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The Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict for dummies (Part One, 1895-1948)

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 The history of the conflict in Palestine has its origins in the mists of time, probably with the first skirmishes between tribes consisting of a few tens or hundreds of people (little more than large extended families), that many thousands of years ago lead the family or group of families, each time louder and more evolved, to winning.
However, evidently these tribes have always found particularly interesting obtaining dominion over this strip of land, slightly bigger than Sicily, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in the extreme western part of the so-called Fertile Crescent. (Namely the crescent-shaped area that starts more or less from Quwait, cross to the north of Mesopotamia, reaches out to Iraq and then begins to descend along the modern State of Israel-Palestine, Sinai and along the reaches of the Nile Delta.)
This is not the place to talk about how and why a war takes place between families, tribes, peoples contiguous. But you can imagine that in the beginning, many thousands of years ago, it had to do with the capture of small sources of greater prosperity for their closest relatives and groups, such as drinking water sources, to get nearer the sea or more fertile land, or where it was easier to build a mansion, or to a morphologically advantageous position in order to anticipate the moves of the “enemy” and so on.
But surely it is useless to try and trace here the facts that have come and gone, real or assumed, in the course of millennia, the peoples who lived there and the kingdoms that have arisen, have thrived, struggled and have found their end.

The area that concerns us is at the top of the Sinai, more or less, the part that faces the sea on the south-southwest of Cyprus and is bordered to the right by the Dead Sea and the Jordan River. On the right of the Jordan, there is another piece of land of Palestine, which became independent soon enough, and is now called Jordan and does not take a direct part in the conflict – in some ways similar to a Civil War – still in progress. As mentioned, however, today’s Palestine is slightly larger than the Sicily (or London) and became in its majority in 1948, due to the subsequent occupation, the newly-born State of Israel. For centuries it was a rather poor and shabby land, yet this area – populated in some of his points (Jericho) by hundreds of thousands of years – is seen by billions of people the “center” of the world. In this land they were born and have grown to the rest of the world, in order, the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This small land today seems to be the starting point, the symbol or the pretext of conflict between the West (Judeo-Christian) and the Islamic world.
As a necessary starting point in the story, without going back to the mists of centuries, we choose a close enough period of time, and we’ll try to do a major work of synthesis, albeit at the expense of precision.

In 1895 the total population of Palestine is about 500 000 people of whom less than 50 000 were Jews, who were in small groups or had come back to Palestine for religious reasons mainly.
In 1896 the journalist Theodore Herzl, born in Budapest, had founded in Austria – as a reaction to anti-Semitism that was becoming increasingly popular in Europe – the Zionist movement (actually it is a bit ‘more complicated, but never mind) and had written Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State).
By the way, the term Zionist derives from Zion, a small hill of Jerusalem.
In this book Herzl theorizes the possibility of establishing, in Palestine (or Argentina), a nation that welcomes Jews ,who, according to tradition, he assumed they have been dispersed from Palestine throughout the world. The novelty of the Jewish state should have been that of joining or rejoining and placing in the same land, people who have lost over the millennia their ethnic identity, while maintaining a strong common tradition, cultural and religious identity. Hence the inability to absorb anti-Semitism into a form of racism, as the first has nothing to do with the “races”. And still summon antisemitism as the aversion to the Jews, is in reality a pure question of terminology.
In his “Jewish State”, however, Herzl assumes – as we said – that this location can take place not only in Palestine but also in Argentina.

Meanwhile the Ottoman Empire (Turks), which extended even in Mesopotamia (land between the two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates), in the Fertile Crescent and of course in Palestine, is disintegrating.
It is divided after World War I between the victorious powers. Or rather, between two nations that will be among the winners: England and France. These begin to divide the whole area before it is actually divided. In particular, the powerful England promises, right and left, large areas of Palestine, which is not, or still is not “her stuff”:
– In 1915-1916 to the Arabs (that were promised an independent state by exchange of letters between Sir Henry MacMahon and the Emir of Mecca);
– In 1916 to the victorious European powers in general, in order to keep under their sphere of European influence the area sacred to the three monotheistic religions, area entrusted to a hypothetical international administration (through secret agreements, so called Sikes – Picot, with which were also attributed to France, current areas of Lebanon and Syria, and to England, the areas of Jordan and Iraq today);
– In 1917 to the Jews (namely to the Zionist Movement) with the Balfour Declaration.

This point, the Balfour Declaration was important and would need to be investigated. In a nutshell: it is a letter from British Foreign Secretary, Sir Arthur James Balfour, to Lord Rothschild, wealthy and important member of the European Zionism, in which letter, stating that the Government of His Majesty (UK) welcomes the establishment in Palestine of a “National Home” for the Jewish people, it being understood that nothing may prejudice the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish populations in Palestine, or the rights and political status of Jews in other countries.
Actually, in 1920, essentially, England manages to keep for herself Palestine (relying on a strategic importance that will be rather less over time, giving England a series of complications, and untold endless conflict to the today’s world) .
In fact, the victorious Allied powers in World War inaugurated, through the League of Nations (born with duties in perspective later resumed by the UN), the system of “mandates”, then, in one word, they handed Palestine over to the “mandate” (protection, control and hypothetical exploitation, even strategic) of the UK, with a commitment that will be applied the Balfour Declaration.

