Alright, this is gonna be the most controversial video I've ever made.
Even saying the word "Israel" will ignite an onslaught of tense debates between multiple people groups.
No matter what I say in this video, somebody will get mad on either side of
the argument when it comes to Israel's current place held in today's world.
I am not Israeli, I am not Arab, and I am definitely not claiming to be
your go-to authority when it comes to Israel and Palestine issues. All I can say is,
I have contacted many of you guys, the Israeli and Palestinian subscribers, for help with this video.
I've conglomerated all the information I could based off of what you said and added it with my research.
I will try, try, TRY to make this video as plain and objective as I possibly can based off of the data,
but it's not easy and it won't be perfect but I will try, so without further ado...let's begin.
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It's time to learn Geography NOW!
Now, to most people today, the USA and China might be the giants of geopolitical impact, however
literally over half the world is keeping their eyes on this one small sliver of land straddling three continents
smaller than the size of El Salvador. Why is it that this one piece of land has such a powerful hold
on billions of people? How did it become the epicenter of world view tension?
The answer is incredibly complex and in no way could I possibly answer everything in this episode,
but what I can do is try to relay as much information as I can to give a platform for insight.
Man, it is going to be really hard to be, like, funny and quirky in this video.
At least the first part is gonna be kind of eas-
actually no it won't.
Aaaaand our first course of controversy! Woo-hoo!
I can already hear the keyboard warriors typing up paragraphs in Caps Lock!
Not much I can do, so let's just ride this pony into the sunset, shall we?
Today, the state of Israel is located in the Middle East, surrounded by Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon,
with the Mediterranean Sea to the west and a very narrow coast
along the Gulf of Aqaba in the south, which connects to the Red Sea.
The country is divided into six administrative districts, or “mehozot”,
as well as the claimed but not completely internationally recognized capital of Jerusalem near the center.
Aaaaand here’s what you’re all waiting for – the Palestine stuff.
These two areas right here are known as the West Bank (Israelis call them Judea and Samaria)
and the Gaza Strip. These are, according to Israelis, disputed territories, and according to the UN,
Israeli-occupied territories that are not recognized as part of Israel but make up the larger entity
commonly known as Palestine (or at least the Palestinian State). Parts of these two entities are
currently ruled by different Palestinian authorities – the West Bank under Fatah and Gaza under Hamas.
In addition, even though Ramallah acts as kind of like a capital to the West Bank Palestinian authority area,
the city of Jerusalem is kind of seen as the rightful capital of both entities.
However, it’s one big confusing mess of semi and fully barricaded neighborhoods with walls and checkpoints
that extend all the way to the West Bank that would make your head spin if you even attempted to explain it
But I'll try! Basically, this right here known as the Armistice (or the Green Line)
was established shortly after the start of modern-day Israel. Now here’s the thing –
although it looks like a concise division, the Green Line technically isn’t a full nation-state border division,
as it was set up as a ceasefire line.
Aaaaand this is where legal semantics get really messy.
Israel has had a lot of conflicts since independence, but basically after the Six-Day War
in which pretty much everyone surrounding them attacked, Israel actually won and took over pretty much
the entire state, plus the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights which has the
UN Disengagement Observer Force zone that manages the border with Syria.
While everyone was taking forever to decide what to do with the newly-acquired land
(should they give it back for peace or should they partition it?)
Israelis just kinda moved in to the West Bank anyway since they figured the Armistice Line was
no longer under ceasefire status. Eventually they gave back the entire Sinai Peninsula to Egypt for peace,
but then by the time they addressed the West Bank there were already over 100,000 Israelis living there.
And that’s kinda where things got really messy.
After all the settlements were set up in the West Bank,
it kind of chopped up the map into pockety Palestinian neighborhood islands.
These areas are divided into three separate types of divisions
established by the Oslo Accords in the 90’s: Areas A, B, and C.
Type A makes up about 18% of the West Bank but with the largest populations,
classified as being under the full control of the Palestinian Authority.
