Explainer: Why Are Communities Across the Globe Up In Arms Over the Israel-Palestine Conflict? Features
hosnysalah / Pixabay
Explainer: Why Are Communities Across the Globe Up In Arms Over the Israel-Palestine Conflict?

The Israel-Palestine conflict, which has deep historical, political, and religious roots, has sparked protests worldwide. The conflict has a deep historical ties to the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the displacement of Palestinians. It revolves around competing claims over land, particularly in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Both sides are driven by nationalism, with Israelis asserting their right to self-determination and a homeland. Jerusalem holds immense religious and cultural significance for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, with competing claims over holy sites like the Western Wall, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The conflict has regional and global implications, affecting the stability of the Middle East, regional alliances, and major power dynamics. The conflict’s impact on civilian populations has raised international concerns about human rights violations, displacement, and the plight of Palestinian refugees. Peace negotiations have yielded limited progress, and the complexity of core issues contributes to the difficulty in finding common ground.

A Brief Backgrounder on the Conflict

The Israel-Palestine conflict is a complex and longstanding issue with deep historical, political, and religious roots. There are various reasons why it remains incredibly contentious, however the return to conflict and atrocity; coupled with the factors outlined above has led to war, which most in there west wish to avoid breaking out into a wider conflict.

The conflict between Israel- Palestine dates back to the late 19th century with the growth of Zionist Jewish nationalism and the aspirations for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This clashed with the Arab population’s desire for self-determination and sovereignty in their ancestral lands; and their have long been calls for the establishment of a two-state solution: starting from the 1991 Madrid Conference. There followed the 1993 Oslo Accords and the failed 2000 Camp David Summit followed by the Taba negotiations in early 2001. In 2002, the Arab League proposed the Arab Peace Initiative.

The conflict revolves around competing claims and control over land. Both Israelis and Palestinians lay claim to historical and religiously significant areas, including Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip. The quest for territory, borders, and control over resources exacerbates tensions.

Nationalism and a strong sense of identity are key drivers for both Israelis and Palestinians. Both sides have deep-rooted national identities and aspirations for self-determination, often rooted in historical narratives and traumatic experiences, leading to a struggle for recognition and sovereignty.

How Does Hamas Fit Into the Conflict’s Fraught History? 

Australia Canada, European UnionIsrael, Japan, Paraguay, The United Kingdom and The United States have all designated Hamas a terrorist organisation because of its armed resistance against Israel.

On Saturday (14th October) seven people were arrested during the pro-Palestine demonstrations in central London. The Met Police said four of the arrests were for breaches of an order which gives officers the power to demand face coverings are removed.

They followed up on Sunday with a statement saying that “Three of the 15 people arrested during the protest in central London on Saturday, 14 October, have been charged with criminal offences and one has been issued with a penalty notice for disorder. Three others have been referred to Youth Offending Teams.”

The issue has attracted international attention with many seeing that the issue in Israel-Palestine has been conflated with the issue of Israel-Hamas, a proscribed terror organisation. This has led to protest routes being set up which should not be deviated from and the issue of free expression, and free speech being conflated with crackdown on terrorism.

As reported by The Guardian, bans on pro-Hamas celebrations and pro-Palestinian protests have been announced in several countries amid rising tensions over the conflict in the Middle East. European officials have been taking urgent measures to prevent tensions related to the Israel-Hamas conflict from spreading further. In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has expressed a “zero tolerance” approach to antisemitism, acknowledging that while many have shown support for Israel, there have been distressing incidents of public celebration of terror on the streets. Images of people cheering and dancing while treats were distributed in response to the atrocities in Israel were described as disgraceful.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation in a televised speech, emphasizing strict measures against antisemitic acts and the defense of terrorism. He called for unity and urged the country not to succumb to any form of hate. The French government has recently arrested 24 individuals in connection with antisemitic incidents.

Alexander De Croo, the Belgian prime minister, said his country was strengthening the security of its Jewish community, adding in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that there was “an increased vigilance for antisemitic attacks”.

VOA News’ comprehensive analysis of world leaders reactions reports that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for “unity against terror ” on Telegram and expressed condolences to those who lost their lives in the Hamas attacks. Ukraine’s foreign ministry also condemned the ongoing terrorist attacks against Israel. The White House condemns the attacks and stands with Israel, stating that there is no justification for terrorism. Iranian lawmakers chanted “Death to Israel” and called for Israel to be doomed, while Saudi Arabia called for “restraint and protection of civilians”. Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, urged an immediate cease-fire and peace between Hamas and Israel, citing existing international agreements. The UN human rights chief, Volker Turk, called for an end to violence and appealed to all sides and key countries in the region to de-escalate and avoid further bloodshed.

Other European leaders have condemned the Hamas attack and expressed solidarity with Israel. European Union commission head Ursula von der Leyen criticized the attack as “terrorism in its most despicable form” and emphasized Israel’s right to defend itself. Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani condemned the attacks with firmness, stating the lives of people, the security of the region, and the resumption of political processes are at risk.

Jewish schools in the UK had also reported large increase in antisemitic attacks. Scotland Yard says it is treating the two incidents as hate crimes, while neighbourhood watch group Shomrim said the attacks “have sent shockwaves” through London’s Jewish community. In recent years the UK has experienced some crackdown on protest actions in recent times. One notable example is the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 that was introduced by the UK government. This bill has faced criticism for giving police increased powers to restrict and control protests.

A Global Surge in Protests

The rise in protests and arrests worldwide can be attributed to various factors, including sociopolitical issues, global events, technological advancements, the COVID-19 pandemic, and repressive measures. Sociopolitical factors include issues like inequality, corruption, human rights abuses, discrimination, and inadequate governance. Technological advances have made it easier for people to organise and mobilise protests, and the COVID-19 pandemic has fuelled protests due to lockdown measures, socioeconomic disparities, and government responses. Repressive measures can further provoke public dissent, leading to more confrontations and arrests. Understanding the specific circumstances of each case is crucial for a comprehensive analysis.

Various Countries’ Laws Governing the Rights and Restrictions of Conflict-Related Protests

Given the amendments noted above in jurisdictions across the world cracking down on the protest action based on the eruption of conflict in Israel-Palestine, must be looked into in context with national laws in the above states which govern free speech; as the crackdown on protest in this context can be seen as juxtaposing with national laws on free expression and free assembly.

In the United States, The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. However, certain restrictions can be imposed, such as limitations on time, place, and manner of protests. Additionally, there are laws against incitement to violence, obstruction of traffic, and trespassing that may be applied in the context of protests.

The right to protest is protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, which is incorporated into UK law through the Human Rights Act 1998. However, the police can impose restrictions and conditions on protests to maintain public order, prevent crime, or protect the rights and freedoms of others.

In France, the exercise of freedom of assembly and expression is protected under the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. However, public assemblies may be subject to prior notification requirements, and authorities can impose restrictions based on public safety concerns.

 In Israel, the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty guarantees the right to freedom of assembly and demonstration. However, the police can ban or limit protests if they are deemed likely to disturb public order or security.

Protest laws in Japan, Canada, and Australia are governed by the Public Offices Election Act, Police Act, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Public Order Acts. In Japan, the Public Offices Election Act (2016) requires authorities to notify authorities for election campaigns and prohibits activities that disrupt public order. Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, but can be limited for public safety or others. Australia’s Constitution acknowledges limited freedom of political communication, but reasonable restrictions are considered necessary in a democratic society. Each state has its own laws regarding protests and public order.