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Violence stalks Gaza through history Palestinians have been the collateral of so many empires

Gaza City, under Israeli fire. (Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Gaza City, under Israeli fire. (Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu via Getty Images)


October 23, 2023   6 mins

Where does the story of Gaza begin? In this region, history — or histories, given that here there is no such thing as a singular history — is serially and violently contested. “Anyone who tells a story knows that most of the work of the telling is done in the choice of where the story begins,” my old professor Ian Lustick, author of several books about Israel, wrote recently. His point was that if your story begins on 7 October 2023, it is a straightforward tale, in which barbarians slaughter the innocents before the latter, flying the flag of the civilised world, launch their counterstrike, mete out retribution and defeat the aggressors.

Start the story at a different moment in time — 1948, say, when the grandparents of today’s Gazans were living in the area, now southern Israel, where Hamas terrorists committed their atrocities — and the crystalline certainties of the scenario above take on a different light.

But there are more than two options. We could begin our story much earlier than 1948, perhaps when the name Gaza was recorded for the first time: during the reign of the mighty, empire-building Thutmose III, 1,479–1,425 BC. By this time, Gaza had already been under the rule of the Pharaohs for several decades. The long view quickly reveals that contest is a constant in Gaza’s history. Wars surge up at intervals in great, seismic eruptions, before the territory settles into an equilibrium which in turn is shattered by another external invader.

Much of this turbulence can be attributed to Gaza’s strategic location. Hemmed in between the Mediterranean and the Sinai and Negev deserts, this coastal oasis has long been a desirable waypoint on the trade routes that criss-crossed the arid region. Both the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, in the 1st century BC, and the Arab geographer Al Muqaddasi in the 10th century AD, commented on its beauty and enviable location. Critically, as the last point before a desert crossing, it was also an essential stopping place for conquerors looking either east from Egypt or west from the Levant. All roads of conquest ran through Gaza.

Enter stage left, from the 12th century BC, among the most historically compelling of Gaza’s many occupiers: the pagan Philistines of Philistia, etymological forefathers of the Muslim Palestinians of Palestine. And here, as the Philistines came to blows with the Jewish tribes of the interior over access to the coast, arose the earliest signs of the conflict that continues 32 centuries later between the Palestinians and Israelis.

This was the Gaza of the Bible, in which the Israelite warrior Samson was chosen by the Old Testament God to rescue Israel from the Philistines. Tricked by Delilah into revealing the secret of his strength, Samson was eventually undone, his eyes gouged out before he was imprisoned in Gaza and put to work turning a massive millstone around and around in an endless ordeal. But he had the bitter last laugh, as he pulled down the Philistine temple on himself and his persecutors, killing everyone.

This apocalyptic vision of going round and round in circles before wreaking death and mutually assured destruction endures as the defining narrative of Israel and Gaza. Old Testament smiting becomes 21st-century Israeli airstrikes and Palestinian rockets, the violence circular and never-ending.

Gaza has been completely destroyed and emptied of its inhabitants before. Alexander the Great besieged the city in 332 BC. When it refused to surrender, his forces stormed its defences, put its men to the sword, and sold its children into slavery. The Hasmonean siege in 96 BC was another orgy of slaughter and destruction, this time launched by the Jewish king Alexander Jannaeus, ruler of Judaea, to seize Gaza from the Greeks. After these explosions of violence, the transfer of Gaza to Roman rule in 63 BC was comparatively peaceful, but after Rome officially switched to Christianity in 380, and the Bishop Porphyrius became bishop of Gaza in 395, he led a mob to loot and sack a city which had remained traditionally hostile to the followers of Christ. The city’s pagan gods and temples were destroyed in a fundamentalist frenzy. Last Thursday, 17 centuries later, St Porphyrius got his comeuppance when an Israeli airstrike shattered the church, the oldest in Gaza, that bore his name.

