ISRAEL PALESTINE CONFLICT 2021: AN ANALYSIS

Reading time : 12 minutes

Introduction

Israel is the only Jewish country in the world. It is located in the middle-east, to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital but the status has not been internationally recognized yet. Palestine is the area between the eastern Mediterranean region and the river Jordan basically including parts of modern Israel, the Palestinian territories of Gaza Strip and the West Bank (West of the Jordan River). The Arab population shifted to Palestine call themselves Palestinians. Palestine was taken over by the British after the defeat of Ottoman Expire in the World War I. Palestine population consisted of Jews in minority and Arabs in majority. After british rule was over, the United Nations proposed a plan to partition Palestine into independent two parts: independent Jewish and independent Arab. Moreover, the city of Jerusalem was declared as an international territory and accorded a special status as it was claimed by both Arabs and Jews.[1]

History of Conflicts

The waves of conflicts between the Jews and Palestinians aroused after some time lapses. The very first cause of clash had been Jerusalem. Jerusalem is claimed by both the sections of population. Jerusalem is claimed by the Israel as its unified, eternal capital. In 1967 Mideast war, it captured east Jerusalem including the Old City, West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians claimed these territories to be theirs and wanted east Jerusalem to serve as the eventual capital. But without any international recognition, Israel took over the eastern part of Jerusalem too.[2]  

Another cause of tension between the Jews and Palestinians was establishment of “National Home” in Palestine for the Jewish people. It was a privilege for Jews being an ancestral home but was objected by the Arabs. They claim their rights and ownership over the land.[3] This led to tensions between the two sections of population.

Moreover, in 1920s and 1940s, the Jew population started to increase due to the Holocaust of World War II. They fled from European persecution in order to seek shelter. With the growth in Jewish population, the incidents of violence between both populations also increased. When the UN proposed for two individual and independent states for Arabs and Jews in 1947, the step was accepted by the Jews but declined by the Arabs. So, the plan was not implemented due to the clash in opinion.[4]

The war of 1967 lasted for about 6 days where Israel annexed Gaza, Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights, West Bank and East Jerusalem which led to aggression among the Arabs. Israel offered to compromise and return the territories but with two conditions i.e., Arab recognition of Israel’s right to exist and guarantee against any attacks in the future. The Arabs again rejected the peace agreement. Israel is still expanding its area by annexing territories and ruling over them. This ignites fire among the Palestinians who no doubt want a peace agreement, but the Jews are already making establishments in the area annexed so that if question of partition raises in future, the circumstances put a bar on such idea.[5]

Violence of 2014

The conflict of 2014 between the Israeli and Palestinian entities due to the mutual exclusiveness between the Israeli Authorities and Hamas.[6] Hamas is a militant group that is focused on being a resistance towards the illegal occupations of territories by Israel.  They took control over Gaza by winning the elections in 2006. It is considered as a terrorist group by the Israel. Israel and Egypt also placed blockade at the borders in order to check the supply of weapons in Gaza to stop the future attacks. Hamas and Israel fought a no. of wars among which the violence of 2014 was the worst which lasted for almost 50 days and a no. of innocent people were killed in it. The peace negotiations are never accepted by both and often led to wars between Palestinians and Israel. Similarly, instead of maintaining a peaceful situation, the peace negotiations led to a war. Israel and Hamas refused to accept each other as legitimate political actors which in fact worsened their political relations.[7] In 2014 peace negotiations did not work out well as Israel did not defy to free the prisoner it as per previous promises. Moreover, Israel announced its upcoming settlements in the East Jerusalem which added fuel to fire. Hamas and Fatah responded to this by announcing their control ober West Bank and Gaza and they announced elections for 2015. This led to increase in tensions between Israel and Palestine.[8]

Hamas began conducting terrorist activities against Israel and abducted three Israeli teenagers in June 2014 and consequently murdered them. This led to a war between Hamas and Israel which lasted for 50 days. Israel claimed that the children were killed by Palestinians. In response to this, Israel burnt alive a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem. This further escalated the tensions leading to extreme violence in July, 2014. Further, on 26 August, 2014, the war came to an end in a ceasefire brokered by Egypt. As per the statistics, this war led to deaths of huge masses. Israel caused many devastations including killing a no. of civilians, leaving many homeless and injuring many. The loss caused to Gaza was estimated to be approximately $7.8 billion. While Hamas and Fatah started operations of abducting Israeli teenagers, Israel tightened its security and ordered to conduct manhunt operations in the West Bank.[9]

