What is the conflict between Israel and Palestine?

By Fen Mathew

From the past month, there have been visuals and news circulating all over the globe, of deaths of children, women and civilians in Israel and Palestine. People from all over the world are putting up stories, sharing incidents, giving opinions on their social media about the conflict that is happening in Israel and Palestine area.

But how much do these people know about the conflict? When did all this start? What exploded the tensions among the two countries which have been silent from past decades? Let’s look at the history and unfolding of this conflict which has claimed hundreds of innocent lives in both the countries.

There had been theories and speculations among people that root of this conflict is theological differences or the clash among the people because of different religions.

Many spokespersons are claiming that these differences go back to thousand years when Judaism and Islam were at their inception state but going back to history will make us understand that this fight is not for the religion but for the right on land.

History of the conflict between Israel and Palestine

The history of Palestine can be traced back to late 19th century when it was not the current Palestinian state and was under the control of Ottoman empire. Around the year 1878, there were around 85% Muslims, 10% Christians and 3% Jews who were residing in Ottoman Palestine who lived together in a peaceful manner and there were no conflicts[1].

At that time, the Jews believed in the concept of “Zionism” which meant Jewish nationalism, but it was more of secular in nature. They wanted a state for Jew people and not a Jewish state which is opposite of what Zionism is portrayed in the present condition who aim to have a Jewish state so that they can have dominance and position in the world.

  • World war 1 (1991-1919)

The conflicts started to come during the time of World War 1 when the Germans were killing Jews indiscriminately and they wanted to leave Europe and settle in a land which they could call it their own.

Since the British army was unable to help them during the time when Germany was carrying out genocide, in year 1917 through the Balfour Declaration, British government to show their support promised them that they will establish a home for Jewish people in Palestine. This came during the time when Palestine was still under the control of ottoman empire as they had not lost the World War I yet.

Their exact statement was “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”[2]

The promise made by British was not one of a kind as years before the Balfour declaration, they had promised France that they would divide Arab territories in different parts and keep Palestine under their control.

In 1915, the British officials also promised the ruler of Meccah Sharif Hussein that he could rule Arab states including Palestine if he revolted against Ottoman empire which he did. So, by the year 1918, Britishers had promised the land of Palestine to the Jews, to themselves and also to the king of Meccah.

  • Post-World War 1

After World War 1, the British established a colony in Palestine to rule them until they could govern themselves but after a long time also when they were asked to leave, they refused to give up control to Palestinian government.

During the rule, they established different religious institutions for Muslims, Jewish and Christians making it difficult for them to cooperate and live peacefully and which was said to British method to divide and rule. It is from this time that the uneasiness started to begin in then Palestine.

The British attempted to fulfill their promise made in Balfour declaration which led to influx of Zionists to Palestine resulting in increased population of Jews in Palestine between 1920 to 1940 which went up by around 360,000 and by the end of 1939, there were 30% Jews in Palestine compared to 3% at the time of Ottoman rule Palestine.[3]

The Jews started to take over land from non-Palestinian Arab landowners displacing tens and thousands of Palestinians from their farms and lands and this whole process was supported and facilitated by the British.

Tensions heightened between 1920s to 30s among Jewish and Arab Palestinians when the latter realised the need of a Palestinian state and revolted against British in 1936.

They were brutally supressed by the British with the help of Jews and soon after that, British called for joint Arab and Jewish state in Palestine within 10 years.

  • Post World War II

After World War II, British handed the issue of Palestine to newly formed United Nations which in 1947 voted to partition Palestine into Palestine and Jewish state. This proposal was not accepted by either of the groups and by 1948 Arab Israelis occupied a third more land than they would under the UN proposal.

West Bank and Jerusalem were occupied by Jordan and the Gaza strip was under the control of Egypt. The United Nations and Soviet Union recognised Israel as a state which forced the Palestinians to flee from their land settle into several other states as refugees and for Israelis this was beginning of their nation.

  • Revolting by Palestinians

In 1987, the Palestinians staged their first uprising also called intifada in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank, using mass boycotts, civil disobedience and attacks on Israelis which lasted for five years ending in 1993. The same year that is 1987, Hamas which is a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist, militant, and nationalist organization was formed which politically controls Gaza now.

