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Historical Perspective: The Palestinian-Israel Conflict & The Creation of Hamas - Siddhi Jairath

“We can criticize Hamas for its terrorism, and we can criticize Israel for its occupation. But we cannot justify Hamas’s actions through the Israeli occupation and neither can we justify the Israel occupation because of Hamas’s actions.” - Mohak Mangal 

What is Hamas? ‘Hamas’ is a short form of an Arabic word which translates to ‘Islamic Resistance Movement’. Hamas is a terrorist group which was established by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, a Palestinian who was in Egypt to study Islam where he was heavily influenced by the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’. Due to the lack of money, he was unable to complete his education and moved back to Gaza. Muslim Brotherhood was established in 1928 with the intention of changing society to the way that Prophet Mohammad wanted. Initially, violence was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood policy, including several attacks against the Egyptian government. The Egyptian Prime Minister, Anwar Sadat made a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood which would mean that Muslim Brotherhood would now renounce violence and help out the Egyptian government with defending Egypt against its enemies. In return, the Egyptian authorities would no longer fight against Muslim Brotherhood. 

  • 1960s: Muslim Brotherhood began using social welfare programs in order to gain popularity and support within the region. This included the establishment of social clubs, religious schools and charity associations. Since Israel stayed out of Mosques, Muslim Brotherhood began using Mosques to recruit people. A paper published in 1991 stated that, “From 1967 to 1987, the number of Mosques within Gaza increased from 200 to 600.”

  • 1970s: Palestinians were extremely fed up with the PLO and were looking for newer political options. Under the PLO, there’s the political party ‘Fatah’. Fatah and the PLO both recognized Israel and were in agreement with the two-state solution, and also mentioned that they would settle the disagreement through negotiations rather than armed struggles. Extremist Palestinians were against this as they felt that the government was too compromise-minded. Simultaneously, it was seen that Palestinian populations interested in the full liberation from Israeli colonization were the ones most participative throughout all Muslim Brotherhood social welfare programs. Throughout the 1970s, these social welfare programs began to merge under a single organization; ‘The Muslim Brotherhood Society in Jordan and Palestine’. This was religious. Through the usage of propaganda, the Brotherhood was able to influence the Palestinian population with regards to the Palestinian Resistance movement and against more secular ideologies that were being enforced by the PLO. 

A commonality shared by all Islamic resistance movements and organizations is that they all believe that the Israel-Palestine land is purely Palestinian and do not believe in the two-state solution. The difference comes with regards to approach, the correct timing for Palestinian liberation and overall organizational intention. The Muslim Brotherhood believes that, “the first priority is the Islamic transformation of society, which it sees as a prerequisite to the liberation of Palestine. Armed struggle (Jihad) cannot be undertaken until the society is reformed until secular ideas are abandoned and Islam adopted” but other Muslim organizations such as The Islamic Jihad “advocates armed struggle as its strategy for political action without waiting for the Islamization of society“. 

  • Sheikh Yassin wanted to help out his fellow Palestinians but he didn’t want the Muslim Brotherhood to be associated with violence. So, he created Hamas. While the PLO recognized Israel and was willing to accept the two-state solution, Hamas didn’t recognise Israel and promoted the complete obligation of Israel as one of their goals. As stated within the Hamas manifesto, within the preamble, "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." Also in the Hamas manifesto, there are mentions of anti-semetic books, some of which were also promoted by Hitler during World War 2. 

The Palestine-Israeli conflict in extremely simplified terms, is a conflict between two groups which claim the same land. The conflict began in the early 1900s and is currently still ongoing. 

Historic Context 

  • Early 1900s (1900s-1922s): The region now known as Israel-Palestine was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, the area population was religiously diverse with most people being Muslims and Christians with some Jews as well. During this time, people within the area were beginning to identify not just as ethnic Arabs, but as Palestinians. Simultaneously, in Europe, more Jews were joining a movement called - Zionism which states that Judaism is not just a religion, but a nationality and required a country of its own. Many believed that, due to the oppression they were already facing, an independent state of their own, was their only escape from the oppression they faced. They saw their historic homeland in the Middle East as the place for this independent state establishment. 

  • First Decades of the 20th century (1910s to 1930s): Several Jews began moving towards the middle east. 

