“No city in the world, not even Athens or Rome, ever played as great a role in the life of a nation for so long a time, as Jerusalem has done in the life of the Jewish people.” — David Ben-Gurion, Founding Father and Israel’s first PM.
“The victory march will continue until the Palestinian flag flies in Jerusalem and in all of Palestine.” — Yasser Arafat, Founder of PLO and first PM of Palestine National Authority (PNA).
‘O Jerusalem’ – the indefatigable sigh and the title of a widely read book by Larry Collins said it all ! Dating back from Moses to Jesus and from Athens to Romans and from Ottoman Empire to the present modern age of democracy – Jerusalem or ‘Jerusalem Question’ has been the hotbed hotspot of Crusade versus Jihad on the question of who will wrest its ownership with total control. Why ? Because it’s a ‘Holy City’ for all the believers of three Abrahamic faiths viz Judaism, Christinaity and Islam, only differing with the relative degree of that ‘holiness’.
Jerusalem is the ‘holiest’ for the Jews as the ‘indivisible eternal capital’ of the Judea civilization cum Jewish Kingdoms dating back to over 3000 years of antiquity from Moses to King David till date as its ‘official’ Capital City. The ‘Zion’ in ‘Zionism’ – the founding ideology of the ‘Jewish State of Israel’ of Theodor Herzl denotes a hill in Jerusalem where Moses gave his first sermon. Accordingly, it is ‘second holiest’ for the Christians as Jesus Chirst was born at Bethlehem in Jerusalem. It is ‘third holiest’ for Mohemmedans or Muslims as Prophet Muhammad was said to be ‘ascended to heaven’ from the ‘Al-Aqsa’ mosque (also called ‘Temple Mount’ by Jews) lies in Jerusalem.
Now, when the 1947 UN Partition Plan for the then British ‘Mandate Territory’ of Trans-Jordan and Palestine was passed with majority votes by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) – Jerusalem was designated as the ‘International City’, while creating ‘Two States Solution’ i.e. ‘Palestine’ for Arab Muslims (or Palestinians) and ‘Israel’ for the Jews to end endless Arab-Isreali conflicts. But while Israel or Jews ‘accepted’ it by founding an independent ‘State of Israel’ in May, 1948; Palestinians backed by Arab States or Muslim world (‘Ummah’) ‘rejected’ it as it “claimed” the entire territory as ‘theirs’ vowing to ‘wipe out all Jews’ from it, notwithstanding irrefutable ‘Biblical’ evidences of Jews being its real ‘sons of soil’ predating Islam by thousands of years.
And that’s the genesis or the proverbial ‘casus belli’ of the Arab-Isreal or the Israel-Palestine’s perennial conflicts since 1948 onwards till date that have seen three major wars with Isreali victories in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Nonetheless, ceaseless yet occasional ‘war of attritions’ between Israel and HAMAS since its founding in 1987 onwards as the US/EU listed ‘terrorist outfit’ has been ruling Gaza Strip post the 2005 Isreali disengagement from it, albeit undemocratically since 2006 when the ‘last election’ there took place till today.
Unfortunately, the official representative of the Palestinians i.e. the Palestine National Authority (PNA) under the 1993 Oslo Accord is now controlled by PLO with its headquarters at Ramallah in East Jerusalem is in ‘irretrievable crises’ marred in bloody fratricidal feuds with HAMAS who now controls Gaza Strip since 2006 and “claimed” itself to be the “only real representative” of the one million plus Palestinians (‘Arab Israelis’ by Israel) or roughly 14% of Israel’s total demography today.
Mainly two events count as the ‘immediate causes’ of the current Israel-Palestine violent flare ups now escalating into bloody ‘civil war’ between Jews and Muslims inside Jerusalem and between Israel and HAMAS whose rocket attacks targeting Jews settlements have been neutralised by the ‘Iron-Dome’ missile defence and befittingly answered by counter Israeli air strikes on its operating locations inside Gaza Strip. Firstly, eviction order of the Plaestinian ‘illegal encroachments’ at Abu-Jarrah locatity in Jerusalem by the Apex Court of Israel and secondly, the ‘Jerusalem Victory Day’ march on 10th May by some Israeli Jewish organisations to commemorate ‘Liberation of Jerusalem’ by Israel from Jordan during the ‘Six Day War’ of 1967.
As thousands of Palestinians gathered around the ‘Old City’ area of Jerusalem in support of the Palestinian settlers violating ‘status quo’ order by the Isreali authorities, police tried to stop them but the unruly mob then gathered inside the ‘Al-Aqsa’ mosque hurling stones, molotovs etc on Isreali police, who then compelled to storm the place in order to clear the world’s ‘most contested territory’. That unfolded the escalation of violent upsurge between the Jews and Muslims as HAMAS termed it as the third ‘Intifada’ (violent uprising against Jews/Israel). Consequently, HAMAS started ‘raining Israel’ with over several hundreds of rocket attacks targeting both military and civilian locations to which Israel swiftly responded with air strikes over HAMAS’s locations in Gaza Strip invoking Article 51 of the UN Charter that gives all UN members ‘right to self-defence’, killing its top commanders. Meanwhile, embattled Israeli PM Benjamin Nyatanyahu rejects ‘truce offer’ by HAMAS leadership as several Israeli citizens were killed and many badly injured in some rocket attacks as ‘Iron-Dome’ was overwhelmed by it and could not ‘kill’ a few that hit even Tel Aviv city. Now, HAMAS said that it’s also ready for war.
The current Israel-Palestine conflagration which is mainly the ‘clash of civilization’ (as coined by Samuel Huntington) between Islam and Judaism with ‘unquiet peace’ with PLO ruled PNA, has come at a time when many Arab States in Israeli neighbourhood viz UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia etc have already started the ‘normalization process’ by for the first time ‘officially recognizing’ the Jewish State of Israel, following the signing of ‘Abraham Accord’ between Israel and UAE, mediated by then US President Donald Trump in 2020. It badly hit the process.
While the global community, including Israel’s ally the US condemns HAMAS’s rocket attacks on Israel and defends Israel’s ‘right to self-defence’, Israel must also stop its ‘expansion plans’ of further Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem areas immediately as it’s one of main causes of the current civil war inside the ‘Holy City’ of Jerusalem, inhabited by Jews, Muslims and Christians.
And finally but unfortunately, the ‘Jerusalem Question’ shall remain ‘unresolved’ till posterity as while Israel or Jews will continue to consider it as its ‘undivide eternal capital’, Arabs or Palestinians will also continue to consider it as ‘their’ ‘indivisible capital’, while the rest of the world humanity can’t help but cry ‘O Jerusalem’ in despair, above all, with a long, deep sigh.
*Sourabh Jyoti Sharma, Assistant Professor, Political Science, Gauhati University, D.K. College.