Increasing tensions led to Clinton talks in between President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to end the hostilities but it ended without an agreement.

Agitated by the Israeli forces and frustrated for being land less, the Palestinians, begin the second intifada in September, which lasts until February 2005. It claimed the lives of more than 3,100 Palestinians and nearly 1,000 Israelis.[4]

In 2000, the Israeli PM candidate, Areil Sharon lead a group of 1000 armed men into the old city of Jerusalem at the temple mount which is also known as Al Aqsa Mosque and is third holiest site for Muslims and holiest site in Judaism.

Since then, there have been continuous on and off attacks of missiles, air strikes, bombing between the two groups resulting in deaths of thousands of innocent people.

What instigated the conflicts of 2021?

There has been a situation of peace for past few years in states of Israel and Palestine but what happened in the past month drew attention and criticism all over the world from top leaders to celebrities to common man. What revived these attacks?

On the first night of holy month of Ramdan on April 13, Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and disconnected speakers broadcasting prayers which was taken as an insult by the Muslims. After this the police closed a nearby plaza which was a popular gathering spot for the Palestinians and attacks between Jews and Palestinians took off.

What enfolded after this was the worst week that they have witnessed since the attacks of 2014.

On May 10, Islamist ruler of Gaza, Hamsa launched bombarded Israel with rockets showing its solidarity with Palestine and Israel responded with deadly strikes on Gaza enclave. Israeli strikes on Gaza since May 10 have killed 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, as well as fighters, and have wounded another 1,900, according to the Gaza health ministry.[5]

Hamas raided Tel Aviv with rockets after an air strike by Israel which destroyed a tower in which offices of Hamas officials are said to be located. Following days unrest flared across the towns of Israel and Palestine with continuous fights between Jews and Arabs.

On May 15, strike demolishes a 13-floor building in Gaza City that housed US news agency the Associated Press and Qatar-based Al Jazeera television. The next day, Israel reported that their strike has demolished the home of Hamas’ political leader in Gaza.

World leaders across the world and the United Nations tried to put an end to the continuous firing among the two as it was being criticised and the UN was under pressure by countries around the world to interfere and stop the brutalities that were taking place in Israel and Palestine but there was no outcome.

After 11 days of continuous attacks and firings, both the countries agreed to ceasefire which was meditated by Egypt. One of the reasons that led to acceptance of cease fire was that there were increasing number of casualties due to the air strikes by Israel and it was under immense international pressure to stop the strikes.

Countries which initially supported Israel started calling out for a stop on the attacks by Israel. After the ceasefire, Palestinians took the streets to celebrating the resistance. Senior Hamas officials called it “the euphoria of victory”.[6]


It can be concluded that the conflicts between Israel and Palestine does not go back to theological difference but it is fight for land and the right to nation. The interference of power nations such as US, Britishers and the United Nations has led to complications and misunderstandings in the region.

Both the partis are just responding to the provocation of the other but much of the failure to resolve the conflict is the lack of understanding the narratives of each other.

To Palestine, Palestine people have been denied a state not from the invasion of Jews but from the decades before that since when they have been controlled by different powers.

For Israelis, it is the fight for a land that they have been cut out from the times of world war I. To put an end to this conflict and for Zionists and Palestine nations to work, it is necessary to understand the right of each other to exist and legitimacy of their narratives.


  1. Jewish virtual library, “Jewish and non-Jewish population of Israel/Palestine” (2021)
  2. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Balfour Declaration”, available at: britannica.com (Last visited on June 11, 2021)
  3. Jewish virtual library, “Jewish and non-Jewish population of Israel/Palestine” (2021)
  4. George Petras and Janet Loehrke, “Timeline of conflict: Why the 2021 Israeli-Palestinian fighting is among the most brutal in years”, USA Today, available at: usatoday.com (Last visited on 11th June)
  5. Agence France-Presse, “Hamas Claims Victory in Conflict with Israel After Ceasefire”, available at: ndtv.com (Last visited on June 11, 2021)
  6. Stanly Johny, “Explained | Israel-Hamas ceasefire”, The Hindu, May 21, 2021, available at: thehindu.com (Last visited on June 11, 2021)

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