In this post, I make an attempt to make one understand and more importantly ponder, what exactly is HOME. Not in a philosophical context, but a rather logical context using a historical occurrence in modern history as an example to further my cause.
How would you define, HOME?
If you look at any major event of war from modern history, it wouldn’t take you long to realize that most wars were in its most basic form, a faction of people protecting their home. But at its root, the question arises, what happens if the very entity that you call your home is also claimed by someone else? Can a home belong to or be shared by two different sets of people who differ in culture, race, ethnicity, ideologies and more?
Examples of this can be seen throughout history. A prime example would be Germany after losing significant territories in World War 1. They sought back their territories and beyond in the subsequent years until the culmination of World War 2. Imperial Japan and China are also a good example. The 1999 Indo-Pak Kargil War is also fundamentally a dispute over territory that each faction thought of as their own irrespective of what was enshrined in legal documents. And that’s another key factor. Nations don’t care about legality when they believe that they have been wronged and are willing to go to any lengths to take back or defend what’s rightfully their own. It basically boils down to a difference of opinion between the parties involved.
But the highlight example of this particular case is seen through the Israeli-Palestine Conflict. To insinuate these ideas I shall be using this conflict as an example to further a few more ideas and questions. Mind you, I will not be delving into the legalities involved nor will I be delving into ownership and property rights. I merely attempt to make you ponder in simple non-technical terms, what is home and when it is claimed by two sets of people, how do you find a solution?
Israeli-Palestine Conflict-An everlasting quest for home:
It is important before reading this section, that you are aware of what exactly happened between the Israelis and the Arabs (Click on the following link –A 3 minute read- to refresh your memory about the same: https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/israeli-palestinian-conflict )
Here I shall talk about and raise questions only in the context of the conflict relevant to the idea of a home.
The Israelites, forbearers of today’s Jews, emerged in 1200 BCE in today’s West Bank. Twice in ancient times they established independent kingdoms (1000-586 BCE, 140-63 BCE). These Israelite kingdoms were eventually conquered and destroyed by the Romans and others. Many Jews fled to Europe at some point. There they were relentlessly oppressed, driven into ghettoes and sometimes murdered en masse and subjected to a democide. Many Jews fled to Europe at some point fearing persecution and death. Therefore, there is historical data to corroborate the fact that Israelites were the first inhabitants of the land in question. They had settled there, thus it’s safe to assume that it was, in fact their home.
However, their neighbors in all directions were the Arabs. The Arabs are a Mideast people racially and linguistically related the Jews. However, they differed in terms of their religious beliefs. Eventually with time the Arabs occupied this land that was not tended to and settled there. The gradual occupation of the arguably semi-vacant land happened over the course of 300 plus years. A large populace of the Arabs now lived in this land and effectively this land was theirs. Further, not once during this inter transition period of occupation by the Arabs did anyone else claim this land.
Meanwhile, in tandem the world had also turned into an anti-Semitic place. This effectively let to the birth of Zionism. Theodor Herzl and other early Zionist leaders in 1896 spoke about a land that has to be created as a safe haven for the Jews. They claimed that the Jews deserved to stay in the rightful land from where they belong.
There were major changes in world geo-politics during both the world wars. Without delving too deep, the entire Middle East had been divided into little spheres controlled by the Triple Entente (Great Britain, Russia, and France). Current day Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Southern Iraq was under the control of Great Britain. Syria, Lebanon and parts of Turkey were under the control of the French Republic. Mind you, the populace living there was predominantly Arab and consisted of little to no Jews.
The idea that Jews, who had long been a victim of injustice, deserve to rightfully go back to their land gained significant traction during the inter war period. This idea was made into a reality after the atrocities committed against the Jews during the Second World War was witnessed and brought out in public. An immediate need was established to return the Jews to their own land. Thus, the migration of Jews to their own land began and the safe haven once spoken about by the Zionist leaders now seemed like a reality. However, this also marked the birth of a conflict that exists till date. A conflict that simply boils down to who can call that land their home.