The 2020 conflict

After the elections of 2020, the largest parties of Israel came together and declared its forthcoming annexations of territories in the West Bank in July. Further, Donald Trump announced Israel’s sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the plans of expanding the illegal settlements in the West Bank. The plans of annexation were not executed due to certainties including COVID-19, PM’s corruption charges, diplomatic deals between UAE and Bahrain. The Israeli forces killed an Islamic Jihad operative in retaliation to which the Palestinian armed group Islamic Jihad fired rockets and mortar shells from Gaza into Israel. This caused minor injuries to around 20 people. Later, Israel conducted enormous air strikes.[10]

In August and September Israel launched a number of air strikes against Gaza in response to the attacks done by them via incendiary balloons and kites. As a consequence, Palestine launches rockets. In this way, the conflict escalated. Following this, Israel launched airstrikes in Lebanon and Syria as it was believed they also conducted attacks on Israel. Further, in July the District Court rejected the claim of revoking the license of a company which targeted international surveillance.

Apart from this, the govt. of Israel continued to torture people, violated their human rights, practised discrimination, restricted the movements along borders into Gaza. Moreover, the continued establishment of settlements in West Bank was carried on even when such an act is not within the ambit of International Humanitarian Law. This further increased the intensity of aggression between the Israel and Palestine.

Conflict of 2021

The conflicts of 2021 arouse due to certain causes including:

  1. Barricades outside Old City’s Damascus Gate: The clash began during the festival of Ramadan, a holy festival of Muslims when the Israeli police placed barricades outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate which is a place for gathering after the Muslims offer prayers during Ramadan.[11] Muslims often end their fast by offering prayers in this place in the night. This year, the police sealed the area including the stairs all around the place in order to avoid any gathering. Apart from this, police also used water cannons on people to avoid gatherings. It was believed that this was done by Israel to block the gathering and escalate the religious disturbances and violence. The Damascus Gate became an epicenter of protests after the step taken by the police to barricade the area. During an interview, the Police Commissioner said that such gatherings are usually prohibited during Ramadan but the past trends when checked via video footages showed other way round. No such prohibitions were seen in past. The restrictions were something new. These barriers were later removed after protests were organized against the action.[12]

Old City’s Damascus Gate

The Damascus Gate is well known as Bab al-Amud in Arabic which is a place of high significance for the people residing in East Jerusalem. The name Bab al-Amud implies to the tall tower erected in the courtyard of the place. Damascus Gate has been a focal point of protests since 1967 war when Israel annexed East Jerusalem. At that time, buses from Damascus Gate used to rescue Palestinians fleeing to Jordan. Since then, the place has been a site for significant events.[13]

  • Threats of eviction by the Israeli Authorities: The Israeli authorities threatened eviction of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, neighborhood of Jerusalem. During 1956 tensions, some Palestinian refugees fled to Sheikh Jarrah where some houses were built by the government of Jordan and the UN. These families often get involved in conflicts with the Jews who seek to acquire the properties. In the 1967 war between Israel and some Arab countries, Israel took over east Jerusalem including Sheikh Jarrah and annexed it in 1980. Many countries do not recognize Israel’s act of taking control over ease Jerusalem. Later in 1972, Jewish settlers started raising conflicts and questioning the ownership of the Palestinians over the land they occupied. This further raised conflicts which stand unsolved even today. The settlers claim to have legal rights which permit them to recover property abandoned in the 1948 war. But there is no law which permits Palestinians to claim ownership on the land they had to leave due to violence and similar circumstances. The Palestinian families have been struggling to fight these Israelis claiming rights over the property in the courts since 2008. The courts gave judgement against the Palestinians and hence giving Israeli settlers the rights over property and imminent eviction threats to the Palestinians. This further escalated the tensions as protests were organized by Palestinians. The United Nations National Commission for Human Rights considered this eviction to be a potential war crime. The two simultaneous incidents provoked Palestinians to stand against the Israeli authorities. While Israeli authorities are giving rights to the Israeli settlers to expand their settlements, it is exploiting the Palestinian families and hence paving way for more and more conflicts. Taking into consideration the interests of the families threatened to be evicted, a no, of protests have been conducted in West Bank.[14]
  • The AL Aqsa Mosque incident: Police entered the Al Aqsa Mosque and fired tear gas on the Palestinian people offering Friday prayers. Al Aqsa Mosque is a holy place where only Muslims are allowed to worship and no other religion is allowed to. The move came right after the ceasefire after 11 days long clashes in which Israel and Palestine caused destructions to each other’s land and people using rockets. In the afternoon, the Palestinians were gathered to support the Palestinians in Gaza. The Israeli police claimed that the Palestinians pelted stones and petrol bombs on the police and police in order to defend themselves had to act in retaliation and use stun grenades. Many Palestinians were wounded in the incident. Moreover, Hamas which rules a territory of the Gaza issued an ultimatum to the Israel warning the authorities to remove its forces from the two significant places including Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Aqsa which Israel did not follow. Moreover, the far-right Israelis were conducting a provocative rally at the Al- Aqsa which further provoked Hamas to take action. Later, Hamas started firing rockets in Israel. This provoked Israel which resulted in Israel launching airstrikes in Gaza and West Bank. It also used tanks to destroy the tunnels between Gaza and Israel.  Hundreds of people protesting in the sites were gathered out of which many were killed and many were wounded. Masses if Civilians were also killed.

