Pre-1967 History

Pre-1967 History

Is the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians basically a religious war?
It is a political war over a piece of land or parts of that piece of land. Religious beliefs, usually certain extremist Christian, Jewish or Islamic ideas, have been used to justify the conflict, especially as to who owns or controls the land and resources and why. The two parties are Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) and Israelis, not Christians and Muslims versus Jews. There have been and still are interfaith organizations on the ground attempting to foster and nurture positive relationships.

the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians basically a religious war?

It is a political war over a piece of land or parts of that piece of
land.  Religious beliefs, usually certain extremist Christian, Jewish or
Islamic ideas, have been used to justify the conflict, especially as to who
owns or controls the land and resources and why.  The two parties are
Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) and Israelis, not Christians and Muslims
versus Jews.  There have been and still are interfaith organizations on
the ground attempting to foster and nurture positive relationships.

it true that the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has been going on for many

No.  The modern Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict
is a political and economic conflict over land and resources.  It is not a religious conflict. Until the
advent of the Zionist movement at the end of the 19th century there were a
variety of relationships between Jews and Arabs (Muslims and Christians), many
of which were positive.  Some residents of the area called themselves Arab
Jews, that is Jews who spoke Arabic and considered the Arab culture to be their

Jews fare better in Christian lands than in Arab and Muslim lands?

fared better in Muslim lands.  Islam considers Jews and Christians to be
People of the Book and, although the Jews and Christians were “protected
people” with fewer citizenship rights than Muslims, they were not
persecuted for their faith.  During the Ottoman Empire (15th century until
World War I) the Ottomans developed the millet system giving Christian and
Jewish communities a certain freedom of action.  Each Church
(denomination) oversaw its own personal law governing marriage, divorce,
burials, etc. and they were free to worship as they chose.  The religious
leaders (patriarchs, chief rabbis etc.) were to negotiate with the government
and Muslim religious leaders on their behalf.

Unlike many
European countries, Spain was a country where all three religions lived
together somewhat harmoniously until the Inquisition. But in 1492, under King
Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the Jews and Muslims were expelled.  Many of
the Jews went to Arab lands to settle, where they were treated fairly.

In Christian
lands, Jews were often persecuted and condemned as “the killers of
Christ”.  The Holocaust took place in a nation that called itself
Christian.  It is interesting to note that after the Jews were forbidden
to live in Jerusalem by the Romans it was an Arab Muslim ruler, Salah ad-Din,
who, in 1187, specifically invited the Jews to once again live in the Holy

Zionism and Judaism the same thing?  What is their relationship
Judaism is a religion and a cultural heritage.  Zionism is a political
movement founded in the late 1800s largely by secular Jews   Zionism
is a political philosophy calling for a Jewish homeland.  Several
locations were considered for the homeland, but later Palestine was singled out
and this was supported by Great Britain, especially through the Balfour Declaration. 
(Lord Balfour was hghly influenced by Christian Zionism.)

Holocaust during World War II, and the guilt of those who did not, or could
not, stop it gave a great impetus to Jewish immigration into Palestine and
support for the formation of Israel.  However, some deeply religious Jews
(even some who live in Israel) feel that the establishment of a Jewish State
should come after the appearance of the Messiah and not before, so they object
to Israel as premature.

there truth to the claim that this area was “a land without a people for a
people without a land”?

When the Zionist movement started encouraging immigration, the land of
Palestine was a settled area with Palestinians living in villages, towns,
cities and settled agricultural lands.  There were significant numbers of
well-educated, professional people.  Contrary to popular belief, there
were only a few Bedouin tribes in Palestine.

