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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.


Introduction:

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.

Deuteronomy 32:8


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 Gaza strip.


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 abstentions)

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 Secretary General.


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 by Israel.


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).



Ref. S.056

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.

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