Israel vs. Palestine, Simplified

Can we decomplex the complex?

Happy Monday to all my beautiful babies. Last week we saw an overwhelming number of stories, but three big ones stood out:

  • More economic stuffs (things look pretty good).

  • No more masks!

  • Israel and Palestine in another conflict.

The first two are relatively simple and short. The Israel and Palestine conflict is almost impossible to summarize in one Jackal entry, but I can give a quick breakdown and hopefully point everyone towards to some good resources.

I should lay out my bias from the beginning: I work with a lot of Jewish people, have lived near Jews my whole life, and even one of my (many) stints as a restaurant worker in college was at a Jewish restaurant on the Upper East Side. I have also been to Israel, which was my first “real” trip outside of the U.S. (unless you count Mexico and Bermuda). I am a Zionist and I think Israelis and Jews around the world should have a safe haven to call home. I’m laying all of those facts out now so you can see why I am more likely to have a pro-Israel bias. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be fair.

I think one of the best breakdowns on the history of the conflict has been put together by the Council on Foreign Relations. The current conflict goes back about a century, although issues related to various claims on the region go back a lot further. They write:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rooted in a century-long territorial dispute over the Holy Land, a Middle Eastern region with great religious and historical significance to Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

Increasing numbers of Jews began moving to Ottoman Palestine—a predominately Arab region—following the 1896 publication of Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish State, which promoted the idea of a haven for Jews in their ancient homeland to escape anti-Semitism in Europe. The migration accelerated after the Holocaust of World War II, in which Nazi Germany killed six million Jews.

I think the last point is really important, and why you see increasing numbers of anti-Zionist groups and nations (such as Iran, for example) begin to dabble in Holocaust denial. If the Holocaust never happened, the the mass return of Jews to Israel is without a just cause. They continue:

In 1947, after years of Arab-Jewish violence, the UN General Assembly voted for the establishment of two states in Palestine, one Jewish and the other Arab. Shortly after, the Jewish community in Palestine declared Israel an independent state, prompting hundreds of thousands more Jews to emigrate, and precipitating a war launched by neighboring Arab states.

For their part, Palestinian Arabs say Jews have usurped their ancestral homeland with help from Western powers, including the United States and the United Kingdom. They refer to Israel’s establishment and its defeat of allied Arab armies in the 1948 war as the Nakba, or catastrophe, which the United Nations estimated uprooted more than seven hundred thousand Palestinians.

In the decades since, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has continually flared into conflict, including multistate wars, armed uprisings (intifadas), and terrorist acts. A major turning point was the 1967 Six-Day War, which culminated in Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. In its aftermath, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 242, which called for Israel to withdraw from occupied lands to secure and recognize borders in exchange for peace. The resolution lacked details, but nonetheless was a milestone, becoming the basis for future diplomacy to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

I think that is a good background. Historically, the region has included both Jews and Arabs, which lived together (not in perfect harmony, either) before the establishment of the nation of Israel. There are lots of silly arguments from pro-Israel supporters who basically say “Palestine” as a region or as a demonym isn’t actually real, which is silly. There is evidence that the region has been called Palestine (or some version of it in different languages) a thousand years before Jesus Christ showed up there. The first person to officially use the term is Greek historian Herodotus, 500 years before Christ. So, there is clearly a Palestine.

There is also clearly an Israel,1 but that became explicitly true to all of us after the State was established in 1948. And that’s really been the genesis for all of the region’s problems. It’s been a main sticking point for Western governments who are inclined to empathize with the Palestinians, but have had issues recognizing both Hamas and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) throughout the years, who - at times - refused to recognize Israel as a nation.

Hamas vs. PLO

These are the two organizations that run the two Palestinian territories within Israel: The Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Basically Hamas rules the Gaza Strip and PLO (or Fatah) runs the West Bank. In order to tell the story of both, you can really just start with the history of the PLO, which began as a Palestinian liberation movement that originally did not recognize Israel’s right to exist, sought to overthrow the Jewish state with violence, and were labeled a terrorist organization by the United States in the 1980s. These days, the PLO is secular, recognizes Israel, and seeks a resolution to the conflict by returning to the 1967 borders with mutually agreed-upon land swaps between Palestine and Israel.

Right now, Hamas is basically where the PLO was in the 1980s. In their original charter, Hamas called for the destruction of Israel through Islamic jihad. This has led to various issues for Palestinians on a diplomatic scale, since most Western governments (especially the U.S.) have issues with saying, “Gotta hear both sides,” when one of those sides is a pretty open terrorist organization. But Hamas changed their charter in 2017. Much like the PLO, Hamas has now seen the writing on the wall and has stated that they accept the 1967 borders of Israel. However, they still refuse to officially recognize the Jewish state (which is, again, a sticking point for Western governments).