The Middle
East Research and Information Project (MERIP) reports that, according to
Ottoman records, in 1878 there were 403,795 Muslims, 43,659 Christians and
15,011 Jews in the Jerusalem, Nablus and Acre districts of the Ottoman
Empire.  There were also several thousand Bedouin and about 10,000 Jews
with foreign citizenship.  By 1914 the population of Jews had risen to
about 60,000 and the Arab population (Christians and Muslims) was around
683,000.  Other sources give comparable population figures.

the Israelis make the desert bloom?

the dessert bloom is a biblical concept coming from Isaiah 35.1-10.  It
describes a time when Israel is restored and renewed.  It was used in the
early years of the founding of Israel to illustrate two things.  First, to
show that the cultivation of the land by the Jews was fulfilling the Bible and,
second, to put forth the idea that Palestine was an uncultivated desert. The
term is rarely used any more.

land in Palestine was under agricultural cultivation by the indigenous Arab
population before the State of Israel was founded, much of it in crops and
trees that required little water beyond what was provided by rainfall. 
Some desert areas were irrigated.  Deserts are generally fertile places if
water is made available, but water in the whole area is limited.  
For that very reason, throughout the Middle East, water is a political
issue.  Water diversion and water access were major causes of ongoing
conflict between Israel and its neighbors in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.

At the
present time there is an increasingly severe water shortage in Israel and
Palestine, largely the result of the amount of water being used by Israel for
agriculture and to support the settlements-for example, green lawns in the dry

was the British Mandate?
After World War I, the defeated Ottoman Empire was carved up by the European
powers and the League of Nations.  Various areas became
“mandates” and the British were given the mandate for
Palestine.  Mandates were a type of protectorate (some called it
colonialism) to move indigenous people to political independence by giving them
administrative advice and assistance.   In the case of other
mandates, such as Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Syria, it was assumed that the
indigenous Arab people would form their independent states “under

On November 2,
1917, the British Government announced the so-called Balfour Declaration that
favored the Zionist plan of making a homeland for the Jewish people in
unspecified parts of Palestine.  Throughout the British Mandate
(1921-1948) Britain was aware of the conflict between the indigenous Palestinians
and the immigrant Jewish people but continued to favor the Zionists, even
training soldiers and giving them equipment.  When British Mandate troops
became the targets of terrorism, especially by organized Zionist militias,
Britain decided to end its mandate and the matter was handed to the United
Nations.  After a commission of inquiry was conducted, the UN passed a
plan to partition the area.

was the United Nations Partition Plan?

The United Nations, on November 29, 1947 by a vote of 33 to 13 with 10 abstaining,
passed Resolution 181.  It divided the former Palestinian Mandate into
three parts-a proposed Jewish state, a proposed Arab state, and an
international zone to include Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  

did the Arabs reject the United Nations Partition Plan?

The 1947 United Nations Partition Plan (Res. 181) gave 55% of the land to the
Jews even though they owned only 7% of the land in Palestine and comprised only
33% of the population.  The land that was designated for the Jewish state
included prime agricultural and coastal land and would have had a large
Palestinian population under the Jewish state control. The Arabs considered
this unfair.

this when the Arab countries invaded Israel?

No, the Arab countries only came in later and after other events
occurred.  The British announced in December 1947 (a month after the
Partition Plan was announced), that they would withdraw and give up the Mandate
by May 15, 1948.  More intense fighting broke out between the Jews and the
Palestinian Arabs. Jewish fighting groups, such as the Irgun conducted military
operations in a number of cities and villages and many Arabs fled or were
forced out of their homes.  As a result, approximately 300,000
Palestinians became refugees before the war started.

The day
after the British withdrew, the State of Israel was founded.  It was then
that the Arab armies joined the fight.  In 1949, when the armistice was
signed, the State of Israel held about 77% of the territory; Jordan occupied
the West Bank and East Jerusalem while Egypt held the Gaza Strip.

Israel a poorly equipped force faced with overwhelming Arab armies?

revisionist school of Israeli historians (the so-called “New Histories”) has
raised doubts over who started the war, but it has become clear that Israel had
the overwhelming force, not the other way around.  Zionist militias had
been trained and armed by the British during the Mandate period.

