One substantial cause of the problem was Britain’s promise after the First World (the Balfour Declaration) that the Jews would get a homeland. After the Second World War (1947), this led to the United Nations partitioning Palestine between the Arabs and the Jews, so the Jewish state of Israel was formed alongside the remainder of the Arab state of Palestine.
There is no escaping the fact that from day one Israel saw the 1947 partition as only a starting point, and it has expanded its share of Palestine at the expense of everyone else in the area at every opportunity ever since – and it is still doing so. There is little left of the 1947 Arab state of Palestine, despite all the UN promises at that time.
That aggressive expansionism has been the root cause of the bad feeling and bloodshed that has cursed the area ever since the birth of the state of Israel. Even the Gaza Strip, where this present, most uneven battle, is taking place was not part of the 1947 settlement. It is part of the large area of land taken by force from Egypt since 1947, in the same way the Left Bank area was annexed from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria. But anyone who mentions these unpalatable truths about Israeli expansionism is accused of being a “Holocaust denier” and “antisemitic”.
In all of this, it is hugely significant that Israel has not one friend among its squabbling neighbours in the Middle East. That is some achievement after 67 years of existence. And still the vast majority of Israelis are utterly convinced that what they are doing is right. Neither their history nor their religion seem to leave room for a more humane or merciful course of action in dealing with the weak.
Faced with that kind of intransigence, the people of Gaza know they are going to be obliterated eventually, so what incentive do they have to do other than continue their hopeless fight?