Israel Palestine Primer please

Okay, forgive my ignorance, but I need some clarification as to why these people are trying to bomb each other off the map. Please try to hold your side-splitting laughter at the lack of my knowledge until the end. :slight_smile:

Israel did not exist until 1946, correct? This leads me to believe that the state was created to give a home to refugee Jews from Europe after WWII. Palestine was upset at having to give up their land with no say-so.

Is that it? I think I’m missing the whole Jewish/Muslim conflict as well…can someone explain that too?

I have a funny feeling I am oversimplifying the situation…we pause now for the finger-pointing and screams of laughter…:wink:

There were waves of Jewish immigration to Eretz Israel since the end of the 19th century. In 1946 they were around the 30% of the population if i’m not mistaken.

Britain was promising an independent Jewish state since 1916(or was the Balfour declaration in 1918?) and the Holocaust was the last push.

Well, to start, Israel declared independence in 1948, but Jewish immigration started in the 1880s, and the Jewish population of the country before the war approaced 1 million. Certain countries started to suuport a jewish state after the war, but certainly not all of them, and Israel had to fight very hard before and after independence in order to exist. In other words, Israel wasn’t “given” to anyone.

And there never was an independent nation by the name of Palestine. The last time the region between the Jordan and the sea was a sovereign state was around the time of Augustsus Caesar.

Further proof of my ignorance…

What’s Eretz Israel? And if Israel existed in the Bible, what happened to it?

Okay, now I’m further confused…Israel won their independence from who(m)?

“Eretz Israel” is Hebrew for “the land of Israel”, which is a piece of land on the southeast of the Mediterranean Sea, and has existed ever since the continents have been in their current location (or even before that, but then it’d be hard to describe where it was). Also known as The Holy Land due to its status in Judaism, or The Promised Land after God’s promise to give it to the Jews.

That’s not to be confused with the State of Israel, which was formed in 1948, after the United Nations decided to take British-run Palestine, and split it into two independent nations, as Jewish one (which became Israel) and an Arab one (which became Jordan).

There has always been an indigenous Jewish population there, but it was indeed small until the late 1800’s, as Alessan pointed out. The portion which had been designated to become the Jewish state upon Britain’s pullout was actually smaller than it is now, but the Arabs wanted more and tried to drive the Jews into the sea, leading to the War Of Independence, in which Israel was able to capture and maintain borders a bit larger and more secure than the UN’s plan had envisioned.

Someone will probably be along shortly to provide links to sites with a lot more info than I’ve put so far…

  1. Eretz Israel means “the Land of Israel”. It’s the name mosty Jews prefer to use for the geographical region.

  2. Israel (or Judea, as it was known at the time) was made a vassal state of Rome around 40 B.C., and a province about fifty years later. It rebelled against the Empire in 70 A.D. and again at around 140 A.D.; the second rebellion - one of the largest the Romans ever suppressed - led to the near depopulation of the country, and to it being renamed “Palestina” (after the Jews’ ancient enemies, the Philistines) as a punishment.

  3. Israel won its independence from Britain, who conquered the area from the Ottoman Turks in 1918.

So, if I understand you correctly, the current conflict is over borders? Why is it so hard for the groups to find peace? Is it because of all the fanatical splinter groups that keep breaking the ceasefires?

It is my sincere belief that the government and people of Israel want simply to live in peace. Given the history up to now, I think it is understandable that secure borders are a good idea. But if they were convinced that the Arabs would just let them be, they’d concede just about anything (short of dissolving the state itself).

The Arab response, I believe, is “Sure! You can say that now, but your whole presence here is wrong and illegal. You have invaded us since the 1800’s and we want you out.”

To back me up on that, I looked on the net for a copy of the charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization (which was founded in 1964, by the way, so don’t let the 1967 war confuse you). Try this site and let us know what you think:

It’s a typical rock-and-hard-place situation: Israel will accept anything which allows them to continue as a Jewish nation, and the Palestineans will reject anything which allows them to continue as a Jewish nation.

