Long history between Israelis and Palestinians fueling a war without end, WSU professor says

Wayne State University Political Science Professor Fred Pearson says the conflict was a long time coming.

Israeli soldiers move on the top of a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, as seen from southern Israel, Thursday, May 16, 2024.

Israeli soldiers move on the top of a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, as seen from southern Israel, Thursday, May 16, 2024.

Soon after Hamas killed over 1,100 Israelis in their Oct. 7 terror attacks, Israel began bombing Gaza. The goal, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was to root out Hamas and return the hostages that were taken.

Seven months later, there’s little evidence that Hamas is any closer to being defeated and dozens of hostages remain held in Gaza.

Since the war began, there’s no such thing as a normal life in Gaza. Over half of all housing units have been damaged or destroyed. Israel has bombed hospitals, schools and places of worship, and at least 35,000 Palestinians have been killed.

Taking a broad look at the history in the region, this conflict was a long time coming according to Wayne State University Political Science Professor Fred Pearson.

He says Israelis have taken the stance of never allowing something like the Holocaust to happen again. While Palestinians have historically had to resist outside forces dating back to the Persian Empire.

“So you have ‘never again’ people resisting ‘never give up’ people,” Pearson told WDET. “Compounding that is the fact that they’ve killed each other’s families. That’s hard to recover from that and get over it and open the way to reconciliation.”

There have been several attempts to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians — most notably in the 1990s with the Oslo Accords.

“They were close to an agreement between Prime Minister (Yitzak) Rabin and Yasser Arafat, the head of the Palestine authority at that time,” Pearson said. “And it got scuttled violently by extremist Israeli young man who came out and assassinated Rabin.”


Listen: WSU Professor Fred Pearson shares context behind the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine


As for peace right now, the U.S. has long supported a two-state solution. Pearson believes it is possible, even if Netanyahu does not.

“It’s feasible, I believe,” Pearson said. “But it will take a great deal of careful and strong diplomatic pressure.”

The Israeli Prime Minister told CNBC this week that a two-state solution would be “a reward for terrorists.”

At the United Nations, there has been a growing push to recognize Palestine. The U.S. State Department continues to send mixed messages about what it really wants.

“The UN has recognized the notion of a Palestinian state,” Pearson says. “The US has vetoed it.”

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  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.