The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s longest-running and most controversial conflicts. At its heart, it is a conflict between two self-determination movements the Jewish Zionist project and the Palestinian nationalist project that lay claim to the same territory. But it is so, so much more complicated than that, with seemingly every fact and historical detail small and large litigated by the two sides and their defenders.
If you’re wondering about the very basics of the conflict like how it got started or the role the city of Jerusalem plays in it then you’ve come to the right place.
My hope is that, regardless of your view of who’s right in the conflict, you can read first and feel like you’ve gotten an honest, clear guide to the basics of the situation. And if you don’t know anything about it, then you can come away feeling like you’re basically up to speed.
The Six-Day War
Israel attacked Egypt on June 5, 1967. Both nations claimed that they were acting in self-defense in the ensuing conflict, which ended on June 10 and also drew in Jordan and Syria, who sided with Egypt. The Six-Day War, as it came to be called, resulted in major land gains for Israel. By the end of the war, Israel had taken control of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula (a desert region situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea), and the Golan Heights (a rocky plateau located between Syria and modern-day Israel).
The outcome of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War would lead to continued tension and an armed conflict between Israel and its neighbors over the coming decades. Palestinians are still fighting for an official state that’s formally recognized by all countries.
Although Palestinians occupy key areas of land, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, some Israelis, with their government's blessing, continue to settle in areas that are generally agreed to be under Palestinian control. Many international rights groups consider such settlements illegal, the borders aren’t clearly defined, and persistent conflict continues to be the norm. A substantial proportion of Israelis also oppose the settlements and would prefer to find peaceful ways to resolve their land disputes with the Palestinians.
In May 2017, leaders of Hamas presented a document that proposed the formation of a Palestinian state using the 1967 defined borders, with Jerusalem as its capital. However, the group refused to recognize Israel as a state, and the Israeli government promptly rejected the plan.
Palestine has faced difficult times due to the ongoing Israeli occupation and pro-Israel bias on the part of many western states. Thousands of Palestinians, who only wanted to live freely, were killed, while hundreds of thousands of others were driven from their land. Despite this, 140 countries now recognize the Palestinian state, with the notable exception of several western countries.
The U.S., France, and the U.K., the so-called cradle of democracy, still don’t recognize the Palestinian state. They also turn a blind eye to Israel’s illegal policies.
Despite all these hypocritical policies and the ongoing Israeli occupation, the Palestinians continue their fight to have an independent state, whose capital is East Jerusalem and which includes the West Bank and Gaza Strip.