The Arab-Israeli conflict is the term to discuss the prolonged tensions between Arabs and Israelis which are based on differences in cultures, visions, values, religions, political paths, political orientations, and territory questions. From this point, the Arab-Israeli conflict can be discussed from the perspective of the conflict’s historic significance and from the perspective of its importance for Arabs and Israelis.
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In spite of the fact that the Arab-Israeli conflict has deep historic roots based on a range of political and military tensions, much attention should be paid to the role of cultures, ideologies, and religions in developing and resolving the conflict which divides Arabs and Israelis into two continuously conflicting camps (Landes, 2007, p. 845). That is why, the conflict can be analyzed not only through the historical lens but also from the anthropological perspective.
Thus, the causes of the Arab-Israeli conflict are in the opposition of Zionism followed by Israelis and Nationalistic ideas supported by Arabs; in differences regarding the nations’ mentality; in religious differences referred to Judaism and Islam’s values; in approaches to the culture of honor and shame; and in Israel’s orientation to the West when Arab countries follow the Eastern path of development.
The Historic Background of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
To understand the causes of the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is necessary to focus on the historic background or on the roots of the prolonged opposition between Arabs and Israelis. During the late part of the 19th century, the development of Zionism as the focus on the historic connection between the Jews and the lands of Palestine led to the active Arabs’ opposition because of their intentions to discuss the lands of the Jewish people as the Arabs’ historic territories (Ovendale, 2002, p. 20).
Arabs and Israelis supported their declared rights to obtain the lands referring to the histories of both the nations. Following the Hebrew Bible, the Palestinian lands belonged to Israelis. While referring to the Quran, the discussed lands were the Muslims’ ones, as it was mentioned in the scripts (Scham, 2006, p. 60). As a result, Arabs stated their rights to live at the Palestinian territories and intended to oust Israelis from these lands for ever in order to contribute to the Arabs’ unity.
During the early part of the 20th century, several Palestinian riots were developed to expel Israelis for the territories and to state clearly the rights of the Arabs to obtain the Palestinian lands. The riots and revolts developed in the 1920s led to the intensification of the conflict, and the Israeli War of Independence ended with the creation of the modern independent State of Israel (Scham, 2006, p. 61).
This fact provoked the development of the further conflicts and wars. The Arab-Israeli conflict cannot be discussed as resolved even today, as it is found with references to the Gaza War (2008-2009) and Lebanon Wars (Bar-Tal, 2001, p. 620; Goldschmidt & Davidson, 2009, p. 269).
The causes of the conflict are deep, and they are based on the significant cultural and religious background. That is why, it is rather difficult to find the adequate resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict which can satisfy all the parties and respond to all the aspects of the problem.
The Anthropological and Cultural Approaches to the Discussion of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
The Arab-Israeli conflict is the complex phenomenon which is based on the opposition of two different cultures the representatives of which cannot find the ways for living peacefully side-by-side during the centuries.
To understand the origin and aspects of the conflict, the knowledge of the Islamic and Jewish cultures is prerequisite. The Arab-Israeli conflict was started as the confrontation of Palestine and Israel, but the conflict developed into the opposition of the whole Arab world and Israel because the Muslims are oriented to uniting and to forming the specific nation which lives according to the rules of Islam.
Referring to the culture and mentality of Muslims, it is important to note that they are focused on the use of military actions in order to protect their world, lands, and people (Peleg & Scham, 2010, p. 216). Furthermore, Muslims demonstrate the extreme suspiciousness in relation to Israelis and their threatening actions.
On the contrary, Israelis are inclined to choose the peaceful approaches to resolving conflicts and to stating their positions because of rejecting the idea of violence (Bar-Tal, 2001, p. 611). The Israelis cannot understand why it is necessary to focus on the military activities in order to protect their lands, and as a result, they are forced to participate in the military actions as the necessary method to handle the cultural and political conflict.
The religious opposition is also the important background for the development of the conflict. Judaism and Islam regulate each aspect of the Israelis and Arabs’ life. That is why, the involvement of religious questions in the conflict is unavoidable.
However, it is important to note that Muslims are more decisiveness in their actions than the Jewish people, and they choose to resolve the conflicts with the help of arms more often than the other religious groups. The close connection between politics and warfare is typical for the Arab states and for the Muslims’ mentality (Ovendale, 2002, p. 21).