There have been numerous wars that have been fought between the Arabs and the Jews. A few of the major ones include, the “1948 War,” (the “Nakba” or catastrophe; 1956 (the “Sinai War”), 1967 (the “Six Day War”), 1969-70 (the “Canal War”); 1973 (the “Yom Kippur War” or “October War”); and 1982-2000 (the “Lebanon War”). There have been various attempted peace talks as well in 2000 (“Camp David”), 2001 (“Taba”), and 2008 (Olmert-Abu Mazen talks) which have yielded no fruit.
Talking with respect to the context of a home, both sides have significant merit as to why that land belongs to them. They pose questions, which honestly, have no amicable answer. But these questions make you wonder. I’ve given these questions a lot of thought and hope you will too. Once again, I find the need to reiterate that I don’t wish to answer these questions or justify the same. I merely wish to make you wonder about these questions and understand as to why this conflict, according to me cannot find a solution for the years to come as well.
To gain more clarity before moving on to the unanswered questions as such, one must understand as to where the justice lies for both the Jews and the Arabs. The causes of injustice as posed by these questions are plenty. I have posed a few questions that highlight the injustices faced by both the factions as simple questions and I’m hoping that they will make you think of this conflict in a different tangent.
DECONSTRUCED: Jewish and Palestinian Claims over the land:
- Both the Jews and Palestinians have made religious claims-“God gave us this land”-in order to gain control of the land. Jews point to the Covenant passages of Genesis and Exodus. Palestinians claim that Palestine is “Muslim Land” and that Palestinians are required to defend it by the religious requirement to defend all Muslim lands under attack. So, which side of the argument does one favor? The questions of why and how also automatically arise.
- Both the Jews and Palestinians have claimed ancient ownership-“We had it first”. Jews note their ancient presence in Palestine back to 1200 BCE. Palestinians counter by noting their likely relationship to the Canaanites and other ancients who owned Palestine before the Jews. They also note that in ancient times the Jews lived mainly in the highlands of the West bank. Jewish settlement in the lowlands, including Tel Aviv, was sparse and brief. So, who had it first? And does it matter as to who had it first?
- Both the Jews and Palestinians have claimed longest tenure in the land-“We had it longest”. This is largely related to ancient ownership. So, does it matter who had it longest?
- However, the Palestinians have claimed that –“We had it last”- before we were forced to move. The counter to this is a purely Jewish claim-“We have it now”. So, which side of the argument gets the benefit?
- Another purely Jewish claim stems from necessity. The Jews claim that a Jewish state is needed for the survival of the Jews. They claim that Palestinians can live in any one of the 21 Arab states, while the Jews have only one. Is this argument enough to make the land Jewish?
- A claim based of religious importance has been asserted by both the sides as well-“Our faith is attached to this land”. Jews point to the central importance to Judaism of the ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem and the Grave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Palestinian Muslims point to the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem. So which religion gets more preference?
- A Palestinian claim is based on the illegitimacy of the Jewish status as heirs to the land. “You are not descendants of those from whom you claim you inherited rights to Palestine”. They argue that today’s Jews are descendants from Jewish converts from Khazaria and cannot trace family lineage back to ancient Palestine.
- A Palestinian claim is based off the human rights situation the conflict presents-“You can’t take Palestine land without subjugating and denying people their basic human rights”. However, the counter Jewish claim to this has been in line with the fact that Palestinians have openly rejected Israel’s right to exist.
- A predominantly Jewish and partially Palestinian claim has been based of the use of land-“You wasted the land, we made it bloom”. Does optimum usage of resources warrant occupation? Moreover, who defines how a land is supposed to be used?
- Jews and Palestinians have long blamed each other for starting wars between them. This is broiled down today to explicit and morbid hatred.
- The UN peace plan for the region did not factor in the mass upheaval from the Arabs. Moreover, what gives an earlier resident the right to displace the current residents of the land?
The table below summarizes the claims:
The questions posed above have a detrimental impact on either one of the sides. Irrespective of who mediates this conflict-USA, UN or anyone else it will likely yield a temporary result only. There is no metric to decide who is right and who is wrong. Truth is both sides are right to a certain extent. Peace cannot and will not be achieved between the two. Why? Because it’s a fight for home.
And as I said earlier, one is willing to put everything on the line when it comes to home. After all, its HOME
(Key Reference: Causes & Prevention of WarStephen Van Evera)