This has been discussed many times before and in great depth so a search wll give you plenty of very informed stuff posted by our knowledgeable elders. For example

Both sides are not trying to bomb each other off the map. The Palestinian terrorists are trying to bomb the State of Israel off the map. Israel is not trying to blow Palestine off the map and is acting in its defense.

Killjoy. :wink:

Not as an independent nation. However, it did exist sometime before that, and there was the whole Palestine territory under British (piss-poor) administration.

Incorrect. There was a movement prior to the Holocaust to have a homeland for Jews. Not surprisingly, this movement was a Jewish movement.

Actually, what happened is: British-ruled Palestine was supposed to be split into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The people now called Palestinians bailed out on the rather weak promise from the Arab countries that they’d get to take over the Jewish state’s lands after the Jews were run into the sea.

It’s a convenient rallying cry for the Palestinians and the terrorists. After all, not all Palestinians are Muslims; many are Christians. I liken it to the nifty timing for Saddam Hussein showing up in mosques back during the Gulf War even though he’s in charge of the anti-religion Bath Party in his country.

Cool. You really aren’t a killjoy then!

We also had a fairly good discussion on on the temporary SDMB in the Israel and Palestine for dummies. Help? thread.

Thanks everyone for the insight. I think I have a little better understanding now. (Sigh) now, how do we get each side back to the peace table?

(That’s a rhetorical question, you don’t have to answer. I’m sure better heads than ours have struggled with that one for years…)

There are no better heads than outs–but we cannot persuade them of that.

(I’m reading Cleveland’s “A History of the Modern Middle East” at the moment. I’ve gleaned this from there. Errors of emphasis, misunderstandings and inaccuracies are mine, IANAE.)

Zionists in the late 1800s conclude that Europeans will always oppress the Jews, and that the latter need to find a homeland of their own. It didn’t necessarily have to be in the land of Biblical Israel, however.

1914: The Ottoman Empire, operating out of Turkey controls Iraq, the holy cities and west coast of Saudi Arabia, Syria and Southern Syria (Palestine and Jordan). Part of the empire’s legitimacy is connected to its Islamic heritage, although since the Ottomans want to be a great power, there are tendencies towards Westernization, at least in Istanbul.

The Ottoman Empire chooses to invade Russia, thereby placing themselves on the wrong side of WWI. Dismemberment follows, to the confusion of its Arab citizens.

1917: (Still during WWI) The Brits make “The Balfour Declaration”
“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people… it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…”

Jan 1919: Zionist advocate Weitzmann cuts a deal with Faysal of Syria: Jews and Arabs would cooperate in the economic development of Palestine. Faysal would recognize Balfour and consent to Jewish immigration. In return, Arab rights would be respected in Palestine and Syria would become an independent nation.

The Brits make “Palestine”, “Transjordan” and “Iraq” into colonies; (although they call them “Mandates”, since imperialism was no longer PC.)

The French, not wanting to be left out, occupy Syria. The Weitzmann-Faysal deal is thereby considered void.

The al-Saud family negotiates with a bunch of tribes to form “Arabia”, a weak, impoverished, expanse of sand whose chief economic activity was connected with the pilgrimage to Mecca. Oil riches are a post-war phenomenon.

Jewish immigration into Palestine continues. The Arab and Jewish communities construct separate institutions; factionalism limits the effectiveness of Arab institutions; the influx of the educated from Europe enhances Jewish ones.

Population of Palestine by Ethnic Group 1931-46
Date          Arab     %   	    Jewish     %
1931	 864,806 	82	 174,139 	16
1936	 983,244 	71	 382,857 	28
1941	 1,123,168 	68	 489,830 	30
1946	 1,310,866 	67	 599,922 	31

The Arabs wanted strict limits on Jewish immigration during the interwar period, as well as an end to land purchases by the newcomers. There were assorted riots and investigations by the Brits. Implementing the Balfour declaration proved to be as difficult as squaring a circle, given the lack of Jewish/Arab cooperation during the period.

1947: The Brits throw up their hands and pass the buck to the UN. The UN proposes a partition plan in September 1947. Before the vote, the Brits announce that the Palestinian Mandate will end in May 1948.

