Israel – Palestine Info

an on-line guide to the

“Middle East Conflict”

—Online since October 2005—–Latest update November 30, 2012—

English Language Section  

 

Welcome to this website!

The primary focus of “Israël – Palestina Informatie” is to provide information about the Arab-Israeli conflict to the Dutch public. Therefore our own articles are mostly in Dutch.
Background articles in English are:

If time allows it we may write/translate more articles of our own in English.

Aside from that we try to put the best articles from other sources on our website, and most of those are in English language. You may want to take a look at them. We search for articles that give reliable information and a balanced view, an insight in the history and nature of the conflict, and perspectives towards a peaceful solution.


Recent selected articles in English

 
 
See also:  Israel & Palestijnen Nieuws Blog (mostly in English, with Dutch introductions)
 

Concise history of the Arab-Israeli conflict

(For expanded version with maps see History of the Arab-Israeli conflict)

The ancient Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judea had been successively conquered and subjugated by several foreign empires, when in 135 CE the Roman Empire defeated the third revolt against its rule and consequently expelled the surviving Jews from Jerusalem and its surroundings, selling many of them into slavery. The Roman province was then renamed “Palestine”. After the Arab conquest of Palestine in the 7th century the remaining inhabitants were mostly assimilated into Arab culture and Muslim religion, though Palestine retained Christian and Jewish minorities. It was ruled by several Arab empires until 1516, when it became part of the Ottoman Empire.

In the late 19th century Zionism arose as a nationalist and political movement aimed at restoring the land of Israel as a national home for the Jewish people. Tens of thousands of Jews from Eastern Europe and Yemen migrated to Palestine. Zionism saw national independence as the only answer to anti-Semitism and to the centuries of persecution and oppression of Jews in the Diaspora. Zionism basically was a secular movement, but it referred to the religious and cultural ties with Jerusalem and ancient Israel, which most Jews had maintained throughout the ages. Most orthodox Jews initially opposed Zionism, as did most Marxist and assimilated Jews, but ongoing pogroms and the Holocaust made many of them change their minds. During World War I Great Britain captured part of the Middle East, including Palestine, from the Ottoman Empire. In 1917 the British had promised the Zionists a ‘Jewish national home’ in the Balfour Declaration, and on this basis they later were assigned a mandate over Palestine from the League of Nations. The mandate of Palestine initially included the area of Transjordan, which was split off in 1922.

Jewish immigration and land purchases met with increasing resistance from the Arab inhabitants of Palestine, who started several violent insurrections against the Jews and against British rule in the 1920s and 1930s, mainly led by the radical Mufti of Jerusalem and Nazi collaborator Haj Amin al-Husseini. The Zionists in Palestine established self-defense organizations like the Haganah. Under Arab pressure the British severely limited Jewish immigration to Palestine, after proposals to divide the area had been rejected by the Palestinian Arabs in 1937. Jewish refugees from countries controlled by Nazi Germany now had no place to flee to, since nearly all other countries refused to let them in. In response Jewish organizations organized illegal immigration and the radical Irgun committed assaults on British institutions in Palestine.

Even after World War II Great Britain refused to let in Jewish immigrants, now mostly Holocaust survivors. Increasing presure and violence by both the Arabs and the Zionists made the situation untenable, and the British returned their mandate to the United Nations, who hoped to solve the conflict with a partition plan for Palestine, which would devide the land in two about equal parts. The proposal was adopted by the UN in November 1947. The Jews accepted the plan, but the Palestinians and the Arab countries rejected it, and Palestinian Arabs started attacking Jewish convoys and communities throughout Palestine and blocked Jerusalem, whereupon the Zionists attacked and destroyed several Palestinian villages. The Arab League had openly declared that it aimed to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state by force.

A day after the declaration of the state of Israel in May 1948, Arab troops from the neighboring countries invaded the country. After initial success for the Arab forces, a UN brokered cease-fire gave the Zionists the time to better organize and train their newly established army, which ultimately gave them the upper hand. When in 1949 armistice agreements were signed, Israel controlled 78% of the area between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea, whereas Jordan had conquered the West Bank and East Jerusalem and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip. In 1950 Jordan annexed the West Bank and East Jerusalem. About 711,000 Palestinian Arabs in the area now under Israeli control had fled or were expelled and over 400 of their villages had been destroyed, while the Jewish communities in the area under Arab control had all been expelled. In the years and decades after the founding of Israel approximately 900,000 Jewish inhabitants of Arab countries also had to flee or were expelled, most of whom went to Israel. These Jewish refugees all were relocated in their new home countries. In contrast, the Arab countries refused to permanently house the Palestinian Arab refugees, insisting on their right to return to Israel. About a million Palestinian refugees still live in refugee camps. Israel rejected the Palestinian ‘right of return’ as it would lead to an Arab majority in Israel.

The Arab countries refused to accept the existence of a Jewish state and instigated a boycott of Israel. They founded Palestinian resistance groups which carried out terrorist attacks in Israel, like Fatah in 1959 (led by Yasser Arafat), and the PLO in 1964. In May 1967 Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran for Israeli shipping, sent home the UN peace keeping force, and threatened Israel with a war of destruction. It formed a defense union with Syria, Jordan and Iraq and stationed its troops along the Israeli border. After diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis failed, Israel attacked in June 1967 and in six days it conquered the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Desert from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan. Initially Israel was willing to return most of these territories in exchange for peace, but the Arab countries refused to negotiate peace and repeated their goal of destroying Israel at the Khartoum conference. The Six Day War brought one million Palestinians under Israeli rule. Israelis were divided over the question what to do with the West Bank, and a new religious-nationalistic movement emerged, that pushed for settling these areas.

