The Hundred Years’ War was fought between England and France during the Middle Ages – two countries that were long enemies but that now coexist in relative peace. They even cooperated enough to build a train line underneath the English Channel so that people can commute between London and Paris regularly. However, there are plenty of countries in the world today that seem to be deadlocked against each other as perpetual enemies.
Despite many calls for peace, especially at a grassroots level, Palestine and Israel are seen as enemy countries. After the Jewish diaspora began in about 70AD, the land that became known as Palestine became populated with Bedouin tribes and traveling merchants who came to call themselves Palestinians. Nevertheless, there have been many movements in history to bring the Jewish people back to their homeland, what they call Israel, but that others call Palestine, to resettle them. Following the Holocaust of World War II, a war in Palestine led to the resettlement of millions of Jewish people and the creation of today’s Israeli state. Palestine is under occupation by the Israeli military, and Palestinians have few rights. Many countries do not recognize Palestine, and it remains deadlocked with Israel over claims to land.
Pakistan and India are also often at odds with each other, especially over the contested state of Kashmir, which both Pakistan and India claim to be part of its territory. Pakistan and India were both part of the British Empire, which controlled the entire Indian subcontinent until just after World War II. On the eve of India’s independence, the British government partitioned the land of Pakistan for the country’s Muslim minority against India’s Hindu majority. The result was the largest forced migration of people in history, as many Hindus had to leave their homes in what became Pakistan, and many Muslims had to leave their homes in what became India. These two countries have been on the brink of war for decades, and there have been frequent bouts of violence, especially along the borders and in the state of Kashmir.
However, calling countries friends and enemies is difficult and can lead to strained relations in today’s complicated web of international geopolitics. The fact is that tensions between even “enemy countries” are resolvable, as many people involved in grassroots campaigns constantly point out. The challenge is for attempts at peace and reconciliation to become a priority among those in positions of power within the countries’ governments.