History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Very little is known about the true history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most historians and politicians like to surrender their hands in the air when this issue is brought up, wailing "Oh! This has been going on since the beginning of civilization!"

Not true. Since the beginning of civilization, tribes roamed the area labeled, the Holy Land. This area stretched from northern Asia Minor, including Syria, parts of Turkey and Armenia and moving southward into Judah and Samaria, the area bordering the Sinai peninsula. Tribes of Amonites, Sumerians, Canaanites, Hittites, Assyrians, Phoenicians, and the list goes on. The Israelites were a brand of Canaanites who had been led by their father, Abraham, and promised a land unto themselves, the land of Canaan (aka, Israel today). Jews, as they ascribed religiously, believed in one God, a God who finally revealed Himself to them as YHWH under the leadership of Moses. This God was one who not only promised land to the Israelites, but many descendants. This promise was twofold, if they obeyed God's commandments, their end of the deal would remain. This was the test for the Jews.

But conflict did not derive simply between Jews and non-Jews. In fact, Jews coexisted with pagans and other religions throughout the Holy Land. Though Jews saw themselves as distinct from the others due to their laws and habits, many of their neighbors respected them and actually began to ascribe to the concept of monotheism in their own cultures. Zoroastrians in Iran, Manicheans in Iraq, and of course, those who ascribed as Gentiles during the life and times of Jesus Christ.

The word Israel was nonexistent in the days of Jesus. He roamed the pastures of the land of Philistia or as the Romans named it, Palestine, under Roman occupation. Jews were often times chastised under Roman and Hellenized leaders and discriminated against for their beliefs. In return, Jews often fought for their rights and defended themselves through resistance. One perfect example, was the Maccabean Revolt in 167 BC. After this revolt, the Jews were able to reside in their land, for the most part, peacefully and under their own rulers including their own courts, labeled the Sanhedrin.

For centuries, Jews and others who lived in the territory who may have at one time been Jewish but converted to Christianity after the resurrection of Christ, cohabitated peacefully. Both Jews and Gentiles, including those who identified as Arabs under Muslim rule, traded and carried out business maneuvers between one another. It was a thriving civilization and one that had little problems, until the Crusades began in 1099 A.D. It was then, when full-scale wars would be fought in the name of religion.

The Palestinian and Israeli conflict truly began in the late 19th century. It was during this time that many European Jews started to migrate to Palestine (as a result of anti-Semitism and pogroms in Europe) in the hopes of creating a land they could at some point, call their own. By the 1920s, many a kibbutzim were thriving in Palestine, and economic development increased under the funding of the Zionist Europeans who hoped to one day call their land Israel.

It is important to note that Jews and Arabs did work together at times, most notably in business deals. Land was often sold and bought between one another, spurring a mercantile economy in Palestine, like no other found in the Arab world. Palestinians were probably the most Westernized and educated comparative to other countries, and this can be ascribed to their close relations with the Jews.
But what was to happen changed the course of history for the entire world. By 1917, during the British Mandate of Palestine, Lord Balfour issued a declaration allowing more Jews to migrate to the Holy Land from Europe. This declaration called for,
"...the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country." Mind you, the object of this declaration was to make certain that the indigenous population of the country would not be obliterated.
In 1948, immediately after World War II, President Harry Truman signed the 'card blanche' for Israeli military maneuvers under the leadership of General David Ben Gurion to enter into Palestine and declare the land now fully under the auspices of the Israeli people. The country was named Israel and the Arab population thus residing there was to either relocate to another country, be forced into exile, or stay, but at their own risk.
"750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their
homes between 1947 and 1949. In addition, 13,000 Palestinians were killed, 418 Palestinian villages were completely depopulated, and half of all villages in Palestine were physically destroyed."

For the next fifty and more years, the world would watch as the Arab world went under fire. Who is to blame for today's atrocities? Some blame the militant forces of Hamas, an organization that has fostered orphanages, schools, and hospitals for Palestinians under seige in Gaza. This organization also carries out suicide bombings that have terrorized both the Arab world and Israelis in the region. Some blame the Israelis for their disproportionate military endeavors and inhuman treatment of the Palestinians who have for so long endured an occupation without end.

Many blame America for its unquestioning support of Israel since Truman's policy of the late 1940s and continuing today.

We could debate who is in the right and who is in the wrong. But in the meantime, millions of lives will be lost, and a generation of anger and resistance will flourish. Today, most Palestinians in the region suffer from uneducation, unemployment, disabilities, disease, and unsanitary conditions. Perhaps by turning a blind eye, we are all to blame. Israel may want to consider taking the advice of the late W.E.B. DuBois, African American scholar and writer, when he addressed the American people, “To stimulate wildly weak and untrained minds is to play with mighty fires.”

"Celebration of the Partition of Palestine" http://zionism-israel.com/ezine/Palestine_Partition_celebration.jpg
"Palestinians forced into refugee status along the Iraqi border" http://palestinethinktank.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/nakba.jpg
"1948 Concentration Camps for Palestinians" http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a6/Man_see_school_nakba.jpg


mary said...

This is a very well-written and informative piece! I hope many will learn the basics from a presentation like the one you did!

Rania said...