Type B, about 22% of the land, is under Palestinian civil authority but under Israeli security control.
Finally, Area C, which makes up about 60% of the land, is the mostly-uninhabited area of the West Bank
which is pretty much under Israeli control and Palestinians must obtain a permit to build there
(although getting a permit is pretty difficult). This is where most of the Israeli settlements are and
about 5% of Israel’s population lives, with about half a million Israeli citizens.
But the biggest issue, finally – Jerusalem. Why is Jerusalem so important?
First of all, Jerusalem was completely annexed after the Six-Day War even though it was split previously
by the Green Line. They tried to establish a very carefully structured, religiously sensitive format that
allowed the three major religions to each grab at Jerusalem, giving pre-1967 Arab residents in
East Jerusalem and their descendants permanent residency status and the ability to apply for citizenship.
However, to this day, the move is still not well-received
and the majority of UN member states do not exactly recognize the annexation as most of them
believe that Jerusalem should be under international status.
And in terms of why everyone makes such a huge fuss over Jerusalem,
well, in the shortest way I can answer this, it contains
the holiest site to Jews and the third-holiest in Islam, the Temple Mount.
What is the Temple Mount? Well, according to what we know from ancient recorded history
from both internal and external sources, this place was the claimed site of
the First and Second Jewish Temples thousands of years ago until it was destroyed by
the Babylonians first and then rebuilt only to be again destroyed by the Romans.
Then it was made into a temple for the god Jupiter until the Umayyads came in the 7th Century AD
and built the Dome of the Rock (which is a shrine, not a mosque),
the Dome of the Chains (which is a prayer house, not a shrine),
and the Al-Aqsa Mosque (which is…a…mosque).
To the Jewish community, the dream is to one day rebuild the Jewish temple
a third time on the Temple Mount, but, yeah, unless something absolutely insane and
globally unprecedented happens, the Muslims will probably never let that happen.
And then you get into the Bible and the prophecies – it’s very complicated.
UGH, this episode is so complex! What have I gotten myself into?
OK, so that kinda covers most of the administrative confusion I think. But honestly,
one thing you have to understand is that outside of Jerusalem, the country is actually pretty chill.
It’s weird, but Israel is a place where everyone can be friends if you just don’t talk about that one thing.
Otherwise, the largest cities outside of Jerusalem are Haifa and Tel-Aviv on the coast.
And the busiest airports are Tel-Aviv (Ben Gurion) International,
Eliat-Ramon, and Haifa Michaeli International.
As a holy site for the three Abrahamic religions there are too many places to list
in terms of notable sites and landmarks, but some of the top ones
in both Israeli and West Bank Palestinian areas might include places like:
the Rosh Hanikra grottoes, the ruins of Caesaria,
Masada, the Shrine of St. George,
the Church of the Holy Sepulcher,
the Shrine of the Book, Ades Synagogue,
Zedekiah's Cave, the Honey Bee Hive House,
the Tomb of the Prophet Samuel,
Bethlehem and Galilee, the areas where Jesus was born and lived,
the Mount of Olives, garden of Gethsemane,
the ruins of Jericho, and Mount Carmel.
And of course pretty much everything in Jerusalem is a historically significant landmark.
Oh, and there’s that weird micronation, Akhzivland – just look it up, I don’t have time to teach you about it.
Alright, well that was pretty intense. Luckily, this next segment will be pretty easy –
not much to argue about when it comes to dirt and plants, right?
Former Prime Minister Golda Meir once jokingly said,
First of all, Israel is located in the region of the Middle East known as the Levant,
or a strip of land bordering the coast of the Mediterranean known for having its unique
semiarid lush zones that harbors various types of flora and fauna.
The country is divided into four main physical geographic regions:
the Coastal Plains where about 3/4 of the country lives,
the central or Judean hills mostly located in the north and West Bank Palestinian regions,
then there’s the Negev Desert in the south,
and the Jordan Rift Valley which surrounds the longest river in the country,
the Jordan, that pretty much makes up Israel’s entire eastern border.
