Understanding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Through the Jewish Lens
By: Emily Devereaux/Arab America Contributing Writer
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is a contentious issue dating back to prior to World War I. This conflict officially came to a head upon the establishment of Israel as a state in 1948. Even now, this issue is deeply contentious, and oftentimes difficult to talk about. If you are unfamiliar with this issue, here is an article that does a good job of articulating well over one hundred years of history.
Understanding this issue takes more than just collecting facts and skimming through articles. It requires understanding diverging perspectives, empathy, and even reflection. To be blunt, I am no expert on this issue. I am someone who is trying to understand this issue through multiple lenses, like many other readers.
Context of the Conflict
In order to understand what is happening today, we must look at history. In the 1930s and 1940s, Palestine received the highest amount of Jewish people fleeing the Holocaust. Following the Second World War, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine, and allocate land to the Jewish people. Today, this is known as Israel. History outlines repeated conflicts between the Arab people and Jewish people in this region. History also shows forced Western influence in this region: the drawing of borders, the mandates, and control. The scars inflicted on this region by the West remain clear today and have set the stage for conflict.
Some may scapegoat religious differences when discussing this conflict. However, the conflict arose after the division of territories by the League of Nations after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. A major outcome of the First World War was the division of the map in this region, specifically by the British and the French. Palestine was drawn into the map and became home to many Palestinian-Arab people and Zionist Jewish people alike. The British were mandated to control the region, and under their control, there was a power struggle between these two groups.
My understanding came from reading timelines, seeking out articles written by an array of people, and a lot of reflection and prayer. Today, this issue may seem black and white based on religious affiliation, but it is not so clear. It is not so clear when many considering human rights abuses. This is not a religious issue, this is a human rights issue. Today, this issue is contentious within politics and headlines are oftentimes full of the latest airstrike or which leader supports which state. This polarizes the issue of human rights, which should be a bipartisan issue.
The Role of the U.S. in the Conflict
This article does not speak for all American-Jewish people, but sentiments from some American-Jewish people concern the nature of the United States acting as a means for Israel to achieve carte blanche. This power struggle seems unending and stopping at nothing, even at the expense of lives. However, the Israeli government is not the only organization at fault. Some Palestinian organizations, such as Hamas, are also at fault. Organizations on both sides of the conflict are questioned about human rights. There are concerns on both sides of this issue. However, Israel has more means to further their agenda. The United States has been tacitly endorsing this system of human rights abuse, through providing military aid.
In the United States, reform or secular Jewish people are around 65 percent of the American-Jewish population. This is an overwhelming majority, in comparison to the 17 percent conservative Jewish population and the 10 percent Orthodox Jewish population. Sentiments tend to differ from group to group.
Reform/secular and conservative Jewish people are typically for Jewish statehood. However, they are more likely to critique Israeli policies. This group tends to hold less of an emotional attachment to Israel and is less likely to stand on the argument that Israel is land given to Jewish people by God. The reform/secular and conservative Jewish populations typically disagree with Israeli policy regarding Palestinian people. This group is concerned about the impact of Palestinian settlements on Israeli security, however, they recognize the faults of Israeli policy against Palestinian people.
Conversely, the minority population of Orthodox Jewish people tends to align with Evangelical Christian-Americans on this issue. These people typically don’t critique Israeli policy regarding Palestinian people. They hold a stronger emotional attachment to Israel and are more likely to believe Israel was given to Jewish people by God. These sentiments are typically a minority among the American-Jewish population.
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