For a time, Byzantine prosperity succeeded the Pax Romana, before wars with the Persians brought renewed strife. While these two elderly leviathans slugged it out, in surged a new, nimble and faith-filled force. Muslim Arabs conquered Gaza in 637, only five years after the Prophet Mohammed’s death; a flurry of Levantine cities, including Damascus and Jerusalem, were taken during the same campaign. In time, Gaza became a significant intellectual and commercial centre — before an Arab civil war in 796 ruined it altogether. That Muslim-on-Muslim conflict was just one among many early harbingers of the deep intra-Arab tension and disunity — Arabs call it fitna — which would bedevil Middle Eastern politics from the 20th century. But after the devastation of the Crusader conquests, Saladin restored Muslim pride and prosperity to Gaza, ushering in a long period of Mamluk and then Ottoman rule, which persisted until 1917.

But so many of these earlier wars and conquests seem like here-today-gone-tomorrow disturbances when compared with the devastation of today. Ancient disputes have, in the past century or so, sharpened into arguably the world’s most tragically intractable and bloody conflict, in which victims are aggressors and aggressors victims.

Lustick chose 1948 to begin his summary of the current conflict, but one could equally start a few decades earlier, with the British seizure of Palestine from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire in 1917. That moment ushered in a new iteration of a conflict that has arguably never ended. Energetically lobbied by the Zionist movement, which wanted a Jewish homeland, Britain made a fateful decision that year. London’s Balfour Declaration which — in the words of the writer Arthur Koestler “one nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third”— promised “a national home for the Jewish people” in the land the Biblical God had promised to Israel. Mass Jewish immigration followed, accelerated by the rise of the Nazis: around 250,000 Jews came to Mandate Palestine between 1929 and the outbreak of the Second World War.

Hounded out of Palestine by the Jewish Irgun and Stern Gang terrorists in 1947, the British were unable to deliver on the second principle of the declaration: that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. Much — Palestinians would say everything — was then done by Israel to prejudice Palestinian rights. All-out conflict in 1948 led to triumph and statehood for Israel, and wholesale dispossession and disaster ­— the notorious nakba — for the Palestinians. Around 750,000 fled into exile or were expelled — mostly to the West Bank, controlled by Jordan, or Gaza, then in Egyptian hands. Prevented from either entering Egypt proper, which did not want to take in such enormous numbers, or returning to their homes in Israel, overnight they became stateless refugees.

In 1947, the UN’s partition plan, rejected by the Arabs, had proposed a Jewish state occupying 55% of the country. By 1949, Israel controlled 78% of Mandatory Palestine, leaving the Arabs occupying West Bank and Gaza, which together represented just 22% of the original territory.

Our story of Gaza takes another tragic turn at this point. Following its victory in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, Israel occupied Gaza, prefiguring a rise of Jewish settlements, illegal under international law, in the territory. Tensions escalated to the boiling point of the 1987 intifada, violent protests which killed more than 2,000 and which came to be emblematic — as Gaza itself has become — of Palestinian resistance. Further intifadas — killing more than 4,000 in the 2000s, and 273 in 2015–16 — surged out of the failure of the long-awaited 1993 Oslo accords to bring peace.

Meanwhile, into Gaza’s political arena stormed Hamas, making mincemeat of its secular rival Fatah. Hamas has no interest in politics or development. It clings to the dream of the destruction of Israel and has risen to power and prominence to become the face of Palestinian resistance in Gaza and beyond. As Ian Black writes in Enemies and Neighbours, a history of Israel and Palestine from 1917–2017, the Gaza Strip is “a permanent, festering — and often violent — reminder of the unresolved conflict between Arabs and Jews in the Holy Land”.

Bald statistics confirm the reality of its immiserated population. Of the 2.2 million Gazans, 68% are refugees. The poverty rate is 61%, unemployment over 46%. Over 73% of households receive humanitarian assistance, with more than 68% citing it as the main source of their income. This is what Palestinians mean when they talk about the daily violence of life under a blockade which has been in force since Hamas took power in 2007, leaving most Gazans shut in, their airspace and coastline controlled by Israel. There is no question of freedom or autonomy. This is fertile territory for resistance and hatred.

