The article below explains the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict, one of the longest conflicts.
- What was the Balfour Declaration?
- What happened during the 1930s?
- What was the UN partition plan?
- The years after the Nakba
- The Naksa, or the Six-Day War and the settlements
- The first Intifada 1987-1993
- The Oslo years and the Palestinian Authority
- The second Intifada
- The Palestinian division and the Gaza blockade
- The wars on the Gaza Strip
Tens of thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has its roots in a colonial crime from more than a century ago.
After a staggering onslaught by the militant Palestinian group Hamas on Saturday, Israel declared war on the Gaza Strip, and now all eyes are once more firmly fixed on what might happen next.
In attacks on many towns in southern Israel, Hamas fighters have killed more than 800 Israelis. In retaliation, Israel started a bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip that resulted in the deaths of over 500 Palestinians. It has reportedly gathered troops along the Gaza border in anticipation of a ground assault. Additionally, Hamas declared a “total blockade” of the Gaza Strip on Monday, cutting off supplies of gasoline, food, and other necessities to the already besieged enclave—a move that, in accordance with international law, constitutes a war crime.
But the seeds of what happens in the coming days and weeks are found in the past.
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International leaders, academics, military experts, and Western media have characterized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as impasse-like, complex, and intractable for decades.
Here is a quick breakdown of one of the longest wars in human history:
What was the Balfour Declaration?
On November 2, 1917, more than a century ago, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour sent a letter to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a prominent member of the British Jewish community.
Even though the letter was brief (just 67 words), its contents had a profound impact on Palestine that is still felt today.
It committed the British government to assisting in “the achievement of this object” and “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The Balfour Declaration is the name of the letter.
In essence, the Zionist movement was promised a land where Palestinian Arab inhabitants would make up more than 90% of the population.
In 1923, a British Mandate was established; it lasted until 1948. The British faced protests and strikes while facilitating large-scale Jewish immigration during that time; many of the newcomers were escaping Nazism in Europe. The shifting demography of their nation and the British seizure of their lands to give to Jewish settlers concerned the Palestinians.
What happened during the 1930s?
Tensions finally reached a breaking point, resulting in the Arab Revolt, which lasted from 1936 until 1939.
In order to oppose British colonialism and rising Jewish immigration, the newly established Arab National Committee called on Palestinians to go on a national strike, stop paying taxes, and boycott Jewish goods in April 1936.
The British violently put an end to the six-month strike by conducting punitive home demolitions and mass arrest campaigns, which Israel still uses today against Palestinians.
The Palestinian Peasant Resistance Movement was in charge of the second phase of the uprising, which started in late 1937 and was directed against British forces and colonialism.
Britain had 30,000 troops stationed in Palestine by the second half of 1939. Homes were destroyed, curfews were implemented, villages were aerially bombarded, and administrative detentions and summary executions were pervasive.
In parallel, the British worked with the Jewish settler community to create armed groups including the Special Night Squads, a Jewish-led “counterinsurgency force” under British command.
Eli Marom, a former commander of the Israeli navy, said in a national broadcast that Israel as a whole is asking how Israeli intelligence failed amid the Hamas attack.
Weapons were covertly transported into the Yishuv, the pre-state settlement community and weapons factories were set up to equip the Haganah, the Jewish militia that later served as the Israeli army’s main fighting force.
5,000 Palestinians were killed, 15,000–20,000 were injured, and 5,600 were imprisoned throughout those three years of the uprising.
What was the UN partition plan?
Although the Jewish population of Palestine grew to be 33 percent of the total by 1947, they only held 6 percent of the country.
Resolution 181 of the United Nations called for the division of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states.
The plan was rejected by the Palestinians because it gave the Jewish state a 55 percent portion of Palestine, including the majority of the fertile coastal region.
94 percent of historic Palestine was then owned by Palestinians, who also made up 67 percent of the country’s population.
The years after the Nakba
Before receiving Israeli citizenship, at least 150,000 Palestinians who had remained in the newly established state of Israel endured nearly 20 years of living under a rigid military occupation.
Gaza was taken over by Egypt, and Jordan started governing the West Bank in 1950.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was established in 1964, and the Fatah political party followed a year later.
The Naksa, or the Six-Day War and the settlements
During the Six-Day War against an alliance of Arab armies, Israel invaded the remainder of historic Palestine, including the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Syrian Golan Heights, and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, on June 5, 1967.
This resulted in a second forced relocation, known as a naksa (Arabic meaning “setback”), for certain Palestinians.
The Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was established in December 1967. The world’s attention was brought to the situation of the Palestinians during the course of the following ten years by a string of bombings and hijackings by leftist organizations.
