Israel, Palestine and the Wall

Tensions in the Middle East began even before the creation of the state of Israel. In the early Twentieth Century, European Jewish immigrants to Palestine had enough money to buy large amounts of land, pushing the resident workers off of it and into suburbs of major Israeli cities. These roving groups started conflicts and riots which didn’t get better after Israel declared statehood in 194. They were attacked by their neighbors, but with better weapons they came out of this “War of Independence” with 78% of Palestine.

In 1967, Egypt closed access to the Red Sea. Israel took this threat seriously and attacked, capturing the Sinai, Golan, and the remaining Palestinian land. This was not viewed well by their neighbors to start with, but it got even worse after Israel moved civilians onto the newly captured land, violating a treaty that they signed against this type of action. Egypt fought back by attacking the Sinai n 1973. Eventually, Israel stopped the fighting by returning the disputed land.

It was not a clear victory, but enough to show that it was possible to fight Israel. Palestinians started to attack Israelis in other countries, most famously by kidnapping Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics and hijacking an Air France flight in 1976, These caught the world’s attention but they got even more when they started suicide bombing. The Palestinian Authority did not effectively stop these attacks and seemed to be losing power to extreme groups like Hamas, who support killing Israeli civilians. When suicide bombings reached into Israel’s cities, they responded by designing a security wall in 2002. It was supposed to help solve the violence that has been troubling the region but ended up angering Palestinians.

Mohammad Ethman is a human rights activist in Palestine and works for peace in his country through the organization “Stop The Wall.” He sees Israel’s security wall as a major barrier because it was built across Palestinian land. He sees it as a physical and symbolic barrier to the peace process as well. So to him and other locals it deserves the name “Apartheid Wall.” Residents object to the fact that the wall was built beyond the original 1949 boundary, keeping them from living their daily lives. The International Court of Justice noted that it is a de-facto annexation of Palestinian land.

His outspoken opposition to the wall even got him arrested by Israel. Amnesty International took up his case. Their position is that a person should not be arrested for just stating their opinion, even if the government in power disagrees with it. He was eventually released and returned to public life with a new dedication to promoting peace in the Middle East and prosperity for his people. In his vision of the future, he sees a One State Solution for Israel and Palestine where all residents have an equal voice. He thinks foreign governments — particularly the United States’ — are a major factor in the region’s success; he asks Americans to boycott the Israeli settlements to put pressure on Israel to concede occupied land.

The United States promotes their “road map” as their guidelines for peace in the Middle East. President Obama reinforced his dedication to this plan in his May 17 2009 public discussion with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He opposed human rights violations on both sides, pointed out that the settlements are a major problem to the process, raised the problem Gaza’s isolation, and condemned attacks on Israeli civilians. He did not talk about the wall directly and officially supports the Two State Solution as the ultimate goal of the Middle East peace process.

If you would like to learn more, you can listen to the podcast Israel, Palestine and the Wall and other quality podcast include human interest stories and religion and politics.

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