As Buffalo Springfield put it, “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” In world politics and conflicts, it’s often easy to lose track of (or not know to begin with) the origins of a given conflict. We hear the big, breaking news but don’t know why or how this round of fighting got started. It’s especially difficult to get a clear picture of fault lines in a crisis that has been going on continuously for a century with roots that reach back thousands of years. So what do we need to know to understand the latest round of fighting in the world’s oldest blood feud? Let’s take a look…
First, some quick geography. The State of Israel is located in the heart of the Middle East, on the eastern bank of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered on the south by Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, by Jordan on the East and across the Dead Sea and Jordan River, on the Northeast by Syria, and on the North by Lebanon. It borders internally the Palestinian Territories of the Gaza Strip on the Southwestern edge, and the West Bank, named for its location on the Western bank of the Dead Sea. Though it was not and is not always this way, the primary points of conflict (at least since 1948) have been between Israel and the (occupied) Palestinian Territories. Though certainly not existing in a historical vacuum, the most recent conflict finds its roots in the kidnapping and execution of 3 Israeli students on June 12 in the West Bank. The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) began an operation to locate the teenagers and PM Netanyahu publicly blamed Hamas, which Hamas denied. The two and half weeks that followed were comprised of heavy raids in many areas of the West Bank, finally producing the bodies of the three victims on June 30. Then, with tensions still high, on July 2 the body of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was found burned to death. The suspects were arrested by Israeli police within a few hours but later that night a series of rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel and Israel’s July 3 airstrike response began a familiar pattern of back-and-forth destruction. On July 17, the IDF began its present ground incursion into Gaza called Operation Protective Edge, with one of its primary goals being the destruction of the Hamas tunnels running from Gaza into Israel (and expertly explored by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer here).
I think this is a good place to pause for a brief history lesson. You can’t get where you’re going without knowing where you’ve been and the start of this seemingly unending struggle goes back at least a century. We could no doubt journey back further but let’s start with World War I when what would be known as Palestine was controlled by the Ottoman Empire.
What is past is prologue.. READ MORE