Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Middle East


Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Middle East
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Middle East For centuries, the land where Israel is now established has been experienced fierce fighting and the control over this region has swapped hands many times. The Crusades were undertaken to gain control of Jerusalem and the Holy Land by Christian armies on numerous occasions throughout history. After World War II in 1947, the United Nations partitioned the land that was then known as Palestine and formed regions for Jewish immigrants to occupy because of Nazi persecution. Jewish settlers had already been living in many of these areas for years. Jewish settlers quickly consolidated control and declared their independence from the British Mandate of Palestine in 1948. Their Arab neighbors quickly invaded Jewish occupied areas in support of the Muslim Palestinians. The Jewish forces eventually won and established the country of Israel. Palestinians maintained control of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. In an attempt to re-establish control over Palestine, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was created in 1964. It is currently part of the Fatah political party in Palestinian territory. This organization was most famously led by Yasser Arafat from 1969 until 2004 and is currently led by Mahmoud Abbas. The PLO was listed as a terrorist organization until 1991. Arafat advocated guerilla warfare and many Arabs in Palestine became radicalized and carried out terrorist attacks. The military wing has been shown to be the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and is still designated as a terrorist organization. Hamas was founded in 1987 and is still listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. Hamas currently controls the Gaza Strip. Its military wing is the al-Qassam Brigades, which regularly attacks Israel with Katayusha and homemade rockets. They also smuggle illicit goods through tunnels from Egypt. Their coast with the Mediterranean Sea has been blockaded by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). On June 5, 1967 the Israelis launched a surprise attack against Jordan, Syria, and Egypt in what is now known as the Six-Day War, or the June War. Israel won fairly quickly and effectively quadrupled its size by gaining control from Egypt of the entire Sinai Peninsula all the way up to the Gulf of Suez, East Jerusalem from the Palestinians, and the Golan Heights from Syria. They also captured the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This war was seen as a total victory for Israel with relatively few casualties. It has been rumored that American President Lyndon B. Johnson authorized Israel to be supplied with a variety of weapons systems for this war but this claim is controversial and has been disputed. In September of 1970, in what is now known as “Black September,” King Hussein of Jordan attempted to expel the increasingly militant PLO from his country. The PLO was finally expelled in July of 1971 after heavy fighting. The organization and its forces then moved to Lebanon and established their base of control in that country. In the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich West Germany, members of the terrorist group Black September took the Israeli Olympic weight lifting team hostage. They eventually killed 11 team members during a botched rescue attempt by the West Germany police. Members of Black September contended that the operation was approved by Yasser Arafat and Fatah, but he and members of Fatah have always denied these allegations. The terrorists named their operation after the names of two Palestinian villages whose inhabitants were either killed or expelled by the Jews in 1948. Infuriated by the loss of so much land in the Six-Day War, the Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a successful surprise attack on Israel on October 6, 1973 in a war that is now known as the Yom Kippur War, named after the Jewish holiday that takes place at this time. Egypt and Syria made early successes and regained most of their land. The United States helped supply Israel during the war, and the Soviet Union provided support to Egypt and Syria. This made the situation all that more tense because the US and USSR were both nuclear powers. Israel launched a counteroffensive and regained much of the land it had just lost, although Israeli forces suffered many casualties. A ceasefire was brokered and the Sinai Peninsula was later returned to Egypt. The Golan Heights still remains under the control of Israel. Syria is the only Arab nation that has yet to sign a peace agreement with Israel. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to sign an agreement with Israel during the Camp David Accords in 1979. Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by members of an offshoot of the Arab Brotherhood, who were angered that an Arab leader would sign a treaty with Israel. Ayman al-Zawahiri had joined the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt at the age of 14 in 1965. He was Al-Qaeda’s second in command to Osama Bin Laden until Bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011. Al-Zawahiri then became the leader of Al-Qaeda. Lebanon experienced a very bloody civil war from 1975 to 1990. It is estimated that up to 230,000 were killed and approximately 1 million wounded. There had been a large contingent of Palestinian refugees in that country after their expulsion from Palestine in 1948. The PLO had militarized many of the refugee camps. It is believed that this is what sparked the civil war because of the increased availability of high powered weaponry. PLO militants launched attacks into Israel from Lebanon in 1977 and 1978 and ultimately caused the Israeli Defense Force to invade Lebanon and become entangled in the war. Israel eventually launched a bombing campaign in Beirut in 1981 which killed hundreds of civilians. They also laid siege to Beirut in 1982 after a heavy ground invasion. A cease fire was negotiated in 1982 and the PLO was expelled from the country. A multinational force that included US soldiers, oversaw this process. On 23 October, 1983, a massive suicide truck bombing struck the headquarters of the US and French forces. 