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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

October 18, 2023 - The History Behind the Israeli-Hamas War (and the final Triva answers)


A History Lesson

Time for a history lesson!  It occurs to me that many younger people are not very familiar with recent history, and unbelievably, that includes many on college faculties.  Sadly, too many think they are helping the cause of the stateless Palestinians by not criticizing Hamas’ terrorism, which is on the ruthless level of ISIS (which beheaded people) and Al Qaeda (which murdered 3,000 American civilians when it crashed planes into the World Trade Center in New York).  Not criticizing it  amounts to supporting it! They are wrong, and in fact, they are weakening the position of Palestinians by tying it to such terrorism, and at the same time to antisemitism.

It’s important to understand what happened in the past to better understand what is occurring right now between Israel and Hamas.  With that in mind, here’s a short course, off the top of my head.  It might provide the kind of knowledge some of today’s demonstrators and na├»ve supporters of Hamas seem to lack.

The Historical Facts

   Germany, whose economy was crippled by the Versailles Treaty ending the First World War, wanted to reverse that outcome, and assume the role of Europe’s most important power.  It quickly became clear during the 1930s that it would go to war again to gain hegemony over the European continent, and eventually, the world.  To unify Germans in this task, their dictator used brutal tactics against neighboring countries and all opposition, including vicious antisemitism resulting in the murder of 6,000,000 Jews in Europe, who supposedly were the blame for all of Germany’s problems. To stop German aggression, the Allied powers led by England and the United States, fought back and won World War Two in Europe by 1945. These are historical facts.

   Also at the end of the First World War, Germany’s Turkish ally, the Ottoman Empire, was dissected. Much of it was barren desert but some areas contained substantial cities. Great Britain and France took on the job of managing these "mandates' which is how these territories were then designated, an area the Turks had ruled for almost four centuries.  The area known as Palestine fell within the British Mandate and included Jerusalem, important to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. These are historical facts.

  After the First World War, for political reasons, the English declared that they would look favorably upon the establishment of a Jewish State in a portion of that Mandate, specifically in Palestine.  This was known as the Balfour Declaration.  Over the years, even under Ottoman rule, many Jews had purchased land there and there was a considerable Jewish population in Palestine, as well as an even larger population of Arabs. But there was no specific ethnic group of these Arabs known as Palestinians. Palestine was a geographic designation, not a racial or ethnic one. They were just the Arabs who were living in that area, little different from the Arabs in nearby parts of the former Ottoman Empire.  After World War Two, Jewish leadership in Palestine was loosely organized through an organization known as the Jewish Agency while Arabs there followed the leadership of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who during the Second World War, had allied himself with the German dictator. These are historical facts.

   To illustrate that being Palestinian was not the exclusive identity of Arabs there, the major musical organization based there was called the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, with its conductor and most of its members being Jewish.  After 1948, it just changed its name to the Israeli Symphony Orchestra.  This is a historical fact.

   Many of the Jewish survivors of the six million German murders during the war looked to Palestine as a new home, no other place appearing to want to welcome them in more than just token numbers.  The British, fearing the reaction of the Arabs there in their ‘Mandate’ that included Palestine, limited such immigration, but finally walked away from the problem in 1948, their ‘Mandate’ ending up in the lap of the United Nations for disposition. These are historical facts.

   In that year, 1948, the United Nations agreed to the partition of the territory referred to as Palestine, and voted to establish the State of Israel there on a portion partitioned off from the rest of the former British Mandate.  The rest was to be left under some sort of Arab control, in a ‘two-state’ arrangement with the new State of Israel, but this never happened. The surrounding Arab countries tried to prevent this partition plan from ever taking place and attacked the new-born State of Israel, which ended up with Israel winning its War of Independence and controlling all of Palestine, something that was never its intention.  These are historical facts.

   In addition to the area that became the State of Israel, this remainder of the British Mandate ended up in the control of Israel as occupied territory.  These lands had been intended to be a Palestinian state, peacefully co-existing next to Israel. (Until 1980, Jordan controlled the West Bank but was glad to eventually turn it over to Israel after Palestinian Arabs had tried to overthrow the Jordanian government through the Black September movement in the 1970s.) This Palestinian ‘state’ never came into being because the surrounding Arab states preferred to repeatedly attempt to entirely eliminate the State of Israel by cooperating with local terrorists and by military action. They never succeeded. These are historical facts.

    Nevertheless, some Arabs who had left Palestine after the Israeli victories in 1948 and 1967 eventually wanted to return there, as if nothing had happened. Some claimed they had been forced to leave but most others who left thought they would be back shortly after Arab victories that never happened.  But something else had happened, specifically the establishment of the State of Israel and its assuming of the administration of the other territories remaining in Palestine from the former British Mandate there.  These are historical facts.