And when Gazans consider the future, it’s hard to discern a ray of hope. They can hardly look to the occupied West Bank for a model settlement. Abandoning the armed struggle, recognising Israel and accepting 22% of historic Palestine has brought the West Bank Palestinians little in the way of dividends. Its 87-year-old “leader”, Mahmoud Abbas, head of the corrupt, enfeebled and incompetent Palestinian Authority, is known derisively in some Israeli circles as the mayor of Ramallah. Meanwhile, the two-state solution is dead and the extremists in power on both sides are dancing on its grave.

“Peace between Israel and Palestine can assume neither meaning nor substance except in Gaza, which will be both the foundation and the keystone,” wrote Jean-Pierre Filiu, Professor of Middle East Studies at Paris’s Sciences Po in 2012. A decade later, Gaza finds itself once again a cauldron of conflict. Khaled, a Palestinian friend, messages me. He fears the worst for this refuge of refugees. “For me, the unbearable human suffering experienced by Gaza is made worse by the real threat of a repeat of the historical traumatic displacement of Palestinians that Gaza embodies.”

Today, as Gaza crumbles beneath the relentless barrage of strikes, braced for another deadly invasion, a new story will begin. One can only hope, in the words of the late Lebanese poet Nadia TuĂ©ni, writing about her beloved Beirut in 1986, that Gaza will survive: “Elle est mille fois morte, mille fois revĂ©cue.”


Justin Marozzi is a journalist, historian and travel writer.

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Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
9 months ago

Pretty good article up until the point where the author forgets to mention that the Arabs tried to remove Israel from the map in 1967, failed miserably, and were unable to accept that they lost. So Israel annexed some territory from those who picked a fight with them. Big whoop. Losing wars has consequences. Israel even gave up most of the territory they occupied including the Sinai Peninsula. At some point you have to accept that the Palestinians have made just about every bad geopolitical choice they could. As far as I’m concerned about this whole mess, I have no problem with criticizing Israel and their actions but if anyone pretends the Palestinians are just innocent victims I stop listening and caring.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

If it’s ok for Israel to annex territory by force, can they have any complaints if others try to do the same to them?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

How much territory has Israel annexed vs how much have they ceded in pursuit of peace?

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
9 months ago

Indeed. In surrendering the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt in 1979 Israel dismantled 18 settlements, 2 air force bases, a naval base, and gave back 23000 square miles (three times the area of Israel itself) and most of the oil resources under Israeli control. They’d all be pretty useful now.

Last edited 9 months ago by Stephen Walsh
Abe Stamm
Abe Stamm
9 months ago

Giving back the Sinai to Egypt and gifting the conquered Gaza to the ‘Palestinians’ represents the lions share of Israel’s spoils of war from 1948, 1967 and 1973. Syria will never get the Golan Heights back, it’s too strategic to Israeli national security. Jordan never wanted the West Bank back, or they would have fought for it, and it doesn’t belong the ‘Palestinians’, unless they can take it away from Israel in battle.
Look at a world map from 1800 or 1900, and see how many wars transferred lands from the losers to the winners. Look at what use to be called “colonial” Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, etc. and now are independent countries. But, knowing that the world accepts dramatic maps changes over time, and power transference in a post-colonial world, why is it only Israel that isn’t allowed to define its own original borders, or defend its right to absorb lands that it won in bloody battle? The answer: 125+ years of anti-Zionism mixed with thousands of years of antisemitism.

Last edited 9 months ago by Abe Stamm
Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The only thing the Israelis are complaining about is the way the West expects them to preserve their security with one hand tied behind their back.

P N
P N
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It is when you are attacked. That’s the crucial point you either don’t know about or pretend not to.
In 1967 Israel was attacked by the Arabs from all sides. At one point it looked like it would be wiped out. It begged Jordan not to join but Jordan did join. The Arabs, who number 22 states and 2.5 million square miles between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, can have no complaints when, after setting out to destroy a state the size of Wales, they end up losing and have to cede a tiny amount of territory. There has to be a price for launching failed invasions of your neighbours.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

If the Arabs had accepted the 1947 Partition Plan, or land for peace proposals after the 1967 war, which they didn’t, they’d be in a much stronger position now.

