Israel-Palestine Conflict 102

Copied from “Knowledge News,” a daily email I used to get.  These three emails are copied from January 2009, and include really useful timelines.

The Roots of Arab-Israeli Rage, Part 1

Jerusalem under Ottoman Turk rule, 1860

We’ve surveyed Gaza. We’ve read the charter of Hamas. Now, it’s time to begin our 100-year timeline of the Arab-Israeli conflict, so you have the historical context you need to better understand the current fight.
In AD 70, the Romans crushed a Jewish revolt, sacked Jerusalem, and destroyed its sacred temple–the focal point of Jewish life. Jews were slaughtered, enslaved, or driven away. By 135, when another rebellion met with the same fate, no Jew could set foot in Jerusalem. The old city was rebuilt as a Greco-Roman one–complete with circus, amphitheater, and baths–and Judea was renamed Palestine.

When Rome turned Christian, Jerusalem followed suit, and churches went up around the sites holy to those in the faith. Pilgrims flocked in, and came for three centuries–until 638, when the city fell to a Muslim army from Arabia.

Muslims, too, held Jerusalem holy. Early on, they even faced toward it in prayer rather than Mecca. Within a century, the Dome of the Rock had been built on the site where Muhammad is said to have ascended into heaven, the Al-Aqsa Mosque had gone up next door, and Jerusalem had become an Arab and Muslim city. Except for a century or two of Crusader rule after 1099, Muslims held sway there almost continuously for more than a thousand years.

But then came Zionism, a 19th-century movement rooted in the idea that the Jewish people, dispersed and persecuted, deserved an autonomous home. That’s where the modern Arab-Israeli conflict–and our timeline history of it–begins.


1881 – Jews begin to migrate en masse to Palestine, part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Most of the first Jews come from Russia, fleeing pogroms and harsh discrimination. At the time these mass migrations begin, Jewish communities account for less than 5 percent of Palestine’s population.

1897 – The First Zionist Congress meets in Basel, Switzerland, to discuss Theodor Herzl’s 1896 book The Jewish State. The congress calls for a legally assured home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Herzl writes in his diary, “At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will know it.”

1914 – World War I begins. The Ottomans ally with Germany and Austria-Hungary against Britain, France, and Russia.

1916 – Arab nationalists, backed by the British, revolt against Ottoman rule in Palestine. The British suggest they’ll recognize an independent Arab state if the revolt succeeds. Yet at the same time, Britain signs a secret agreement with France to carve the region into colonial zones.

1917 – Britain’s foreign minister, Arthur Balfour, says that the British “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.” Zionists hail the declaration. Yet Balfour also says “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

1918 – British forces gain military control of Palestine. World War I ends, and the Ottoman Empire collapses.

1920 – Arabs in Syria declare independence, but French troops quickly occupy Damascus. As part of the resolution of World War I, France assumes a mandate to govern modern-day Syria and Lebanon. Britain gets a mandate for Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq. Arab nationalists, whose hopes have been dashed by these events, reject British rule. Zionists cooperate with British authorities yet organize their own armed militias. Violent anti-Jewish riots begin.

1922 – The League of Nations, a precursor to the United Nations, confirms Britain’s mandate over Palestine, charging Britain with the establishment of a “Jewish national home,” “the development of self-governing institutions,” and the facilitation of Jewish immigration, “while ensuring that the rights and position of other sectors of the population are not prejudiced.” A British census shows that Jews account for 11 percent of Palestine’s 750,000 inhabitants.

1929 – Violent anti-Jewish riots start up again, triggered by disputes over holy Jewish and Muslim sites in Jerusalem and increasing land sales to Jews.

1933 – Hitler comes to power in Germany. Jewish immigration increases. By 1936, almost 400,000 Jews live in Palestine, about 30 percent of the population.

1936 – Arab nationalists revolt, demanding the end of land sales to Jews, Jewish immigration, and British rule. The revolt continues until 1939, with a general strike, bombings of British installations, arson, assassinations, and attacks on Jews. The British impose martial law, seal borders, demolish homes, and arrest, kill, or exile rebel leaders. In response to attacks on Jews, Zionists begin retaliatory attacks on Arabs. Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion notes that the Arab rebels are “fighting dispossession. . . . We and they both want the same thing: We both want Palestine.”

1937 – A royal British commission led by Lord William Peel calls the conflicting Jewish and Arab interests “irrepressible.” Confronted with what it calls “right against right,” the commission recommends that the land of Palestine be partitioned into separate Jewish and Arab zones.