Human cost due to the conflicts

Conflicts often lead to heavy devastations resulting in death, injuries and other losses. Huge destruction is usually caused to human lives. The conflicts between Israel and Palestine have sacrificed a large no. of lives. As per the data published by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the no. of casualties in the Palestine between 2008-2020 was reported to be 5600 approximately and around 1,15,000 were injured. Looking at the figured of casualties and injuries in Israel, the reports found that around 250 Israelis died while 5600 were injured during the same period.[15][16]

The above given chart shows the human cost due to the conflicts between Israel and Palestine in 2008-2020. It shows that the no. of casualties is more in Palestine as compared to Israel. The no. of deaths and injuries had been the considerable during the 2014 conflict where around 19860 Palestinians and 2796 Israelis were wounded and a considerable number of them were killed. The highest no. of Palestinians (approximately 31558) died in 2018. This shows the violation of human rights and sacrifice of human lives take place at larger extent during these conflicts.

The recent conflict of 2021 has also caused a lot of sacrifice of human lives. As per the reports by UN OCHA, 253 people were killed in Gaza including 66 children. 12 casualties were also reported in Israel which included 2 children.[17]

Human Rights Violation

The tensions between Israel and Palestine have not only taken away the lives of many innocent ones, but also taken away the human rights of the one who survived through during these rough times. Israel continuously discriminated the Palestinians, displaced a no. of them by demolishing their homes, occupied areas illegally and imposed coercive measures in West Bank, East Jerusalem and other areas annexed by it. Some significant human rights violations have been listed under:

  • Forcible transfers, forced evictions and demolitions

The Palestinians were forcibly transferred and evicted from the Jerusalem. Israeli authorities demolished a no. of Palestinian residents from the West Bank, Eas Jerusalem and displaced a lot of them. “Israel demolished 848 Palestinian residential and livelihood structures in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, displacing 996 people, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).”[18] The houses that were donated by the Jordan govt. and Egypt were also taken away from Palestinians and demolished. Moreover, it punitively demolished many homes, leaving the residing Palestinians homeless. Punitive demolitions are prohibited under the international law. So, this is a clear violation of human rights.

  • Discrimination

Israel practised discrimination among the Palestinians and the Israelis while planning policies, preparing budget and even in political participation. According to reports, Israel made over 65 laws that causes discriminates towards Palestinians.[19]  The local Palestinians also protested against the discriminated policies of budget allocation providing only 1.7% budgetary allocation towards the Palestinians who comprised of 20% of population. A no. Of petitions were also filed regarding the same but to no avail. Moreover, if somebody from West Bank and Gaza married a Palestinian, he/she was denied right to nationality. The Palestinians were also denied right to access education. Even the facility of vaccine for COVID-19 was discriminatively distributed among the Israeli population ignoring the Palestinians.[20]   

  • Unlawful killings and excessive use of force

Israeli authorities misused the power and ignored the humanitarian laws while killing people unlawfully. The operations of search and arrest conducted while unlawfully imposing the coercive laws are outside the ambit of human rights. The people of Palestine were killed using ammunition, or other excessive force. Moreover, excessive force was also used against the Palestinian protesters e.g., by using water cannons, grenades, etc. This is a crystal-clear violation of human rights. Other examples of inhuman activities of Israelis include opening fire on farmers and fishermen in Gaza, shooting a nine-year old in the eye.[21]

  • Freedom of Movement

Israel infringed the freedom of Palestinians by blocking the borders. It restricted the movement of people and goods by way of blocking the air, land and sea, infringing the human rights of freedom of the Gaza’s population. Further, the supply of electricity was also reduced due to prevention of entry of fuel and other related material which was previously available for only 4 hours a day. The permits to enter Israel are cancelled even for urgent matters which lead to gross violation of freedom rights. This causes violation of rights to access health, conduct business activities and education. The lack of proper health facilities affected the Palestinians in a worst way as they were not allowed entry in Israel and denied movement anywhere.[22]

  • Arbitrary Detention

Israeli authorities conducted search and arrest operations, raids in the West Bank and arrested a no. of Palestinians during the night. The arrested ones were detained in Israel with the other Palestinians similarly arrested.  “This is a violation of International Humanitarian laws which prohibits the transfers of detained into the territory of the occupying power.”[23] Even the families of the detained were not allowed to see them in prisons. The Israeli forces illegally detained people giving them not rights of freedom without a reasonable cause. Even children were arrested and interrogated without the presence of their parents and kept in adult prisons. The international laws children should not be detained and detention in their case is to be considered a last resort that too for the shortest possible time.[24]

