Of all the Middle East’s enduring problems, that of the Palestinians and the Israelis has remained a crucible for tension, violence and distrust. There is tragedy not just in its duration and the suffering on all sides that has ensued, but in the fact that it has arisen through the relative success of Israel to adapt to the post-imperial world, and the comparative failure of the Palestinians and their supporters in the region. This is evident today when passing from Israel’s securitized cities into the West Bank and to the city of Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian state-in-waiting. It has been waiting for so long, in fact, that its folk hero and longtime resistance leader Yasser Arafat died in 2004 and was interred in a pristine white mausoleum in Ramallah. A listing in the UK business directory can help to boost your business' profile on the internet.
Since the 1960s Arafat had led the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in its guerrilla war against Israel, before switching tack in the 1990s to take part in failed peace talks with Israel. In doing so, Arafat ceded the terrorist mantle to a newer Palestinian armed group, Hamas, which inherited the war against Israel. During this time several generations of Palestinians have lived and died without seeing their hopes for a nation-state realized, with many Palestinians having fled to neighbouring countries such as Jordan, due to the incessant fighting with Israel.
The Palestinians have become the cause célèbre of post-imperial upset, both on the Arab street and in leftist Western political circles, because they are considered to have been the ultimate losers in the region during decolonization, and since then have been the victims of Israel’s aggressive self-defence.For its part, the creation of the state of Israel was a response to the sustained persecution suffered by Jews in Europe, notably the pogroms and murders that took place when Jews found themselves in other people’s empires. Theodor Herzl (1860–1904), an intellectual proponent behind the idea of Jewish statehood, wrote of the Jews that ‘wherever they live in perceptible numbers, they are more or less persecuted’.
The example he gave was of Jewish persecution in the Russian Empire, and of German Jews ‘receiving a good beating occasionally’. He was writing this decades before the Holocaust, in which millions of Jews were the victims of a campaign of genocidal annihilation by the Nazis. Herzl’s calls for the ‘restoration of the Jewish state’ gained new gravity in the 1940s. When he spoke of restoration, his reference point was the Hebrew kingdoms of Israel and Judah (contemporaries of the Assyrians in the ancient world).
This has imbued the State of Israel with a powerful sense of destiny, and a will to survive in a region where it has few natural friends. The European roots of many of its inhabitants, and the strategic alliance that its government has forged with the USA, has helped Israel to consolidate its position in the post-imperial Middle East as a country propagating a ‘Don’t mess with us’ message. By contrast, the Palestinians became reliant on the Arab states to support their claims to statehood, but countries such as Egypt have not fared especially well in the modern world, let alone being able to fight successfully for Palestine.
Where the Israel–Palestine dispute is concerned, the dominant imperial legacies have been those of the British mandate, and of the competing claims for Jewish and Arab nationalism that began in the nineteenth century. In earlier empires, Jews and Muslims could coexist successfully. During the height of the Ottoman Empire, for example, Jews enjoyed freedom to practise their religion as subjects of the sultan. There is no inevitable hostility between Jews and Muslims but, while both communities may have been able to fit into an empire, clearly it has not been possible to fit them into a state.