Bemidji professor discusses origins of Middle East conflict

Community members gathered Tuesday to learn about the origins of the Middle East conflict from Bemidji State University history professor Mary Hrenchir.

Community members gathered Tuesday to learn about the origins of the Middle East conflict from Bemidji State University history professor Mary Hrenchir.

The unpredictable events in the Middle East, its history and relationship with the West motivated the Headwaters Center for Lifelong Learning (HCLL) to invite Hrenchir as a participant in the organization's fall program series.

"The Middle East is a huge geographical area with a large population in a strategic part of the world," Hrenchir said.

Although it's difficult to justify why certain violent events occur in the Middle East, Hrenchir said that by explaining the past and the present, people can have a better understanding of what might happen in the future.

Three major religions originated in the Middle East, with Jerusalem being the holy city and the birthplace of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.


After World War I, the British and the French promised the Palestinians to give Arabs a degree of independence.

But those promises were conflicting with the British Balfour Declaration, which assured Israel the same land.

But the Palestinians had already immigrated to the land that they considered their own.

Jews started to migrate to Palestine, although the British tried to keep them out.

"The western world tried to make deals with them but the Jews said 'it's the holy land or nothing,'" Hrenchir explained.

And until today, both sides are still battling over who the land belongs to.

Because there is more to explain when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Hrenchir promised to come back and discuss the issue.

But other origins of the Middle East conflict include the problem of oil, which is another major issue creating hostility within the Middle East and its relationship with the West.


The United States and European countries discovered the oil, developed the oil fields and built the infrastructure for the oil industry.

After gaining independence, the Arab world nationalized the oil companies and took control of the resources for their own financial and strategic interest, Hrenchir explained.

In recent years, the United States began importing increasing amounts of oil from other countries outside of the Middle East.

"But the fact that the Arab states sit on the greatest oil pools in the world, ensures that the Middle Eastern nations will continue to be of strategic importance to the West," Hrenchir said.

Audience member Trudy Overmyer, of Park Rapids, said Hrenchir's discussion was useful and that more discussions about international affairs are needed in the community.

"Unless they're at war or they're hosting the Olympics, you never get to hear about what's going in other countries," Overmyer said.

The next HCLL lecture will feature point of views of World War II veterans. It will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9 at the Park Rapids American Legion Club.

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