A BRIEF MODERN HISTORY OF ISRAEL AND PALESTINE
by Jacques More
Writing April 2003
An attempt at helping those with little or next to no knowledge of the
background to gain a quick understanding of the way things are in this important
matter. Much is left out like the Crusades, the Greek conquests, various wars
and other odds and ends.
Abraham was promised the land for his descendants from one river to the
other: Egypt to the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18). Though this was reduced
under Moses (Numbers 34:2-12) the full extent is likely during the Lord's return
and reign. The promises were repeated to Isaac and Jacob (who was renamed Israel
by the Lord - see my separate article entitled
Islam the Devil and Israel).
However historically so far, only from the Mediterranean Sea up to a certain
distance east of the river Jordan have been the approximate west to east borders
and Dan to Beersheba the north and south limits during Israel's longest
inhabitation. The only verse I quote here is a most interesting one:
When the Most High divided their inheritance to the
nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the
peoples according to the number of the children of Israel.
From about 1500BC until 2nd century AD Jews as a people/nation have been in
'the land'. There was one 70 year period of exile to 'Babylon' up to about
454BC. But in c135AD the Roman emperor Hadrian attempted to fully destroy the
Jewish identity and thereby named the whole region Syria Palestinia (the temple
was destroyed in 70AD under Titus). This region included (what is now) part of
Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, northern Sinai desert (Egypt), West Bank and
Now, although the Jews were exiled again, but to anywhere/everywhere, there
has always remained a few living in 'the land' but as a minority of those in the
land. The ebb and flow of people over the next 1,800 years with various
conquests saw the region by the time of the 1st World War belonging to the
Byzantine Empire of Turkey for some 400 years. Turkey being allied to Germany
and on the losing side after World War One meant some changes. France was given
jurisdiction over Syria and Britain over 'Palestine' (including Jordan).
Now during the late 1800s the Zionist movement began and with it an
organised concerted effort by Jews to return to the land and live there. This is
where the main propagandas begin on both sides.
At first the immigration was 'legal' and land was purchased fairly, etc.
Then under the British mandate there were attempts at restricting intake due to
growing tensions between Arabs and Jews. During this time also (say 1914-45) the
British made promises to both sides which effectively contradicted each other:
e.g. The Balfour Declaration for the Jews and various letters to Arab leaders.
These were in part to gain support for British causes and to keep some order.
Things became untenable for the British with terrorism perpetrated by both
Arabs and organised Israeli militia, etc. So that they handed over the
jurisdiction to the UN in 1947 and the UN came up with a partition plan loosely
based upon the population demographics of the time. This was unanimously
rejected by the Arabs who expressly desired to retain the whole area (by then
Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq had autonomy over 'their' plots). There was no
Palestinian State or country since the whole region had been named (a bit like
Europe is named with a number of countries within now). Indeed the Arabs did not
choose to be called 'Palestinians' until the 1960s when the switch from being
called a Palestine refugee to a Palestinian refugee occurred (a technical
point). The Jews were however keen on a separate State of Israel already. The UN
voted on a 2 State policy and it was passed
(a majority vote with many
On 14th May 1948 the Jews announce the State of Israel, but the Arabs reject
it and do all they can to prevent it's existence. War begins and no Arab
organised plan within the area had been formed or any claim to a separate Arab
State: since they did not want a partition. Incidentally it was 1948 years after
Creation that Abram was born (a nice way to remember it). The fighting and
hostilities that ensued largely caused the area now known as Israel to be
retained by the Jews. The West Bank and Gaza Strip at that point was not taken
and they were then annexed by Jordan and Egypt respectively. West Bankers could
thereby have Jordanian passports, etc. This was not termed 'occupation' then,
though some Palestinians now would say it about that period (in terms of the
Greater Jordan). It became clear to many Palestinians that the way forward was
to have a self representative body of their own and out of various factions the
overall organisation that came about was the PLO. So in May 1964 they claimed
the sole right to be representative of the Palestinians in a letter to the UN
Three years later the 1967 war broke out (against Egypt, Jordan and Syria)
and the Golan Heights (Syria), the West Bank (Jordan) and the Gaza Strip and
Sinai Peninsula were taken by Israel. Much was returned but the West Bank and
Gaza Strip became occupied territories and relinquished by Jordan and Egypt
respectively. East Jerusalem was now under Israeli control. In 1973 occurred the
October Yom Kippur war and this time the Golan Heights recaptured were retained
Incidentally Arabs who were in Israel and stayed from the 1948 beginnings
became known as Israeli Arabs and have full voting rights and their own Members
of the Knesset (Members of Parliament). Any Jew in the occupied territories was
considered an enemy and unwelcome. In 1979 Egypt made a peace pact with Israel
and the Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt: the first Arab country to make an
official treaty. But co-operation and mutual help was given with Jordan for some
time up to then. Jordan has the largest share of Palestinian refugee population
of any Arab country and this constantly reflects on policy. They also had their
own mini war with the PLO in the late Seventies.
Now in September 1993 the PLO was eventually recognised by Israel as
representing the Palestinians and the Oslo Accords were signed: The first deal
of any kind between the Palestinians and Israel. As a result of this the
occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip were left to the newly
formed Palestinian Authority to govern and Police themselves (de-occupied). The
agreements though did give the right of Israel's military to re-enter if
terrorist activities continued: Which indeed carried on in various intensities.
Much was not agreed in the Accords, and a timetable for discussing outstanding
issues remained. These have been 'postponed' due to the constant terrorist
activities. Not least of these are the issue of Jerusalem and various places in
the West Bank and Gaza which have been claimed by 'both sides'. The Accord only
recognises a number of cities and places as PA governed, not the whole West Bank
and Gaza regions.
This is where we are.
The Road Map to be published is said to include the recognition of a
separate Palestinian State. A full recognition of Israel and security for it's
citizens. Much to be agreed on in regards to Jewish settlements in the West Bank
and Gaza areas (Ariel Sharon the current Prime Minister of Israel has recently
said this is possible). The issue of Jerusalem has thus far and is likely to be
the most contentious (Zechariah 12:3), but there is a possible way forward there
which I mention in my article Israel
and Today's Gibeonites: the 'Palestinians' A Christian's approach to
the Current Issue).
|Unless otherwise stated Bible quotes are from the New King James Version
© copyright Thomas Nelson Inc. 1979,1980,1982.
© copyright Jacques More 2003. All Rights Reserved.