A Brief Introduction to the Palestinian Problem

In 1516, the Ottoman Turks invaded and occupied Palestine, an occupation that lasted for 402 years (1516-1918), except for the 9 years between 1831 and 1840, when the Egyptian Governor Muhammad Ali sent his troops to capture Palestine under the command of his son Ibrahim Pasha. The Ottoman occupation of Palestine ended by the end of World War I, after the Ottoman Empire along with the other 'Central Powers' lost the war to the 'Allies'.

In 1917, the British forces entered Palestine, and by 1918, the Ottoman rule over Palestine was ended following the defeat of its forces at the Battle of Megiddo in September 1918. Under the 'Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916', it was envisioned that most of Palestine, after ending the Ottoman control over it, would become an international zone not under direct French or British colonial control. However, after the war, Palestine was left under British Military Occupation from 1917 until 1920, where a British Civil Administration was established in anticipation of the granting of a formal League of Nations Mandate to the United Kingdom, which was approved in July 1922 and came into effect in September 1923.

During the period Palestine was under British occupation, the Zionists were putting pressure on the British Government to facilitate the establishment of a 'Jewish Homeland' on the 'Land of Palestine'. On the 2nd November 1917, the British responded to the Zionist demands through what became to be known as the 'Balfour Declaration'. Arthur Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary at the time, handed a letter to Lord Rothschild (a leader of the British Jewish community) for transmission to the Zionist Federation (a private Zionist organization), that declared the support of His Majesty's Government to the Zionists' plans of establishing a Jewish 'national home' in Palestine, 'with the condition that nothing be done which might prejudice the rights of existing communities there'.

Since that date, Jewish immigration to Palestine, which started around 1882, increased rapidly. Conflicts erupted between the new Jewish settlers and the local Palestinian people, each fought for their survival. At the beginning they fought over land, water, habitat, religious rights, etc., but later on it developed into a conflict of 'national identity' that led to brutal fighting. The Palestinian people rebelled against the British Mandate and its policies of settling foreigners on their land; meanwhile, the Jewish gangs continued to carry attacks on the Palestinian people as well as on the British mandate forces. So, the United Nations on the 29th November 1947 agreed upon a 'Partition Plan of Palestine' [see map], which would divide Palestine into two independent States; one for the Jews and another for the Palestinians, while keeping Jerusalem under international administration, by declaring it a 'Corpus Separatum'. However, the Plan was not implemented.

The British Mandate of Palestine was coming towards its end in 1948. On the 14th May 1948, the day before the British withdrawal, the Jewish leaders declared 'The Independent State of Israel'. Soon after the withdrawal took place on the 15th May 1948, war erupted between the newly established Israeli State and the neighboring Arab countries. The war ended with the establishment of the 'Armistice Lines of 1949', also called 'Green Line'[see map]. Palestine was divided into three parts, the land that the Jews occupied during the war, which constitute the current Israeli State, and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was left to the Jordanian Administration, and the Gaza Strip was left to the Egyptian Administration.

The 1948-war has significant meaning for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. For the Israeli Jews, the war marks the successful establishment of the Israeli State, but for the Palestinians, it signifies the events referred to as 'Al Nakba' (the Catastrophe). For during and after the 1948-war, at least 418 Palestinian villages were depopulated and demolished, and about 80% of the Palestinian population were expelled from the newly created State of Israel, and were banned by Israel to return to their homes and lands[see map].

The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip were under Jordanian and Egyptian Administration, respectively, from 1949 until the 4th June 1967. On the 5th June 1967, war erupted, and within six days, Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the Syrian Golan Heights, including Shab'a Farms. Another Nakba (Catastrophe) for the Palestinian people took place, for in the course of war, more than 350,000 Palestinian were forced to flee, some of them becoming refugees for the second time. Although 'UN Security Council Resolution 242' requires Israel to withdraw from Arab land it occupied during the war, Israel did not abide by it.

In later years, Israel and Egypt made a peace agreement, known as the 'Camp David I Agreement', and by 1982 Sinai was returned to Egypt, unlike the Golan Heights which are still occupied to the moment. In addition, other peace agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), known as the 'Oslo Accords I and II', were signed in 1993 and 1995, respectively. Although these agreements, along side many more, enabled the Palestinian people to have a representative government, it did not give them sovereignty over the Palestinian land occupied in the course of the 1967-war, and it did not also help build an Independent Palestinian State. Instead Israel is fragmentizing the OPT by its settlements, outposts, barriers, bypass roads, and not to forget, the 'Segregation Wall'.  At the moment, Israel is in control of 57% of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), on which, during Forty Years of Occupation, has built its 207 current settlements and 217 settlement outposts that contain about 480,000 Jewish Settlers. These settlements and outposts are located in the West Bank, as the Gaza Strip's settlements were dismantled in 2005.

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