Understanding the Origins of the Israel-Palestine War: Is Peace Possible?

Vijay Violet
6 min readOct 27, 2023


“Shalom,” said 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz as she turned and shook hands with her Hamas captor as she was being let go from being a hostage. Shalom means peace in Hebrew. Can there be peace?


We have to condemn the shocking depravity of Hamas militants who, on October 7, killed over a thousand in Israel and still hold over 200 hostages including the husband of Lifshitz. Their wickedness does not justify weeks of nonstop bombing on Gaza and killing of even more civilians in retaliation by the Israeli military either. The scale of death and destruction of lives of ordinary people on either side of the border is mind boggling with likely several thousands dead and injured and more than a million displaced in Gaza.

I watch a young woman in Israel sobbing, recalling the horrifying events at a music festival. A couple of days later, as bombs come down, I see a young woman in Gaza, crying and wondering how, where, or how long she would survive. I am distraught. I am also struck by how similar they are in their telling of their overwhelming sorrow, their appearances and accents, and their manners. They are Israelis and Palestinians, historically two oppressed people, two people who have even fought together against invaders and Crusaders. Two people so closely connected by geography yet distanced so far from each other because of the tragic events of history. Why are we where we are, and is there a path to peace?

To answer the first of the two questions, a short bit of geography first. This article is centered on the land of larger Palestine that includes the city of Jerusalem, present day Israel as well as the Palestine areas of Gaza and the West Bank. Israel is flanked on its west by the Gaza strip and the much larger West Bank to its east. West Bank gets its name because it is essentially the west bank of the Jordan river which separates Israel from its eastern neighbors Jordan and Syria. The population of the West Bank is about three and a half million of whom a quarter are Israeli settlers. The eastern Gaza strip is on the Mediterranean Sea and it is only 140 square miles in area but has over 2 million residents, most of whom are Palestinians. There may be about a million Palestinians who live in other countries. The Sinai desert of Egypt is to the south of Gaza.

A bit of ancient history next. People of Palestine in history include pagans and nomads, and of known religions and converts. History records that from over 2,000 years, Palestinians have moved, have been conquered, and from time to time, expelled. Civilizations that have controlled Palestine include Israelites (to whom the Jewish trace their ancestry), Persians (from Iran), Seleucids (from Greece), Romans (from Italy, who took to Christianity, between the first and the fifth centuries), Arabs (from Arabia, who followed Islam, between the seventh and 11th centuries), Byzantines (eastern Romans from Iraq, up until the 14th century), and Ottoman Turks (from Turkey, from the 15th century until World War I ended in 1918).

Rabbinical Judaism, the Jewish religion of today is traced to the first century which also marks the beginning of Christianity. Islam dates to the seventh century. The Jewish have been persecuted as early as the third century from the times of the Romans for political and religious reasons (the death of Jesus).

A bit on the formation of Israel. Centuries of antisemitism (hatred of Jews) in Europe gave impetus to the idea of Jewish a homeland, and they immigrated periodically with some buying land “discreetly” in Palestine beginning in the middle of the 19th century. The death of millions of Jews in the Holocaust and the end of World War II in 1945 got European nations and the United States behind the creation of Israel as a country with a Jewish majority population, not the least because they sought a home for their unwanted. The successful UN vote on a proposal for Israel in 1947 was contentious, close, and political. The proposal was to partition the larger Palestine area (also known as the mandatory Palestine from a century-old League of Nations mandate).

Formation of Israel did not have the backing of Palestinian Arabs. Here is a summary from Wikipedia: “Palestinian Arabs opposed the very idea of partition but reiterated that this partition plan was unfair: the majority of the land (56%) would go to a Jewish state, when Jews at that stage legally owned only 6–7% of it and remained a minority of the population (33% in 1946). There were also disproportionate allocations under the plan and the area under Jewish control contained 45% of the Palestinian population. The proposed Arab state was only given 45% of the land, much of which was unfit for agriculture.”

Just before and following the partition in 1947, the Israeli military forced out from present day Israel nearly 700,000 Palestinian Arabs who would become refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, and neighboring countries. The situation of the refugees likely worsened by the takeover of Gaza by Egypt and the West Bank by Jordan, immediately after partition. and again by the occupation of Israel following the six-day war twenty years later.

Last bit on the politics of Gaza. Hamas, the organization that controls the Gaza strip, has a militaristic wing that is responsible for the killings of
October 7 in Israel. Its implicit promise of resettling refugees on their original land into a larger Palestinian state, negating Israel, and its guarantees to fight corruption are among the reasons for its following in Gaza. In the last legislative election held in Gaza in 2006, Hamas won about 45% of the vote, 3% ahead of the party of Palestine President Abbas which controls the West Bank. Displeased with the democratic results in Gaza, Israel and the United States have hampered a political process from developing in Gaza and let the militant wing of Hamas to take control.

Hamas is in control in Gaza because President Abbas in the West Bank,
President Arafat before him, or other Palestinian leaders have not
shown a path whereby Palestinians can live in a state with freedom and
prosper alongside Israel. Israeli leadership, under current Prime Minister Netanyahu for 16 total years, despite Israel’s favorable deal in the UN partitioning, has done all it can to stop a Palestinian state from being realized: Settling the Palestinian West Bank (with over 600,000 residents), restricting life in Gaza severely, and creating conditions to keep the leaderships of Gaza and West Bank at odds. Statesmanship is lacking on all sides. The on-again, off-again engagement of American leaders in resolving the conflicts has not helped.

Toward a Palestinian state and peace. Any solution for peace must begin with Israel getting the vast majority of the Gaza population to its side. Bombs, cutting of fuel and water, and a failure to distinguish millions of civilians from a few thousand militants will only inflame the situation further, not just in Palestine but in the region. There is no quick large-scale military solution for peace, as both Russia and America found out after twenty years in Afghanistan and as Russia is finding out, after warring for nearly two years in Ukraine.

Israel needs a plan to earn the trust of its own citizens and Palestinians. Palestinians shouldn’t need to be competing with Israeli settlers for land and peace on the West Bank. They don’t need destruction in Gaza, but construction. They don’t need to be displaced and become refugees yet again, in Palestine or in other countries. What they need is the world’s support for a new state and resources for that state to thrive from Israel, America, Europe, and neighboring Arab states all of whom are responsible for the present state of Palestinians. Doubtless this will need a miracle in a world where these states themselves are deeply polarized. But is it too much to demand a miracle in Palestine for peace?

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

If you wish to be included in the mailing list to receive VijayViolet writings as they are published, please email vijayviolet2020@gmail.com with Subscribe in the subject line. To unsubscribe, write mail with Unsubscribe in the subject line. There will be no unwanted mails. Your email will not be distributed.



Vijay Violet

I am an American. I care about the planet, its people and animals. I care about the oppressed and marginalized. And I care about the poor, both working and not.