Chaos ensues. 400,000 Arab flee the Israeli region. The State of Israel is declared in May 1948. Various Arab armies pursue a piece of the action; they are poorly equipped and uncoordinated. Those conflicts end in Dec 1948: Israeli territory expands, the Palestinian Arab state disappears. Arabs are forcibly evacuated so that by 1949, only 160,000 Arabs remain within the borders of Israel. (The West Bank is in Jordan’s hands; Egypt owns the Gaza strip).

Israel had replaced a European Jewish refugee problem with a Middle Eastern refugee problem. Arab intransigence resulted in consecutive losses for the Palestinian Arabs.

Comments and critiques are welcome.

To add:

Arab/Israeli conflicts in the region, briefly. This is rough, feel free to correct. I omit the first and second intifada from this list because there have not been widespread mobilizations by the Israelis. I also omit the War of Attrition over the Beka’a Valley with Syria through the 1970s.

1948: Israeli War of Independence. Israel declares itself a state, and is invaded by its neighbors. Using mostly WWII surplus purchased on the cheap from Czechoslovakia, the Israelis fight the Arabs to a stalemate. A cease-fire line defines a border which includes West Jerusalem, not the Old City and Temple Mount.

1956: Suez Canal incident. Nasser nationalizes the canal, Israel with France and Britain aim to re-internationalize it. Israel does much of the dirty work on the ground.

1967: Six Day War. Rhetoric, antagonism and big military buildups on the border by Jordan, Egypt, and Syria precipitate an Israeli preemptive strike. Israel destroys most of the offensive capability of those countries and retakes East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) from Jordan. It also takes Gaza and the entire Sinai nearly to the Suez Canal from Egypt, and the strategic Golan Heights from Syria.

1973: Yom Kippur War. Egypt, Syria, and IIRC Iraq invade on the Jewish Day of Atonement (the holiest day of the Jewish calendar). The Israelis are beaten back at first, and take especially heavy losses in the Golan in tank brigades and in the airforce over the Sinai due to new Soviet SAM technology. It takes a large Israeli mobilization over a week and American airlifts of munitions to turn the tide.

1980: Lebanon campaign. After the government in Lebanon collapses and civil war breaks out, Israel invades in order to back their own horse (the Christian factions). Syria backs the Muslim ones and things turn ugly. This was partially precipitated by numerous terror attacks from Southern Lebanon on kibbutzim in the north of Israel. Israel occupies a large security buffer zone after withdrawing from Lebanon proper.

Israel gave back the Sinai to Egypt after the 1980 Camp David accords. Israel withdrew from the Lebanon buffer zone in IIRC 1999 under Barak after the UN promised it would monitor Southern Lebanon to prevent Hizbullah terror attacks.

I knew the French had to be at the bottom of this!

Seriously though, nice factual summary. Unfortunately, it leaves out the context, which is all-important in the mid-east.

The Arab states were completely against the formation of Israel. However, this wasn’t, originally, so much a product of anti-semitism as it was anti-colonialism. The locals, riding the wave of post-war nationalism, viewed handing over a large chunk of populated “Arab” territory to a bunch of imported Europeans as back-door colonialism.

Many of the soon-to-be-Israelis had their own agendas. While the official line is that it’s the Palestinian refugees’ own fault for running off, there were factions in the Zionist movement that wanted to run them off and did. Moreover, while the UN resolution that created Istrael called for the creation of a Palestinian (Arab) state as well as a Jewish one, some people, including Ben Gurion, had plans to eventually “take over” all of Palestine.

So where did the refugees come from?, you ask. During the 1948 war, a large portion of the locals fled. The official Israeli line is that the local Arabs fled because they were conspiring with the Arab armies trying to drive the Israelis into the sea. The actual facts are more complex than that. Most of the refugees were local farmers, merchants and artisans who fled with their families. No doubt a few went off to join the Arab armies. However, the vast majority of them were just trying to get out of the way. Some were induced to flee by Arab propaganda. Some were induced to flee by the efforts of some Israeli factions to drive them out. I’m quite sure that a great many were induced to flee by a combination of the two.