  • 1922: After the Ottoman empire collapsed in 1922, the British and French empires began carving up and claiming the middle east. The British took control of the now Israel-Palestine area and called it ‘The British mandate for Palestine’ (1919-1948). At first, the British allowed for Jews to migrate into the area but suddenly, as the population of Jews increased, the tension amongst Jews and Arabs increased. Both sides were turning increasingly violent which eventually resulted in the British limiting Jew migration. As a response, the Jewish began forming unofficial military groups to fight against the Arabs and British rule. Then, during the Holocaust period, several more Jews fled Europe for British Palestine which eventually led to more countries supporting the formation of the Jewish state. 

  • 1948: As the violence between Arabs and Jews grew, the United Nations approved a plan to divide British Palestine; Palestine (for Arabs) and Israel (for Jews). The city of Jerusalem, which is the current Israel capital, was labeled as ‘International zone’ since the area consisted of Jewish, Islamic and Christian holy sites. The Jews accepted this and began celebrating independence but the Arabs saw this as another west colonialism plan to steal their land. 

  • 1946-1949: Thus, other Arab countries began calling war on Israel as a method of reclaiming land with the end intention of once again establishing a united Arab Palestine and to reoccupy all of the land the British earlier had. Yet, Israel won this war and actually pushed past the borders established by the UN and took over major parts of Palestine while simultaneously pushing out several Palestines. At the end of the war, Israel had claimed all land except the Gaza strip which was controlled by Egypt and the West Bank which was controlled by Jordan. This marks the beginning of the age-old Israel-Palestine conflict. 

  • 1967: The Arab states fought a war against Israel which ended up with Israel winning and claiming the Golan Heights area from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt. Israel was occupying Palestinian land, including Jerusalem, Israel also had power over the Palestinians living in these areas. 

  • 1978: Israel and Egypt signed the Camp David Accords treaty which established a framework for historic peace amongst both countries. As a part of the treaty, Israel gave back Sinai to Egypt. The Camp David Accords also promised Egypt’s recognition of Israel, the establishment of economic and diplomatic relations between both countries and the agreement for future negotiations regarding West Bank and Gaza strip, with the eventual goal of establishing an autonomy for the Palestinian population. Over time, the rest of the Arab countries made peace with Israel yet Palestinian grounds, Gaza and the West Bank, were still being occupied by Israel. 

  • 1960s: The formation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) which fought against Israel, occasionally with acts of terrorism, with the original intention of reclaiming all of the land that was once British Palestine - it wanted to end the state of Israel completely. 

  • Muslim Brotherhood began using social welfare programs in order to gain popularity and support within the region. This included the establishment of social clubs, religious schools and charity associations. Since Israel stayed out of Mosques, Muslim Brotherhood began using Mosques to recruit people. A paper published in 1991 stated that, “From 1967 to 1987, the number of Mosques within Gaza increased from 200 to 600.”

  • 1982: Invasion of Lebanon by Israel to kick the PLO out of Beirut. Eventually, the PLO agreed to a two state solution which included dividing the land between Israel and Palestine. During this time, Israel settlements began to increase within the Palestinian areas of Gaza and the West bank due to three major reasons; 1) Housing was cheaper, 2) To show political power and strength over Palestinians, 3) For religious reasons. These settlements were followed by Israeli military forces which helped push Palestinians off of the land for the Israelis to move into. This resulted in the occupation being much more painful for the Palestinians and also resulting in it eventually being much harder for Palestinians to unite for independence. 

  • 1987-1991: The Palestinian struggle and frustration inspired by a motor accident between an Israeli truck and vehicles carrying Palestinian workers, eventually evolved into the First Intifada, which translates into ‘uprising’. Beginning with non protests (such as the civil disobedience movement which was basically when Palestinian workers in Israel began to not work as a way to show resistance) and boycotting, eventually the struggle became violent with Israeli forces also retaliating via heavy forces. The first Intifada resulted in the death of hundreds of Israelis and thousands of Palestianians. During this time, in Gaza, a group of Palestinians began to believe that the PLO was too secular and compromise-minded, which resulted in the creation of Hamas - the widely known terrorist group today. Hamas was created by Sheikh Yassin, who during this time, was arrested by the Israeli authorities. 

