History of Israel and Palestine

It always confounds me that people continue to believe the political rhetoric bouncing around the international community with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Some years ago I was invited by an Arab Israeli woman to speak at a presentation about the history of Israel and the Arab people because she said that I understood more than most the situation in the Middle East. I won’t say that I do because I have very limited understanding of the big picture, but I know enough history and much of it has been covered up by lies perpetuated by the Arab world, especially the so-called Palestinians and their Hamas leaders.

This particular young Arab woman and another one from Jordan explained to me their own family history. Both had grandparents living in Palestine in 1948. Both had a choice to make. One grandfather chose to stay in Israel, become a citizen and continue to raise his family. Today he has a son who manages a bank and granddaughters who work along side Israeli Jews in Tel Aviv as a doctor, lawyer and engineer.

The other grandfather who made his home in Gaza chose to leave Palestine and make his home in Jordan. Because Jordan doesn’t recognize Israel as a legal state, this young woman has relatives that she has never met living in Gaza. She is quite happy being Jordanian and believes her grandfather made the right decision in spite of the separation of family members.

What is Palestine?

Palestine is the name given to the Promised Land of Israel over 2000 years ago during its Roman occupation in order to infuriate the Jewish people.  It has never been the name of a legitimate nation or state, but a geographical term used to describe the region at certain times in history when there was no nation or established state.   Palestine comes from Peleshet meaning ‘rolling’ and is translated Philistine in the Bible.   Peleshet was first used to describe the people who migrated from the area around the Agean Sea and the Greek Islands.  These people created five city-states, one of which is Gaza.  

Modern Zionist Movement

Theodore Hertzl, born May 2, 1860, is considered the father of the Zionist movement promoting Jewish immigration to Palestine.  As a German journalist for a French newspaper, he covered the Dreyfus affair in which a Jewish French Army captain was falsely convicted of spying for Germany.  It was a profound antisemitic incident that divided France for many years.  While in Paris he witnessed crowds chanting “Death to the Jews!” that changed him from a German supporter to one who began challenging wealthy German to Jews to leave Germany and return to Palestine to establish a Jewish state.  He feared that as quickly as France turned on the Jewish people, Germany would too.  Hertzl died in 1904 before he could witness the events that would directly lead to the establishment of the state of Israel.

Balfour Declaration

On November 2, 1917, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration.  This public statement supported the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.

“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

This was the first time in modern history that a major government supported a ‘national home’ for the Jewish people.  The wording in the document had no precedent in international law and was intentionally vague with regard to an actual Jewish state.  There were no specific boundaries given though the British government explained the wording did not mean a Jewish home would cover all of Palestine.  The British also wanted to protect the civil and religious rights of the Palestinian Arabs as well as those in the growing Jewish communities.  No one wanted antisemitism to increase or label the Jews as ‘strangers in their native land.’  In essence this was the beginning of the two-state solution that is always being discussed by the international community today.

In 1922 the League of Nations confirmed the Balfour Declaration and it became known as the British Mandate or British Rule.  The boundaries of Palestine included Trans-Jordan which was eventually removed by Winston Churchill.  Between 1919 and 1923, 40,000 Jews arrived in Palestine trying to escape the chaos caused by the Russian Revolution as 100,000 Jews were killed during this time.  

Pioneers in Palestine

Early Jewish immigrants to Palestine were pioneers in the land and began establishing self-sustaining economies.  The Jezreel Valley was drained and converted to agricultural land.  The Jewish National Fund, a charity that collected money worldwide,  purchased more land for growing the ‘national homeland.’ An underground Jewish militia was created to defend outlying Jewish settlements.  During the mid-1920s, more Jewish people arrived in Palestine.  They set up businesses and created the Jewish National Council which oversaw education, health and security.   The Hebrew University was established in Tel Aviv and Technion in Haifa.  While Jewish immigration increased; the Arabs began rioting. 

Who Owns the Land?

In 1929, animosity between Muslims and Jews intensified over the Western Wall (Wailing Wall, Kotel).  Jews were banned from using any furniture such as chairs for the elderly as the religious Muslims claimed the area was their property and that the Jews were seeking control of the Temple Mount.  More riots ensued in the area and eventually the ancient Jewish community in Hebron came to an end.

The Bible first mentions Hebron with the Cave of Machpelah or the Cave of the Patriarchs.  About 4000 years ago Abraham purchased this cave in which are buried Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah.  Today it is enclosed by a mosque proving who actually owns the land as Islam did not exist until 600 A.D.   King David ruled Israel from Hebron about 1000 B.C. for seven years before moving the capital to Jerusalem.

Growing the National Homeland

Between the two world wars, using the terms of the Mandate, the British rejected all majority rule or any other measures that would give the Arab population control over Palestinian territory.  In this way they continued to support a growing Jewish ‘national homeland’ along with an Arab presence.   