   The Israelis did not go along with the idea of allowing the return of those that had left, fearing installing an enemy within, and have not allowed their return.  As a result, generations languish in ramshackle cities known as refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon, and in Gaza. Neighboring Arab nations did not want them either, Jordan for example finding out that they were a threat to its existing government.  This mindset, however, of returning to what was before 1948, and eliminating the State of Israel still exists among some of them.  It is more than a plea for ‘humanitarian’ treatment by Israel.  It is something Israeli fears, a denial and rewriting of history. See the maps following this article. These are historical facts.

   Arab politics complicated this. The original Arab opponents of the State of Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) led by Yasser Arafat, and groups succeeding it, were dominant in biblical Samaria and Judea, areas politically making up what is known as the West Bank. (as opposed to the east bank of the Jordan River, which was Jordan).   After the 1967 War, parts of the old British Mandate, outside of what became the borders of the State of Israel, eventually became Israeli-occupied territory.  These included the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights (eventually annexed to Israel for defensive purposes), and much of the Sinai peninsula, which was returned to Egypt in a peace treaty.  Jordan, which had annexed the West Bank after the 1948 War, and lost it in the 1967 War, was glad to be rid of it and officially turned it over to Israel in 1980.  These areas, despite their mostly Arab population, did contain some Israeli settlements. These are historical facts.

   Today’s government in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Authority, and its political arm, Fatah, are the descendants of the PLO and maintain a tenuous relationship with the State of Israel, upon which it depends economically, but has growing concern with Israeli settlements on the West Bank.  These are historical facts.

   Far more militant has been Hamas, a terrorist group which rules the Gaza Strip. a small enclave in the occupied territories bordering on Egypt and the sea, and which is like a cancer in Israel’s side.  Israel militarily occupied Gaza until 2006 when it pulled its troops out, generously leaving the area to govern itself within the territorial arrangement Israel developed for the parts of Palestine not part of Israel proper that it controlled.  Israel had assumed that Fatah, popular in the West Bank, would end up governing Gaza, but instead, the Gazans voted to put Hamas in charge, a terrorist group totally unwilling to cooperate with Israel and dedicated to its destruction by whatever means possible.  These are historical facts.

   Gaza was then cordoned off by Israel and for all purposes, it amounted to a city-state, ruled by terrorists. Some Arabs sometimes refer to it as an ‘open-air concentration camp’ because Israel still controlled its supply of water, food, medicines, and electricity, but without the presence of troops there.  While frequently attacking Israel, usually with smuggled-in rockets, Hamas’ recent incursion into nearby Israel was the most violent and bloody continuation of their attempts to destroy Israel.  If their invasion had any other lesser objective, it has not been announced.  Gaza’s population, over two million, is almost entirely made up of descendants of Palestinians who fled there to get away from direct or indirect Israeli rule. While their ‘government’ is composed of terrorists, they are not necessarily terrorists themselves, but being there exposes them to Israeli military acts of self-defense against Hamas targets intentionally mixed into civilian locations in Gaza. These are historical facts.

   Originally, Israel was quite willing to share Palestine with the Arabs as the UN’s partition plan had outlined.  When I was in Israel in the late twentieth Century, there were major highways connecting Gaza with the West Bank, the areas which theoretically would together form a Palestinian state, part of a ‘two state solution.’  Of course, Hamas, once in power did not accept that concept and those roads into and out of Gaza are now closed. I also recall that the wife of the Hamas leader in Gaza, stricken with cancer some years ago, was flown to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem for treatment.  That wouldn’t happen in today’s climate, either. The point is that a ‘two-state solution’ is not impossible.  These are historical facts.

   Contrary to Hamas’ terrorism, the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, and Fatah, its political arm, while still highly critical of Israel, an essential position for politicians to take when governing Palestinian Arabs, might accept a ‘two-state solution’ on the West Bank.  Lately, unfortunately, they have become increasingly militant due to the increase in the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, mentioned above, and the increasing role in Israeli politics played by nationalistic politicians, now necessary to Benjamin Netanyahu, who want nothing to do with a two-state solution. These are historical facts.

Concerns and Conclusions

   In this factual historic setting, there is immediate concern with the bloody tactics of Hamas terrorism, violating the rules of war by attacking, murdering, and kidnapping civilians to be held as hostages, resulting in the necessity of Israel taking military action to defend itself, which meant bombing and shelling of Hamas targets within the Gaza Strip, such actions also having an impact upon civilians there, among whom Hamas targets are intentionally dispersed.  Why did it happen now?  Add to this the cutting off of Gaza's access to food, water, and electricity, for which they depended upon Israel.  What did they expect when they attacked Israel last week? 

   There also is the role of neighboring states. Briefly, whether or not they admit it, Iran (which is not an Arab country) supports Hamas and another terrorist group, Hezbollah, active on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon and Syria.  Hezbollah clearly is a dangerous Iranian surrogate but is balanced by the United States’ standing behind the State of Israel, creating a tenuous stability on Israel’s northern border, with only minor skirmishing taking place thus far.  