The tallest mountain is located in the disputed Golan Heights area, Mt. Hermon;
otherwise, within the Green Line, Mt. Meron in the Northern District would be the tallest.
The interesting thing is that the entire Jordan River pretty much is a by-product of being located on
the Dead Sea Transform Fault system, which lies right where the African and Arabian tectonic plates meet.
This means that Israel sometimes is subject to earthquakes,
potentially destructive ones, on average about every eighty years.
Right at the end of the Jordan River lies the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth
at over 430 meters below sea level.
Rainfall is rare between May and September, which means water can be scarce.
To combat this, Israel created a unique drip irrigation system in which
water directly goes to the roots of plants with little evaporation.
To this day, Israel has the highest percentage of recycled water usage, solar power per capita,
and the highest density of ecofriendly companies. Hmm!
It came with a lot of difficulties, though. They had to drain the swamps and replace them with citrus trees,
terrace and spray the land, and change the irrigation canal flows to disrupt mosquito breeding patterns –
after twenty years, the country officially became malaria-free.
Even animals have seen a breeding resurgence, such as
the Nubian ibex, oryxes, green toads,
and the national animal the hoopoe bird.
Israelis might say that much of this agricultural innovation is attributed to the kibbutz program.
It’s hard to explain exactly what a “kibbutz” is –
it’s like a program that pulls all labor and resources together for sake of social and economic flourishing.
It’s kinda like a hippie commune, but without the hippies or drum circles and crystals
and it has like actual government-funded motivation.
Actually, now that I think about it, it’s kinda like the anti-hippie commune.
Anyway! Not all Jews are kosher, but the ones that are avoid anything with pork and
Israel actually has the highest percentage of vegans per capita at around 5%.
Nonetheless, Israel’s economy is more heavily based on free enterprise and entrepreneurship
as well as the science and medical sectors. To this day, over 4000 tech companies
and over 80 of the 500 largest tech companies in the world have subsidiaries in Israel.
With limited space for agriculture and industry jobs, they realized,
“Oh shoot, we kinda have to, like, make money off of ideas.”
But what’s a great way to grow revenue without having to take up much space?
Research and programming! Today, Israel has one of the best environments for
entrepreneurial capital in the world, since venture capital investments rose from 20 to over 500 in the 90’s.
Tel Aviv ranks as the second-most important technological center in the world after Silicon Valley
and has the third-most companies listed on the NASDAQ after the US and China.
Your iPhone hardware, Google’s innovations, Intel microchips –
all these things have some correlation to Israel’s tech sector. In addition,
they are the 34th-largest economy in the world by nominal Gross Domestic Product as of 2016.
This means amidst the controversy Israel kind of moves forward in tech innovation.
And that brings us to the climax of this entire episode:
who are the people living here and what is the story behind them?
*exhales* Here we go.
Now, here’s the thing:
in many ways, yes, there is a perpetual lingering ambiance of tension that hovers above Israel.
However, the people living here today are now third-, fourth-, and even fifth-generation citizens
that still might carry the strife of their ancestors to some extent,
but, like we studied in the Iran episode, kids are more interested in
entertainment and money than they are with ideological disputes.
That being said, Israel has about 9 million people
(and if you include the West Bank Palestinian populace, the number swells up to about 13 million altogether)
and Israel is the only Jewish-run state in the world with about half of the entire world’s Jewish population.
Of the country, about 75% identify as ethnically Jewish, of which
the majority (at about 75%) being Mizrahi Jews that originally came from the Middle East and North Africa.
Then you have the Ashkanazis at about 17%,
whereas the Sephardic and African and Asian Jews round out the rest.
Whereas the non-Jewish citizens number at about a quarter of the population, identifying mostly as Arabs.
They also use the Israeli shekel as their currency,
they use the Type C, D, and H plug outlets,
and they drive on the right side of the road.
