Thousands of years before the Ottoman Empire, Palestine was home to the Philistines, an ancient people who, according to the Bible, were enemies of the Israelites. During the Roman era, Palestine, which had by then become known as Judea and Samaria (or Judea), was under the control of Rome and its Jewish subjects lived largely undisturbed until 66 AD when Jewish rebels led by Simon Bar Kokhba revolted against Roman rule. the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel has existed since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, but its roots date back further than that to the end of World War I and the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. In this brief history of Palestine and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, you’ll also find more resources to help you decide whether it’s worth taking sides in this centuries-old war.
Prehistory – Biblical Israelites:
Some 3,000 years ago, a group of nomads known as Hebrews settled in what is today modern-day Israel/Palestine. At first, they were ruled by Egypt (1450 BC) until The Assyrians conquered them a few hundred years later. After being conquered by Babylon (586 BC), these Hebrews became known as Jews. They lived under Persian rule for some time before Alexander the Great’s Macedonian Empire took over (332 BC). This was followed by Greek rule under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, then Roman rule under Pompey Magnus. Rome controlled Judea up until about
70 AD when it was taken over by Arabs who established an Islamic empire. In 637, Islam arrived in Jerusalem and so began centuries of conflict between Muslims and Christians. The Crusades: In 1095, Pope Urban II called for the liberation of all Christian territories from Muslim control during a speech at Clermont, France.
Prehistory – Canaanite Civilizations:
The prehistory of what we now call Palestine dates back to at least 7000 BCE when it was occupied by nomadic societies. These were followed by settled Canaanite civilizations, beginning in 3500 BCE, which arose from a cultural convergence between early Egyptian settlers and indigenous inhabitants. Under Egyptian rule, numerous settlements were established along coastal regions to facilitate trade. However, these urban centers were eclipsed during later periods due to conflicts with other cultures and internal strife within Egypt itself. The Roman Period: In 63 BCE, Pompey conquered Jerusalem and initiated a period of Romanization that lasted for several hundred years. During much of this time, Jews were largely barred from entering Jerusalem except on Tisha B’Av (the 9th day of Av), when they would mourn its destruction. Herodian Rule: Upon his death in 4 BCE, Herod became ruler of Judea and began an ambitious building program throughout Israel. In 6 CE, Judea came under direct Roman rule until 66 CE when Jewish rebels staged an unsuccessful revolt against Rome known as the First Jewish Revolt.
It is believed that human settlement in what is now Palestine began over 11,000 years ago when semi-nomadic people first moved into Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). This brings us to one of the first great empires to rule in what is now Israel: that of Sargon II, who ruled Assyria from 722–705 BCE. With Assyria’s expansion came an influx of Mesopotamian settlers. Although most of these newcomers assimilated with native populations, some retained their distinct ethnic identities. One such group was the Samaritans; a non-Jewish sect whose ancestors had migrated to Samaria in northern Palestine around 700 BCE. The Samaritans flourished under both Persian and Greek rule until being forcibly converted by Sikandar e Azam during his conquest of Jerusalem in 332 BCE. After Sikandar’s death, his general Ptolemy took control of Egypt, which included much of present-day Israel/Palestine. Under Ptolemaic rule, Hellenistic culture spread throughout Palestine and Jews enjoyed relative autonomy. However, after centuries of independence, many Jews resented foreign rule and sought to overthrow it. In 167 BCE Judas Maccabeus led a revolt against Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes for attempting to convert Jews to paganism.
Rise of Christianity:
With increasing Roman power in Jerusalem, many Jewish religious scholars were exiled from Jerusalem. It was during these periods that Christianity spread to new areas, including Roman-controlled areas of Syria and Egypt. With persecution under Emperor Decius, many Christians fled for safety or converted to other religions. Yet a new era began when Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity (313 CE), paving way for Christianity’s dominance as Rome’s primary religion. The Byzantine Empire later emerged as an extension of Rome and continued its influence over Palestine until 638 CE, when it fell to Arab Muslims. By then, Islam had replaced Christianity as a dominant force in much of Eastern Europe and Asia. In 732 CE, Muslim armies conquered Spain, marking their furthest reach into Western Europe. In 1095, Pope Urban II called for Christian soldiers to protect Christendom against Muslim advances in Anatolia. The First Crusade took place between 1096 and 1099 CE; by 1100 all but one Islamic stronghold had been captured by Crusaders. As Crusaders gained control of Palestine, they built churches on top of mosques and destroyed synagogues—actions that remain controversial today among both Christians and Muslims.
