The Palestinian Struggle for an Independent State: Retrospect and Prospects

By Emadi, Hafizullah | Contemporary Review, June 2012 | Go to article overview

The Palestinian Struggle for an Independent State: Retrospect and Prospects


Emadi, Hafizullah, Contemporary Review


THE Palestinians became dispossessed refugees throughout the Middle East after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Since then Palestinians have clung to the dream of a restoration and their return to Palestine. The Arab states opposed the establishment of the state of Israel and fought to restore the old geo-political arrangement in the region, however Western powers defended Israel and provided it with political, economic and military support to sustain itself--a factor that provided the impetus for an increased nationalism and anti-US sentiment among Arabs.

During the Cold War era the two imperialist superpowers--the United States and the Soviet Union--worked to expand their spheres of domination around the world, forming alliances with other nations. The struggle for control of natural resources between the two superpowers intensified, lines were drawn up and walls (figurative and literal) were built demarcating their respective spheres of influence and segregating peoples of the same culture, language and traditions.

In the 1980s US imperialism increasingly challenged its Soviet rival and worked to roll back Soviet spheres of influence internationally. When President Ronald Reagan visited West Berlin he called upon the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. The speech resonated and inspired people in Berlin to tear down the Wall. It ultimately led to a united Germany. Disintegration of the Soviet empire in 1990 led to the assimilation of its bloc countries into the capitalist world system and increased the US hegemonic role in the Middle East.

Israel, supported by the US, maintained its occupation of the Arab lands and built a wall on the West Bank that separates Palestinians from Jewish settlers--a wall the Palestinians refer to as the Apartheid Wall. Although President Barack Obama called on Israel to recognize the 1967 boundary lines between Israel and the neighbouring Arab states, his rhetoric was more in tone and style rather than substance, intended to demonstrate to the disenchanted Muslim world that the US is committed to the establishment of a durable peace in the Middle East.

The focus of this article is to examine the Palestinian struggle for their rights and freedoms since the establishment of the Jewish state and the impetus behind the Palestinian drive for unity and international recognition in the wake of uprisings throughout the Arab world as people fight to end decades of rule by US-backed tyrant rulers and demand freedom, liberty and change.

The Creation of Israel and Displacement of Palestinians

The rise of the Zionist movement and its call for the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people gained momentum when the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, called for the establishment of a home for the Jewish people in Palestine during World War I--a call that became known as the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

At the end of World War II the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine and the state of Israel was carved out on 14 May 1948. The year is known by the Palestinians as al-Nakba, catastrophe--with the destruction of their homes and the exodus of thousands of people to the neighbouring countries. An estimated 150,000 Palestinians who remained in the newly founded Jewish state were forced out of their homes and villages and became internally displaced--transformed from a majority to a minority community coping with economic difficulties and political repression. They were treated as second-class citizens (at present Palestinians in Israel comprise about 20 per cent of the Israeli population).

Arabs opposed the Israeli occupation of Palestine and soon afterward Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq fought Israel. After a temporary ceasefire agreement Jordan seized the West Bank and East Jerusalem while Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip. As the Palestinians became scattered in the Arab world and lacked representation, Jordan and other Arab countries hosting Palestinian refugees expressed Palestinian sentiments for self-determination, however their efforts did not yield tangible results. …

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