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The Israeli Palestinian Conflict Part III – Wailing Wail and Suez Crisis

Published:Thursday | December 1, 2016 | 12:33 PMPaul H Williams

Last week, Part II concluded with the Six-Day Way of 1967. It was one of the major confrontations between the Arabs and the Jews over Palestine, over which both fractions have been making religious and historical claims, even long before the Israeli war of independence which ended in January 1949. Twenty years before that there was another great flare-up, this time over the Wailing Wall. It was considered to be the first significant modern-day outbreak of violence between the groups.

ZThe bone of contention was access to the Western Wall (popularly known as the Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem by the Jews. The Western Wall is sacred to the Jews as the only remnant of the temple of King Herod, and to the Muslims as the site from which the prophet, Mohammed, is believed to have ascended to Heaven. The Arabs believed the Jews should not have access to it, and when the war was over 133 Jews and approximately 100 Arabs were dead. A commissioner of inquiry placed the blame squarely upon the shoulders of Arab leaders. But, instead of abating the tension heightened.


As fascism and intolerance grew in Europe in the early 1930s, Jews were forced to flee. To Palestine they turned in droves. By the end of 1934 the percentage of Jewish people living in Palestine was 30. In November 1935, the Arabs demanded an end to Jewish migration to Palestine and a freeze on the transfer of land to the Jews. In 1937 the Arabs proposed that they control two-thirds of the land. The Jews rejected the proposal, and the conflict simmered for a while.

It burst into flames in 1956. The fire was over the Suez Canal that separates mainland Egypt from its Sinai Peninsula. The 100-mile waterway, which connects the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Red Sea in the South, was completed in 1869, and owned and operated by the Anglo-French Suez Canal Company. Trouble started when Egypt's president, Gamal Abdel Nasser announced that Egypt, regarded Arab state, wanted to nationalise the canal. He said he needed the revenues from the use of the canal to build the Aswan Dam, after The US and Britain, Cold War allies, withdrew their offer of support. They though Egypt was too friendly with their Cold War rival, The Soviet Union, and other eastern European countries.

Anticipating an objection to his intentions Nasser placed the canal zone under martial law. France and Britain became alarmed. Britain froze Egypt's assets in the UK, and on September 1 talks between Britain and France started with the US as moderator. Yet, France and Britain were secretly strategizing with Egypt's enemy, Israel, as British and French forces were mobilising themselves.

In August, Nasser refused to negotiate with France, Britain and the US. He was threatened with invasion if he continued to. In London, countries for which the canal had significant and strategic importance met to form the Canal Users Association. Tolls from the use of the canal they said should be paid to them, and not to Egypt.


On October 29, Israel sent 10 brigades into the canal zone. The Egyptian forces were quickly crushed, thus reigniting the fiery belligerence. The following day the British and French bombed military targets in Egypt, destroying over 100 Russian-built fighter planes. Condemnation for Britain and France came from all over the world, and the United Nation convened an emergency meeting of its General Assembly. The Soviet Union threatened to intervene to assist Egypt, and in the British Parliament a firestorm crackled and sparks flew from both sides of the house. British Prime Minister Anthony Eden was tossed into the flames. Calls for his resignation were loud, and were accompanied by a massive demonstration in London's Trafalgar Square.

But, resignation calls, condemnations, and demonstrations did not prevent Israel from invading and claiming the Arab's Gaza Strip on November 3. Two days later Britain and France invaded Egypt's Port Said and Port Faud, effectively occupying the canal zone. War ensued. On November 6, there was a ceasefire, and on December 22 French and British troops finally evacuated on condition that the UN enforced free passage through the canal. Eventually Israel pulled out of the Gaza strip and returned it to Egypt.