Presumably you believe millions of ethnic Germans should be allowed to resettle in Western Poland or the Czech borders?

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

There are two accounts of 1967. The simple one, as you have given, and the complex and more realistic one, as extensively documented by Ilan Pappe. A ‘greater Israel’ had been the plan for two decades, and Israel largely provoked the 1967 war.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
9 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

Provoked means what exactly? Israel forced 7 different states to declare war on it and then forced them to invade?

You seem to imply Arabs have no agency or control over themselves, just hot heads that can be provoked into a massive joint war. Pray tell, what might possibly make them so quick to invade a Jewish state?

Last edited 9 months ago by Nell Clover
Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
9 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Oh those Jews you know, they can do anything! Justin Marozzi in fact recently published a glowing review in the Spectator for a bizarre claim that the fleeing of Jews in Iraq in the 1950s was all apparently the doing of the fiendish Mossad, though his or why they would attempt that feat was left a little unclear.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Who invaded Israel?
Tensions were raised by Israel attempting to divert the water of the River Jordan.
The destruction of al-Samu.
Israel and Syria had been contesting their border region. Dayan: “Many of the firefights with the Syrians were deliberately provoked by Israel”.
Israel shot down 6 Syrian aircraft on the Ba’ath party anniversary on 7 April to humiliate the regime.
Nasser became convinced that Israel was trying to topple the Ba’ath regime (much Soviet disinfo here), and when Israel called up reserves, he blocked the Straits of Tiran but only moved men, not tanks, into the Sinai. Rabin: “We are now ready to hit him, if we want. there is no preparation for a war in Iraq or Jordan. I do not believe they are preparing an attack. The north is quiet, no dramatic developments [there]. We are equal in number of troops and tanks to Syria and Egypt together.”
As late as 21st May, it was decided that there was little threat in Govt, but the army was ‘gung-ho’. Israel attacked on 5 June, destroyed Egypt’s airforce on the ground and seized the Sinai in 3 days. Jordan shelled Jeruasalem. Israel annexed the West Bank. Israel captured the Golan Heights. All over in 6 days. 
Rabin in 1968: “I do not think Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent to the Sinai would not have been sufficient to launch an offensive war. He knew it and we knew it.”
We are told that Israel acted in self-defence, but since Ben-Gurion, Israel had wanted the land. There is so much more on this in Pappe’s The Biggest Prison on Earth, on the long history of this, and documenting what happened between 21 May and 5 June. US involvement. Analysis based on declassified info. Read it and make your own mind up.
However, I don’t know where you got the idea that anybody invaded Israel. Are you sure you are not thinking of 1973?

Last edited 9 months ago by Nik Jewell
Anna Clare Bryson
Anna Clare Bryson
9 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

Pappe’s work is riddled with errors, omissions and strained interpretations often based on wilful misquotation. For anyone interested, here’s a lengthy critique from way back in 1999….https://azure.org.il/article.php?id=313

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago

This is 1999. The above book was published in 2017. Further documents have been declassified, including CIA ones.
More generally, of course, you are going to be attacked when you challenge narratives. It’s what academics do. Other revisionist historians have been challenged.
In the account above, I have only pointed to reading further on 21st May – 5th June. The rest is common knowledge.
It is certainly not the case that seven nations invaded Israel in 1967, as claimed.

P N
P N
8 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

Read Ilan Pappe’s article “My Israeli Friends: This is Why I Support Palestinians” of 10 October in the Palestine Chronicle and you will hopefully realise how appalling an individual he is and that you will be embarrassed ever to cite him again. He is a blatant apologist for Hamas. Shame.

P N
P N
9 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

Israel provoked the 1967 by having the temerity to exist. Israel begged Jordan not to invade but Jordan still did. At one point it looked like Israel might not survive. But of course, the Israelis wanted it, they just love being attacked.

