Tuesday, October 31, 2023 – Your Shortcut to… The Israel-Hamas Conflict

Your shortcut to the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of the big news stories.



Map of the Ottoman Empire in 1914: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/map-ottoman-empire-1914

ABC News: https://abcnews.go.com/International/timeline-long-history-israeli-palestinian-conflict/story?id=103875134

United Nations: https://www.un.org/unispal/timeline/

Ancient Jewish History: The Diaspora: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-diaspora

How did Israel become a country in the first place: https://www.vox.com/2018/11/20/18080016/israel-zionism-war-1948

Why Jews and Muslims both have religious claims on Jerusalem: https://www.history.com/news/why-jews-and-muslims-both-have-religious-claims-on-jerusalem


They used to be part of the Ottoman Empire, the conflict began way back in 1947, and this month, the eyes of the world have been on them as a confict boils over and Israel has declared war on the terror organisation, Hamas… This is your Squiz Kids Shortcut to the Israeli / Palestinian Conflict—the podcast where we dive into the who, what, when, where, why and how of the big news stories. I’m Christie Kijurina.

And I’m Bryce Corbett.

Bryce, the eyes of the world are on the Middle Eastern country of Israel and its neighbouring nation-state, Palestine, particularly a place called the Gaza Strip, after the terrorist organisation, Hamas, launched a surprise attack into Israel earlier this month. But the story has a very long history.

Today, we’ll take you through WHAT the history of that particular Middle Eastern region is, …WHEN the Israeli/Palestinian conflict started … and WHY it has flared up now.

Listen carefully – there’s a Squiz at the end!

Bryce, every time I on turn on the television or radio recently, I’m hearing about a war that is happening between Israel and a terror group called Hamas.


I know, it’s a bit scary isn’t it? (…even though it’s happening on the other side of the world and we’re very safe here in Australia). So what’s the history of that part of the world?

It is a bit scary; but you’re right, the conflict is taking place in a region of the world often referred to as The Middle East. Believe it or not, what we now know as The Middle East used to be ruled by one huge empire called the Ottoman Empire which was established more than 700 years ago in 1299 CE, and it only stopped existing just over 100 years ago, in 1922.

Oh, I’ve heard of The Ottoman Empire. The countries that we know today as Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Israel were all a part of it.

Yes, and it was even bigger than that. Modern day Greece, Hungary, Egypt and the North Coast of Africa were all under Ottoman rule.

Wow! That’s massive! But if it was that huge, how come it doesn’t still exist today?

Well, when other parts of Europe were going through the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Ottoman Empire remained largely agrarian, meaning that lots of people lived in the countryside and made their living from farming rather than living in cities and working in factories. As a lot of Europeans were becoming more educated, more than 90% of Ottomans still couldn’t read or write.

Ok, so they were at a disadvantage there, but surely that’s not enough to cause a whole empire to collapse?

You’re right Bryce, but when World War I broke out, the leaders of the Ottoman Empire took the side of Germany so they were fighting against the European Allies of Britain and France to the west, and Russia to the east. We’ve stuck a link in the episode notes so you can take a look at map.

Yes, you’ve probably heard of a very famous battle at a place called Gallopoli that the ANZACs fought in. Well that was in Ottoman territory.

Yep. After their loss in WWI, the Ottoman Empire was greatly weakened and a lack of engineers, doctors and other skilled professions made it almost impossible to rebuild.

That’s right, Christie. The last Ottoman Sultan (which is a bit like a king) left the capital, Constantinople, which is now Istanbul, in 1922, and the land of the former Ottoman Empire was left to be divided up by the victors of WWI, namely Great Britain and France.

The problems between Israel and Palestine were about to begin.


Judaism is a very ancient religion. The origins of which, according to the Jewish Holy Book, the Torah, and the Christian Old Testament of the Bible, date back to God handing the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai – in what is modern day Egypt – and a promise made to a prophet named Abraham and his wife Sarah, that Abraham would be a “father of nations”.

Yes, early Judaism was practiced three and a half thousand years ago, around the area that is Israel today. It is seen as a Holy Land by Jewish people.

On four occasions throughout ancient history, the Jewish people were exiled (or removed and prevented from returning) to this land by different conquering armies. Because of this, a Jewish diaspora exists. This means that people of the Jewish faith were spread out all around the world.

But what’s that got to do with this conflict? What effect do holy books and ancient wars have on what’s happening today?

Well, lots of Jewish people today believe that the land of Israel was given to Jewish people by God and that they need a homeland where Jewish people will not be persecuted as has happened many time throughout history.

I see – and following WWI, when the British had control of Palestinian territory, which was by now largely occupied by Palestinian people of the Islamic or Muslim faith, a former British Prime Minister, named Arthur Balfour made a promise to the Jewish community of Britain.

That’s right, even though the land in question was still part of the Ottoman Empire at the time, he wrote in 1917: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.”

During the 1920s, Britain encouraged Jewish migration to Palestine but without asking the existing Arab population if that was okay. Unrest between the two populations began – and only increased when, after World War II, America pushed for 100,000 Jewish survivors of the war – and a dark period of human history called the Holocaust – to be admitted to Palestine. Finally, in 1947, the United Nations approved splitting the land into separate Jewish and Arab states. This plan resulted in all-out civil war. But when British control of Palestine ended in 1948, Israel declared itself a nation and surrounding Arab nations declared war on Israel. A truce was signed in 1949 and the Palestinian people were split into two territories, now known as The Gaza Strip and The West Bank.

However, the solution did not satisfy many Palestinians who considered their land had been taken away from them – nor did it suit many Israelis who felt their God-given homeland was still under threat.


The Gaza Strip is a parcel of land that is 41km long and 10km wide. A massive 2.2 million people live there.

So to put that in context, that’s about half the size of Canberra with about 5 times the population. Gaza city is actually the most densely populated area on the planet.

Yes Bryce, it’s pretty crowded. Even before this particular conflict started, 1.7 million Gazans were registered as refugees and food, health, housing and employment were a massive problem. Israel had checkpoints set up at the border, controlling who could enter and leave Gaza.
In 2007, a militant organisation (meaning that they use force and weapons to get their way) named Hamas, took control of the Gaza strip. Many countries including Australia say that Hamas is a terrorist organsiation because they use fear to achieve their goals.

On October 7, Hamas launched an attack on Israel, crossing the border into Israeli territory, attacking and kidnapping Israeli soldiers and citizens. In response, Israel declared war on Hamas and has been launching missiles into Gaza. They say they are trying to destroy a network of tunnels that Hamas leaders are hiding in, but many Palestinian civilians – or ordinary people – have been caught in the cross-fire.

It’s a terrible situation with no easy solution. The world’s thoughts and wishes for peace, safety, and a swift end to the conflict are with the people of Gaza and Israel.

This is the part of the podcast where you get to test how well you’ve been listening … and there’s been a lot to listen to in this one …

Q1: Beginning with ‘A’ what is the name of the Jewish prophet whom Jews regard as the father of Judaism?

Q2: Beginning with ‘O’ what is the name of the empire that once used to take in countries including modern day Syria, Turkey, Israel and Egypt?

Q3: Beginning with ‘G’ – what’s the name of the Strip of land which is currently the scene of fighting between Israel and Hamas?