issue 199 - September 1989
... a history
1. Birth of Zionism
The Jews flee from Palestine in AD 70 after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. They face discrimination and massacres wherever they go. Finally in 1896 after several hundred are killed in Russia, Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl concludes that the only solution to anti-semitism is for Jews to have a land and state of their own - the ideology we now call Zionism. Palestine is eventually chosen.
2. Early pioneers
Early Zionist pioneers see Palestine as 'A land without people for a people without land'. Their dream is to return Jewish people to the soil. They set up communal farms called kibbutzim which are run on socialist lines. But this means buying land from absentee landlords. The Palestinians who have been living there are evicted. Within a few years the peasants resort to violence against the settlers.
3. International intervention
The Suez Canal on the route to India and the oil reserves around the Persian Gulf lead Britain to take an interest in the Middle East during the early twentieth century. During the 1914-18 war the Balfour Declaration promises the Jews a national homeland in Palestine. This promise conflicts directly with the promise to the Arabs of independence. In 1920 the League of Nations gives Britain a mandate to rule Palestine.
4. Fleeing Europe
The migration of Jews to Palestine increases in the 1930s and 1940s with the Nazi persecution, and continues to increase after the war. Britain, under pressure from Arab countries, tries to stop more Jews arriving. In 1947 the UN proposes splitting the country in two, but the Palestinians refuse to give up half their land. The Jews terrorize thousands of Palestinians into leaving their homes.
5. The State of Israel
In 1948 Ben Gurion unilaterally declares the independence of the State of Israel. Arab armies from the neighbouring countries invade but are defeated. Palestinians scatter into surrounding countries - particularly to the West Bank, which is annexed to Jordan, and to the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Egypt
6. Superpower politics
The new State of Israel allies itself with the West while its Arab neighbours receive support from the Soviet Union. In 1956 Britain encourages Israel's invasion of Egypt. The US starts to see Israel as its most stable friend in the region: it backs Israel against any adversary that is a potential ally of the Soviet Union.
7. Second-class citizens
More than 160,000 Palestinians who remain in Israel after 1948 are left with one-fifth of their original land. This shrinks still further when laws are passed enabling the State to confiscate more land. Many Arabs have to become wage-labourers in Jewish Israeli towns and cities. Their standard of living is 40 per cent lower than that of the Jews.
8. Palestinian solidarity
The loss of Palestine creates a surge of Palestinian solidarity. The 'Palestinian National Council' holds its first meeting in 1964. It sets up the Palestine Liberation Organization which is chartered to achieve a democratic state in Palestine through the use of armed struggle.
9. Six-day war
After the six-day war in 1967 against Egypt, Israel occupies the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians living there have their freedoms strictly curtailed. They have to seek permission to travel and after 1976 are not allowed to vote.
10. Settler surge
After the election of Menachem Begin in 1977 Israelis are encouraged to settle in the occupied territories so that there can be no discussion about returning these lands. Initially the plan is to surround Arab towns so that they cannot expand. By 1982 West Bank settlements start springing up close to Israel's main towns enabling settlers to commute easily to work.
11. Intifada erupts
The Palestinian uprising begins in December 1987. Politically the intifada exacerbates internal rifts within Israel. The governing right-wing Likud Party increases its representation while an opposing minority call for withdrawal from the occupied territories. The spirit of nationalism among Palestinian Israelis grows: by mid-1988 663 have been arrested in incidents connected with the uprising. Confidence in Israel's future is shaken.