Thank you Mary, I am glad to know that you enjoyed this piece. How did you find out about my blog?

Matt said...

Actually Rania it should be noted that the Land of Israel (referring to the Biblical land as opposed to the modern land). Although called Palestine by the Roman's, the name Israel was used to describe an older Kingdom and then a successor Kingdom.

The original Kingdom of Israel lasted from roughly 1000 BC to 930 (or 935) BC. The land was ruled by the fabled King Solomon. Shortly after his death the Kingdom split (much like Rome would a thousand years later) and became the Northern Kingdom of Israel with its capital in Shomron.

In the south rose the Kingdom of Judea, ruled by the sons of Solomon and the house of David. The capital of the Kingdom of Judea was Jerusalem. It would remain like this until the coming of the Mesopotamian Kingdoms.

First would come the Assyrians (first Kingdom of Mesopotamia) who conquered and occupied the northern Kingdom of Israel. Later came the Babylonians (the third and final major Kingdom of Mesopotamia) who conquered the southern Kingdom of Judea.

Eventually, after the Babylonian retreat back to Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) and the release of the Israelite' captured and removed from the land, came the Roman's who dubbed the land Palestine.

It is widely believed, (was watching this on a PBS program about Biblical military strategies) that Abraham and the Israelite' were not Canaanites but a roaming tribe of hired warriors and soldiers. These warriors eventually established the monotheistic religion that eventually became Judaism.

I've rambled....sorry. But still good stuff for an increased scope of the region.

Rania said...

Hi Matt,
The Israelites were in fact derived from the ancient Canaanites. The land of Canaan comprised many different tribes including Amorites, Phoenicians, Philistines, Hittites, etc. It wasn't until the 12-13th centuries, when the Israelites emerged. They made up escaped Hebrew slaves, Egyptians, Canaanites and other neighboring groups. What made them so different from other groups was their professed faith to one single God, Yahweh.
Many Canaanites would join in on Israelite culture and tradition, mainly because they were promised land by Yahweh.
The first official empire of the Mesopotamian region were the Akkadians, not the Assyrians.
Many historians lay claim that the Israelites were a separate group of people from the Canaanites but this cannot be 100% proven as tribes intermingled and interrelated. Even Philistine sources such as clay pots, jars, etc. show extreme similarities to pots and jars from other tribes including the Israelites.

aMapMapper said...


A thoughtful piece on the history of the conflict, and overall pretty fair. I am a little concerned that you have not given enough attention to the misery of Palestinians not only in the West Bank and Gaza, but in other countries as well:

"Today, most Palestinians in the region suffer from uneducation, unemployment, disabilities, disease, and unsanitary conditions."

(?) Don't many of the Palestinians in these awful conditions languish in refugee camps that were set up in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon (in addition to the West Bank and Gaza) in 1949 by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East?

(?) Shouldn't we also blame the governments of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon for refusing Palestinians to reside in their countries or become citizens?

If only refugee Palestinians were being treated well in the Arab world; unfortunately, they are often neglected, being hidden from view in isolated camps in Palestine's neighbours. I would appreciate it if more attention were given to the plight of Palestinian refugees who miss out on the attention of scholarly debate and the international media.


Rania said...

You make a very plausible point when you discuss the plight of the Palestinian people today, but we must make mention of the historic and ongoing efforts of the Arab world in assisting Palestinians in their status as residents of their perspective countries.
For example, Jordan hailed citizenship to most Palestinian refugees entering the country after the 1952 Israeli citizenship law failed to entitle Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. In fact, 1948 refugees were easily absorbed into Jordan, urbanizing the once desert-land and creating an economic boom for the country in business and trades. The Royal Queen Rania herself is proudly of Palestinian origin.
But you are right, most Palestinians whom emigrated to Amman after 1967 and those residing after the 1980 intifada (uprising) whose employment opportunities faded as export-oriented sectors of manufacturing and oil emerged.
The results of growing Palestinian refugee communities in Arab nations remains a constant problem as limits to Palestinian rights continue in the Occupied Territories and in Jordanian, Syrian, and Lebanese refugee camps. When I visited a small town called Madaba in Jordan back in 2001, I was utterly shocked to see the intense poverty and desperation in that Palestinian camp. However, UNRWA and UNICEF are fully active in these camps helping the local populations with social services including vocational training for both women and men.
Interesting to note, however, Syria is the only country that grants Palestinians full access to government services.
In Lebanon, Palestinians remain in refuge along the southern border. "The appalling social and economic conditions of these refugees demonstrate forcefully the failure of successive governments in Israel, Lebanon, other regional states and the wider international community to respect and protect their rights and to find a sustainable and just solution to their plight over a period that now stretches to almost six decades. The refugees who continue to live in the camps and in less formal "gatherings" have paid a heavy price for this failure of international leadership. They are not only unable to return to the homes from which they were expelled or fled, but they are prevented too from exercising some of their basic rights in Lebanon, the country in which they obtained refuge." [UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), 2007(1)]

clockworksausage said...


Thanks for your response. I agree with your elaboration on the plight of Palestinian refugees in many Arab countries. There is an African saying that springs to mind:

When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

clockworksausage said...

By the way, it's Alexander.