By Irfan Jalil
When was Israel created? Why?
Israel was created in 1948. It gave Jews their own state and homeland for the first time since Biblical times.
When was Palestine created?
The land on which Israel was created was originally Palestine and a part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. After World War One Palestine was handed over to Britain. Fighting between Jewish immigrants and the native Arabs erupted during the years of British control. The UN divided Palestine into a Jewish state called Israel and an Arab state called Palestine.
What is Zionism and who are the Zionists?
Zionism is the ideology that Jews should have their own country. Zionists are people who support that ideology. But not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jews. Some Orthodox Jews believe that Jews should not have their own country until the messiah comes.
Some non-Jews support the Israel because they are convinced that Israel is a democratic and peaceful country in an area where other countries are ruled by dictators and are always at war with one another.
What are they fighting over?
The Palestinians didn’t want to give their land to Israel. They wanted all of Palestine to be one country for people of all faiths - Muslims, Christians and Jews. Israel had a war with the Arabs in 1967 and invaded and occupied all of Palestine. The Palestinians want their land back and are willing to go back to the pre-1967 borders.
Is this a war between Muslims and Jews?
Not necessarily. It is true that Israel is a mainly Jewish state and that Palestinians are mostly Muslims. But many Palestinians are Christians. There are some Muslims who live in Israel but Israel is an ideologically Jewish state - it actively tries to maintain a Jewish majority.
What is the Gaza Strip and West Bank?
The Gaza Strip and the West Bank are the occupied Palestinian areas. 1.4 million people live in the Gaza Strip and 2.8 million people live in the West Bank. The Gaza Strip is one of the most overcrowded places on earth. Israel severely restricts Palestinians from travelling to and from Gaza and the West Bank.
What do the Palestinians want?
The Palestinians want their own state. They want Israel to give back all the territory it took in 1967. They want Israel to stop sending troops and missiles into their areas. Palestinians are often arrested on mass and tortured, and many have their homes bulldozed - they want an end to these types of attacks on their human rights.
What do Israeli's want?
The Israelis want to see an end to suicide attacks, threats on their sovereignty and to keep some of the land they took in 1967. Israel is currently building a massive wall which it says will stop Palestinians from carrying out suicide attacks in Israel. But the wall takes up yet more Palestinian land and divides Palestinian families.
Why are a lot of Jews from across the world against the occupation?
Israel is guilty of numerous war crimes and human rights violations. Palestinians regularly face excessive force and violence at the hands of the occupying Israeli soldiers. Many Jews do not like the fact that a Jewish state is acting in such a cruel and un-Jewish way. Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein are well-known Jewish critics of Israel.
Why do some Palestinians want to destroy Israel?
Israel was built at the cost of Palestinian land, homes, and lives. Israel continues to occupy Palestinian land, destroy Palestinian homes, and kill Palestinian civilians. Palestinians see their treatment at the hands of the Israelis as humiliating and degrading.
Some Palestinians therefore have taken up armed resistance to the Israelis. Some even carry out suicide attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians.
Who are Hamas and what do they want?
Hamas is a Palestinian political organisation. It currently runs the Palestinian government. Hamas also has an armed wing which carries out suicide bombings against Israeli targets. Recently Hamas cabinet ministers and MPs were detained by Israel.
Why do Hamas and other Palestinians carry out suicide bombings?
Palestinians endure immense humiliation and suffering - many decide to take their own lives rather than endure further degradation. Suicide bombings are seen by many as a last resort.
The Palestinians lack the sophisticated weaponry that Israel possesses. They think that all they can do is use themselves as bombs instead of real bombs.
How does Israel respond to the suicide bombings?
Israel carries out collective punishment of the Palestinians whenever a suicide attack occurs against Israelis. Helicopter gun ships fire missiles into Palestinian areas and kill many innocent people. The homes of suicide bombers and their relatives are demolished by bulldozers.
Aren’t suicide bombings the main obstacle to peace?
Suicide attacks against Israel keep the cycle of violence going. Israel uses excessive force to punish Palestinians for suicide bombings. This then creates further resentment among the Palestinians and more suicide bombers.