After 1967 the focus of the Palestinian resistance shifted to liberating the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a first step to the liberation of entire Palestine. The Arab Palestinians started to manifest themselves as a people and to demand an independent state. In 1974 the PLO was granted observer status in the UN as the representative of the Palestinian Arabs, and several UN institutions were established to support the Palestinians and their struggle for their own state. In 1975 the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 3379, declaring Zionism to be a form of racism, which was revoked again in 1991.

In 1979 Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty, for which Israel returned the Sinai Desert to Egypt. A major uprising of the Palestinians in the occupied territories from 1987 on (the first Intifadah) convinced the Israeli government that they could not continue to rule over the Arab population. In the early 1990s the PLO renounced violence, recognized the legitimacy of Israel, and declared to only strive for a Palestinian state in the 1967 occupied areas. Subsequently secret negotiations in Oslo led to an agreement under which in 1994 a Palestinian National Authority was established under the leadership of Arafat and the PLO, to which Israel would gradually transfer land. Elections were held for the PNA. After a 5 year transition period the most difficult matters would be settled in final status negotiations, such as the status of Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees, the Jewish settlements and the definite borders.

After 1967 Israel had established some Jewish settlements in these areas, and from the late 1970s on many more were established, including large settlement blocs. Although the Oslo agreements did not require removal of these settlements, their rapid growth undermined Palestinian confidence in the peace process. Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who partially froze settlement construction, was assassinated by a Jewish extremist in 1995. On the Palestinian side, Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territory led to the construction of a terror network by the extremist Hamas and other groups, who from the mid 1990s on were able to carry out an unprecedented number of suicide attacks inside Israel. The PA took limited action against the terror groups and even funded them, and Arafat gave the green light for attacks when that suited his strategy.

The Oslo peace process failed because both the Palestinians and the Israelis did not stick to agreements they made and the leadership on both sides did little to build confidence and to prepare their own people for the necessary compromises. After the unsuccessful Camp David negotiations in the summer of 2000 a provocative visit to the Jerusalem Temple Mount by Likud leader Ariel Sharon sparked the second Intifada, which the Palestinian Authority had been preparing for as a means to press Israel into more concessions. However, the opposite happened, as the Israeli peace camp collapsed under the violence of Palestinian suicide attacks.

Final peace proposals were presented in January 2001, which included a Palestinian state on all of the Gaza Strip and about 97% of the West Bank, division of Jerusalem and no right of return to Israel for Palestinian refugees. The Palestinian side refused to accept these terms, and the Intifada continued. After suicide attacks had killed over 100 Israelis in March 2002, Israel re-occupied the areas earlier transferred to the Palestinian Authority and set up a series of checkpoints, which severely limited the freedom of movement for the Palestinians. In 2003 Israel started the construction of a very controversial separation barrier along the Green Line and partly on Palestinian land. These measures led to a strong decline of Palestinian suicide attacks in Israel, but also to increasing poverty in the Palestinian territories and international condemnations.

Although both parties accepted the ‘Road Map to Peace‘, launched by the Quartet of US, UN, EU and Russia in 2003, no serious peace negotiations have taken place in recent years. Israel unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but it demanded an end to Palestinian terrorism before starting negotiations with Arafat’s successor Abbas. Plans for further unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank were put on ice after Hamas won the PA elections in early 2006, thousands of rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, and border attacks took place from both the Gaza Strip and south Lebanon (which Israel had unilaterally withdrawn from in 2000). The latter had spurred the disastrous Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006.

The primary cause for the Arab-Israeli conflict lies in the claim of two national movements on the same land, and particularly the Arab refusal to accept Jewish self-determination in a part of that land. Fundamentalist religious concepts regarding the right of either side to the entire land have played an increasing role, on the Jewish side particularly in the religious settler movement, on the Palestinian side in the Hamas and similar groups. The conflict is further complicated by anti-Western resentment and anti-Semitic incitement on the Arab side and distrust, demonizing and aversion on both sides. Since the Oslo peace process however, a broad consensus has been formed that an independent Palestinian Arab state should be established within the areas occupied in 1967. Polls on both sides show that majorities among Israelis and Palestinians accept a two state solution, but Palestinians almost unanimously stick to right of return of the refugees to Israel, and most Israelis oppose a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.


© This article is copyright Israel-Palestina Informatie, aside from parts that mention outside sources. For permission to copy our materials please contact us through our e-mail address. Limited citations accompanied with a link to this website are allowed.

Some articles about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict on this website:


 

Other websites about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict:

* A Brief History of Israel and Palestine and the Conflict,    The Early History of Zionism and the Creation of Israel, and many other articles on   

MidEastWeb for Coexistence – Middle East news & background, history, maps and opinions

* Zionism and its Impact / A bit about Israel / Jew! / Six Day War / Zionism / Israel Boycott and other articles on Zionism and Israel Information Center

* ZioNation – Progressive Zionism and Israel Web Log

* Council for Peace and Security (Israel)

* One Voice Movement

* Ariga’s PeaceWatch – on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Middle East peace

* Six Day War – British website about the backgrounds of the Six Day War

* Wikipedia categories: Israel and Zionism, Palestine and Middle East

Middle East Analysis * Israel News * Israel: Like This, As If (blog)

* Israël Informatie Linkpagina (Dutch & English)

* Israël & Palestijnen Nieuwsblog (Dutch & English)

* History Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (1) (Arabic) تاريخ النزاع الإسرائيلي الفلسطيني، الجزء الأول

* History Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (2) (Arabic) تاريخ النزاع الإسرائيلي الفلسطيني، الجزء الثاني

Many other links on our Links Page are in English language.

Israel – Palestina Info, an on-line guide to the Arab-Israeli conflict

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