Now here’s where things get pretty intense, because Israel has a very unique system of
community and residency that isn’t really found anywhere else in the world.
First of all, I think this would be an appropriate time to mention that
not all Israelis are Jews, and not all Palestinians or Arabs are Muslims.
“Israeli” and “Palestinian” are nationalistic titles, not necessarily ethnic.
There are tons of Christians that identify as either Israelis, Arabs, or Palestinians.
Even a couple of Bahá'í, Hindu, and Buddhist residents.
And many of the citizens don’t even practice religion much on a regular basis to begin with.
Today, about one out of every three citizens were born abroad and
nine out of ten of the people in the country are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants.
Part of the reason for this is because of the Law of Return, or “aliyah”,
a unique immigration policy that only applies to the State of Israel which states that
every Jew across the world has the right to come to the country as an “oleh”, or migrant.
To this day, non-profit Jewish organizations even fund birthright trips for Jews across the world,
sponsoring a free ten-day heritage trip for young adults between ages 18 to 26.
But how did all this start to begin with? Well, if you really want to tackle this
(which I will try my best at doing), there’s kinda like two sides to this story:
one of them ancient and one of them modern.
Throughout most of Jewish history, Jews were dispersed in diaspora across the world. However,
there always seemed to be at least a few small communities left in Israel, especially around Jerusalem.
Basically, the modern – key word, MODERN – State of Israel was initially conceived through the ideals of
Zionism, which gained a movement in the 19th Century by this guy. He suggested that
Jews should actively take measures to move back to the land of their ancestors.
Over the years, more and more Jews moved in, the Ottoman Empire fell,
then the land came to the Mandate of Palestine under the Brits, the Balfour Declaration was made,
the Brits handed the issue to the UN, and they agreed to set up a new country called “Israel” in 1948
which became the first time Jews had a state in over thousands of years.
Now, if we’re gonna talk about the ancient history then it gets way more complicated and touchy.
What we do know about this area is that in the past it was ruled by multiple kingdoms, empires, and
regional powers; however, like mentioned before, we do have historical data that tells us that
there was an ancient Jewish inhabitation period in this place.
There are some debates on the exact legitimacy of historical claims made on both sides,
but contemporary historians, both religious and secular, do agree that there was at least for sure
a first Kingdom of Israel that existed somewhere around 900 to 1000 BC, as it was taken over
by the Neo-Assyrians and then the Babylonians, as recorded by the Babylonian Chronicles
that match up with the claims made in the Tanakh, or the Old Testament of the Bible.
Over time, the Persians came in, and the Greeks, and the Romans, and the Byzantines,
each of them at some point recording some kind of document about a Jewish populace inhabiting this area.
Again, these are outside, non-Jewish ancient sources matching up the claims
that modern historians from all world views can attest to.
So this is kind of the basis of where Jews make their claim towards the land of Israel
being their ancestral homeland – they do kind of have a historical tie.
Nonetheless of course, that doesn’t excuse the fact that during all the years of diaspora
numerous other people groups have moved in and grew generations of families
that have built roots and homes there as well.
When you talk about this type of thing, it ignites a passionate debate amongst everyone
and I’m gonna try my best to explain it. But before I do this little skit thing, I want to give you full disclosure:
what I’m about to say is a conglomeration of information I obtained from you guys,
the Israeli and Palestinian Geograpeeps that have contacted me via e-mail.
We had over a hundred people from all walks of life,
from every region of Israel, the Palestinian West Bank, and Gaza explain to the best of their ability
how they would address this conflict. I took as much as I could,
with as much rebuttal and support claim statements and this is kind of what I came up with:
*clears throat* Let's begin.
Israelis, you have been disenfranchising our people, the world’s longest military occupation,
illegally grabbing land, and subjugating our people to squalid conditions
as you cut us off from resources and basic rights and privileges.
