4,517 wounded, 15 captured, 46 aircraft destroyed
Egypt – 10,000–15,000 killed or missing. 4,338 captured
Jordan – 700–6,000 killed or missing. 533 captured
Syria – 2,500 killed, 591 captured
Iraq – 10 killed, 30 wounded
Total – between 13,200-23,500 killed 5,500+ captured, hundreds of tanks destroyed and 452+ aircraft destroyed.
As one can easily observe from the raw data, the death toll for the Arab population was much higher than that of the Israelis. After this event, Israel claimed 77% of the land once known as Palestine. The Palestinian-Arab state that was decided on by the United Nations was never given to the Palestinian-Arab people. Instead, Jordan took control of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, while Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip. Because of the wars and increased immigration to the area, more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were displaced.
Israel is viewed by the west as a palatable area of the Middle East. From the first declaration of Israel, the United States expressed admiration for Israel’s military structure and power; the palatability comes from the potential partnerships Israel can provide. After the United Nations’ decision to split Palestine, the west began to think of the potential partnerships with Israel. This potential is one of the reasons that the United States currently supplies 3.8 billion dollars worth of military aid to Israel yearly (2). The US media typically portrays the positive sides of Israel, or paints them as more of a victim than Palestinian-Arabs. Though, in 2014, Amnesty International reported that over 500 Palestinian-Arabs were in administrative detention without a trial, in addition to the thousands of Palestinian-Arabs also imprisoned (3). The United States media’s portrayal of the conflict has heavily contributed to the continued plight of the Palestinians, as it frequently depicts Palestinian protesters as nothing more than violent and barbaric. Palestinian Arabs do protest what is often called the ‘Israeli occupation,’ and some protesters do in fact use violent tactics, but so do some Israelis. Though the United Nations Convention Against Torture treaty was ratified in Israel, there have been allegations of Israeli officers using “exceptional interrogation” methods on Palestinian-Arabs (4).
Both Islam and Judaism consider Jerusalem to be a holy site. In the Quran, Jerusalem was where the Prophet Muhammad visited before he ascended into heaven for his night journey, in which he spoke to Allah (the Arab word for God). Muhammad’s journey and direct communication with God are both very important parts of Islam. It was in this conversation that God told Muhammad that a Muslim must pray five times a day, which is still how often modern-day Muslims pray. The first Qibla (the direction in which muslims pray) was toward Jerusalem, though, now it is towards the city of Mecca. Islamic tradition also states that Jerusalem is where the end of the world will play out. In Judaism, Jerusalem is the place where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son to God. It is also, according to the Torah, “the site that the Lord will choose from among your tribes, as a place established by His name.” (5) In Deuteronomy 12:5 Jerusalem is identified as the land that God chose to allow his followers to “live in security” from other tribes.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to move the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem effectively diminishes the relevance of the Palestinian voice, and serves to bolster his xenophobic and anti-Muslim campaign. Moving the embassy affiliates Jerusalem (the supposed “international land”) exclusively with Israel, despite the well-known fact that the city (and access to it) is extremely significant to other religions, cultures, and peoples. The Israel-Palestine conflict is often compared to the colonial era of America. When Israel was declared an independent state, the UN urged Jewish Europeans to immigrate to the new state. They were encouraged to move onto land that was already occupied; similar to Britain encouraging settlers to create colonies in the Americas, though the land was already occupied. As we know from history, the European settlers who came to North America fought often with the Indigenous people on the land, similar to how the Israelis have been fighting Palestinians. The government of the United States, which is, in essence, just a large settler colony, supports another settler colony, Israel. The US has continuously diminished the struggles of Palestine and Palestinians; from Truman’s first announcement of recognizing the independence of the Jewish State of Israel to Trump moving the embassy.
“Six Day War Casualties”, October 4, 2009, accessed December 18, 2017, http://sixdaywar1967.blogspot.com/2010/11/six-day-war-casualties.html .
Sharp, Jeremy M. U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel. April 10, 2018.
Amnesty International. Amnesty International Report 2014/2015: The State of the World’s Human Rights. https://www.amnesty.org/en/.
United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. 1985.
The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.