Despite popular belief, the state of Israel did not form out of an emergency effort after WWII.
The Zionist Congress came out of Russia in the late 1800s as a small number of Jewish people banded together to return to Zion — the biblical land of Israel. From its inception, the Zionist movement was decried by some Jewish rabbis as a move that would bring danger to all Jewish people.
Remember that this was a time of empires, and colonialism was an accepted mode of political gain. The idea of gathering people to stake a claim on territory and then expand into an empire was a political norm and the Zionist aim. Zionists gathered international support and funding, then bought land in Tel-Aviv, and started emigrating Zionists to the area.
Unfortunately, their colonialist timing was just out of sync from what would become an anti-colonialism era.
The Set Up
The first to blame in our Israel-Palestine problem is Britain.
As the war came to a close, it was France and Britain who gained control over British Palestine, forsaking both The Zionist Congress and Arabs in the region.
Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities lived together in the area in relative peace for millennia, ruled by various empires.
The immigration of Zionists started to cause problems before WWII, as the Zionist population grew from around 10 percent to over 30 percent, and the intent of a Jewish state became clear.
Britain’s message to both Jewish and Arab parties was that Britain did not intend to give either control over the area. It seems a misunderstanding, of sorts, that ended up in perpetual violence.
The Israel-Palestine Problem Crystallizes
Britain seemed to hope that a single state would emerge from the area, with Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities continuing to live in relative peace. However, conflicts were erupting.
One of the first eruptions was the Hebron Massacre in 1929.
Britain tried to stop emigration to Palestine, but was met with force by the Zionists. The Jewish insurgency in Palestine climaxed with the King David Hotel bombing in 1946, after World War II ended.
Britain, then, pushed the Israel-Palestine problem onto the international stage.
The U.S.’s Role
Bound by new international laws set up after WWII, and threatened by each other, Israel and Palestine were in precarious positions and needed international support.
The Committee declares its support of the cause of the Arabs of Palestine and its willingness to work for the achievement of their legitimate aims and the safeguarding of their Just rights.
The Committee also declares that it is second to none in regretting the woes which have been inflicted upon the Jews of Europe by European dictatorial states. But the question of these Jews should not be confused with Zionism, for there can be no greater injustice and aggression than solving the problem of the Jews of Europe by another injustice, i.e., by inflicting injustice on the Arabs of Palestine of various religions and denominations.” –The Alexandria Protocol
President Harry S. Truman’s secretary of state, George Marshall, who Truman greatly admired, was vehemently opposed to recognizing Israel under the circumstances. U.S. interests were opposed to favoring one side over the other, and Arab states had voiced protestations of a new Jewish state in the area.
According to transcripts of interviews with Truman’s special council, Clark Clifford:
“…most of the military and most of the civilians in the Defense Department, felt that we were making a mistake by taking the side of Israel, and that the real power in the Middle East was on the side of the Arabs.”
Clifford said that, “Political considerations were not a factor.” The question, then, is what factors were the decision based on? In any case, Truman’s decision came back to haunt him almost immediately:
“Unless emergency action is taken, there will be no public authority in Palestine… capable of preserving law and order. Violence and bloodshed will descend upon the Holy Land. Large-scale fighting among the people of that country will be the inevitable result. Such fighting would infect the entire Middle East and could lead to consequences of the gravest sort involving the peace of this Nation and of the world. These dangers are imminent.”
Perpetual war is exactly what happened. One side, Israel, with the powers of a state; and the other side, Palestinians, with no legitimate power, being pushed (and killed) out of their homes and land, without a voice, or compensation.
Engaging in war without a state is terrorism, and that was the Palestinians only option.
Our Israel-Palestine Problem is our Terrorism Problem
U.S. and British leaders have historically stated support for the Zionist mission of statehood, and the right of Palestinians to human rights and self-determination. Their actions, however, continually side with Israel, without considering the impacts, or injustice, to Palestinians and the Arab states — or to the U.S. and Britain’s own interests!
What Can We Do?
Rise in Leadership
Palestinians and Israelis cannot look to each other to solve the Israel-Palestine problem. U.S. and Britain must take the lead.
Palestinians cannot look to Israel to make up for the broken promises of Britain and the U.S. Israelis cannot expect Palestinians and Arab nations to legitimize their growing territorial claims.
The international community, especially the U.S. and Britain, must rise in leadership. There is no lack of opportunity. In December 2014, the U.S. and Britain denied a crucial vote for a Palestinian state at the UN.
Admit Responsibility and the Dangers of our Historical Snares
UN resolution 181, the partition plan, was a mistake only so far as the U.S. and Britain did not give Palestinians, or Arab states, proper voice and consideration. The past 50 years of increasing violence, which was foreseen by the US, is a testament to the international fumble.
The One-State Solution
Fulfilling Israel’s mission to have both areas of the partition under its rule will legalize Israel’s occupation of land delineated for Palestinians. Israel will have won the land as a spoil of a long fought war. However, a question then arises: would a one-state solution be a vestige of colonialism, or set a precedent against international law?
A one-state solution will require the U.S. and Britain to place harsh demands on Israel in line with our commitments to democracy, equality, and civil and human rights. Practices of restricting land to only Jewish citizens, and separate governments for Jewish and minority citizens, must end. Freedom of speech, association, religion, and equality under the law must be assured.
It seems Israeli leaders are set on a one-state solution. Netanyahu, of the right-wing Likud party, announced just before the 2015 elections that there will be no two-state solution. The Jewish Home party has made the same vow. Isaac Herzog, of the Zionist Union party, however, believes a two-state solution can bring security:
“I believe that Israel must move for peace. We must move towards the division of the land between the Palestinians and us in order to maintain the future of Israel as a Jewish democratic state. I say this very bluntly.”
A Three-State Solution
One of the most contentious bargaining chips in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks has been the city of Jerusalem. The city is holy to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim people. The original plan of making Jerusalem its own city-state is the only way to separate Israel and Palestine. A shared state, or Jerusalem as the capital of either state, will only ensure more conflict.
In the case of a three-state solution, Palestine must, of course, have complete sovereignty over its own territory — as set in the original partition plan. Israel must not have military power or control any entry or exit from — or to — Palestine, apart from Israel’s own borders.
Reparations to Palestinians who were ejected from now Israeli-controlled territory, should be a shared responsibility of the international community and Israel, led by the U.S. and Britain.
As both parties were engaged in a war that was foreseen and imminent: Israel should be pardoned for its human rights violations, and its citizens should be given autonomy to fight their own path to liberty, without international interference; and organizations such as the PLO, Hezbollah, and Hamas should have their terrorist designations expunged.
Has Israel engaged in egregious human rights violations? Yes. Have the PLO, Hezbollah, and Hamas carried out egregious acts of terror? Yes. But, both were fighting a war, outside of norms, because of how international actors set up the region.
Our Time is Running Out
Once the Palestinians have been mostly killed, and pushed into surrounding states — often as second-class citizens — there will be little chance of mending the Israel-Palestine conflict. Already, a generation of Palestinians know nothing but refugee camps and occupation, and have no memory of dignity or freedom. Our terrorism problem is changing, from a plead for justice to blind vengeance. We must be swift, and address justice in the Middle East.
Editor’s note: The initial published version of this article said the United Kingdom voted for a 2014 UN resolution recognizing a sovereign Palestinian state. The UK abstained from voting on the resolution, but held a symbolic vote to recognize a Palestinian state in Parliament in October.