We have offered to share two-state solution peace treaties five times in the past with you:
the Peel Commission, the 1947 UN resolution,
the Arab League summit rejection of land offerings in the late 60’s,
the Camp David Yasser Arafat rejections of the 90’s, and the 2008 Mahmoud Abbas offer rejections,
and you still keep saying “no”! We are trying to work with you.
We keep saying “no” because ultimately this is the land of our ancestors
and we won’t accept a Jewish authority, especially one that was forced upon the region
by colonial powers in Europe and further assisted by United States imperialism.
Well, this was the land of our ancestors too, and far before the rise of
any industrialized European power, let alone a caliphate or Islamic authority.
Our prophets even before Muhammad
(aside: a Muslim at this point would probably say, “Peace be upon him”)
lived in the area as well, and the Arabs
(aside: not all Muslims, but specifically Arabs)
are the descendants of Ishmael, son of Abraham
as well as the true Muslim generations that lived and populated this area.
OK, that’s a theological claim that we believe you believe, however
non-Muslims have a hard time believing it considering that there are
no full Quarnic texts before the time of Muhammad to affirm his statements.
Sure, maybe you are descendants of Ishmael, just like we claim to be descendants of Isaac,
but they took over most of Arabia, not the Levant. And to us,
it seems like the Quran was just inspired off of stories from the Torah, Tanakh, and New Testament in the Bible.
Uh, OK, that is INCREDIBLY offensive and wrong!
Your scriptures were corrupted and re-revealed to our prophet by Allah.
You’re the ones that came in and pushed out hundreds of thousands of Palestinians
during the 1948 and 1967 Six-Day Wars, and now you refuse refugees
the right of return to their own homes prior to war times.
OK, yeah, we did displace them, just as your Arab neighbors evacuated Jews
from their lands that flocked to us. Why do you think there’s hardly any Jews left
in former countries that used to have hundreds of thousands, like Morocco and Algeria?
Arabs just started attacking us from all sides; we defended ourselves and won.
And in postwar situations, it’s not uncommon for the victor to repartition and consolidate land.
After the Six-Day War we weren’t even obligated to offer a two-state solution,
but gave Egypt the entire Sinai Peninsula back and offered you sovereignty, which you denied.
Well, funny, because the way how you handle your sovereignty which shouldn’t exist is a system that
systematically oppresses us and blocked off neighborhood islands
that you’ve created illegally and aren’t even recognized by the UN.
Well, what do you expect – we keep getting hostile threats and actions
from literally every single person around us and especially you!
Gaza keeps shooting rockets to the point where we had to build that Iron Dome defense system.
You’ve launched two Intifadas against us with suicide bombers.
Palestinians can enter our land through checkpoints
but Israelis are almost dead meat if they try to enter your neighborhoods.
Yeah except your military, which by the way,
your military has killed thousands of our people in the process, including children.
Your people have killed our people in the process, including children.
Yeah, well you’ve killed way more!
You keep responding with a lack of cooperation and aggression.
What do you want us to do, just put down all our weapons and say, “OK, we trust you”?
What would happen to us Jews if you took over?
Do you really think we would be treated with equal rights and dignity in a Palestinian-run state?
In a perfect world, we would ideally like you to just peacefully leave
and return everything back to us the way it was prior to the British Mandate times.
Maybe some of you can stay, but the whole nation would have to be run by Palestinians.
No! We have a historical right to live here too – the UN at least acknowledges that.
We’ve built up so much and even though it’s kind of messy
we’re still doing it a good job considering our quality of life.
Ha! Yeah, YOUR quality of life!
Once again, treaties denied.
We don’t settle for your propositions.
Guys, guys, let’s just chill out a little bit OK?
Here, I brought some bacon – everybody loves bacon, you want some bacon?
That’s not kosher! That’s not halal!
Get that away from me!
It’s turkey bacon.
This changes nothing.
Guys, that was literally the hardest thing I have ever written in a script –
more than the Colombia cartel thing or the Macedonia dispute thing.
I’m actually looking forward to North Korea – that’s gonna be a breeze.
