History Lesson

I am going to summarize the history of geographic Palestine, as I understand it. Some of this comes from my father, some from Harb, some from Wikipedia. Palestine is a strip of habitable land between the eastern edge of the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, about the size of Massachusetts. It has been consistently inhabited for over 10,000 years, by many different groups. The Jewish Israelis had a historic nation here several thousand years ago. The inhabitants of the land have never been of a single race or religion. Empires and foreign powers have governed the area for millennia, with many changes in control. The land has significant military, economic, and religious value, all motivating conquest.

The Ottoman Empire (Persians) governed Palestine for ~500 years before WW1. Britain took control during WW1. During the British Palestine Mandate, Jewish immigration increased. They acquired land and influence in the area, and this caused friction with the Arab Muslim majority. There was violence and Britain eventually turned over control to the UN in 1948. The UN issued a mandate dividing Palestine into a new nation of Israel and a new nation of Palestine. Israel declared independence, and a coalition of Arab nations declared war on Israel. Palestine did not declare an independent state, and a Palestinian militia fought alongside the Arab coalition.

Israel won the war, and acquired land beyond that assigned to her in the 1948 UN mandate. Israel claimed most of historic Palestine, except for Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. Arab Palestinians were displaced from their homes within Israeli territory during the war, by force or by fear of force. The UN established camps to care for these refugees. These camps have remained and developed into small communities or neighborhoods within larger cities over 60 years. The refugees claim the right of return to their homes in Israel, and/or to compensation for their losses. International law supports this claim, but Israel refuses and the international community is not militarily/politically enforcing the issue.

In 1967, Egypt/Syria/Jordan massed military forces for an offensive campaign against Israel. Israel pre-emptively attacked, and won the “Six-Day War”. Israel gained military control of the entirety of historic Palestine, including Eastern Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. In 1973, Syria and Egypt initiated the Yom Kippur War with Israel. It is so-named because the Arab nations attacked on a Jewish holiday. Israel won, retaking the Sinai Peninsula and the rest of the Golan Heights. Israel began encouraging settlement of Israeli civilians within the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip. Israel has since normalized relationships with some Arab countries, notably Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey. This means they recognize Israel as a country, have diplomatic relations, and economic ties. The Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt with Israel retaining use of the Suez Canal.

At present, Israel continues to exert military control over all of historic Palestine. In the last decade, a wall and fence were erected within the West Bank and around Jerusalem. The Oslo Agreement of the 1990s partitioned the West Bank into regions A, B, and C. Area A consists of Palestinian cities under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Israeli citizens are not allowed in. Settlements and some roads are under complete Israeli control, and Palestinians are not allowed in. Area B is for everyone’s use, but under Israeli military control.

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