Muslim Rule in Palestine (634-1099):
The importance of Palestine to Muslims cannot be overstated. It is, in fact, home to many major Muslim holy sites—from Bethlehem (birthplace of Jesus) to Jerusalem (revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike). After several centuries under Byzantine rule, Syria fell to invading Arab armies in 634. By 636, these forces had defeated a Byzantine army sent from Egypt to reclaim Syria and Palestine. A few years later, in 640, Palestine was conquered by Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab. In 1099, Jerusalem was captured during the First Crusade and became part of Christian Europe for more than 400 years. In 1187, Saladin recaptured Jerusalem and made it part of his Ayyubid Empire. When Saladin died in 1193, Palestine was inherited by his nephew Sultan Nur ad-Din; when he died six years later, his son Al-Zahir took control. However, Al-Zahir quickly found himself embroiled in conflict with members of the Ayyubid dynasty who were trying to regain power. This led to a period of political instability that lasted until 1260 when Baybars I became sultan. He ruled until 1277 and established an era of prosperity for Palestine. But in 1291, Baybars’s successors lost Jerusalem once again: This time it was King Edward I of England who conquered the city after signing a treaty with Egyptian sultan Qalawun granting him sovereignty over all territories east of Acre.
Ayyubidia, Mamluk, and Ottoman Period (1993_1917):
After decades of Fatimid rule in Palestine, most notably through al-Hakim (996–1021), it was Saladin who ruled with authority from Egypt. He defeated all crusaders attempting to conquer Jerusalem, including Richard I (Richard Lionheart) of England, who later paid homage to Saladin for his bravery. After Saladin died in 1193, his Ayyubid dynasty ruled over Egypt and Syria until 1250 The Mamluk rulers
Though modern Palestine, or Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel), was conquered by Ottoman forces under Sultan Selim in 1516, Islamic rule over Jerusalem did not come to a close until 1697 when it fell under direct Ottoman control. By that time, however, Jews had already begun to return to their ancient homeland. One early group was led by a charismatic Moroccan-born Jew known as Shabbetai Tzvi. After fleeing his home country in 1666 due to religious persecution, he traveled throughout Europe and eventually settled in Jerusalem. There he proclaimed himself to be the Messiah—and though his claim was rejected by most rabbinical authorities of his day, thousands followed him back to Israel. The Jewish population continued to grow steadily over subsequent decades, thanks largely to immigration from North Africa. The rise of Zionism: In 1882, an Austrian journalist named Theodor Herzl published Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), which advocated for political sovereignty for Jews within historic Palestine. A year later, Herzl organized what would become the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. At that meeting, delegates adopted a resolution stating that Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law. This goal came to be known as aliyah, or ascent. Zionism refers to both a nationalist movement and an ideology that supports such efforts. As a nationalist movement, Zionism is dedicated to reestablishing a sovereign Jewish state in its ancestral homeland; as an ideology, it holds that establishing such a state is necessary for ensuring Jewish survival. While some Zionists supported establishing a state immediately after World War I (when Britain controlled Palestine) with full citizenship rights granted only to Jews, others believed there should be no discrimination based on religion or ethnicity.
British Mandate (1920–1948):
The British Mandate of Palestine began on July 24, 1922, when Great Britain was given a mandate by the League of Nations to administer Palestine. During that period, a controversial series of events created growing tensions between Arabs and Jews. These include Jewish migration into areas controlled by Arabs (the Yishuv) and attempts to create an independent Jewish state in what was then known as Eretz Israel. This led to increased hostility, culminating in two major outbreaks of violence: The Arab Revolt from 1936–1939 and World War II from 1939–1945. The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine (1947): On November 29, 1947, members of the United Nations General Assembly voted 33 to 13 with 10 abstentions for Resolution 181(II). This plan proposed dividing historical Palestine into two states: one Arab and one Jewish. Jerusalem would be placed under international control with access guaranteed for all religious groups. Within hours after its passage, fighting broke out between Arabs and Jews across Palestine, beginning what is now known as the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. After nearly a year of fighting that involved several other countries, most notably Egypt on behalf of Palestinians and Transjordan on behalf of Israelis, Britain announced it would end its mandate over Palestine on May 14, 1948. At midnight on May 15, 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel. Immediately afterward, armies from five surrounding Arab nations invaded what had just ceased being Mandatory Palestine. The war resulted in an estimated 700,000 Palestinian refugees fleeing their homes or being expelled from them; 250 villages were depopulated during these hostilities. In 1949 UNRWA was established to deal with their humanitarian needs.
