This is the second in a series of posts offering a perspective on the conflict in Palestine.
Human rights and the future of Palestine | Location location | A time between empires | Zionism as a colonial project | Jewish migration to Palestine | Dividing Palestine | The war of 1948 | Wars and rumors of war | Palestinian resistance | Creating a shared future in Palestine
Due to the convergence of several tectonic plates, Palestine is part of a ‘land bridge’ which allows movement between Africa, Europe and Asia. For millennia this has encouraged migration, trade and military campaigns. The major river valleys of Egypt and Mesopotamia facilitated the development of highly-organized societies, which typically projected their power northwards into Palestine (in the case of Egypt) or southwards to the southern edges of Palestine (in the case of the northern and eastern powers).
In more recent times, European powers such as Napoleonic France, Great Britain, Germany and even Mussolini’s Italy have seen the strategic value of this region. With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 the economic and political advantages deriving from easy access to the Gulf, India and the ‘Far East’ were clear. During the twentieth century, the vast oil reserves between Saudi Arabia and Iraq ensured continued interest in Palestine and Egypt.
During the 35 years or so after the end of World War Two, the global rivalry between the US and the USSR (often called the ‘Cold War’) ensured that both blocs invested in this region. While Britain, France and the US gave solid support to Israel, the USSR tended to support the Arab nations opposed to Israel. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, this global power competition has become less significant, but can still be seen in the Russian support for Syria as well the continuing American support for Israel.
Palestine in general, and Jerusalem in particular, also has some of the most significant religious sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims. It attracts pilgrims from around the globe, as well as locals for religious festivals.