The Palestinian Conflict

by UHRC on 21/11/10 at 9:56 pm

A Palestinian protester holding his national flag confronts an Israeli soldier during a demonstration against Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank village of Maasarah near Bethlehem on November 12, 2010.

In 1850, the population of Palestine was estimated at 500,000, of whom approximately 80% were Muslim, 15% Christian and 5% Jewish. The current conflict is not ancient, but began in the late 19th-century when the Zionist movement in Europe decided to create a Jewish state in Palestine. Since Jews constituted a small minority in Palestine, implanting a Jewish majority state would by definition require the displacement of the non-Jewish majority.

In Palestine, a national liberation movement was already taking place. Palestinians were seeking independence from occupation by the Ottoman Turks and then by the British.

When the Ottoman Empire fell after WWI, the victorious European powers created new artificial boundaries and Palestine became a mandate territory of Britain in 1922. Tensions had increased in November 1917 when the British Foreign Office Secretary announced his governments support for the establishment of ‘a Jewish national home in Palestine.’  The number of Jewish settlers in Palestine grew tenfold during the three decades of British rule. Palestinian Arabs resisted using both non-violent means and armed revolt.

On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, which recommended dividing Palestine into two states; one Palestinian and one Jewish. Although Jews constituted 33% of the total population, and owned 6.59% of the land, the U.N. resolution allocated 54% of the territory for a Jewish state.

Palestinians did not accept the partition of their homeland and continued to demand independence. Immediately after the resolution was announced, fighting broke out between Zionist Jews and Palestinian Arabs.

By May 1948 Zionist forces had already captured substantial portions of Palestine outside the U.N. defined Jewish state, and at least 200,000 Palestinians had been expelled from their homes in what became Israel. On May 14th Great Britain officially declared the end of British Mandate rule in Palestine. That same day, Zionist leaders declared the state of Israel, and the U.S. government recognized it within hours. On May 15, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt entered the war. Fighting continued until armistice agreements were signed in January 1949. The new state of Israel had conquered 78% of Palestine, with Jordan taking control of the West Bank and Egypt taking control of Gaza.

The Zionist forces launched a systematic plan, Plan Dalet, for the expulsion of Palestinians, which included destruction of villages, mass expulsion, imprisonment, massacres and rape.

By 1949, close to 800,000 Palestinians had been driven out of their homes and 531 villages were destroyed. Palestinians are one of the largest and longest suffering groups of refugees in the world. Over 4.5 million Palestinian refugees are registered with the U.N., and many more remain unregistered. Many still carry keys to their homes from which they were expelled.

In 1967, border skirmishes and instability increased and Israel launched a surprise attack on Egypt. Just 5 days after the attack, Israel had achieved all its territorial objectives, including Gaza and the West Bank. 300,000 more Palestinians were driven out of Palestine to become refugees. Israel immediately began to demolish their homes for Israeli settlements.

After the 1967 victory, Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem to become part of the State of Israel. The other conquered areas- Gaza and the West Bank- have never formally been annexed and so the 3.5 million Palestinians who remain there are not citizens of any country but have remained subjects of an illegal military occupation.

The West Bank and Gaza are still under military occupation. Palestinians are subject to Israeli military laws much like apartheid laws of old South Africa. They have no right to free speech or a fair trial, they have no freedom of movement between towns, they can be expelled from the country without due process and they have no right to privacy. Although the pay taxes, they are not allowed to vote in Israeli elections.

The Israeli military continues to invade Gaza, bombard civilian neighborhoods and infrastructure, and carry out targeted assassinations, all the while strengthening the military occupation of the West Bank with an ever-increasing network of checkpoints, walls and illegal settlements.


NAKBA: The Ongoing Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. June 2008.


Leave a Reply