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In contrast, Israelis as the Jewish people are inclined to choose more peaceful variants to resolve the conflicting situations because their religion prohibits the focus on arms as the only variant to state the position (Ovendale, 2002, p. 22). From this point, it is rather difficult for these cultural groups to find the approach to the conflict resolution appropriate for both the parties, while focusing on Arabs and Israelis’ attitudes to the warfare and peaceful activities.
The Jewish people’s goal is to protect the lands which are discussed as their own according to the historic and religious texts. The Muslims are oriented not only to protecting the lands which are discussed as Arab territories according to the religious texts but also to fighting for these lands because of the necessity to expel the Israelis as strangers and enemies.
As a result, the goals of these two cultural groups are influenced by the aspects of the nations’ collective memory. The return of the Jewish people to their historic lands was not supported by the Arabs because they won these lands as a result of the prolonged military conflicts. On the contrary, the intention of the Jewish people to return to the homeland was also reasonable.
According to Bar-Tal, the Arab-Israeli conflict is a kind of an intractable conflict because the feeling of fear can be discussed as the important motivating force to influence the violence in the conflict and to affect the ways leading to the conflict resolution (Bar-Tal, 2001, p. 610). Thus, both the peoples suffer from the fear to lose the lands discussed as the historic homeland for the Arabs and Israelis.
Furthermore, the idea to protect the lands even with the help of military activities is supported by both cultural groups as the response to the aspects of the specific culture of honor and shame. The culture of honor and shame is typical for traditional societies, and the cultures of the Arabs and Israelis can also be discussed as traditional (Landes, 2007, p. 846-847).
That is why, the focus on the notions of dignity and honor is important for the representatives of both the opposite camps. In this situation, Arabs and Israelis intend to respond to their specific visions of the culture of honor and shame in order to protect the nations’ dignity (Landes, 2007, p. 846). As a result, the cultural and social importance of the Arab-Israeli conflict increases because the aspects of the conflict resolution are extremely significant for both the parties.
The Arabs and Israelis are ready to fight during a long period of time because these cultural groups and nations take risks to lose their homelands and roots as well as to challenge their religion, culture, and mentality.
The focus on only few chances to regulate the conflict peacefully is also associated with the fact that it is almost impossible to overcome the suspicious attitudes of the Arabs and Israelis toward each other because their cultures and religious differ from one another significantly. Moreover, the Arabs and Israelis’ visions of themselves are also based on the developed stereotypes and generalizations which influence the development of the conflict (Peleg & Scham, 2010, p. 220).
Modern discussions of Israelis as the agents of the Western world depend on the historical association of Israel and Imperialism as the forces opposed to the Arabs’ interests. Furthermore, the Israelis are inclined to focus on fighting for survival because the barriers for returning to the homeland can also be discussed as the variants of genocide against the Jewish people.
In their turn, the Arabs are inclined to discuss their fight as the necessary measure to protect their unity and to act according to the moral and religion principles (Landes, 2007, p. 846). From this perspective, Arabs and Israelis are inclined to refer to the cultural stereotypes and prejudice which are also based on deep historic roots.
The Arab-Israeli conflict develops during the decades because it is based on the significant cultural, religious, and political oppositions. It is rather difficult to find the appropriate resolution to the conflict in order to meet the interests and needs of all the parties involved in the prolonged military actions and in the cultural and political struggle. The difficulties are associated with many aspects which are the differences in Arabs and Israelis’ cultures, religions, mentalities, worldviews, and values.
The long-term cultural and political opposition develops according to the Arabs and Israelis’ opinions on the use of military actions. From this point, arms become the parties’ final arguments in the conflict resolution. In spite of the fact that the conflict develops while changing active and passive periods, it is still discussed as the controversial phenomenon grounded on two cultural groups’ significant differences.
Bar-Tal, D. (2001). Why does fear override hope in societies engulfed by intractable conflict, as it does in the Israeli society? Political Psychology, 22(3), 601-627.
Goldschmidt, A., & Davidson, L. (2009). A concise history of the Middle East. USA: Westview Press.
Landes, R. (2007). Edward Said and the culture of honour and shame: Orientalism and our misperceptions of the Arab–Israeli conflict. Israel Affairs, 13(4), 844–858.
Ovendale, R. (2002). The origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Historian, 76(4), 20-27.
Peleg, I., & Scham, P. (2010). Historical breakthroughs in Arab-Israeli negotiations: Lessons for the future. Middle East Journal, 64(2), 215-233.
Scham, P. (2006). The historical narratives of Israelis and Palestinians and the peacemaking process. Israel Studies Forum, 21(2), 58-64.