Thus English administration settled in Palestine in order to lead that poor land – considered to be a wasteland, devoid of structures and wealth – to that minimum degree of “civilization” – according to the West European standards – which, as first thing, would enable them to be useful for Europe of the winners.
On the other hand, the ruin left by the Ottoman empire and the complications caused by the immigration,on a massive scale, of Jews from Europe, under the Balfour Declaration, to a land inhabited substantially by Arabs and Islamics, made clear soon for English Administration that taking hold of Palestine hadn’t been a good deal.
To begin with, Palestine was soon divided into two zones, east and west of the Jordan River. The east would later become autonomous, as Kingdom of Transjordan (later Jordan). The western part would remain under British mandate.

It’s a constant struggle between Palestinians, native, who want to gain independence from England, and Jews, who want to get what the famous Balfour Declaration had made them, concretely and objectively, understand: the birth of a Jewish State. England (which was sure to earn something, had behaved ambiguously, in a shape that would have been very difficult to overcome), put herself out to cope with the problem, and tries to float at her best for … 28 years.

Let’s go ahead:
– Ten years later (we are now in 1930) emigrated to Palestine about 100 000 Jews and the persecution of Jews by the Nazis in Europe increases the flow (legal or out of control and therefore illegal) to Palestine.
– They form – both among the Arabs-Palestinians, both among Jews – Political and social groups, unions and militarized groups (e.g. the Haganah, who later became the Israeli army);
– Both sides open the door – through the more extremist groups – to several terrorist events;
– Jewish groups are formed, whose sole function is to facilitate illegal immigration (the Mossad – which, as of today, is a branch of Israeli Secret Service – though born as body parallel to the immigration;
– It was born (in 1929 in Zurich), the Jewish Agency, political education “preliminary” to the government of the future Jewish State, with the task of representing the Jewish independence movement, which of course the Arabs do not recognize.

In 1937 it was created a British Royal Commission, the Peel Commission, charged to investigate and find a solution to problems. The Peel Report (look at this!) …. recommends a partition of Palestine. Instead, in 1939, after a series of lectures separate Anglo-Jewish and Anglo-Arab, is drawn up a “paper” (Mc Donald White Paper) – the so-called “White Paper” that provides for the end of the British mandate for 1949 and the formation of an independent Arab state, with an incomprehensible and unworkable government joint Palestinian-Jewish, with limits on Jewish immigration (the legal one) for five years and limits the sale of lands the Arab-Palestinians (that the Jews are determined to buy, by Western-Jewish funds, from Arab landowners who do not have any interest, if not cheap, for the land entrusted to the work of others, and who live in Lebanon and elsewhere).
Result: in 1940 the Jewish population in Palestine is about 450 000 people out of a total of one million and a half, that is: 30%. The conflict between different cultures, economies, religions, traditions, interests, is skyrocketing. And the terrorist attacks, mainly against the British, but, naturally, between Arab and Jewish factions, are wasted.

Meanwhile the Second World War and its end will make the world know – better: confirm – the horrors of the Holocaust (Shoah, tragedy, destruction) and all the burden of suffering inflicted by Nazi Germany to the Jewish people.
The Jewish Agency meanwhile tries to gain support from the Zionist movement in the United States and succeeded in 1945 in involving congressmen, and getting that President Harry Truman put pressure on the British Government to allow an increase of Jewish immigration. The UK Government resists pressure.
On July 22, 1946 on a Zionist terrorist faction (Lehi or Stern Gang, Irgun others say, probably both) blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where they had been allocated the offices of the British government and the headquarters: 86 dead.
Between September 1946 and February 1947 the British Government proposes the division of Palestine into two autonomous provinces under its “High Commissioner”. Both Jews and Arabs reject the proposal.

In 1947 England, now determined to break free of this cumbersome and unsuccessful colony, decided to replace the mandate by the League of Nations, and return the “Palestine problem” to the United Nations (UN). Meanwhile, the actions of sabotage and terrorist acts continue.
It is established a special UN Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP).
It is adopted (better: planned) the UN resolution n. 181 (a plan of distribution of Palestine into two states, Arabic and Hebrew, with joined economic management, and autonomous UN international administration on Jerusalem).

While English administration had set a date for the end of its mandate to May 15, 1948. The Zionist movement acts in order to establish control over most of the territory. On April 9, 1948 are massacred, mostly by the Stern Gang, 254 people in the Arab village of Deir Yassin, near Jerusalem.
The Arab States, unprepared for any joint action, much less in favor of a “Palestinian people” (Palestinians do not yet have their own formal identity, except for the fact of being born and raised, since centuries, in an Arab area called Palestine), equipped with their incapable leaderships, envisage their ambiguous and interested military intervention in support of their interests in the area. And while 750 thousand Palestinians abandoned their homes in a mass exodus (Nakba: tragedy), that was explained by the terror caused by the violence of the initiatives of the fiercest Jewish factions. These 750 thousand people, who have dropped out – as mentioned – their homes, their lands and possessions, are today the refugee problem, confined for 64 years in “refugee camps” in the Palestinian territories (Gaza Strip and West Bank, occupied by Israel in 1967) or on the margins, in every sense, of other Arab States.

On 14 May 1948, one day before the expiration of the British mandate, it is proclaimed the birth of the State of Israel, allegedly to enhance and accelerate the UN partition plan.
Here the issue becomes complicated: According to the sources: a) for the Jewish side it is argued that the baby, who was born without means and military facilities, was literally attacked by a coalition of Arab armies. b) for the Arab-Palestinian side, they claims that the Jewish factions, equipped with weapons and cash by the Zionist movement of the West, have, so to speak, “brought forward” their plans by invading the major Palestinian towns and villages, terrorizing and slaughtering them to recover as much as territory allotted to the Arab State. Things are never black or white, but hardly the truth stands in between.
It started, 15 May 1948, the first Arab-Israeli conflict in Palestine.


Written by pipistro

April 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Posted in Israel, Palestine

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