Before World War II, Jewish immigration increased with an agreement between the Nazis and the Jewish Agency Ha’avara.  Jewish possessions were confiscated in order to purchase 14 million pounds worth of German goods for export to compensate the Jewish immigrants entering Palestine.  Although many Jews wanted to leave Nazi Germany, the Nazis prevented them from retaining any money keeping them from paying the British government the necessary immigration fees.  Still, Jewish immigration continued and the purchased goods helped the economy to flourish. The British used the taxes paid by the Jewish population to build a port and oil refineries at Haifa and the industrial age began in Palestine.

In the 1930s, 250,000 Jews immigrated to Palestine.  Most were German doctors, lawyers and professors.  With the rise of the Nazis and antisemitism, more and more Jews tried to leave Europe, but every country in the world closed their borders to Jewish immigration, including Britain closing Palestine to any further Jewish immigration. 

The White Paper

The “White Paper of 1939” written by Nevill Chamberlain in response to the Arab Revolt (1936-39)  called for the establishment of a Jewish national home in an independent Palestinian state with both Jews and Arabs jointly governing the area.  It effectively rejected the idea of partitioning Palestine.   It also claimed that with 450,000 Jewish people having settled in Palestine, the Balfour Declaration of a ‘national homeland’ had been met.  The document limited Jewish immigration and restricted Jewish rights to purchase land from Arabs.  Both the Arab and Jewish leaders rejected this proposal. 

Civil War in Palestine

On April 2, 1947, Great Britain sent the issue of Palestine to the United Nations General Assembly.  In July 1947, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine met with Jewish and Zionist leaders.  The Arabs boycotted the meetings.

The report from the meeting proposed “an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem” to be governed by the international community.  On November 29, 1947, this resolution was adopted by the United Nations and Jewish immigration began again.

The UN General Assembly’s vote created a rift between the Jewish community and the Arabs in Palestine.  Civil war broke out and the Arab nations created the Arab Liberation Army and Egypt joined in this ‘holy war.’ They blockaded all of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem.  Though the Jewish paramilitary (Haganah) had about 100 armored vehicles to try to supply the city, they were destroyed along with hundreds of military men.

The Arabs who lived in Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem or other Jewish-dominated areas evacuated east to other Arab areas.   Because the United States withdrew their support for the partition plan, the Arab League believed they could put an end to the plan.  The British decided, however, on February 7, 1948, to support the annexation of Arab Palestine.  The British Mandate would end in May 1948.

The State of Israel is Born

David Ben-Gurion reorganized the Haganah.  Every Jewish man and woman had to receive military training.  Golda Meir raised money from Jews in the United States and through Stalin’s support, they were able to purchase military weapons in Eastern Europe.  Ben-Gurion created an offensive plan, rather than defensive, to establish Jewish land continuity by conquering mixed areas. Tiberias, Haifa, Safed, Beisan, Jaffa and Acre fell, resulting in more than 250,000 Palestinian Arabs leaving the area. This refugee situation caused the larger Arab states to intervene.

On May 14, 1948, the British forces left Palestine ending the Mandate.  The Jewish People’s Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum and proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel in the Land of Israel.  Immediately, the United States and Russia recognized the new state.  The Arab League of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq refused to accept the UN partition plan and began the first Arab-Israeli war.  

The First Arab-Israeli War

The Arabs used the British military equipment left behind and went on the offensive.  Because Israel had not been a state before May 15, they could not buy heavy arms.  The UN declared an arms embargo, but Czechoslovakia violated it and supplied the new Jewish state with heavy military equipment and planes.  The Haganah became the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).  

Jewish immigrants, many of them WWII veterans and Holocaust survivors, began arriving in Israel.  They joined the IDF.  After an initial loss of land and its occupation by the Arabs,  the Israelis eventually took back that land along with some of the land that had been included in the proposed Arab state.  At the end of November 1948,  local ceasefires were arranged between the Israelis, Syrians and Lebanese. On December 1, 1948,  King Abdullah announced the union of Jordan with Arab Palestine west of the Jordan River; only Britain recognized the annexation.

Israel signed a truce, no actual peace treaty, with Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.  Israel’s new borders  (The Green Line) were established even though the borders were not recognized by the Arabs as legal international borders.  Israel had taken control of the Galilee, Jezreel Valley, West Jerusalem, the coastal plain and the Negev.  The Syrians still controlled a strip of land along the Sea of Galilee originally given to Israel.  The Lebanese occupied a small area on the border between Israel and Lebanon on the Mediterranean Sea and the Egyptians kept the Gaza strip as an occupied zone.  Jordan remained in the West Bank where it was originally given land.    

On May 11, 1949, Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations.  Out of an Israeli population of 650,000, only 6,000 men and women were killed in the War of Independence.  According to the UN, 726,000 Palestinians fled or were evicted by Israel.  Those who remained had the option of leaving or becoming Israeli citizens.  

