Magazine article The World and I

A Brief History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Magazine article The World and I

A Brief History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Article excerpt

It was around 1400 B.C. when Moses led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt into Palestine, the "promised land." After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Jewish state came to an end and the Hebrew (Jewish) people were dispersed. Nearly five hundred years later, Jews driven by Zionism to establish a modern Jewish nation-state, flocked back to their ancient biblical homeland in British-controlled Palestine and became embroiled in a modern day conflict between themselves and Palestinian Arabs.

During WWI, British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration; Britain would favorably view establishing a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Thus, Palestine was carved into "Emirate of Transjordan" (later simply "Jordan"); the area east of the Jordan River, where Britain installed a Saudi Arabian Bedouin tribal chieftain, Abdullah ibn Hussein, to rule over Bedouin and Palestinian Arabs, as well as the western half (between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River), where Palestinian Arabs and Zionist Jews wrestled for control.

Britain handed responsibility over the western half of Palestine to the United Nations; which partitioned it into two states: one for the Jews, which would consist of the Negev Desert, the coastal plain between Tel Aviv and Haifa, and parts of the northern Galilee; and the other for the Palestinian Arabs, which would consist primarily of the West Bank of Jordan, the Gaza District, Jaffa, and the Arab sectors of the Galilee. Jerusalem would stay under U.N. control. Led by David Ben-Gurion, Zionists accepted this partition plan while Palestinian Arabs and surrounding Arab states rejected the proposal.

On May 15, 1948, Palestine, aided by Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, launched a war to prevent Jewish independence and to secure control of Western Palestine. This resulted in Zionists seizing part of the land designated for Palestinians, Jordan annexing the West Bank, and Egypt controlling Gaza. Arabs and Jews both battled for Jerusalem and Israeli forces gained control over West Jerusalem, which became the capital of Israel. 725,000 Arabs fled to neighboring Arab countries, becoming known as the Palestinian refugees.

Palestinians weren't allowed to form independent governments in areas annexed by Jordan or Egypt. However, Arab states allowed Palestinian resistance groups, organized in 1964 by the Arab League into the Palestine Liberation Organization (the PLO), to use their territory to launch raids against Israel. The stated goal of the PLO was to use armed struggle to establish an independent Palestinian state. Miserable living conditions and treatment as second-class citizens led many Palestinians in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria to become guerrillas.

Because of continuous guerrilla attacks launched from Egypt against Israeli settlements, Israel and Egypt fought a brief war in the Suez Canal area in 1956. Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza strip. The U.N. set up an Emergency force to patrol the border.

In 1967, Egypt's President Nasser moved large numbers of troops and tanks into the Sinai Peninsula and demanded that the UNEF peacekeeping force leave Egyptian territory. Israel launched a preemptive strike, resulting in the Six Day War. Israel now occupied Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, Syria's Golan Heights, and Jordan's West Bank. The Israel government annexed East Jerusalem. Following the Arab defeat, radical underground Palestinian guerrilla organizations (fedayeen, or "men of sacrifice") took control of the PLO under the direction of Yasir Arafat.

Receiving their funding from the Arab states, the PLO was charged with carrying on the fight against Israel. The organization was based first in Jordan, and later, Lebanon. This is because, in 1970, King Hussein feared losing control over his country and kicked the PLO out of Jordan after a war between them and his government. …

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