Romi Elnagar
Romi Elnagar
9 months ago
Reply to  P N

And how did Israel come to exist? By ETHNICALLY CLEANSING Palestinians, beginning with the famous Deir Yassin atrocity and more than 400 other Palestinian villages.
Were Israel ever to give back ALL the land it acquired by violence and terrorism, it would hardly be more than a small province at best. And most of the land it acquired by “buying” was land owned by absentee landlords, and when Zionists acquired those lands, they mercilessly and with clear racism intent pushed Arab farmers off the lands they and their forefathers had worked for centuries (as documented by people like Pappe’), with no regard for the human cost to those farmers. No wonder Arabs began to be angry with Zionists, decades before the Nakba!

P N
P N
8 months ago
Reply to  Romi Elnagar

Israel came to exist because following WW1, the League of Nations required Britain to create a state for Jews within the defeated Ottoman Empire. That’s what happens, or used to happen when you lose a war – you lose territory. Then the UN, as successor to the League of Nations, after WW2 and after the British left and after Israel had been attacked by the surrounding Arab states, recognised Israel as a state.

Please can you point to a country that did not come about as a result of violence.

Why should Israel give back land it occupied after being attacked?

Pappe? That man is a disgrace. His revisionism is bad enough but on 10th October he wrote an apology for Hamas terrorism in the Palestine Chronicle. Shame. Shame.

Last edited 8 months ago by P N
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
8 months ago
Reply to  Romi Elnagar

How selective an account. Jews were ethnically cleansed from several Arab states at precisely the same time without hardly a mention from anyone. This is a historical done deal. Millions of Indians were displaced in 1947, so we’re millions of Europeans in the post war period. Their great great grandchildren are not going back to their ancestral homelands.

You stoop to using the all purpose denunciation of racism against the Jews but defend it in the Arabs, where anti Semitic toxic materials are widely circulated.

Palestinian “anger” appears in your world to be an excuse for pogroms launched against unarmed Jews in several period including 1929. Jewish aggression= racism, Palestinian= justified anger and resistance. How balanced.

Last edited 8 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
8 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

Pappe is a complete outlier among historians, and takes away any agency from the Arab Muslim side of the conflict. He sounds an almost pathetic figure now. Nasser, whom I don’t think was an Israeli agent, did close the Straits of Tiran, in an attempt to economically strangle Israel. Jordan did intervene in that war, despite being warned not to. All the lands supposedly forming the Palestinian State were in Arab hands between 1948 and 1967, and indeed the Palestinians had full citizenship of Jordan at this time (which had been part of the original Mandate of Palestine).

Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

“Pretty good article up until the point where the author forgets to mention that the Arabs tried to remove Israel from the map in 1967, failed miserably, and were unable to accept that they lost”
And had tried it in 1948 too.

John Tyler
John Tyler
9 months ago

And how precisely does a two-state solution work when one of the states is utterly determined to wipe out every inhabitant of its neighbour, has no moral inhibitions about slaughtering neighbours, and is supported by useful fools in the western democracies (who they equally despise)?

This has nothing to do with history and everything to do with a hateful ideology.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
9 months ago

There’s no doubt the Palestinians have been badly mistreated throughout history, ancient and modern. A two-state solution is the only viable option IMO. Not sure either side is interested though.

However, I don’t think you can simply ignore the fact that Hamas is a corrupt, authoritarian, terrorist organization. It does not respect the lives of its enemies or its people. There is a reason Israel controls Gaza’s borders. Hamas started attacking Israel almost immediately after its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Split the territory roughly along the original partition, allowing small deviances for security. Say it will happen in 2030, which gives Israel 6 years to build whatever fortifications it believes it will need. Have a large demilitarised zone between the two, then after that date Israel has no duty of care to provide Palestine with anything

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Agreed. A two-state solution is the only humane answer. How we get there seems intractable at this point.

