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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Israeli-Palestinian conflict predates recorded history

By Mark Bauer/editor-in-chief

Why peace in the Middle East might never be more than just a noble idea—and how it affects America.
Even though it dominates much of the world news, the conflict in the Middle East, particularly between Israel and Palestine, is largely misunderstood by the Western world.

To many, the violence appears to be birthed from two people groups operating on extreme, fundamentalist ideals: they both claim rightful occupation of a Holy Land, and both contend they do so under the benediction of God.

Still, to fully understand the disagreements between Israel and the Arab nation, the conflict needs to be traced to the beginning where it is rooted in thousands of years of genealogy.

IN THE BEGINNING
The Biblical account in Genesis 16 recognizes Abraham as the common ancestor between the Jews and Arabs, through the birth of Isaac (Jewish lineage) and the illegitimate birth of Ishmael (Arab lineage).

According to the Biblical text, God promised Abraham a son through Sarah, his wife. When Abraham doubted the promise, he impregnated his servant, Hagar, and she gave birth to Ishmael. But the covenant promised to Abraham was to be fulfilled through Sarah, not Hagar.

But who has the rightful claim?

Though Muslims have a different interpretation of the birthright story, John Ferrer, associate professor of religion and philosophy on SE Campus, said conducting historical research will reveal which account has more backing. 

Based on historical records, Arabs have inhabited the land for hundreds of years, and once a land becomes Muslim, they are not able to recognize any other inhabitant of the land that is not Muslim.

Ferrer said the argument most often made is that “Ishmael came first,” he said. “But contention lies in the illegitimacy.”

The inheritance concerning both Isaac and Ishmael is recorded in Genesis 21:11, wherein God promises the offspring of both will be turned into a nation, but only one is the rightful heir.

The account in Genesis 12 indicates God’s favor for the Jewish people, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”

Conversely, Genesis 16:12 records God speaking to Hagar about Ishmael saying, “he will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

YESTERDAY’S CONFLICTS TODAY
After World War I, the Middle East was partitioned among the victorious nations. It was then that the League of Nations, a precursor to the present day United Nations, along with Britain, opted to give Jews a permanent homeland.

Up until this point, the Jews had been spread throughout the world without a central location to call home.

It was not until after World War II, however, when the world empathized with the Jewish people following the Holocaust that an actual homeland was awarded to them.

Dr. Jeff Stone, professor of history on South Campus, said it was the recognition of Israel as an independent nation in 1948 by the U.S., and later the U.N. in 1949, which acted as the catalyst that would propel Israel and Palestine into half a century of friction.

“The Palestinians rejected [the idea that Israel was its own independent nation], and started battling with the whole idea,” he said.

Since then, major events have spurred violent disagreements between the groups and diminished hope for reconciliation.

Israel flexed its military muscle in 1967 when it took on three different nations on three different fronts—alone. During the 6 Day War, Israel effectively gained control of the Golan Heights from Syria, the Gaza Strip from Egypt and the West Bank from Jordan.

Relations between Israelis and Arabs were further complicated during the 1972 summer Olympics in Munich when Israeli athletes were taken hostage by a Palestinian terrorist group.

The athletes were murdered, and Israel sought revenge in operations Wrath of God and Spring of Youth.

Throughout the remainder of the century, the Yom Kippur war and Lebanese civil war would perpetuate unrest between the nations.

“Anytime the heat rises in the Middle East, Israel has to be put on guard,” Ferrer said.

BEST OF FRIENDS
Since the official recognition of Israel as an independent state, the U.S. has remained one of Israel’s closest allies—backing Israel in peace talks and essentially taking on the role of big brother.

“We have the same Judeo-Christian background, the Jews don’t have an exclusive nature and are willing to do business with us,” Stone said.

But that bond was strengthened when, in the Gulf War, the Palestine Liberation Organization supported Saddam Hussein.

Basically, Stone said, that was a direct implication of opposition with the U.S.

Even though Israeli support crosses political factions, many evangelical Americans see the relationship as one that should be maintained, and their stance is backed in passages of scripture.

Genesis 12, 21; Deuteronomy 28 and Jeremiah 30 detail the curses placed on the enemies of Israel, but expand on the blessings poured out over their allies.

Because the conservative right has traditionally aligned itself with the evangelical community, the issue is largely seen as a Republican one.

LOOKING AHEAD
Though some historians disagree, much of Israel’s actions in past years have been in self-defense.

“Just in the last 100 years, Israel has just sought to be alive. If they were pacifists, it would be suicide,” Ferrer said.

Yet, Palestine and the surrounding Arab nations feel as though they are in the right—regarding their aggressive behavior or otherwise.

Moses and the first Jewish kings began ethnic cleansing in Biblical times.

“It was essentially genocide,” Stone said.

Palestine is reacting to what the Jews said back then—that nobody but the Jews could occupy the holy land, Stone said.

But when both sides claim equal inheritance through Abraham the patriarch, by God—be it Yaweh or Allah—and government, a resolution, though in the works, does not appear to be finalized by mere talks.

In the end, it seems the only way for peace to be attained is if one of them gives up its inheritance to the land.

And as stubborn as each is, it does not look like either is going anywhere for quite some time.

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