The Israel-Palestine conflict is rooted in a decades' long battle over land rights. Israel declared statehood in 1948, with only 500,000 settlers in the area, authority over which had previously been linked to a British mandate -- but that had ended. Following WW2 and the "moral imperative" that the Holocaust supplied the Zionist movement, more Jews began to migrate to Israel (Tyler 17). Led by the military strategist, David Ben-Gurion, who, like many Zionists of the day, changed his name to emphasize a certain Hebrewness, the Zionist state of Israel took on a distinctive militarism that would characterize the nation's actions all the way till today. These actions are best understood as a chain of events with one, single goal: to seize surrounding territories for Israel, which claims a historic, God-given right to them. Palestinians and other peoples from surrounding states declare that they themselves have a more immediate right to the land, since they are/were currently living on it, and have/had been for centuries. This paper will show how the land surrounding the initial territory of Israel, as laid out in its founding, belonged to Palestinians before Israeli Zionists like Ben-Gurion started a war to take it.
As Patrick Tyler notes, "Ever since the Zionist brief to establish a Jewish homeland was elevated to the level of moral imperative by the Holocaust, the Arab-Israeli dispute has loomed…" (17). Imperial politics has as much to do with the conflict as land rights. While the Zionists claim that the Old Testament Bible is the document that certifies that the Holy Land belongs to them, the course of history shows that the actual possessors of the Holy Land were "Islamic conquerors" who "supplanted Rome in the Middle East" (Tyler 17). Only with the Zionist movement and the push to end Jewish Diaspora did the founding of a new Israeli state begin to take shape.
But that shape was limited in scope and size. The UN Partition Plan of 1947 restricted Israeli occupation to 5,500 square miles, much of which was desert land, leaving 4,500 square feet of the rest of Palestine for nearly the Palestinians, whose number was at least twice that of the Israeli settlers ("The Partition Plan," Tyler 35). The plan was meant to accommodate settlements already in place. But those settlements were just the beginning as far as Ben-Gurion was concerned. He envisioned a larger Jewish state. And immediately he set about gaining it.
The first acts were to raid Arab settlements and seize the land. The Israelis did this, for example, at Deir Yassin, where the "militant underground national military organization," the Irgun, "slaughtered most of the inhabitants of an Arab village on the road to Jerusalem" (Tyler 35). The dead villagers numbered from 100 to 250 (Morris 208) and their bodies were dumped in Arab East Jerusalem by the Irgun, as a sign of Israeli dominance. Such incidents were not uncommon: it was the modus of the Israeli forces to execute reprisals that were overwhelmingly out of proportion with the minor assaults or attacks the Arabs inflicted on them. This modus is still in operation today, as commentators like Pepe Escobar reveal: Israeli policy in the Middle East is to appear as a "mad dog" so that no one will dare attack it.
However, Israel has not operated alone in its war against the Palestinians. In fact, numerous countries in both the East and West have had a hand in shaping the outcome of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Biggest of all, perhaps, is the United States.
The effect of the waning force of Western colonialism and the rise of Israeli statehood prompted a response in the Middle East that could be identified as Arab nationalism. The most vociferous Arab Nationalist was Egyptian president Gamal Nasser. He confronted British, French and Israeli forces in a battle over control of the Suez Canal, and he ridiculed the arrogance of U.S. military advisors like Kermit Roosevelt, who thought Nasser's loyalties could be bought. Nasser accepted Western money, but his loyalty was to Egypt: he wanted enough arms to be able to secure Egypt's borders. Since the U.S. was not as forthcoming in this department as Nasser wished, he turned to the Soviets (Tyler).