I’m sure I’ve mentioned this several times, but it needs a post of its own because so many people just don’t get it. The fundamental principle needed to understand the Arab-Israeli conflict is this:
Principle: Since long before the founding of the state of Israel, the Arabs have never accepted any degree of Jewish settlement in the Mideast, and have fought violently to kill or expel the Jews.
There were massacres of Jews by Arabs even before the Zionist period, as illustrated by the Pogrom of Tzfat in 1834. The Arab ‘riots’ of the 1920’s and 1930’s instigated by the pro-Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem are well known. In between the major wars of 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1972 there were always infiltrations, terrorism, bombings and shootings, etc. In the late ’70’s and early ’80’s, northern Israel was bombarded by Katyushas from Arafat’s enclave in Lebanon; in 1991 Saddam Hussein launched scud missiles at Tel Aviv. More recently there was the epidemic of bombings and shootings of the Oslo years, followed by the horrific suicide bombings of the second intifada, the Katyushas of 2006 and the Qassams from Gaza. And now we have the nuclear threats of Ahmadinijad. I’m sure I left a lot out.
The principle also has an important corollary:
Corollary: It’s not really about the Palestinians.
The entire Arab world plus Iran is arrayed against Israel. Indeed, it’s probably correct to view the Palestinians as a tool of more powerful regional interests in their struggle against Israel (otherwise how is it possible to understand the continued misery of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and their poor treatment by their hosts?)
There is also an important definition:
Occupation (when used by Arabs): noun meaning ‘Jews between the river and the sea’.
Although Israelis sometimes talk about the occupied territories of Judea and Samaria or the West Bank, the Arabs always talk about ‘the occupation’. This is because they mean the one that started in 1948.
So the next time somebody complains about the security fence, you can explain why there is a fence. When they say “the occupation is the cause of the conflict” you can point out that the conflict predates the occupation of the territories and even the founding of the state. And when they are upset about Israel violating Palestinian human rights, ask them about the basic rights of Jews to life and self-determination.