First Arab-Israeli War (1948–49):
On Nov. 30, 1947, Great Britain announced that it would end its League of Nations mandate over Palestine on May 15, 1948. The following day, in an address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, U.S. President Harry S. Truman called for a special committee to prepare for consideration at the next regular session of the Assembly a report on measures for placing [Palestine] under international trusteeship. In response, Arab leaders demanded immediate recognition of an independent Palestinian state in place of partitioned Palestine. Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948. The neighboring Arab states immediately attacked but were defeated by Israeli forces. A truce was signed in 1949; however, hostilities continued intermittently until 1967 when Israel occupied East Jerusalem, West Bank (formerly Jordanian territory), Gaza Strip (formerly Egyptian territory), Golan Heights (formerly Syrian territory), and Sinai Peninsula (formerly Egyptian territory). A peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was signed in 1979 but has not been ratified by either party. The Palestinians have never formally recognized Israel’s right to exist. Since then, many efforts have been made to resolve the conflict peacefully, most notably concerning negotiations at Camp David in 2000 and Taba in 2001. These negotiations failed after both sides refused to move from their original positions.
Palestinian Exodus and Israeli Indepen
During 1947–1949, war broke out between Jews and Arabs in British Mandate Palestine over Jewish demands for independence. The ensuing battles—culminating in Israel’s independence on May 15, 1948led to a massive exodus of Palestinians from their homes, estimated at 700,000 people. In what is known as al-Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe), Palestinian refugees were unable to return to their homes inside Israel following its creation that year. Many settled in refugee camps across neighboring countries. Today, there are an estimated 4 million Palestinian refugees worldwide. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Since Israel declared independence in 1948, it has been involved in several major wars with its Arab neighbors. Its conflict with Palestine was largely based on differing religious ideologies and identities: Muslims generally supported Palestinians while Jews generally supported Israelis. Meanwhile, Egypt controlled Gaza until 1967; today, it shares control of Gaza with Palestine via Hamas. Also involved are Western powers such as Britain, France, Russia, and the United States who have sought to broker peace agreements between Israel and Palestine. While many attempts have failed, some progress has been made toward establishing two separate states: one for Jews and one for Muslims. This plan would allow each group to govern themselves without interference from each other. However, leaders on both sides say they want Jerusalem to be shared by both groups rather than divided up into two separate territories.
Six-Day War (1967):
At 4 a.m. on June 5, 1967, war erupted between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in what came to be known as the Six-Day War. On June 8th, an armistice was signed by all parties at Kilometer 101 on the Suez Canal. The cease-fire line became known as the Suez Canal Disengagement Line (or the Green Line). The agreement called for Israeli withdrawal from the Egyptian territory it had captured during that conflict. In addition, it called for Israeli withdrawal from Jordanian territory captured during hostilities. This included Jerusalem’s Old City, which had been occupied by Israel since 1948. Under international law, East Jerusalem is considered occupied territory; however, under Israeli law, it is considered part of its capital city—Jerusalem. The agreement also stated that forces would withdraw two kilometers from either side of the Suez Canal and one kilometer from either side of other parts of their common border.
Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip(1967–present):
The Israeli occupation of territories considered to be part of Palestine has been ongoing since 1967 when Israel captured and occupied East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip (from Egypt), and West Bank (from Jordan) 1967. The occupation is also widely considered to be illegal under international law despite many UN resolutions calling for an immediate end to Israeli settlement construction. This period is also referred to as the Israeli–Palestinian conflict or Arab–Israeli conflict. First Intifada(1987–1993): First Intifada was a popular uprising against Israel by Palestinians which lasted from December 1987 until 1993. The uprising began in the Jabalia refugee camp after an Israeli Army truck collided with a civilian car, killing four Palestinians. The incident led to widespread rioting directed at Israelis and Jews throughout Palestine which quickly spread across borders into neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. Second Intifada(2000–2005): The second intifada refers to a renewed outbreak of large-scale violence between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian militants in 2000 following the failure of peace talks in Camp David. It is sometimes called al-Aqsa intifada referring to Al-Aqsa Mosque, however, it should not be confused with another al-Aqsa uprising that took place during the 1920s. In 2001, Israeli military forces withdrew from parts of Gaza and some parts of the northern West Bank but continued to control border crossings in Rafah, Erez, and Qarni crossing points. In 2005 Israel completed its withdrawal from the Gaza strip but retained control over its airspace and coastline.