241 American and 58 French soldiers were killed in the blast. The American forces withdrew from Lebanon the next year in February of 1984. During this Lebanese Civil War the terrorist organization Hezbollah was formed to resist the Israeli occupation. They claim to have drawn their inspiration from the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The Iranian Revolution saw the overthrow of Iran’s Monarchy under Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The Shah had largely been viewed by the Iranian people as a puppet regime that served American interests. Many Iranians were angered by what they viewed as a westernization of their culture. The Iran Hostage Crisis began on November 4, 1979 when youthful demonstrators overran the United States Embassy and took 52 American diplomats hostage. They were held for 444 days in Tehran. It is believed that the current president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, played a role in the siege of the American Embassy. In the early 1980s, Iran and Iraq went to war. It was a very bloody war and it is thought that the American government was helping to supply Saddam Hussein’s armies in Iraq. The Iranian and Iraqi forces lost a combined one million men. The two sides employed trench warfare reminiscent of conditions in France during World War I. In August of 1990 Iraqi forces invaded the oil rich nation of Kuwait. Largely due to heavy oil interests in the Persian Gulf Region, in 1991 the United States led an international coalition of forces into Kuwait and Iraq to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait. This led to UN sanctions against Iraq. The initiative was called Operation Desert Storm. The United States once again led an international coalition of troops into Iraq in March of 2003. This initiative was called Operation Iraqi Freedom. The American pretext for the invasion was to prevent Hussein’s forces from developing and deploying weapons of mass destruction.The Saddam Hussein regime was toppled and he was later hanged in December of 2006. On August 31, 2010, US forces ended combat missions in Iraq. The troops that remained served in an advisory role. Over 4,400 American soldiers were killed in Iraq. It turned out that Hussein never had weapons of mass destruction. Operation Iraqi Freedom was supported by the American public, because it was launched soon after al Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and many people – including President Bush – saw a connection between Hussein’s regime and al Qaeda. In retrospect, this alleged connection was viewed as non-existent – in fact, Hussein was a bitter foe of al Qaeda, which he saw as a threat to his autocratic regime. The South Lebanon Conflict took place from 1982 to 2000. This was a war fought between the Israeli Defense Force and Hezbollah in the “Security Zone” of South Lebanon. Hezbollah was able to entrench itself heavily with fortifications and earthworks in this zone over the years. They installed thousands of hidden and mobile Katyusha rocket launchers, many supplied by the Iranian military. The 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War was fought between Israeli forces and guerilla soldiers of Hezbollah. This took place over a period of 34 days and at least 1,200 people were killed, mostly civilians. Neither side gained advantage from this war. On September 11, 2001, The World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and an unknown landmark (possibly the Capitol) were the targets of a massive terrorist attack launched against the United States of America by al Qaeda. Nineteen suicide attackers hijacked four commercial jets and used them as guided missiles. Nearly 3,000 people were killed as a direct result of this attack. The attack started America’s current Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). The leader of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, eventually clamed responsibility for the attacks while he was hiding in Afghanistan. He specifically cited UN sanctions against Iraq, American soldiers in Saudi Arabia, and US support of Israel as the main reasons for the attacks. These attacks also led to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan against both the Taliban and al Qaeda . Many American soldiers have died in Afghanistan. After the United States military withdrew from Iraq in 2011, and after the bloody civil war started against Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria, there came a new threat from ISIS/ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq/Levant). They have carried out beheadings of American, British, Japanese and burned a Jordanian pilot alive. They control large swaths of territory all across Iraq and Syria and have been pushing closer to Turkey. The entire Middle East is worried about the spread of this group’s radical Islamic jihad ideology and it must be contained. As this short history demonstrates, the current terrorism problems that America is dealing with have international origins. This is not just a domestic issue we are dealing with. Terrorism is not simply the result of oppressive fundamental Islamists who are “jealous of our freedom” or want to institute Sharia law or to create a powerful Muslim Caliphate. The terrorists have very precise strategic goals and objectives. The attacks of September 11, 2001 were carefully planned over several years and carried out with military precision. Operatives of al Qaeda are not simply cave dwellers with no education and no hope. Many of them are well educated with families. They are driven by a cause that they feel is far more important than their own lives. Questions The five questions below are designed to enable you to apply your homeland security knowledge and insights to analyzing the single most significant source of terrorism facing the United States: the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. While we are not looking for lengthy answers to the questions, answers that are excessively short and superficial will be given grades of C or lower. To get Bs and As, you need to demonstrate that you understand the key issues contained in the questions and can provide intelligent commentary on them. In answering these questions, think like a homeland security expert whose advice is needed to help maintain safety from terrorism in the United States. 1) In your own words, explain how the threat of terrorism in the United States is inexorably linked to events in the Middle East, with an emphasis on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Name at least two specific terrorist attacks that were targeted against US interests here or abroad that may have been tied to our interest and involvement in the Middle East. (1/2 page to 1 page in length) 2) In your own opinion, has the United States taken sides in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? Which side does the United States seem to favor? Why do you think this is so? How does this tilt affect the US ability to serve as an honest broker in negotiations between Israel and Palestine? (1/2 page to 1 page in length) 3) Is it in the national interest of the United States be committed to finding a peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? If enduring peace could be found in Israel/Palestine, do you think this would end or drastically reduce terrorism targeted towards the United States? (1/2 page to 1 page in length) 4) If the United States withdrew from all military bases in the Middle East and stopped supporting Israel economically and militarily, do you think the terrorists would be satisfied and stop trying to attack the United States? On the other hand, do you think this would embolden the terrorists and increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks on United States interests here and abroad? Explain your answers. (1/2 page to 1 page in length) 5) Can the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) ever really be “won”? What could be considered victory? Did the death of Osama bin Laden really affect the outcome of this fight? (1/2 page to 1 page in length)
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