A Brief History of Palestine and Israel in Time

Palestine vs Israel

Palestine vs Israel

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Palestine and Israel: A Historical Overview

Ancient History and Cultural Heritage

 The story of what is now called Palestine and Israel extends back thousands of years, rooted in the rich tapestry of civilizations that have inhabited the land. From the Canaanites and Israelites to the great empires of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, the land has seen the rise and fall of many peoples and cultures.

Rise of Zionism and British Involvement

In the 19th century, the Zionist movement emerged to establish a Jewish homeland in response to escalating anti-Semitism in Europe. The British government’s Balfour Declaration in 1917 supported the concept of a Jewish national home in Palestine but stirred controversy by not addressing the rights of the existing Arab majority.

British Mandate and the Path to Conflict

Post-World War I, the League of Nations entrusted Britain with the mandate over Palestine, which saw policies encouraging Jewish immigration while restricting Arab settlement. During this period she laid the groundwork for future discord between the Arab and Jewish populations.

UN Partition and the Establishment of Israel

 The UN’s 1947 partition plan divided the territory into Jewish and Arab states, accepted by the Jewish leadership but rejected by the Arab side. Following the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, the subsequent Arab-Israeli War resulted in a significant number of Palestinian refugees.

Demographics and Geopolitics: Palestine and Israel

The region’s demographics show a population of approximately 13.8 million, divided between the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Israel. Political status varies, with Israel as a UN member state, while Palestine holds a non-member observer state status.

Contemporary Challenges and the Status Quo: Palestine and Israel

 Today, the conflict remains deadlocked. Israel’s control over East Jerusalem and the building of the West Bank barrier, along with the Gaza blockade, persist amidst Palestinian resistance and international debate. The lack of mutual recognition continues to fuel a cycle of violence and humanitarian crises.

Understanding the Conflict’s Roots

 To fully comprehend the ongoing strife, it’s essential to delve into the historical, religious, and political contexts that have shaped the identities and claims of the stakeholders involved. This backdrop is crucial for interpreting the complexities of the modern Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ottoman Rule and the Rise of Zionism

The Ottoman Empire governed the region of Israel/Palestine from 1517 until 1917, with the 19th-century population being predominantly Muslim, followed by Christians and a small percentage of Jews living relatively peacefully together.

Theodor Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian journalist, advanced the Zionist movement, advocating for a Jewish homeland in Palestine in response to the widespread persecution of Jews in Europe.

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The Balfour Declaration and Conflicting Promises

The Balfour Declaration of 1917, issued by the British government, supported establishing a “national home for the Jewish People” in Palestine, complicating prior secret agreements with the French and promises made to the Arab leader, Sharief Hussain.

Mandatory Palestine and Rising Tensions

Post-World War I, under the League of Nations mandate, the British established Mandatory Palestine but facilitated Jewish immigration, leading to increased Jewish populations and heightened tensions with Arab communities.

The 1936 Arab revolt against British rule was a response to growing nationalistic sentiments among Palestinian Arabs, which was subdued with assistance from Jewish militias.

The United Nations Intervention and Partition: Palestine and Israel

Palestine and Israel
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World War II saw increased Jewish migration to Palestine, often illegally due to British-imposed immigration limits, exacerbating tensions.

The UN’s 1947 partition plan for separate Jewish and Arab states was rejected by the Arabs.

Establishment of Israel and the Arab-Israeli War: Palestine and Israel

Israel’s independence was declared in May 1948, leading to the Arab-Israeli War with neighboring Arab states.

The 1949 ceasefire divided control of the region, leaving Israel with more territory than the UN plan had allocated, while Jordan and Egypt took control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, respectively, resulting in over 700,000 Palestinian refugees—a period referred to as the Nakba by Palestinians.

Suez Crisis and Continued Conflict

Palestine and Israel
Photo by Mathias Reding on Unsplash

The 1956 Suez Crisis was sparked by Egypt nationalizing the Suez Canal, leading to military action by Israel, Britain, and France.

Subsequent conflicts included the 1967 Six-Day War, where Israel gained territory including East Jerusalem, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War with Egypt and Syria, both leading to continued disputes over territory.

PLO and Settlements

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), formed in 1964, aimed for armed struggle for Palestinian liberation, while Israel’s establishment of Jewish settlements in contested areas, including East Jerusalem, further escalated tensions.

Overview of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

First Intifada and Oslo Accords

The First Palestinian Intifada began in 1987 as a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation. This resulted in significant casualties and ended with the Oslo Peace Accords, leading to the creation of the Palestinian Authority in the mid-1990s.

Second Intifada

A resurgence of conflict, the Second Intifada, erupted in 2000 following Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque. The prolonged violence led to a ceasefire in the mid-2000s, with Israel planning to disengage from the Gaza Strip.

Wars in Lebanon

Israel engaged in two major conflicts in Lebanon. The First Lebanon War (1982-1985) aimed to eradicate PLO influence in southern Lebanon. The Second Lebanon War in 2006, a month-long conflict with Hezbollah, ended with a UN ceasefire.

Hamas and Gaza

After Hamas, an organization considered a terrorist group by many countries won elections in 2006, they seized control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007. Periodic conflicts between Hamas and Israel have occurred since.

Current Situation: Palestine and Israel

Hamas governs Gaza under tight border restrictions by Israel and Egypt. The West Bank remains under Israeli occupation. Jerusalem is contested, with Palestinians claiming East Jerusalem as their future state’s capital.

Recent Violence and Jerusalem’s Significance: Palestine and Israel

 In May 2021, the proposed eviction of several Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood sparked protests and violent clashes in East Jerusalem. The unrest quickly escalated, with Hamas firing rockets into Israeli territory and Israel conducting airstrikes in Gaza. This exchange intensified the longstanding conflict, drawing global attention and calls for de-escalation. Jerusalem’s status is at the heart of this enduring dispute. 

The city’s deep religious significance to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam makes its future a key issue in any peace process. Each community has historical and spiritual ties to the city, making its division or shared governance a complex and sensitive subject. The question of Jerusalem’s sovereignty remains a major sticking point in Israeli-Palestinian relations, with international efforts to mediate peace continuing amid the city’s contested claims.


The conflict persists with no simple resolution in sight, but efforts for peace continue amidst ongoing challenges.

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