ERR in Israel: Roots of current conflict stretch back over 70 years

Scene from Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter.
Scene from Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter. Source: ERR

While much of the media attention in the current Hamas-Israel war focuses on the Gaza Strip, events since attacks started on October 7 have also turned the lives of ordinary Palestinians resident in Israel, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera," (AK) reported Tuesday.

ERR's Astrid Kannel spoke to ordinary Palestinians in Jerusalem, and also in nearby Bethlehem.

The Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's walled Old City was found to be eerily quiet, with most stores shuttered and few people willing to speak in front of the camera – an act which some say could lead to their arrest.

One local resident who was prepared to speak to AK, Hassan, says he cannot answer to political issues, adding: "The government has closed all the outside of the Old City. If you are not from or live in the Old City, you cannot come in. You can see all the shops here are closed; all the life here is closed."

Bethlehem (in Estonian: Petlemm), an obvious tourist site, meanwhile is encircled by a more modern, concrete wall, with plenty of graffiti to give a hint on what local opinion might be even as, again, people are reluctant to go on record in talking to a journalist.

Damer, who lives in Bethlehem, said the town is currently deserted, due to the ongoing conflict. 

"Noone is in Bethlehem nowadays, because there is a war. Everything is closed. For example, I am from Bethlehem, and I work in Jerusalem. But I can't reach my work, so I am staying, looking for anything to work in here," he told AK.

"We were living well, everything has gone back like it was in the 1988 Intifada: it's a very difficult situation," Damer went on.

Graffiti on Bethlehem's wall. Source: ERR

"I cannot say many things about Hamas. What is going on in Gaza is a very difficult situation. We just pray for peace," he added.

Next, Yussuf, a Palestinian Christian, shows AK his 700-year-old workshop, located right next to the Church of the Nativity, held by many Christians to be located on the site of Christ's birth.

Yussuf said: "It's very bad for everybody. Nobody is happy with this war, and it was a surprise for us, what happened."

As to what he thinks of Hamas, the organization behind the recent attacks, Yussuf says: "They are Palestinians. They are the Palestinian people. They are our people."

"Yes, they have killed, this is a bad problem. They killed here and there, so it's very bad for everyone. It's a bad political problem, which they have to resolve the right way, realistically and not just from the outside," he went on.

Yussuf said that the current war did not start ex nihilo, saying its roots date back to the foundation of the modern-day nation state of Israel, in 1948. An ensuing Arab-Israeli War led to the 1949-1950 armistice, whose lines demarcated the Gaza Strip (at the time occupied by Egypt) and the West Bank of the River Jordan (an area occupied at the time by the Kingdom of Jordan).

The original AK slot (in Estonian and English) is here.

Kannel also told AK that the U.S. was having to tread cautiously in its support for Israel, while President Joe Biden is opposed to any permanent movement of Israeli ground troops into Gaza.

This could lead to further escalation, including attacks from Hezbollah, located mostly to the North, in Lebanon.

The latter is a Shia Muslim organization set up along lines dictated by the Ayatollah Khomeini in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 although Hamas, too, has strong links to Iran, as well as to militant groups in Iraq and in Syria.

Amid allegations of links between Iran and the current Hamas attacks, the U.S. is blocking that country from accessing $6 billion in humanitarian aid, funded by Iranian oil sales.

The U.S. had "unfrozen" these assets earlier this year, as part of a prisoner swap.

The U.S. military has placed around 2,000 personnel and various units on a heightened state of readiness given the current situation, while anecdotal reports have it that some U.S. military personnel are in-country already.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel.

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Astrid Kannel, camera operator Rauno Viltrop.

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