What bothers me most about the west right now is we take our freedom, security and prosperity for granted – like it will always be there. Yet it can all disappear in the blink of an eye.

Meanwhile, people are suffering the most miserable existence in areas across the globe. I want to say Israelis and Palestinians need to forget their grievances and move forward, but WTF do I know. I’ve never truly suffered a day in my life.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I don’t think a two-state solution is the answer at all. The Arab countries are fed up with the Palestinians: the firm trend over the last twenty years has been towards normalisation of relations. Israel should either offer Gaza to Egypt (who doesn’t want it), or absorb it into its own territory; and reach a settlement with Jordan over the West Bank. Those Palestinians who wish to continue to fight will be left as domestic terrorists sponsored by Iran (together of course with Hezbollah in Lebanon): not perfect, but manageable and certainly better than having them embedded in a civilian population outside the country’s borders. All this has been the direction of travel for some time: this latest atrocity is a desperate throw to try and revivify the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

The one state will quickly signal the end of Israel.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
9 months ago

Why?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
9 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

That would be just like allowing cancer cells to live within the liver and hoping it doesn’t spread to other organs.

Fiona English
Fiona English
9 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

What a disgusting comment!

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Hamas explicitly rejects the two state solution. Israel is not keen on it either. Only the deluded lefty-liberals of the West want to pursue it as they don’t want to face up to the reality that a major conflict is inevitable. Just like they cling on to the delusion of a nuclear deal with Iran rather than accept the inevitable that conflict is unavoidable.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

That’s like agreeing to building a new Afghanistan next door to you. A Palestinian state isn’t going to stop being Islamist in outlook and committed to a Muslim territory “from the river to the sea”. The only choices are a strong Islamic state dominating the area or a strong Jewish state dominating the area.

Last edited 9 months ago by Nell Clover
Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

So Isreal would be reduced to 55% of Mandatory Palestine, or perhaps less to accommodate a demilitarised zone, and left with completely indefensible borders. That would quickly be the end of Israel, and death to millions of Jews. Which is exactly what “Palestine free from the River to the Sea” means. Failure to acknowledge that is disingenuous.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
9 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Disingenuous. That seems to be the apt description of the entire ordeal, from the media to our elected leaders.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

When you say a ‘two-state’ solution, do you really mean that? If the Palestinians have a state, then it has to be just that. It should be a full plenipotentiary in supranational bodies. There can be no control over its borders, its defence, or its investors (Iran, Russia and China could all pour money into it).
If you put that on the table, then Palestinians might well be interested. Israel certainly would not, and justifiably so, the threat to its security would be intolerable.
If somehow a deal was struck where Palestine was never allowed to militarise, would we then prevent it from having advanced computing facilities, AI and CRISPR gene-editing technology? If we take these weaponisable threats away, then Palestine is looking less and less like an independent state.
Sadly, I am becoming more and more resigned to the idea that this all ends with the emptying of Gaza of Palestinians. It seems all but inevitable to me now. The fight now is about where they go.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
9 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

Their visceral hatred of their neighbors, codified in their belief system, qualifies them as a cancer to society. We ought to treat the cancer as we do in the human body.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Are you calling for genocide here Warren?

Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
9 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

You’re resigned to it and he wants it. God help us if the political caste share your sentiments.

Fiona English
Fiona English
9 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Wow, you really are dredging the depths of humanity here. Vile.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
9 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

It does seem intractable, but emptying Gaza of Palestinians would be a humanitarian crisis similar to the holocaust.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Agreed.

Fraoch A
Fraoch A
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I wd suggest that ye did a wee bit o’ research b4 ye make the erroneous claims in yer comment.

