A Brief Attempt at History…

A few years ago, as part of a school project, I was asked to summarize the history of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The conflict is complicated, and the history even more so. There are countless interpretations of different events, and I’m certain that no historical account can do it justice.  In spite of this, as I’m often reminded by my boyfriend who studied history in school; beginning to understand the history of any given situation can give us a huge amount of insight into the present. If you’ve read up on, or had any direct experience in this region, then skip this post. I promise the others will be more interesting for you. If you’re new the subject all together, here’s a rough explanation of some significant points in history that have led us to today.

  • As of 1856, the population in the current Israel/Palestine region was about 500,000. Most of the population was Arabic speaking and Muslim, with about 60,000 Christians and 20,000 Jews (MCB, 2010).
  • Through the persecution of Jews, particularly in Eastern Europe, the political philosophy of Zionism began to emerge during the 19th century. Zionism refers to the idea that the Jewish people should have a homeland of their own, and by 1904 the established Zionist opinion settled on Palestine as the location (MCB, 2010).
  • A steady stream of Jews began immigrating to the region, and tensions grew with the Arab population. In the height of the First World War, British troops entered Jerusalem and the British Foreign Secretary announced that a national home for the Jews would be made in Palestine (MCB, 2010).
  • In 1937, facing an Arab revolt, the Peel Commission suggested that 20% of Palestine become a Jewish state, with the remaining 80% left for the Arabs. These plans were never upheld, but the British were successful in suppressing the Arab revolt. In the process 5000 Palestinians were killed; 10,000 wounded; and many others forced to flee to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and other surrounding nations (MCB, 2010).
  • After the horrific events of the Holocaust in Europe, political support grew for a Jewish state in Palestine. In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted to create a partition in the territory; allotting 56% of the land to the third of the population who were Jewish. The plan was accepted by the Jews, rejected by the Arabs and led to a civil war. 6000 Israelis were killed, and 750,000 Palestinians were forced to leave their country. Israel secured 78% of the territory and was declared a state in May, 1948 (MCB, 2010).
  • In 1964, the Palestinians gained an independent political voice through the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) (MCB, 2010).
  • In 1967, the region’s political tensions led to the Six Day War between Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Israel. The war led to the occupation of the Palestinian regions of east Jerusalem and the West Bank, which the United Nations Security Council deemed unacceptable by passing Resolution 242. Quickly after gaining this additional territory, Israel began demolishing Palestinian infrastructure and building settlements. These actions go directly against what was set out in the 4th Geneva Convention with the prohibition of occupying powers from damaging existing private or public property (MCB, 2010).
  • In 1982, after an attempted assassination of an Israeli Ambassador, Israel invaded Lebanon in order to expel the PLO, killing 17,500 in the process.(MCB, 2010).
  • After 20 years of occupation by Israel, the first Palestinian Intifada began in 1987 and lasted until 1991. In 1988, the Palestinian National Council issued a declaration that recognized the state of Israel, accepted all UN resolutions to date, and called for the creation of a Palestinian state on 22% of their initial land (MCB, 2010).
  • The early 1990s brought the Oslo Peace Process, where Israel and the PLO signed a Declaration of Principles that outlined an agenda for upcoming peace negotiations and Israel agreed to vacate designated areas of the West Bank and Gaza. Peace processes suffered a massive blow with the assassination of Israeli leader, Yitzhak Rabin, by an Israeli extremist (MCB, 2010).
  • In 2000, with growing frustration towards the perceived lack of progress towards peace, the second Palestinian Intifada began; involving much more violence than the first. Between the year 2000 and December of 2008, 5000 Palestinians and 1000 Israelis were killed. Israeli attacks involved missiles, armed bulldozers, military helicopters and army raids. Palestinian attacks consisted largely of suicide bombings in Israeli cities (MCB, 2010).
  • Beginning in the early 2000s a wall, which the International Court of Justice deems to be illegal, was built through the occupied West Bank (MCB, 2010).
  • In 2005, Israeli troops and about 9,000 settlers withdrew from Gaza and the region was almost entirely sealed off, with all of its borders heavily controlled (Economists Intelligence Unit [EIU], 2008)
  • In 2006, the Palestinians elected Hamas as their government. In 2007, Hamas and Fatah, the two primary Palestinian political bodies, maintained a brief united government before civil war broke out resulting in Hamas taking up authority in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank. Fatah was much more accepting of American, European and Israeli conditions and in December 2008, tensions between Israel and Hamas led to the death of an additional 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis (MCB, 2010).
  • In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status from a non-member observer “entity” to a non-member observer state; marking the first time Palestine was acknowledged as a state by the United Nations. (UN, 2012)
  • Attempts to end the conflict have had very limited success. Political leaders have been killed, peace treaties rejected, both sides have caused harm to one another. Settlements continue to be built and expanded in the West Bank and violence from extremists on both sides of the conflict have continued (MCB, 2010).
  • Between June and August of this year, after peace talks failed again, Palestine experienced what UNOCHA calls “the most destructive excavation since the start of the Israeli occupation in 1967”, with at least 1,486 Palestinians killed in Gaza, 5 Israeli civilian deaths in the area surrounding Gaza, and 27 Palestinian deaths at the hands of Israeli forces in the West Bank. (UNOCHA-opt, 2014)

2 thoughts on “A Brief Attempt at History…

  1. The history is very complicated but I do not see how they can expect the people of Palestine to accept a peaceful co-existance if Israel keeps destroying the people’s homes. I was so upset when I got your earlier posting that I sent a letter to my MP as the PC government only sides with Israel regardless what they do.

    Liked by 1 person

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