In any case, it’s becoming more clear that both Hamas and PLO have come to the realization that Israel is not going anywhere, so both have copped to a return to the 1967 borders. Here is the problem with trying to return to those borders:

Within Israel, there is what’s called the Settler Movement, which is the movement of Israeli citizens into Palestinian territories (and also into the Golan heights, a region of Syria that is also controlled by Israel). The movement of settlers into these territories explicitly violates international law, which is a point that has been conceded by both Israel (to varying degrees) and the United States, at least until the Trump Administration changed U.S. policy.

The Current Conflict

While the Settler Movement is a driving force behind Israel and Palestine’s current conflict, it may not be the explicit cause. Regardless, it is always lingering in the background. For example, the fighting over the past week partially arose from tensions surrounding the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem (which is part of the West Bank). There were other factors too, namely the blocking of the Damascus Gate by Israeli police, and - probably most importantly - the Israeli raid of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (the third-holiest site in Islam) during the most important night of Ramadan. From the New York Times:

Twenty-seven days before the first rocket was fired from Gaza this week, a squad of Israeli police officers entered the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, brushed the Palestinian attendants aside and strode across its vast limestone courtyard. Then they cut the cables to the loudspeakers that broadcast prayers to the faithful from four medieval minarets.

It was the night of April 13, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It was also Memorial Day in Israel, which honors those who died fighting for the country. The Israeli president was delivering a speech at the Western Wall, a sacred Jewish site that lies below the mosque, and Israeli officials were concerned that the prayers would drown it out.

Many Palestinians in the West Bank feel (with good cause) that Israelis are pushing them out of neighborhoods and territories they have lived in for decades. And then there was this video that went viral in Israel, which showed the temple mount on fire and Israelis celebrating:

While it’s true that these Israelis were likely at the Western Wall for Jerusalem Day, the song they are singing prays for the Lord’s vengeance against the Philistines, and is one radical Israeli settlers sing to celebrate the removal of Palestinians. They also added ימח שמם", which means “Let his name be erased.” Not a great look.

Of course, you can contrast that bad look with this one, which is infinitely worse:

I think there are two fundamental points about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that anyone who is serious about having an honest discussion should concede:

  1. It is objectively true that Palestinians are mistreated by Israel. This has - in the past - been done through the settler movement, which has seen itself get more official support from the Israeli government in recent years (likely for political reasons, but Bibi Netanyahu is a whole other Jackal). And although the conflict over land in places like the West Bank is complicated, often going back centuries, Palestinians have fewer legal rights than Israeli settlers, who get the benefit of being treated as Israeli citizens in lands that are officially under military occupation.

  2. I am not sure how to address all of the problems outlined in point 1, but I can tell you that it is not Hamas. It is objectively true that in this conflict, Hamas fired first; they told Israel that if they did not leave the neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and the Temple Mount by 6 P.M., they would fire rockets into Israel and they followed through. One of Hamas’s senior leaders, Fathi Hamad, called on Palestinians to kill basically every Jew they see: “Seven million Palestinians outside, enough warming up, you have Jews with you in every place. You should attack every Jew possible in all the world and kill them.2

It’s an entirely heartbreaking conflict, because most Jews and Arabs in Israel and Palestine want to live in harmony together. I hope this was a helpful summary, but I hope even more that you will join me in praying for peace in the region. One last point from former Congressman Justin Amash, who I think sums it up nicely:

Really fast on the other news: We got official inflation numbers on Thursday. They were higher than expected but the general reaction from economists is that the under-the-hood analysis shows that we are on track for hitting the Fed’s targets for inflation (most of the higher prices were related to areas directly affected by the pandemic). Julia Coronado did a great interview with Bloomberg which you can watch here. She explains that even though inflation rose, all the effects feel “transitory,” which is a dreaded word that economists and government officials use that just means temporary. All in all, bad topline number, but good news underneath.

I will probably have a longer post on the significance of President Biden ending the mask ordinance (I have some early thoughts here), but it feels incredibly significant. There is a great read from the Washington Post on the confused messaging coming from the CDC. On a personal note, Elisabeth and I went to church in person for the first time in over a year. I cried, nbd. We are pushing through to the end of this nightmare. I hope to hug some of you really soon.

A final read on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis (there are links embedded above that you should 100% click on).

There is a great piece in the Atlantic about how Confederate lies still live on and it just missed the previous Jackal, so I’m including it now.

That’s it for me. If you got this far, good for you. It was a jam-packed Jackal, or a JPJ. Have a great week.


If you want to listen to a great discussion on the “anti-conservative” but noble desire to create a safe-haven for the Jewish people, listen to this answer from Andrew Sullivan.


To highlight how much the PLO has changed over the years, they officially condemned his statement.