   Iran is also Saudi Arabia’s adversary for leadership of the Muslim world and the Saudis have lately been seeking better relations with Israel. Some say this was the motivation for the recent Hamas attack on Israel, an attempt to chill this budding relationship.  

   Egypt and Jordan are trying to be everybody’s friend.  Recall that Jordan willingly gave up any claim to the West Bank in 1980, making it Israeli-controlled territory, but not part of the State of Israel.  Israel has also offered to transfer Gaza, which borders Egypt, to that country, but the Egyptians want no part of that.  And I haven’t even mentioned Syria, where the Russians are involved too, or the ancient religious split among Muslims between Shiites (like Iran) and Sunnis (like Saudi Arabia). Be sure to check out the maps following this article.

   My opinion is that somehow, we must get back to a two-state solution, presently opposed by both the current Israeli government and by Hamas. 

   I believe that a majority of the Arab population in territory occupied by Israel does not necessarily disagree with the idea of a ‘two-state solution.’  That might include the population of Gaza as well once Hamas becomes history. I also suspect that to be the preference of a majority of Israelis, despite the present nationalism of Israel’s right-wing politicians. Israel understandably would insist that any Palestinian state not be militarized. 

   That’s where we are today.  Sadly, too many think they are helping the cause of the stateless Palestinians by not criticizing Hamas’ terrorism, which is on the ruthless level of ISIS (which beheaded people) and Al Qaeda (which murdered 3,000 American civilians when it crashed planes into the World Trade Center in New York).  Not criticizing Hamas amounts to supporting it! Those who demonstrate as a sign of support for Hamas are not only wrong, but they are weakening the position of Palestinians by tying it to such terrorism, and at the same time to antisemitism. If someone chooses to be pro-Palestinian and participate in a demonstration, condemning Israel, they must decide how many of these historical facts they will accept, and how many of them they would ignore. 

   All of this has happened, is continuing to happen, and cannot be erased.  It is not just a matter of waving flags and signs demanding freedom for Palestinians and condemning Israel, or on the other side, insisting on revenge for Hamas’ bloody murders and kidnappings of innocent civilians.

    Arabs in the area known as Palestine, nowadays loosely referred to as Palestinians, were ruled by the Ottoman Turks for four centuries during which they lacked the ‘freedom’ they now demand, and then came rule by the British Mandate. Since 1949, however, they have ignored the opportunity of at last becoming an independent nation.  That is where a ‘two-state solution’ with Israel would at last bring them. 

    Take the time to read the article in the New Yorker Magazine Daily posting (10/15/23 ) dealing with attempts to reach a diplomatic solution to what is going on in Israel and Gaza today.  There is a link below.  Stay aware of the news coming out of President Biden's visit to the area. 

The starting point for restoring peace would require that extremists on both sides back off from nourishing the obstacles which have led to where we are today.  They must accept a ‘two-state solution.’  Both those in Israel who want it to be an entirely Jewish state within its ancient biblical borders and those Palestinians who want to entirely eradicate the State of Israel cannot ignore history.

   As I see it, such a solution would be on the upside for Palestinians and they should support it, turning away from violence against Israel, something that has hurt them as well from a political as well as a humanitarian aspect, especially in Gaza.  

   Israel would probably welcome it as well but in the interest of its self-defense, would insist (1) that the Palestinian state not be armed, and (2) that the nations supporting the Palestinians throughout the Middle East strongly buy into the arrangement, permanently abandoning any efforts to destroy the State of Israel.  Such an agreement, for example, would be worthless without Iranian assurances that they would no longer support groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and that is highly unlikely.  

Even if that happens, Israel has good reason to maintain military strength as its best defense. The recent Hamas attack will force Israel to correct the military and intelligence shortcomings that allowed that attack to occur, and adopt the slogan used to mark the Holocaust, 'Never Again.'

   Anyway, read the article in the New Yorker Magazine’s Daily posting (10/15/23), that concludes with ideas about the diplomatic role of the United States in all of this.  Find it at  https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/WhctKKZGhMLdWlCxJFNtpPkVVNZwhhfzPKkVrFlbBwbrcNlnRgcSLtMqcLNsQLKvzxxMhVG or you can simply CLICK HERE.   Continue to read daily newspapers with reporters on the scene, such as the New York Times.

   Historical facts have gotten us to this point and cannot be ignored, neither by the Palestinians, the Israelis nor those demonstrating on their behalf.


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Answers to ‘Trivia Quiz #12’  The following cities are all very close to the equator.  Can you name the ones north of the equator and the ones south of it?


Kuala Lumpur, Maylasia … North

Singapore  … North

Quito, Equador  … South

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic. of the Congo … South

Bogota, Colombia  … North

Jakarta, Indonesia … South


Note:  This will be the last Trivia Quiz for a while, at least until the turmoil in Israel is resolved.




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