The term Palestine (Hebrew: פלשתינה Palestina; Arabic: فلسطين Filasṭīn/Falasṭīn/Filisṭīn; Greek: Παλαιστίνη, Palaistinē) has a number of meanings. Ancient Egyptian records mention Philistinia (meaning "migratory"): this referenced an Aegean people from 1200 BCE whom the Bible portrays as adversaries of the kings Saul and David. Herodotus in the 5th century BCE wrote of the territory of Syria Philistina. After the Jews revolted against the Romans in 135 CE, the latter called the area Provincia Syria Philistina rather than Judea as the Jews had.
In contemporary terms, "Palestinian" denotes a community of Muslim, Christian, and Samaritan[note 1] Arabs who live in the West Bank, in Gaza, in refugee camps in some Middle Eastern nations and in a global diaspora. These people see the territory that currently makes up the state of Israel and the lands occupied or controlled by Israel—the West Bank and Gaza—as their homeland.
An independent State of Palestine was declared in exile at Algiers on 15 November 1988. This state has been recognized by 138 nations, which includes 70.5% of the United Nations membership (and represents 80% of the world population), but it remains unrecognized by Israel and by the US. On September 30, 2015, for the first time, the UN raised the Palestinian flag at its New York headquarters. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the occasion a "day of pride for the Palestinian people around the world" and a "day of hope".
The Palestinian Authority is a proto-national political/administrative entity that exercises limited sovereignty over the West Bank, an area under Israeli military control. The Gaza Strip is administered internally by Hamas, because it won a pan-Palestinian election in 2006. The majority of legal scholars, the UN, the Red Cross, human-rights organizations, the international community, and the US State Department recognize Gaza as an area occupied by Israel - owing to Israeli control (of the borders, air-space, waters, population registry), imposition of buffer zones, and military raids, among other aspects. Israel, however, rejects this international consensus, maintaining that it left Gaza in 2005, dismantling the Israeli settlements/military installations. Israel accordingly regards the enclave as a hostile foreign entity.
As a result of the Israeli blockade on Gaza ports and the Egyptian/Israeli closure of the border with Egypt, around 40% of World Health Organisation essential medicines are unavailable in Gaza. Israel blames mismanagement by the Hamas local authority for the vast social problems in Gaza.
In historical terms, Palestine was a small territory in the Middle East, on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Under the Roman Emperor Hadrian, the Jewish people performed a long series of failed rebellions against Rome which led to the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple of Jerusalem. Hadrian also renamed the province (which had been known as IUDAEA up to that point) SYRIA PALESTINA, after the ancient Philistines that used to live there. This is the origin of the modern name. A small number returned to Jerusalem, where they remained for centuries - some to this day. Arabization of the area started with an expansion of Arab Empire, during the 7th century. The area is holy to the three major Abrahamaic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, creating a source of conflict, notably in the Crusades.
The early years of Zionism
In the wake of centuries of persecution ranging from discrimination to pogroms, in the late 19th century European Jews[note 2] began to answer the call of Zionism and buy land to settle in Palestine, a practice called Aliyah, or "ascent" in Hebrew. Some of the purchased land had been seized from Palestinians by other Ottoman citizens abusing the 1858 Land Code, and the sales to Jewish settlers was viewed by many Palestinians with suspicion and anger. It has to be emphasized that - like most of the Middle East - the prevailing economic structure was large goods owned by absentee landlords who did not give a crap about the people working the land as long as they paid up. Some Arab voices actually welcomed the newcomers as they at least lived on the land they owned and cared about what happened to it.
During World War I, the British and Ottoman Empires were opponents. As part of their fight the British sought the help of Arabs under Ottoman rule, including the Palestinians, making promises of a free and independent country for them at the war's conclusion. However, the British also promised Jews a homeland in Palestine. Neither of these promises were fulfilled; the British had actually promised the area to themselves (and Syria to France). When the Allies won the war, the League of Nations gave Britain a Mandate over Palestine. Both the Palestinians and Jews were understandably displeased by this.
