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Discussion: Permanent State of War

Discussion: Permanent State of War

Discussion: Permanent State of War

NOW FOR AN ORIGINAL PAPER ASSIGNMENT:Discussion: Permanent State of War

Israel: Permanent State of War?

The term “state of war” can mean either

· (1)

an existential condition of armed conflict whether or not war has been officially declared or

· (2)

a legal condition arising from a declaration of war that in theory brings international law—specifically, the rules of warfare—into play.

This distinction is vital to an understanding of Israel, the “Arab World,” and the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict.

Like India, Israel came into being after World War II. The trouble is that most of today’s Jewish Israelis are relatively recent immigrants to the territory once known as Palestine. Surprisingly, there are 1.6 million Arab Israelis—fully 20% of the population.

But unlike India, Israel is a small state; its total population is only 8.2 million and its total territory is roughly the size of New Jersey. From its inception in 1948, Israel (see Figure 7.6) was enmeshed in controversy and surrounded by hostile Arab neighbors. In fact, Israel’s very birth was violent, resulting from a bitter and prolonged struggle with the indigenous population of Palestinian Arabs.

Israel is a secular state but a Jewish society. A great influx of Jews into Palestine followed on the heels of Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in the 1930s; however, the movement for a Jewish state in the modern era dates back to the 1890s. Zionism, as this movement was called, gathered momentum in 1917 with the famous Balfour Declaration, named for the then British foreign minister who authored the first official endorsement of the idea of a Jewish state. (At the time, Palestine was a virtual colony of Great Britain.)

Israel and the Holocaust are inextricably intertwined. The original idea backed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations after World War II was to carve two states out of the historic territory of Palestine—one for Jews and the other for Palestinian Arabs—and to make Jerusalem, sacred to three religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), an international city under the auspices of the United Nations. That idea died when the Palestinian Arabs rejected the deal they were offered in 1947—though the Jewish side accepted it. As a result of the ensuing war, most Palestinian Arabs were displaced by Jewish settlers and became refugees living in squalid camps in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank of Jordan, and Lebanon (see Figure 7.6).