Taba Summit – 2001–2002:
The Taba Summit refers to a Middle East peace negotiation between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, which took place between January 21, 2001, and January 27, 2001. It followed a series of secret negotiations in Oslo leading up to a comprehensive settlement proposal put forward by US President Bill Clinton at Camp David on July 18, 2000. The summit ended without an agreement but discussions were resumed at Sharm el Sheikh in September–October 2001. The talks broke down after two weeks with no progress made. In April 2002, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield and invaded Palestinian cities, including Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Nablus. In response, Arafat declared that he would not resume negotiations until Israel withdrew from all territories occupied since 1967.
2012 Pillar of Defense (Gaza War):
The Pillar of Defense campaign began on 14 November 2012 with an Israeli aerial attack that killed Ahmed Jabari, chief of Hamas’ military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. At least 130 Palestinians were killed and 900 were wounded in strikes that day. A ceasefire was announced by Egypt on 21 November. Israel stated it had completed its objectives within 6 days while Hamas claimed victory. Israel continued to carry out air strikes over Gaza after the ceasefire was declared, though at a reduced rate. On 27 November 2012, another 72-hour truce was agreed upon by both sides. The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas took effect at 19:00 local time on 21 November 2012. Under its terms, Israel will stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea, and air including incursions and targeting of individuals, and will continue to enforce the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip. In return, all Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.
2014 war in Gaza (Operation Protective Edge)
‘This was a military operation launched by Israel in July 2014 to halt rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, an effort that ultimately failed. The war resulted in widespread destruction in both Gaza and southern Israel. Over 2,200 Palestinians were killed during the conflict, including 1,462 civilians according to UN estimates. On Israel’s side, 66 soldiers and 6 civilians were killed. A ceasefire took effect on 26 August 2014. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is an ongoing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians that began in the mid-20th century. The origins of the conflict can be traced back to Jewish immigration, and sectarian conflict in Mandatory Palestine between Jews and Arabs. Disputes over land ownership and religious rights have been the primary causes of friction ever since.
war in Gaza :
The latest Gaza war started in November 2018 after several rockets were fired at Israel. The rocket attack on Israel was most likely retaliation to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which triggered anti-American riots all over the Islamic world. It is estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 Israelis have settled in East Jerusalem, now generally regarded as part of the West Bank, since 1967. In July 2017, UN Security Council Resolution 2334 declared Israeli settlements illegal under international law, but Israel has not complied with it. This has been one of many attempts by Palestinians to get their land back from Israeli occupation. The United States Embassy opened in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. The move infuriated Palestinians because they claim East Jerusalem as their future capital. On May 15th thousands of Gazans marched towards border fences with Israel, throwing rocks and burning tires while chanting Death to America! and Death to Israel! IDF troops responded with tear gas and live fire against demonstrators who got too close to border fences. The protests continued for six weeks until June 5th when Hamas declared victory and said it would end its campaign. During those six weeks, more than 120 people were killed (mostly protesters) and 2,700 injured (mostly civilians). Over 100 children were also killed or injured during these protests. The majority of casualties occurred during two events: (1) May 14th when 60 people died; and (2) May 29th when 51 people died. Most of those killed were young adults between 18-29 years old.
What are the main problems of this conflict:
There are many. To begin with, there is a history of occupation and rebellion that has been ongoing for almost a century. The area was under Egyptian rule from 1517 until Israel invaded in 1967, following an attempted assassination of an Israeli diplomat in Cairo by members of Black September, a Palestinian terrorist organization affiliated with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah political party. Since then, Israel has occupied Gaza, West Bank (Judea and Samaria), East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights. In 2005, Mahmoud Abbas became president of the Palestinian National Authority (the official governing body of Palestinians) after winning elections held after Arafat’s death. Hamas won the 2006 parliamentary elections but did not accept President Abbas’ authority to govern Gaza; since 2007 Hamas has governed Gaza as a separate entity from the PNA. Most recently, in 2014 Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza. The conflict continues today.
What does the future hold for Palestine:
1948–1967: War for Independence After World War II ended, Great Britain announced its plans to end its mandate over Palestine by May 1948. That same year, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes as Zionist militias attacked British forces and Jews moved into areas previously inhabited by Arabs.
For years, Palestinians have demanded self-determination and an independent state. In 2014, their dream appeared to come true when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry brokered a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas that looked like it might lead to a two-state solution: an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. The region’s political landscape has shifted since then, leaving these hopes in peril once again—and creating uncertainty about what lies ahead for Palestine. (the rest is history)