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Home   »  Resources  »  Miscellaneous Resources  »  Understanding the Conflict: A ...  »  PART TWO: The Other Players

Don't the Arab countries want to destroy Israel and drive the Jews into the sea?


Unlike in Europe, anti-Semitism was not a longstanding component of popular or elite culture in the Arab world. During the Spanish Inquisition fleeing Jews famously found refuge in the Arab countries, particularly in North Africa.

In the period leading up to the creation of the State of Israel and the 1947-48 war that accompanied it, many Arabs both inside Palestine and in the surrounding Arab countries believed it would be possible to prevent the creation of a Jewish state, a self-proclaimed enclave of Europe and America in the heart of the Arab Middle East. Across the region people opposed the creation of the state, believing it unjust to the indigenous Palestinians, and governments opposed it largely from fear that a powerful, western-backed Israel would represent a serious threat to their countries' own economic, strategic and political interests.

The token Arab armies which entered Palestine in 1948 were soundly defeated by the smaller but far superior Israeli military. They were defeated again in 1967 when Israel's first strikes destroyed the entire Egyptian and Jordanian air forces before either country could scramble a single plane. Since that time, despite further wars, tensions and continuing occupation, Arab governments have largely come to terms with the existence of Israel in their midst; many are eager to consolidate business and financial links with the far more powerful, far better positioned Israeli economy. If popular opinion were not so strongly against such normalization, there is little doubt that virtually all the Arab governments would be lining up to exchange ambassadors with Tel Aviv.

Since the beginning of the first intifada, or uprising, in 1987, and especially since the collapse of Oslo negotiations and the beginning of the second intifada in 2000, regional anger towards Israel for its treatment of Palestinians living under occupation has skyrocketed. The emergence in the mid-1990s of Arabic-language satellite television stations (most notably Qatar's al-Jazeera along with Abu Dhabi TV) transformed the level of outrage. While most Arabs long knew and opposed Israeli occupation, seeing televised coverage of the day-to-day humiliations, killings, and episodes of extreme violence that are endemic to military occupation brought that opposition to new and angry levels. But still, the dominant opinion in the Arab world focuses on ending Israel's occupation and creating an independent Palestinian state.


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