Linking together for human rights

Palestine

What do yoDSC02286u know about Palestine, its culture, its history, its people?

QUIZ 1 | SOME ANSWERS

Unfortunately many people’s first reaction to the name ‘Palestine’ is to the conflict that people have been suffering from over the past century. Here is a quiz from our book “For Hammam” that focuses on these problems, and our answers to it.

         QUIZ 2 | OUR ANSWERS

Palestine: A Simple Background

There has been a struggle over the land in Palestine for over a hundred years. At the end of the nineteenth century a movement called Zionism began in Europe. Zionists wanted to take Palestine to become a land for Jews. At that point, Palestine was ruled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

British involvement

The British became involved: they promised Palestinians and other Arabs help in gaining independence if they rose against the Turks. But they also promised the Zionists help in making Palestine a “national homeland for the Jews.”

During the first world war, Britain and allies fought and beat the Turks and their allies. After the war, Britain and France divided the Middle East between them and Palestine came under the British Mandate. Zionist immigration continued and there were big struggles about the land.

Zionist immigration

After the second world war, when they had suffered badly in Europe, many more Jews came to Palestine and the Zionist movement was widely supported by Europe and America. The conflict over land continued and the British turned the issue over to the United Nations.

Partition

The UN produced a partition plan that gave half of the country to the Zionists and left half for the Palestinians, who were not happy. The British pulled out; there was a war—and the Zionists took over three-quarters of the country and declared it was now called Israel. They included the Jewish religious symbol (star of David) on the flag and made this a country specifically for Jewish people.

Refugees

At this point, three-quarters of a million Palestinians were pushed from their villages and towns, and though international law and UN resolutions said they should be allowed back, they were not allowed to return. They and their descendants are still living across the Middle East and the rest of the world, wanting to return.

Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza

From 1948, the only parts of Palestine left for the Palestinians were areas that became known as the West Bank and Gaza Strip. After nineteen years, in 1967, Israel occupied both of these as well as part of Syria (Golan Heights) and part of Egypt—though that was later returned. Thousands more refugees left Palestine and were not allowed back.

Israel declared that East Jerusalem (part of this land) was now Israel, although they did not give its Palestinian residents full citizenship. But it did not annexe the West Bank or Gaza in the same way and put them under military rule. The military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza has continued since 1967.

However, and again against international law, Israel began to build huge numbers of settlements (new towns) on the West Bank and (until 2005) Gaza land, and to make these available only to Israelis.

At the beginning of the nineties, the Oslo Accords were signed between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This agreement created the Palestinian Authority to work in some areas of the West Bank and Gaza but still under the control of the Israelis. The plan for a final resolution and the creation of the Palestinian state was not realised, and the Accords did not manage to return the occupied land or to give Palestinian people any protection from Israeli violations.

In 2002, Israel began to build a Separation Wall cutting deep into the West Bank—it is not on the 1948-1967 border. The International Court of Justice ruled that the Wall was illegal and violated Palestinian human rights, but building has continued.

Apartheid

The Israeli occupation has caused huge problems for ordinary Palestinian people. Palestinians and Israelis are divided by a system that gives the latter a whole separate system of living places, laws and civilian rights but subjects the Palestinians to human rights violations and harsh military laws. (See the section here on apartheid)

Sometimes we are told that this conflict is very complicated—but is it, really? The powerful Israelis appear to want the Palestinian land without the Palestinian people—and pushing for this leads to many violations of Palestinian rights.

Whatever the solution of the problem turns out to be, it must include respect for the human rights of everybody.