Anyway, I think it’s important to note that this is just kinda like the dispute held by
citizens that hold a strong sense of nationalism.
Not all Jews are Zionists, and not all Palestinians want to deplete all Jews from the land.
Sure, a sense of identity is still strong, but you have a society that is slowly becoming
more and more secular and diversified rather than religiously stringent.
The fact is, Israel is a melting pot.
You walk down the streets of Tel-Aviv or Haifa, you see whites, blacks, Asians, Arabs,
Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and of course Jews.
There is no one Jewish culture since so many of them moved from diaspora –
I mean, a Moroccan Jew will probably be different from a Russian Jew –
but overall you see universal customs like Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, yarmulkes,
the weddings with those huppah canopy things.
Everyone celebrates Hanukkah, Passover, Yom Kippur, Purim, Rosh Hashanah.
Israel is also one of the few countries that not only has a military conscription requirement
but also for men and women starting at age 18.
They benefit from a highly-skilled workforce and is among the most educated countries in the world,
with one of the highest percentages of its citizens holding tertiary education degrees.
Israel has the highest standard of living in the Middle East
and has one of the highest life expectancies in the world.
Israel is also the only country in the Middle East that protects and gives rights to the LGBT community.
Otherwise, some notable people of Israeli descent might include people like:
Natalie Portman, Gene Simmons, Bar Refaeli,
Ilan Ramon, Gal Godot, Mayim Bialik,
Nobel Laureates Shimon Peres and Yithak Rabin,
the first Arab Supreme Court judge Salim Joubran,
Guy Oseary, Golda Meir, Arnon Milchan,
Omri Casspi, Sharon Cohen, Yael Arad,
Also, Albert Einstein wasn't an Israeli, but he was once offered
the position of President of Israel but turned it down.
There’s also a lot more we could discuss and I’m sure I missed out on a lot but this video’s
already getting pretty long and we gotta finish with the final lap in this Israeli-a-thon. Shall we?
Well, we’ve reached the last and final leg of this journey.
Israel knows that it has a lot of tension daily,
so in the past half-century it's worked on building up whatever diplomatic ties it could.
First of all, India. Israelis love to travel there after finishing their army service and
Prime Minister Modi was the first Indian premier to have visited Israel for a diplomacy talk.
The two countries like to work side by side, especially on issues regarding the Middle East conflicts.
In Europe, Germany, France, and Russia seem to be the closest as the largest number of Ashkenazi Jews
migrated from these places. Many still speak the languages of their respective former homelands.
Egypt and Jordan are the only two countries in the Middle East that have begrudgingly
reluctant diplomatic relations with Israel after signing peace treaties in 1979 and 1994,
however, overall most Egyptians and Jordanians consider it an on-paper-only relationship
and otherwise have generally unfavorable views of Israel.
Turkic Muslim countries, however, like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkey all have
diplomatic ties and embassies, mostly in Tel-Aviv.
Turkey was actually the first Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel’s statehood,
and even though recently there has been a little bit of political strife
the two still do business and trade like regular.
But out of all of them, Azerbaijan is probably the closest.
Not only do they have great trade and business in technology and oil and gas,
but many Azeri Jews have either migrated or visit their families back in Azerbaijan annually.
Nonetheless, no surprise, the USA is probably the closest friend.
The USA has played a key role in the development and maintenance of Israel.
The US has the second-highest Jewish population after Israel.
Many Jewish-Americans have moved to Israel and have dual citizenship
and they cooperate on almost every level of business, military, and trade.
In conclusion, over half the world seems to have an opinion about this small sliver of land
that seems to have more drama than you could imagine.
There is no quick solution to any of the issues currently at stake
and nobody knows exactly what the future is going to look like.
Again, I am not one to speak authoritatively on any of these issues
but what I can say is that listening, even if it goes against the core of your carnal urges not to,
listening is an incredibly powerful thing. We should all start listening.
Stay tuned: Italy is coming up next.
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