  • Freedoms of Expression and Association

The authorities of Israel did their best to supress the freedom of Palestinians to express themselves and to form any associations. For this, they conducted raids, search and arrest operations, movement restrictions against those who criticised the actions of Israel in any way. Moreover, the human rights bodies were not allowed to enter Israel which would otherwise show how the human rights are violated at a huge extent. The petition filed by Amnesty Internationals regarding the violation of fundamental rights due to arbitrary travel ban imposed on its employee was also rejected.[25]  

  • Miscellaneous

Apart from the aforementioned rights, other human rights were also violated which includes gender-based violence, violation of rights of refugees, unfair trials, ill-treatment and torture of the Palestinians. It is noted that around 21 women have been killed as a consequence of such violence towards Palestinian citizens. Moreover, prosecution of Palestinian citizens (including the children, women and old) in the courts is a violation of international human rights which have been continuously ignored by Israel like anything. Further, the arrested Palestinians have been treated in a worst manner including beating, slapping, painful shackling, threats of violence against violence and were solitarily confined violating all their human rights.

Conclusion

The conflicts between Israel and Palestine are carried forward from the past conflicts.  The situation cannot be settled without a concerned international authority interfering and taking necessary steps to avoid the conflicts. The Peace agreement has been prepared many a times but is never implemented. The recent Peace Agreement proposed by the former US President Donald Trump has been rejected by Palestine calling it to be one-sided. Wars should not be considered as a solution but efforts should be made by both the parties in order to restore peace. An appropriate authority on international level should come forward to help resolve the conflict as the destruction of so many lives, property and human rights is not merely an internal matter. The demands and negotiations of both the parties should be considered and both should be heard equally applying the principle of ‘audi alteram partem’ should be applied and both the parties should come to a resolution to bring peace and let the people of nation enjoy their lives with freedom. Israel should resort to providing all the human rights to the Palestinians and prevent evicting them. At the same time, Palestine should also co-ordinate with making a peace deal and signing it.

Besides, the human rights laws should also be taken care of. No human should live in inhuman conditions without enjoying the freedom and his rights. The peace deed should be made giving everyone right to equality without any type of discrimination. All the religions should be given equal priority to avoid riots and protests on the basis of religion. Moreover, the rights to move freely anywhere and form associations should be given to the people. The casualties and devastation caused by both Israel and Palestine should be considered and the reliefs should be given to the families of those dead, injured and to the ones whose homes have been demolished or have been left homeless during the war.

In a nutshell, both the parties should form a resolution to restore peace and take out solutions, War is not a solution to differentiated opinions. The resolutions on areas under conflicts should also be made so that in future no such conflict arises. Both Israel and Palestine should look into the losses the conflict has caused (in terms of lives, property, human rights) and would cause in future if continued and make appropriate deed to solve the situation. Therefore, peace agreement is the need of hour to solve the conflict.


[1] Staff and AP, History of the Israel-Palestinian Conflict and What’s Behind the Latest Clashes, available at https://www.nbcboston.com/news/national-international/history-of-the-israel-palestinian-conflict-and-whats-behind-the-latest-clashes/2380768/ (last visited on 20 June, 2021).

[2] ibid

[3] ibid

[4] Supra note 1

[5] Arosoaie, Aida. “Israel-Palestine”, 7 Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses 67 (2015).

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

[8] Supra note 5

[9] ibid

[10] ISRAEL AND OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES 2020, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/ (last visited 21 June, 2021).

[11] “Jerusalem’s Tahrir Square: Damascus Gate Is Latest Symbol of Palestinian Protest” available at https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-the-new-tahrir-square-damascus-gate-is-latest-symbol-of-palestinian-protest-1.9769190 (last visited on 21 June, 2021).

[12] Supra note 10

[13] Supra note 11

[14] Haley Ott & Ben Michelle, “Sheikh Jarrah: Why Palestinians are facing possible eviction in east Jerusalem” available at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/israel-palestinians-sheikh-jarrah-eviction-east-jerusalem-explained/ (last visited on 21 June, 2021).

[15] “The Human Cost of The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Over the Past Decade [Infographic]”, available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2021/05/12/the-human-cost-of-the-israeli-palestinian-conflict-over-the-past-decade-infographic/?sh=735ea94f457b (last visited on 21 June, 2021).

[16] ibid

[17] Supra note 15

[18] Supra note 10

[19] ibid

[20] Supra note 10

[21] ibid

[22] ibid

[23] ibid

[24] Supra note 10

[25] ibid

Author: Vandana, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

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