A brief history of Israel and Palestine
Quick extensive guide to understanding the conflict.
What is Palestine? What is Israel? Where do they get their names?
What is the situation today? 1200 words give you all the basics.
A brief history of Israel and Palestine
"There is no such country [as Palestine]! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria."
(Awni Abd al-Hadi, testimony to the Peel commission of 1937, Pelzman, Joseph (2012). The Economics of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). World Scientific Publishing Company.)
The Bible (14th century BCE)
The Israelites began their journey into the land of Canaan in biblical times. Some historians would argue that this is only a legend. However, there is actual archaeological proof for the existence of the nation of Israel. it dates back to the late thirteenth century BC and is called the “Merneptah Stele” or the “Israel Stele”. It was discovered in 1896 by the father of Egyptology, the famous British archaeologist Flinders Petrie. It states that one of the Pharaohs has eliminated the nation of Israel during his conquests in the region. Archaeologists consider this to be stele strong evidence for the existence of the Israelites.
The Philistines are also mentioned in the Bible. they are an ethnicity that sailed over to the shores of Canaan from the Greek Islands. They lived in 5 coastal cities. Some of these are known by name until today: Gaza, Ashkelon and Ashdod, for example. Most Philistines went on to live in Canaan for 200-300 years. After the Babylonian conquest of the 6th Century BC no Philistines remained in the land of Canaan.
Roman Times (2nd century)
In the year 132 AD the Jews revolted against the Romans. This war lasted three years. After this war Jews were not permitted to live in Jerusalem. the Jewish Center moved to Galilee. What was called “the province of the Jews” had to change its name. the emperor Hadrian decided to abolish the memory of Jews from their Homeland. Therefore, instead of “the province of the Jews” it was now named Syria-Palaestina. By doing this, he attached the name of the province to the name of the biblical Philistines, Latinizing their name to Palaestina.
The Modern Era (19th and early 20th centuries)
Different pronunciations of the Latin name carried on throughout the generations. In the year 1917 the British Empire conquers Biblical Israel from the Ottoman Empire. When the first world war ends, the international community awards Biblical Israel to the British Empire. It is known as the “British Mandate for Palestine”.
So there was a Palestine?
There was a British mandate for Palestine. There was never a sovereign entity by the name of Palestine. However, during the next 31 years of British rule, people all over the world refer to biblical Israel as Palestine. Even Jews immigrating to Israel commonly referred to it as “Palestine”.
What happens next?
During British rule, several partition plans for the British mandate for Palestine were suggested. To make a long story short, all of these resulted in Jewish approval and Arab resistance. In 1947, the United Nations voted for a partition plan which would form two new countries: a Jewish state and an Arab state. While this plan’s map raised opposition on both sides, the Jews reluctantly agreed. In fact, the Jewish State would be established without Jerusalem. Despite that, Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister said:” better a small country than no country at all”. Another thing to remember is that this happened only a few years after the end of the Holocaust. Jewish refugees still living in DP camps in Europe had nowhere to immigrate. In May of 1948, the British ended their mandate and left the country hastily. the Jews decided to declare statehood according to the UN resolution of 1947. After the declaration of statehood, the Jewish state was immediately attacked. Not only by the native Arabs but also by the neighboring countries: Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan, Egypt and even Iraq.
What happened after the war?
To everyone's surprise, Israel was not annihilated. Israel deliberated with each of the countries separately. On the Eastern side, Israel deliberated with Transjordan. they drew a green line in an area between the Israeli military and the Jordanian one. The line drawn with a green marker was to be known as “the green line”. Transjordan took over the entire piece of land west of the River Jordan, rebranding it as the “West Bank”. Until that day it was called “Judea and Samaria”. This was the name of the land in the UN partition plan of 1947. Much of that land was designated to be the Arab state. After the war, Transjordan annexed it, despite the fact that this went against the UN resolution to establish an Arab state. Also, from that day on, Transjordan was converted into simply “Jordan”, now that it controlled the other Bank of the River Jordan.
So Jerusalem was a part of Israel after the war?
Not quite. Practically all the holy sites for Judaism and Christianity were under Jordanian rule, including the Mount of Olives, the Old City, the Western Wall, and the Holy Church of Resurrection.
When did this change?
In 1967 there was a war between Israel and all of its neighboring countries. in six days Israel tripled its size, conquering the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the Golan heights from Syria, and the entire West Bank. Israel did not wish to Annex the West Bank. Instead, Israel annexed a thin loop on the northern, eastern, and southern sides of Jerusalem. This is a small piece of land containing most of the religious sites, and is known as “East Jerusalem”. An estimated 66,000 Palestinians were now under Israeli rule and were given permanent residence status. Later on, some of them applied for Israeli citizenship. Many refused to cooperate with the Israeli government and never became citizens. The Islamic Waqf of Jordan was given control of the Temple mount. This is the site where the Jewish temple used to stand until the year 70. Today it contains the Dome of the Rock and Haram al-sharif (Al Aqsa). Until this day, tourists and non-muslims are permitted to visit the Temple Mount Plaza for 4 hours a day.
What are the Oslo Accords?
In 1995, an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was signed. Israel acknowledged the Palestinian Authority as the local leadership, giving them control of the large cities in the West Bank. This was a temporary agreement that was supposed to lead to the foundation of a Palestinian state. Palestinian terrorists who opposed the partition of the land responded with multiple suicide bombings deep in Israeli territory. As a result, Israel was forced to build a separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank to regulate the entrance of non-Israeli citizens. The separation barrier was completed in 2005. Since then, the delegations have met multiple times but have not finalized a permanent agreement. Currently, the West Bank is divided into three pieces of land.
1. The first, called territory “A” is under complete Palestinian control.
2. The second called territory “B”, includes areas under Palestinian civil control but Israeli
3. The third territory “C”, is under complete Israeli control, containing mainly Jewish settlements
in the West Bank.
So what’s the good news?
The good news is that for a vast majority of everyday life, Palestinians and Jews get along excellently. As long as both sides acknowledge that the other side is there to stay some form of solution will have to be found in the future.