Who are Hezbollah?
Hezbollah is a Lebanese political party. It started out as a resistance movement which fought against the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the 1980s.
It continued to fight against the Israelis until they withdrew. At the same time Hezbollah contested elections and sent members to the Lebanese parliament.
Why does Hezbollah fire rockets at Israeli towns?
Hezbollah says that it fires missiles into Israel because Israel fires missiles into southern Lebanon. But the Israelis say that they fire missiles into southern Lebanon because Hezbollah fires missiles into northern Israel.
However, rockets that are fired into Israel rarely hit any real targets - they are imprecise and many get fired into open fields. Israel’s missiles invariably destroy lives, homes, and infrastructure - and they’re supposed to be precision strikes.
Isn’t Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands illegal?
Yes it is. Israel is in violation of many UN resolutions. But the UN finds it difficult to enforce international law when it comes to Israel. Israel has the support of the USA. The Americans regularly block UN resolutions which urge Israel to follow international law (see below).
What is the UN doing about this conflict?
The UN monitors the situation and tries to broker agreements between the Palestinians and Israelis. But the UN can’t do anything practical and concrete without US support.
How is the peace process going?
At the moment Israelis and Palestinians aren’t negotiating. Israel refuses to negotiate with Hamas because Israel says Hamas doesn’t recognise its right to exist. Recently the Palestinian president tried to get Hamas to recognise Israel.
But Israel went into Gaza and arrested several Hamas cabinet minsters and MPs.
Israel has prevented negotiations in the past too. In July 2002 Palestinian militant groups decided to suspend attacks against Israel and try to find a peaceful solution – but on the same day Israel dropped a 1-tonne bomb on a crowded Gaza apartment block. The militants’ agreement was scrapped.
Why does the U.S. always support Israel?
Many in the US are under the impression that Israel is a liberal law-abiding country. Americans like to think that they share these ideals. Israel’s human rights violations and breaches of international law are overlooked due to the very powerful pro-Israeli lobby and the distorted media.
American politicians are afraid of being smeared as anti-Semitic if they criticise Israel. Right-wing Christian organisations in America are also very influential and support Israel.
What are the Muslim countries doing to help the Palestinians?
Muslims countries support the Palestinians at the UN and other world bodies. But in practical terms they can’t do much. King Faisal of Saudi Arabia once stopped oil supplies to the West for its support of Israel
But the US drew up plans to invade Saudi Arabia and secure the oilfields by force if that happened again. King Faisal was assassinated a year after he cut-off the oil.
Is there a solution? What?
The common consensus among the international community is that there have to be two states - Israel and Palestine.
Israel needs to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders and stop attacks on Palestinians as a result this will bring an end to the suicide attacks. Palestinian leaders must also recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Read The Fateful Triangle by Noam Chomsky, Pity the Nation by Robert Fisk, Beyond Chutzpah by Norman Finkelstein, and Blaming the Victims by Edward Said.
We need to learn the facts. Knowledge will help convince others. We need to know the truth and speak out against the illegal occupation and the oppression of a nation.
What can I do?
- Write to or e-mail your MP, the Foreign Secretary and Tony Blair daily. Get your MP to speak out against Israeli human rights violations and its use of excessive force. One letter a day costs 32p - we can spare that. E-mails are free!
- Boycott companies that support Israel. Islamic Human Rights Commission(IHRC) have brilliant cards that fit in bags or wallets. Help distribute in your local area.
- Donate money to Interpal - all funds go directly to Palestine and refugee camps in Lebanon. (www. interpal.org)
- Media Watch - when you see Zionist propaganda, take note & complain. Follow groups such as MPACUK and their campaigns to ensure balanced coverage in the media.
- Attend gatherings being organised in support of Lebanon & Palestine.
- Contact your local Imam, Islamic circle, etc., and get them involved.
- Write to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia and ask (politely) why they are not supporting Palestine and Lebanon during this crisis.
- Wear Palestinian badges, wristbands, T-shirts at all times. These can be purchased from Interpal or Friends of Al-Aqsa.