When the 1948 war ended, the Arab refugees who fled what became Israel were not allowed to go back to their homes. As a result, many of them lost property and business and ended up in refugee camps.

This turned out to be a fateful decision. Had the Israelis allowed the refugees to return, Israel would have a somewhat higher proportion of Arabs in its population (now its about 20%). However, it probably would not have the problems with the “territories” that it has today. It’s also unlikely that the Arab world would have been able to maintain its antipathy. Israel argues that the Palestinian refugees should have been absorbed by the Arab states rather than left in refugee camps. This is probably correct but beside the point as two wrongs don’t make a right. Now, of course, it is demographically impossible for the Israelis to allow the refugees to return.

What’s the point of all this? Probably that it’s impossible not to oversimply the situation in the middle-east.

To edwino’s 1967 summary, I might add:

Afterward the 1967 war, Jordan received 300,000 new Palestinian refugees, Syria 80,000. The Israelis found themselves occupying lands that were home to 1.3 million Arab Palestians. In comparison, Israel’s population in 1970 was about 3 million (excluding the territories, I assume).

I might add, though, that Egypt stopped about 8 miles beyond the Suez canal and dug in, and that Syria’s main objective appeared to be retaking the Golan Heights; the battles occurred on disputed territory. Both the US and the Soviet Union rushed to resupply their allies and there were fears of a more direct superpower conflict.

Truth Seeker: I agree that the French are to blame. :slight_smile:

There were material issues as well. The Federation of Jewish Labor (Histadrut) sponsored a boycott of Arab products and Arab workers during the 1930s. With funding from abroad, the Jewish National Fund purchased agricultural land from the Palestinian elite, expelled Palestinian peasants tilling the land, and leased it exclusively to the growing Jewish population, typically for a song. So there were a lot of unemployed, uneducated and pissed-off Palestinian ex-peasants.

At the same time, “the Palestiian Arab community was curiously marginal to the discussions [of 1947]” (W.L Cleveland). It fell to the Arab League to maintain an uncompromising stance, which they declared ready to back with military force.


Nice summary, but I’m hopng you (or someone else) can clarify a couple of points for me:

Wasn’t one condition for gaining support of the Arabs in fighting the Turks during WWI was the promise (or the possibility) of independence? Wasn’t that a reason for why the British (primarily) carved up the remnants of the Ottoman empire after the war the way they did (Palestine, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq)? Weren’t certain promises made to Arabs living in Palestine by the Brits (That is - “side with us against the Turks and you may get your own country”)?

Does this jibe with my above comments on the Brits eventually deciding to give Palestine it’s independence? That is, would they have done so regardless of the influx of Jewish settlers and the growing problems/tensions between Jews and Arabs in Palestine (thereby fulfilling their promise to those Arabs in Palestine in re: support in fighting Turks in WW I)? Or was in more “Hey, this whole Palestine issue is getting out of hand - let’s let the UN deal with it”, effectively relenquishing a colony that they never intended to give up?

I guess my concerns/confussions are based on what role did the British have in setting the stage for future problems between Arabs and Jews in Palestine.

epy: I left that complication out. I’ll try to explain it (again, this is based on my casual reading of Cleveland’s book, I don’t have enough background in this area to be wholly reliable).

Sharif Husayn ibn Ali, the Amir of Mecca, proclaimed the Arab Revolt in 1916, with British encouragement. Before that he exchanged a series of letters with the British high Commissioner of Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon (July 1915 - March 1916). It is those ten rather ambiguous letters that form the basis of claims that the Brits went back on their word. *

The Brits also agreed to supply the Amir with arms and to recognize an Arab caliphate after the war. It is the borders of that caliphate that were somewhat ambiguous.

Husayn emerged from the war as King of Hijaz, wherever that is. He was deposed in the 1920s. His more popular son, Faysal, set up shop in Syria, but was booted out by the French. The Brits played along in the interests of allied relations (and balance of power considerations). The Arabs ended the war with less than they had hoped for.

  • and, no, I am not going through the claims and counterclaims. Sorry.