EXPLAINER

Can anything end the eternal Middle Eastern 'doom loop'?

It's easy to sigh and dismiss the violence in Israel and Gaza as just another flare-up in an endless and insoluble conflict.

Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired dozens of rockets at Israel. Israeli airstrikes destroyed a tower block in Gaza. The Israel Defence Forces said about 1500 rockets had been fired into Israeli cities.

There has also been violence in mixed Arab-Jewish towns in Israel itself as Jews and Arabs confronted each other. A fifth of the population of Israel is Palestinian.

On the latest estimate, at least 100 people have died in Gaza and seven in Israel.

The conflict has been called a "doom loop" of endless violence begetting retaliation and then more violence.

Both sides blame the other.

A view of the rubble of a residential building in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, that was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike. Picture: Getty Images

A view of the rubble of a residential building in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, that was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike. Picture: Getty Images

So what's behind the trouble?

Apart from the ongoing dispute over Israel itself, a series of events have come together to spark this confrontation.

According to Palestinian accounts, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Israeli police put up barriers in Jerusalem which stopped Muslims gathering at the Al Aqsa Mosque. The police said they were maintaining order.

Secondly, Israelis have been trying to evict 200 Palestinians from part of East Jerusalem known as Sheikh Jarrah.

The Palestinians had moved to the area in the 1950s after they were forced out of their homes in west Jerusalem.

Some Jews said that Jews had lived in the district before that so property was merely being reclaimed.

Thirdly, Israel commemorated its capture of East Jerusalem in 1967 with a march. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group fired rocket barrages towards Jerusalem.

Palestinians protest the forced eviction of residents of Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Picture: Getty Images

Palestinians protest the forced eviction of residents of Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Picture: Getty Images

The underlying cause

But underlying it all is the endless fight over how (and if) two groups can live together on the same territory: Jews in the Jewish state of Israel and Palestinians descended from people who lived on the same piece of land for centuries before the creation of Israel in 1948.

Israel has increased the territory it controls since its original creation. Much of this occupied territory is in dispute, particularly the West Bank of the River Jordan where there are Palestinian towns but also Israeli settlements.

Gaza is a thin strip of land surrounded by the Mediterranean, Egypt and Israel. Both it and the Palestinian towns in the West Bank fall under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.

But Gaza is actually governed by Hamas, an armed and fundamentalist Islamist group which does not recognise the right of Israel to exist.

Both Palestinians and Jewish Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital. They particularly dispute east Jerusalem and, especially, the Old City.

Jerusalem contains sites held as sacred by both Jews and Moslems (not to mention Christians) so disputes are filled with intense emotion. This is not a place where compromise is commonplace.

At the heart of Jerusalem's Old City is Temple Mount (as Jews and Christians call it) or Al Aqsa Mosque (as Muslims call it). It is the most sacred site in Judaism and the third most sacred site in Islam.

Will the fighting escalate?

Nobody knows.

Ominously, the fighting has spread to mixed communities of Jews and Arabs inside Israel. In other words, it has ceased to be largely a military conflict. Synagogues have been attacked.

President Biden called for a de-escalation of the violence and dispatched an envoy to the region.

But positions are entrenched. Palestinians argue Israel is a coloniser and Hamas is merely the resistance to that colonisation.

Israel argues it has a right to defend itself.

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This story Can anything end the eternal Middle Eastern 'doom loop'? first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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