The question ‘‘where is Palestine?’’ is heard quite often. In the 21st century, the giant search engine Google, of course, appears as the internet gateway to the world. So when the Palestine-Israel conflict is back on the table, plenty of people search Google to find the location of Palestine on world map. Obviously, they get confused and surprised because it is not there. Why is that?
Palestine, in theory, does not possess any land. In spite of its recognition as a sovereign state by the global community, the greater part of the territory referred to as “Palestine” is in reality controlled by Israel. The West Bank features semi-autonomous Palestinian power in some areas but is yet in actual fact under the control of Israel. Meanwhile, the Gaza strip is self-governed by Palestinians — but those Palestinians are Hamas, which is a terrorist organization and is unrecognized by the U.N. as a lawful representative of the Palestinian people.
The fact that Palestine is actually a landless state — or, in another sense, a state that has been long denied the land that rightfully belongs to it — makes it complicated to theorize as an actual country, even though many a world country recognize it as such.
But Palestine and Israel are neither easy nor simple to comprehend. As a result, plenty of people entirely tune out of the debate. The most common confusing things about the Israel-Palestine conflict are about some questions. They are: Should there be a Palestinian state? Should there be a Jewish state? Is Israel right to occupying the West Bank? Are Israel’s invasions and obstruction of Gaza acceptable in law? When Hamas fires rockets at Israel from Gaza, should that be considered as an act of armed resistance against an oppressor or, a violent act of aggression toward civilians?
Approving of a Jewish state, for instance, in no way implies that Israel is justified in its military action in Gaza. Supporting right-of-return for Palestinian refugees, likewise, does not essentially mean that people support the rockets Hamas fires at Israel.
The answer of the question ‘‘where is Palestine?’’ and the Palestine-Israel conflict simply can’t be summed up in a couple of paragraphs. One has got to know about the Suez Crisis, the Arab-Israeli War, the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the South Lebanon conflict, the First and Second Intifadas, and Operation Cast Lead, and the like. But to truly understand the modern phase of the question, people have to look back even farther — to World War I, the Balfour Declaration, and the U.N. Partition Plan for Palestine.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is an umbrella group that is largely recognized — by Israel and most of the countries in the world — as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. The two and a half a million Palestinians who live in the West Bank are not governed by the PLO. Rather, they live under the control of the Israeli military and the Palestinian National Authority (PA). PA is a self-governing body formed during the 1993 Oslo Accords to govern Gaza and the West Bank. The PA receives its legitimacy from the PLO but is not controlled directly by it. And like any government, the PA is controlled by a political party, currently Fatah.
But the Fatah’s authority does not extend to Gaza, where nearly two million Palestinians live. In Gaza, the legal governing body is Hamas, a Sunni Muslim terrorist group that won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections. Hamas and Fatah are direct rivals. They fight armed conflicts with one another and arrest each others’ members in their respective zones of control.
Notwithstanding the issues raised by the question of Palestine’s whereabouts, the irony is that plenty of individual Israelis and Palestinians get on all right in their personal lives. The leaders of Palestine and Israel do cooperate at times, especially in the West Bank. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has worked in concert with the Israeli government, mostly because they both share a common enemy in Hamas. This relationship, of course, does not always work out well for Palestinians.
Opinion by Rahad Abir