Abe Stamm
Abe Stamm
9 months ago

The modern term ‘Palestinians’ didn’t exist before Yasser Arafat and his terrorist PLO publicity team created it in the 1960’s to infer that displaced Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians, and Lebanese had an ancient right to lands within the 1948 borders of the nation of Israel, and then to the spoils of war which Israel annexed after the 1948, 1967, and 1973 wars. Israel was generous when returning the Sinai to Egypt and magnanimous when gifting Gaza to the former Egyptians who were disallowed their reabsorption and citizenship in the land of the Pharaohs. Israel rightly annexed the Golan Heights, captured from a defeated Syria, and they have every right to do as they please with the West Bank, formerly Jordanian territory, lost by them in battle against Israel.
The author of this article only sees the good in the Gazans and the bad in Israel. I have no patience for this lopsided pseudo-journalism.

Last edited 9 months ago by Abe Stamm
Romi Elnagar
Romi Elnagar
9 months ago
Reply to  Abe Stamm

The term “Palestinian” is an ancient one. The Bible refers to the Philistines, which is the Hebrew (and Arabic) cognate. Indeed, since there is no “P’ in Arabic, the word in that language for “Palestinians” is indeed “FILISTINIYEEN.”
I will ignore the rest of your Zionist self-serving nonsense, like “ancient right,” etc.

But, if you are referring to the Bible as the source of “ancient rights,” consider that when God “gave” the land of Palestine to the “children of Abraham,” also included were the progenitors of BOTH the Hebrew nation, through Jacob/Israel, and… SURPRISE!… the Arabs, through Haggar, Abraham’s Egyptian slave.
So much for God-as-real-estate-agent.
And shame on you for justifying massacres and genocide and land theft. Of course there has to be truth to counter all the lies from Israel. It’s not lop-sided. If anything is “lop-sided,” it is the continuous propaganda from our Zionist-controlled MSM.
And so, it is refreshing to see–at long last–a timid, but fair-minded attempt at rectifying that from Unherd. I had despaired that this site would ever attempt to publish ANYTHING that wasn’t pro-Israel any more.

Abe Stamm
Abe Stamm
8 months ago
Reply to  Romi Elnagar

I specifically stated ” the modern term ‘Palestinian’ “, making no reference to its antecedents in the Bible or ancient history. In terms of lands acquired in war, it’s traditionally considered the spoils of war, and you only have to look back at world maps from 100 or 200 years ago to see how it works. What was once the Ottoman Empire are now Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Hungary, Romania and some countries of the Middle East…what was the Austo-Hungarian Empire is now Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, Romania, Austria, etc.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
9 months ago

For the sake of clarification, the Zionist movement did NOT begin with the Balfour declaration at the end of WWI. The first Zionist settlers actually bought land legally from the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the 19th century, but this is rarely mentioned. A lot of Jews moved into the territory during the interwar years, but there were quite a few already there. Zionism was a true grassroots movement, and happened organically over time. Let’s remember this, they didn’t conquer the land, or demand it, or slaughter a bunch of civilians to cow their enemies into submission, they bought it and legally immigrated to their lands with the approval of the governments, first the Ottoman and then the British. They moved there en masse to the point that by 1948, when the partition was decided, it was largely decided by majority occupancy. The Jews were a vast majority in the territory given them, and they remain so today, with the modern state of Israel being over 80% Jewish. As the author points out, the area has been contested by outside empires for most of its history. The Israelis are the first to try to actually build their own nation there. If it hadn’t been for Zionism and the presence of Jews, I daresay that no such thing as Palestine would ever have existed, as that territory would have been divided between Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. The existence of Palestine has since biblical times been entirely theoretical. The existence of Israel, however, stands as a result of the efforts of Jewish people. Not an empire, not a nation, not a king, not a military junta, but hundreds of thousands of people voting with their feet and creating something that had not existed before.
As for the partition of 1948. The Jews accepted the partition for the sake of peace. It was the Arabs who chose war instead, thinking that they could easily defeat a foe they outnumbered with the aid of neighbors. The Arabs lost and paid the price one pays for losing wars. Germany never did get East Prussia or Alsace-Lorraine back, nor will they ever. Nobody questions that, and anybody who tried to bomb a cafe for these conquered German homelands would be labeled a criminal and a murderer and appropriately condemned. National boundaries and governments change over time based on the people inhabiting them. At some point, it is incumbent upon a population to accept the verdict of history and move on. Most of the Arab world has done this with regards to Israel. The chances of Egypt, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia riding to the aid of Hamas is quite low. Syria has their own problems to deal with. It’s past time for the Palestinians to take whatever they can get, make their peace with history, and finally and unequivocally reject terrorism as a solution to their political and social problems. They could have done so years ago and been well on their way to building a stable and peaceful nation. A small one, true, but Qatar, Switzerland, Singapore, and Taiwan have done pretty well for themselves, no? Instead they elected Hamas and clung to the destruction of Israel. They are paying the price for making bad choices. I have little sympathy for the vindictive, the antisemitic, the self-sabotaging, and the stupid.