The book, Righteous Victims, (page 217) by Benny
Morris, an Israeli, reports that by early spring of 1949, the Israeli Defense
Forces were fielding 115,000 troops while the combined armies of the Arab
Legion reached no more than 40,000 troops in Palestine.  The Israeli
Defense Forces had trained manpower, weapons, a large young adult population
and a centralized command based on former fighting organizations.  The
Arabs were far less organized, subject to rivalries and lacked both modern
weapons and training.
Why are there so many Palestinian

The first group of Palestinian refugees resulted from the war in 1948. 
Palestinians claim that they fled their homes in fear after the massacre in
Deir Yassin and other towns, or because Zionist militia forced them to leave at
gunpoint.  They expected to return to their homes within days or weeks, and
for that reason many still have their house keys with them.  Recent scholarship
has shown that there were no appeals to evacuate and that Arabs urged the
Palestinians to stay put.

According to
Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict
(p. 147) by Charles D. Smith, 133,000 (others put the figure at 156,000) of the
approximately 860,000 Arabs who lived in the area of Palestine that now is
called Israel remained, and 470,000 entered camps in what is called the West
Bank and Gaza.  257,000 fled to refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan
with a smaller number going to Egypt and Iraq.  Other books give similar

In addition,
100,000 Palestinian refugees were created in 1967 when Israel occupied the West
Bank (including East Jerusalem), and Gaza.  Some of these people, already
refugees from 1948, were displaced a second time.

don’t the Arab nations simply absorb the Palestinians into their own countries?

Approximately 3 million Palestinians live in diaspora, outside the country they
claim as their homeland.  Many still live in refugee camps in Jordan,
Lebanon, and Syria.  Many have moved to Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf
countries; some have moved to other parts of the world.

Palestinian refugees want to return to Palestine, and their children and
grandchildren want to live there.  They have no interest in settling in
another country, and numerous UN resolutions state the right of the refugees to
return to their homelands. Other Arab countries back them up.

The economic,
social and political impact of absorbing such a large number of people from
another place would present a tremendous burden on countries as well as change
the demographics of the country.  Politically, absorbing the refugees would
relieve Israel of its responsibility toward them.

Jordan really a Palestinian country?

At the end of 2000, Palestinians constituted more than half of Jordan’s total
population.  Jordan
has given citizenship to the Palestinian refugees who entered the country in
1948 and 1949, and they have partially assimilated into Jordanian society,
although most still consider themselves to be Palestinians.  Those
Palestinians who fled the Gaza Strip in 1967 are called displaced persons and
they are not allowed to vote or hold public-sector jobs in Jordan.

About 20% of
the refugees live in refugee camps of the United Nations Relief and Works
Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  If Jordan were to
absorb all these refugees it would also have to take over the renovation of
schools, hospitals, public buildings and housing, and pay for other services
now provided by UNRWA.  During UNRWA’s 1999-2000 reporting year, Jordan
spent $380.4 million on behalf of Palestinian refugees and displaced
persons.  That financial burden would increase without UNRWA’s presence.

October 1994 peace treaty with Israel created fear among Jordanians that,
because of the number of Palestinians in Jordan, the kingdom would eventually
be transformed into a substitute state for the Palestinians.  This has
increased the climate of suspicion between native Jordanians and Palestinians
and the fear that Jordan would not remain the Hashemite Kingdom of
Jordan.  There is also concern because some Israeli government officials
talk about “transferring” the Palestinians to Jordan and Egypt.

Is there
a “right of return” for refugees?

International laws and resolutions state a just settlement for refugees, which
involves repatriation or resettlement, and compensation for material
losses.  These provisions apply to
refugees of any conflict or situation anywhere in the world. The 1948 General
Assembly Resolution 194 (concerning Palestine) states that refugees should be
permitted to return; The 1967 Security Council resolution 242 (concerning the
acquisition of territory by war) affirms the necessity “for achieving a
just settlement of the refugee problem”; The UN Declaration of Human
Rights (Article 13) states that “Everyone has the right to leave any
country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

There is a
Law of Return in Israel that allows any Jew (except those with criminal
records) to immigrate into Israel from any part of the world, even if they have
not previously visited Israel. The Israeli Nationality Law automatically grants
citizenship to all Jewish immigrants to Israel.   Since 1970, the
right to immigrate under this law has been extended to include the child and
the grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of the
grandchild of a Jew.  This process is
called “aliyah.”

Palestinians – Muslim or
Christian – are not given any right of return by Israel.

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