  • 1993: Both sides, the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Negotiator Mahmoud Abbas signed the Oslo accords - a treaty which is supposedly known as “the first big step towards Israel eventually stopping the occupation of Palestinian grounds” which stated that a Palestinian authority would be established and would be given governing responsibility over West Bank and Gaza. Extremists on both sides were completely against the treaty. Extremist Palestinians, such as Hamas members, began launching several suicide bombings throughout Israeli settlements while Israeli extremists began protests with some calling the Israeli Prime Minister a “nazi”. 

  • 1995: When the Israeli Prime Minister signed the second round of the Oslo Accords II, an Israeli extremist shot him dead. As well as that, Israel killed Hamas’ main bomber, Yahya Ayyash, as an attempt to reduce the suicide bombings yet this only enraged Hamas even more. 

  • 1996: A clear shift in Israeli politics was noticed when Benjamin Netanyahu, a hardline leader was elected in place of liberal Shimon Perez as the prime minister. 

  • 1997: The United States of America labeled Hamas as a terrorist organization. Then, there were two more suicide bombings where 27 Israelis where killed. Netanyahu also blamed Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation organization, for not stopping the terrorism. In an attempt to revolt against Hamas, Israel’s secret group, Mossad, was given the responsibility to eliminate Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas who was living in Jordan. Yet, this mission to eliminate Khaled Meshaal did not succeed and the plans of the Israeli government were revealed. The Jordan government was outraged at the fact that Israel attempted this assassination on their land, so the government threatened to assassinate the agents involved in the assassination attempt. In return for sparing the lives of the agents, Israel released Sheikh Yassin - the founder and former leader of Hamas as a part of the deal. 

  • Once Sheikh Yassin was released, he once again became the leader of Hamas.The people of Palestine were already unsatisfied with the actions taken by political leaders, such as the signing of the Oslo accords - as peace was promised but not delivered. In fact, the occupation in Gaza and the West Bank had become much more intense. As well as that, the failure of the promised peace by the Camp David accords resulted in the Arab revolt which eventually led to the assassination of the Egypt President, Anwar Sadat. 

  • 2000-2005: Palestinians believe that peace isn’t coming as government authorities seem to not take action to retrieve ground which results in the second Intifada, with 1000 Israelis dead and 3200 Palestinians dead. At this point, Israelis begin to believe that Palestinians no longer will accept peace and only look towards completely obliterating Israel. This results in the increase of security checkpoints to control Palestinian movement as an attempt to manage the conflict, not resolve it. 

  • 2004: Sheikh Yassin was killed by an Israeli missile. Which resulted in Ismail Haniyeh taking over as the leader of Hamas. 

  • 2005: To reduce a future risk of Israeli civilians getting hurt due to the ongoing attacks, Israel orders all Israelis to withdraw from Gaza. Hamas takeover Gaza while completely separating from the PLO, this results in a civil war amongst Palestinians and also results in the division of the West Bank and Gaza. The West Bank remains within the control of the PLO y7while Israel and Egypt put extremely heavy restrictions and blockades on Gaza which eventually led to the complete Economic collapse and rise in unemployment in Gaza, they did so because Israel wanted to reduce the access to weapons and Egypt’s government was against the Muslim Brotherhood regime. 

  • Due to the restrictions imposed by Egypt and Israel, people in Palestine needed to find a way to gain access to resources. So, they began digging holes near the Egyption border to smuggle goods, which would then be resold, with an Hamas-imposed tax, to Palestinians. Such goods included oil, mechanical parts, cigarettes and makeup. Through this form of market, Palestinians were gaining access to goods while Hamas was also making money off of the taxes. 

  • 2009: Benjamin Netanjahu was reelected and continued his hardline tactics. So, Israeli settlements began increasing within Gaza and West bank, Hamas would continue terrorist acts towards Israel and Israel would respond via imposing harsher restrictions on the people of Gaza and West Bank. 

  • 2013: Egyptian president Adefl Fattah el-Sisi came to power, who was highly against the Muslim Brotherhood and against Hamas. He ordered all Egyptian forces to block all tunnels being used to smuggle goods into Gaza. 

  • 2014 (Peak of the conflict): Following the kidnapping and death of three Israeli teenagers, a tragic 50 day battle between Hamas and Israel broke out which resulted in the death of 70+ Israelis and 2000+ Palestinians. 


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