Last edited 9 months ago by Steve Jolly
Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
9 months ago

The author says a lot, but leaves a lot out. The cycle of strife and violence stretching back to before the Mandate. The British selecting Amin Husseini to be Grand Mufti. Many particular decisions by both Jews and Arabs, each acting as their culture and history seemed to require but in ways incomprehensible and unacceptable to the other. That Balfour promised a “homeland” which in 1917 did not necessarily mean a nation-state. The impact of Nazi persecution before WW2 and the Jewish remnant after the War who had no place to live, none of which could be anticipated before it happened. The context of a postwar world awash in refugees far more numerous than the Arabs, who seemed not unique but one small group among others… except they were the one group whose people would not take them in. Black September in Jordan. Sadat making peace with Israel and then being assassinated by Muslim Brothers as a lesson to other Arab leaders.
So much…

Last edited 9 months ago by Martin Johnson
Nancy Kmaxim
Nancy Kmaxim
9 months ago

It’s difficult to understand justification of barbarism now using poorly understood events from millennia past. Time to grow up and face reality. Human nature is flawed. We need to do better. Stop donating to and sending your precious children to Harvard. They(your children) deserve better. Harvard needs to drag itself out of the sewer.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago

In 1967 many Englishman of my acquaintance had considerable sympathy for Israel. I suppose it was our natural tendency to support what we mistakenly thought was the ‘under dog’.

Some had reservations given the barbaric behaviour of Jewish terrorist groups during the Mandate nearly twenty years before, but most were prepared to forgive and forget. Thus Israel’s ‘preemptive strike’ or Pearl Harbour style attack was generally applauded.

Since that time the vast reservoir of pro Israeli support has inexorably drained away, particularly after the exposure of the ‘lies’ associated with The Six Day War’. Whether this situation can ever be remedied is hard to know, but the next few weeks in Gaza will probably give us the answer.

Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
9 months ago

No lingering affection for the Arab Legion?
BTW one is very much looking forward to seeing you at the Electric Ballroom in November for the Wolfe Tones. Does a man of your pedigree use ‘the tube’?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

Yes the Legion fought well, Glubb Pasha, KCB, CMG, DSO, OBE, MC. would have been proud.

I would think using the ‘tube’ from now until Christmas might be a rather hazardous affair if “you know who” get their act together.

Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
8 months ago

Have your club members given approval for another ‘Islamist’ terror attack? you cause to believe that will happen? Us plebs must continue to use public transport. I still remember the fear of the few passengers as we passed through Edgware Road on 8th July ’05.

R Wright
R Wright
9 months ago

Unherd commentators are not going to like your interpretation of history. They would rather pretend the Jewish fight to oust the British from Palestine never happened at all given the awkwardness it creates.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago

It’s drained away in the cause of swelling a dissatisfaction among people who wouldn’t ever go to these places, and who themselves would not tolerate living under a Hamas-style outfit longer than a week.

I have been there and have no answers. I feel sorrier for the local Christians. I would be up for making it easier for them to come here.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago

As I understand it, Britain changed its mind after 1917 and did quite a bit to dissuade Jewish immigration & to increase land allocation to the Arabs.

This was off the back of a pretty thin population in the area, of any ethnicity.

So is Koestler’s summing up accurate?