In the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, settlement building has started. Jews were granted all the rights and advantages of Israeli citizens, creating a two-tiered system, while Palestinians were forced to live under a military occupation that discriminated against them and forbade any form of political or civic expression.
The first Intifada 1987-1993
In December 1987, the Gaza Strip experienced the start of the first Palestinian Intifada after an Israeli truck collided with two vans transporting Palestinian employees, resulting in the deaths of four Palestinians.
With teenage Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli army tanks and troops, protests quickly spread to the West Bank.
It also paved the way for the founding of the Hamas movement, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot that waged a violent struggle against Israeli occupation.
The “Break their Bones” doctrine promoted by then-Defence Minister Yitzhak Rabin summed up the harsh response of the Israeli army. It included home devastation, deportations of activists, university closures, and summary executions.
The Unified National Leadership of the Uprising, a coalition of Palestinian political factions dedicated to putting an end to the Israeli occupation and securing Palestinian independence, directed the Intifada, which was predominantly carried out by youth.
The Arab League acknowledged the PLO as the only authorized representative of the Palestinian people in 1988.
Popular mobilizations, large-scale rallies, civil disobedience, well-planned strikes, and cooperatives amongst neighbors were hallmarks of the Intifada.
1,070 Palestinians, including 237 children, were killed by Israeli forces during the Intifada, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Over 175,000 Palestinians were taken into custody.
The world community was likewise spurred by the Intifada to look for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
The Oslo years and the Palestinian Authority
The Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, putting an end to the Intifada, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) was established as an interim administration with some limited autonomy over parts of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The PLO recognized Israel on the grounds of a two-state solution and, in reality, signed deals that granted Israel control of most of the land and water resources in the West Bank, as well as 60% of the area.
The PA was meant to clear the way for the first democratically elected Palestinian government to rule an independent state with its capital in East Jerusalem in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but that has never happened.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) is criticized for working closely with the Israeli military to repress dissent and political activism against Israel and is seen by some as an untrustworthy subcontractor to the Israeli occupation.
Israel divided the Palestinian territory in 1995 and encircled the Gaza Strip with a concrete wall and electronic fence.
The second Intifada
When Likud opposition leader Ariel Sharon paid a provocative visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex on September 28, 2000, with thousands of security personnel stationed in and around Jerusalem’s Old City, the second Intifada officially got underway.
200 Palestinians were hurt over the course of two days in clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli authorities.
A significant armed insurrection was caused by the occurrence. Israel significantly damaged the infrastructure and economy of Palestine during the Intifada.
In addition to rampant settlement building, Israel reoccupied regions under the control of the Palestinian Authority and started constructing a separation wall, which damaged Palestinian towns and way of life.
International law prohibits settlements, but throughout the years, tens of thousands of Jewish settlers have relocated to colonies created on land taken from the Palestinians. Palestinian communities and villages are being forced into bantustans, the isolated settlements for Black South Africans established by that nation’s old apartheid administration, as settlers-only roads and infrastructure sever the occupied West Bank.
Just over 110,000 Jewish settlers, including East Jerusalem, were residing in the West Bank at the time of the Oslo Accords’ signing. Today, there are almost 700,000 people living on land taken from the Palestinians totaling more than 100,000 hectares (390 square miles).
The Palestinian division and the Gaza blockade
Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the PLO, passed away in 2004, and a year later, the second Intifada came to an end, Israeli colonies in the Gaza Strip were destroyed, and 9,000 settlers and Israeli soldiers fled the region.
Palestinians cast their first general election ballots a year later.
A majority was secured by Hamas. However, a months-long civil war between Fatah and Hamas broke out, which led to the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians.
The dominant Palestinian Authority party, Fatah, was driven out of the Gaza Strip by Hamas, and it retook control of some areas of the West Bank.
Israel placed a land, air, and naval blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after charging Hamas with “terrorism”.
The wars on the Gaza Strip
In 2008, 2012, 2014, and 2021, Israel launched four protracted military invasions on Gaza. Tens of thousands of Palestinian houses, schools, and office buildings have been demolished, along with thousands of Palestinians who were slain, many of them children.
Because Gaza cannot access building supplies like steel and cement, reconstruction has been all but impossible.
Weapons that are prohibited globally, such as phosphorous gas, were used in the 2008 attack.
Israel killed more than 2,100 Palestinians in 2014, including 1,462 civilians and nearly 500 children, over the course of 50 days.
About 11,000 Palestinians were injured, 20,000 homes were destroyed, and half a million people were forced to flee their homes during the Israeli-led assault known as Operation Protective Edge.