Increased Zionist emigration and WWII
Greater waves of Jewish migration started in the 1920s and 30s, because of the growing support for Zionism among the Jews of Europe and the growing power of the Nazis. The opposition between the indigenous Palestinians, who were angry over this enormous influx, on the one hand, and the increasing Zionist population (Jews who were generally European in their culture) on the other, grew more violent, with attacks from both sides. Some of the Zionists sought to overthrow the British Mandate government in Palestine and create an independent Jewish state (this became the dominant position within Zionism). In an attempt to calm the tension, the British set quotas for Jewish immigrants, which the Zionists violated. To enforce this quota the British began to intern the migrants rather than allowing them into Palestine, leading to further anger. Violence and terrorism became common from both Palestinian Arabs and Zionists.
During World War II, there was a period of roughly two hundred days during which Axis advances on the Suez appeared likely to succeed, which caused a great deal of concern among the Jewish population of the region. Thankfully, Erwin Rommel and his troops ran out of fuel as the tankers he ordered in Enigma-coded telegrams were all sunk after said telegrams were decoded.
The UN partition plan
Shortly after the war, the United Nations, which succeeded the League, passed a resolution offering a plan to carve up Mandatory Palestine and give roughly half of it to the Jews. A majority of former Mandate territory (including more than historic Palestine) was made into the Kingdom of Jordan. The UN resolution pleased many Zionist Jews because it endorsed a Jewish State, but they were displeased with the amount of land indicated and intended to take far more land in due course. The Palestinians and the Arab countries refused to accept the partition plan, in part because they perceived it as manifestly unequal. The Arabs also knew that the Zionists did not ultimately intend to settle for the land "given" them by the UN (as if the land were the UN's to give). The Arabs, then, refused to recognize a Jewish state and the UN's plan was not implemented.
The State of Israel is founded and Nakba occurs
Zionist terrorism directed at the British caused them to pull out of the region. In 1948, Zionists declared a State of Israel. Five neighboring countries, supported by two other nearby countries, launched an attack; the Zionist forces defeated them. At one time it was generally thought that most Palestinians fled, either leaving on promises of a return after the war, or were driven out to neighboring countries. However, recent scholarship has demonstrated that Zionists did, in fact, perpetrate a great deal of violent, ethnic cleansing of Arabs in several hundred of their Palestinian villages and cities. Palestinians refer to these events as the Nakba, Arabic for "catastrophe." While the Israeli government officially claims there were no expulsions and that most Palestinians claim nobody left of their own accord or on command of Arab leaders and armies, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. What exactly is the truth is a hot button issue for all involved and even many uninvolved people. Today around 6.5 million descendants of those people who left mandatory Palestine in 1948 live in refugee camps all over the Middle East, only rarely integrated into mainstream society and granted equal rights.
Having won in in 1948, Israel then appropriated most of the land intended for the Palestinian state in the UN plan, while the rest ended up under the control of Jordan (the West Bank), or Egypt (Gaza). Then, as a result of the 1967 Six-Day War Israel conquered all of this as well (plus Sinai and the Golan Heights). The area is currently administered under an Apartheid system where Arabs are not allowed to freely move around, and roads are segregated based on race.
While the Israeli experiment has been largely successful as a refuge and nation for Jews, there still remain some issues: issues regarding the mostly Muslim Palestinian Arabs who were expelled in 1948 and are now refugees as well as issues regarding those who remained within Israel proper and live as full citizens of Israel, but who endure significant discrimination.
Israel has always been racked with internal strife as Palestinian resistance organizations continue to oppose Israeli settlement of the West Bank (settlement entails expulsion of the Palestinians whose houses are demolished) and the Apartheid system implemented there, and to seek redress for what they call "the Catastrophe" (an-Nakba)—the ethnic cleansing of several hundred Arab cities and villages in what is now Israeli territory.
Unfortunately for the current occupants of this area, the violent conflict there has a 6000-year history. More than 34% percent of male skulls and 19% of female skulls found in what is now Israel and the West Bank show evidence of serious injuries. This compares to 1-25% from other parts of the world. The injuries were caused by slingshots or clubs, and most injuries were partially-healed indicating they were not immediately fatal. On the bright side, this research was performed by a joint Israeli-Palestinian team!
Unfortunately, no lasting solution has yet been found to the conflict, as Palestinians generally find the occupation intolerable and identify Israel as the oppressor, but the state of Israel continues its policy of the illegal occupation and settlement of land seized by force. While some argue an obstacle to peace has been the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, many prominent Gazans strongly support Hamas' goal of a fully independent Palestine.