Jerusalem of the Jews

On May 15, 1967, Naomi Shemer’s song “Jerusalem of Gold” began to dominate the Israeli airwaves.  Two days later Syria, Egypt and Jordan and eventually Iraq gathered their troops along the Israeli borders.  On May 26, 1967, Egyptian President, Abdel Nasser, declared that the “basic objective of the battle will be to destroy Israel.”  

On June 5, 1967, the morning before the new Israeli defense minister was sworn in, the Israeli air force launched pre-emptive attacks destroying the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian air forces.  They also defeated the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.  By June 11, the Arab armies were defeated and a cease-fire was called for by the UN.  This became known as the Six-day War, once again started by Arab nations losing more land.

Israel gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Jordanian-controlled West Bank.  The Sinai oil fields made Israel self-sufficient in energy.  East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel.  Residents were given permanent residency status and the option of applying for Israeli citizenship.  For the first time since the end of the British Mandate, Jews were free to visit the Old City of Jerusalem. For the first time in centuries, they were allowed to pray at the Western Wall.  In Hebron, Jews regained access to the Cave of the Patriarchs for the first time since the 1300s.  Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem also became accessible.

Land for Peace

On November 22, 1967, the UN Security Council adopted the ‘land for peace’ concept which called for “just and lasting peace” based on Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories in return for the end of all states of belligerency, respect for the sovereignty of all states in the area and the right to live in peace within secure, recognized boundaries.  The resolution was accepted by both sides, but with different interpretations.  This has been the basis of all subsequent peace negotiations.  

“Land for Peace” is based on Israel Giving Up Land for ‘peace from their neighbors.’  This concept implies that Israeli withdrawal is linked to its neighbors’ willingness to formally make peace.  This never actually takes place because even though Israel gives up land, its neighbors still do not recognize their sovereignty as a nation. 

On June 19, 1967, Israel offered to give up the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan in exchange for peace.  Their offer was rejected by the Arab States: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”

Yom Kippur War

On October 6, 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in what is known as the Yom Kippur War.  They wanted to regain the land they lost in the war of 1967: Egypt wanted the Sinai and Syria wanted the Golan Heights even though they were offered the return of these lands for peace.  Because the war was started on a high holy day, Israel’s losses were great, however, in less than 24 hours, they mobilized two armored divisions which soon had the Syrians retreating. The Israelis captured territory deep inside Syria almost to Damascus.  Ten days after the start of the war, Israeli forces penetrated Egyptian defense lines and came close to Cairo. Eventually through diplomatic talks, Egypt and Syria regained a portion of their territory and UN buffer zones were established between them and Israel.  Israel withdrew from the Sinai as part of the peace agreement facilitated by the United States and retained control over two-thirds of the Golan Heights.  In 1981, Israel annexed the Golan Heights.

Testing Land for Peace

In 2005, the forced eviction by Israel of its settlers and military forces from the Gaza Strip was a ‘test case’ of ‘land for peace’ with the Palestinians.  Seventeen Israeli settlements  known as Gush Katif with 8,600 residents were forcibly removed from their homes on August 15, 2005.  On September 12, 2005, the Israeli Army withdrew from each settlement up to the original Green Line.  All schools, libraries, community centers, office buildings factories, and greenhouses which could not be taken apart were left.  Synagogues were burned by the Palestinians, “The looting and burning of the synagogues was a great joy… It was in an unplanned expression of happiness that these synagogues were destroyed.”

Later, it was reported that the evacuated Jewish communities of the Gaza Strip were transformed into military bases used by Palestinians to fire rockets at Israeli cities and train for attacks against the Jewish state.  The ‘test case’ for ‘land for peace’ didn’t work.

After the withdrawal from Gush Kativ, the Palestinian Authority took control of Gaza.  On January 25, 2006, Hamas won the elections in Gaza and the West Bank.  Rockets launched against Israeli targets continued from the beginning of the expulsion and have increased since that time.  The area is now being used to smuggle weapons into Gaza through tunnels that are also used to kidnap Israeli soldiers.  

Jerusalem and the Golan

After nearly three thousand years, on December 6, 2017, United States President Donald Trump announced the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the planning of the relocation of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On March 28, 2019, he recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Even though Israeli control over the area has not been challenged, this policy will not change 50 years of international views of the Golan Heights as being occupied territory.

What is important to remember is that Israelis and Arabs do live side-by-side peacefully in Israel. It is the media and the international community that would like the world to believe otherwise. The West Bank and Gaza Strip are governed by the terrorist group Hamas and their ultimate goal, along with most of the surrounding nations is not peace with Israel, but a complete destruction of the country and its people.

(Taken from multiple internet sites so the information is easily accessed for those who want to know.)

Tentstake Ministries Publishing, 2019

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