Hamas is designated as a terrorist organisation by the USA, UK, Canada, and the European Union. Russia, Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey (along with most Muslim countries) do not designate it so. Central to the allegations of Hamas not being a possible peace partner is their 1988 charter which does not recognize any peace agreements with Israel, quotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a well known anti-Semitic forgery put out by the Czarist government in Russia), denounces "Nazi Zionist practices against our people," and, on an unintentionally humorous note, cites one hadith foretelling an apocalyptic fight between Jews and Muslims said to be accompanied by talking rocks and trees which will vocalize antisemitic thoughts.[note 3] While Hamas claims, and even some Israeli officials, such as Ephraim Levy the former head of Mossad, have agreed,[note 4] that their charter is largely no longer operative and is thus irrelevant, the countries viewing Hamas as a terrorist organisation state that until it is officially amended it has to be taken into consideration.
As of 2011, there has been a major push within the mainstream Palestinian factions to gain international recognition as a separate entity from Israel, with the notion being that they could then get statehood assigned in a fashion similar to how Israel was founded. This was epitomized by Palestinian entry into the United Nations' UNESCO organization. This has been extremely controversial as it has been opposed by the US and EU as being counter-productive to finding a peaceful solution to the crisis (because, you know, breaking international law and
stealing more settling land is totally conducive to peace). As a result of the UNESCO vote, the USA has stopped all contributions and donations to UNESCO. The PLO ambassador to the U.S. caused some fuss when he stated in 2011 about any future Palestinian state: "After the experience of the last 44 years, of military occupation and all the conflict and friction, I think it will be in the best interest that the two peoples should be separated."
- Ilan Pappe. 2006. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oxford: Oneworld. ISBN 978-1-85168-555-4.
- Tom Segev. 1999. One Palestine Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 978-0-8050-6587-3.
- This Land Is Mine A short video history of the long conflict by Nina Paley (with help from Andy Williams)
- Apt cartoon
- Samaritans are Palestinians living mostly in Nablus who practice Samaritanism, which is related to Judaism
- Initially mostly Ashkenazim from Poland, Russia and Ukraine
- The Hamas Charter states in relevant part: "Hamas is one of the links in the Chain of Jihad in the confrontation with the Zionist invasion. It links up with the setting out of the Martyr Izz a-din al-Qassam and his brothers in the Muslim Brotherhood who fought the Holy War in 1936; it further relates to another link of the Palestinian Jihad and the Jihad and efforts of the Muslim Brothers during the 1948 War, and to the Jihad operations of the Muslim Brothers in 1968 and thereafter. But even if the links have become distant from each other, and even if the obstacles erected by those who revolve in the Zionist orbit, aiming at obstructing the road before the Jihad fighters, have rendered the pursuance of Jihad impossible; nevertheless, the Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim)."
- "The Hamas leadership has recognized that its ideological goal is not attainable and will not be in the foreseeable future. They are ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state in the temporary borders of 1967....They know that the moment a Palestinian state is established with their cooperation, they will be obligated to change the rules of the game: They will have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original ideological goals" This Time We Went Too Far: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion by Norman Finkelstein, quoting former head of Mossad, Ephraim Levy.
- See the Wikipedia article on International recognition of the State of Palestine.
- How Britain Facilitates the Shameful Israeli Naval Blockade on Gaza, Ruairi Wood
- Palestinian Lives Don’t Matter, Bret Stephens
- Nicolle, David (2009). The Great Islamic Conquests AD 632-750. p.50-68
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2012/11/30/palestinians-israel-settlements-arab-countries-refugees/ Contains an account of the treatment of Palestinian refugees in Arab countries
- Israeli-Arab Knesset member, Ayman Odeh, says his party refrains from involvement in ministries that pursue mandates favoring Jewish citizens at the expense of the state’s Arab citizens — i.e., the Ministry of Defense, the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption. http://972mag.com/ayman-odeh-has-a-dream-but-not-all-american-jews-like-it/114671/
- https://www.sciencenews.org/article/mideast-violence-goes-way-back Mideast violence goes way back: Head wounds common in region throughout last 6,000 years
- Mahmoud Abbas raises Palestinian flag at UNESCO