1939 – In an attempt to regain Arab support, the British adopt a plan to limit Jewish immigration, restrict land sales to Jews, and create a Jewish national home within an Arab-majority state. The plan, rejected by Arab nationalists as insufficient, ends Anglo-Zionist goodwill. Despite dire conditions for Jews in Europe, Britain works to prevent Jewish immigration to Palestine. World War II begins.

1944 – Zionist militias grow frustrated by Britain’s continued restriction of Jewish immigration to Palestine, despite Jews’ “mass enlisting to the British Army” to fight Nazi Germany and “the massacre of masses of the Jewish people in Europe.” The militias start a revolt against British colonial authorities and assassinate a British minister in Cairo.

1945 – World War II ends. The Nazi death camps are liberated, and the full extent of the Holocaust becomes clear. Six million Jews have been murdered–one third of all Jewish people worldwide. U.S. president Harry Truman urges Britain to accept 100,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors into Palestine. Arab nationalists protest that help for Holocaust survivors should not come at their expense.

1946 – Zionist militias bomb British government and military offices at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

1947 – Britain gives control of Palestine to the United Nations, which votes to partition the region into two states: one Jewish and one Arab, with Jerusalem under international control. Zionists accept the partition, which grants them 56 percent of Palestine, including fertile coastal regions. Arab nationalists reject the authority of the U.N. to partition the land. Civil war between the roughly 678,000 Jews and 1,269,000 Arabs in Palestine begins. Soon, Zionists control most of the territory allocated to them under the U.N. plan.

1948 – Britain pulls out of Palestine. Zionists, led by David Ben-Gurion, immediately declare the independent State of Israel. Arab armies from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon immediately attack. The First Arab-Israeli War begins. At first, the war’s outcome is in doubt. But after arms from Czechoslovakia reach Israel, it establishes military superiority and conquers territory beyond that of the U.N. partition, including the western part of Jerusalem.

Islam's Dome of the Rock on Judaism's Temple Mount-- in the heart of Jerusalem, 1877

1949 – Armistice agreements end military action. The State of Israel controls 77 percent of the land. Jordan controls the eastern part of Jerusalem and the West Bank, which it formally annexes. Egypt controls the area around Gaza. As a result of the conflict, more than 700,000 Arabs flee or are expelled from their homes (the precise circumstances are still in dispute). Israel refuses to let these refugees return to their homes inside the new Israeli borders. Arab states refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state, and organize an economic and political boycott of the country.

1949 – Despite the end of the First Arab-Israeli War, Israel’s existence remains tenuous. Thousands of Arab infiltrators penetrate Israeli borders. Early incursions come mostly from Arab refugees seeking to reclaim houses, possessions, or crops lost in the war. But soon, attacks by Arab guerrillas begin. Border raids pick up where the war left off.

1953 – Israel establishes a special commando unit to carry out retaliatory strikes and deter border raids. In response to an Arab grenade attack killing a mother and children, the unit kills dozens of villagers in the West Bank town of Qibya. The incident triggers a wave of international condemnation, with the United States suspending economic aid.

1954 – Britain agrees to withdraw from military bases in Egypt by 1956. Israel fears that once Britain leaves, Egypt might turn its attention to war. Acting on those concerns, Israeli agents conduct sabotage operations against British and American targets in Egypt, hoping western governments will blame Arab extremists and delay withdrawal. Egypt discovers the agents, executes two, and imprisons the rest. Tension between Israel and Egypt increases, with near-continuous border clashes and guerrilla attacks.

1956 – Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal, formerly controlled by Britain and France. Israel, under a secret agreement with Britain and France, invades the Sinai Peninsula. The Sinai-Suez War begins. In days, Israeli forces conquer the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip. British and French troops soon enter the region, too–until pressure from the United States compels everyone to withdraw. The United Nations stations troops on the Israel-Egypt border, as a buffer between their forces.

1964 – The Arab states, along with Palestinian Arabs, create the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO charter asserts that the establishment of Israel was “illegal and false,” that international support for a Jewish national home was a “fraud,” and that Jews’ historical ties to the region cannot be “the true basis of sound statehood.” The charter urges other countries “to consider Zionism an illegal movement and to outlaw its presence and activities.”

1965 – A Palestinian guerrilla group led by Yasser Arafat, called Fatah (Arabic for “victory”), begins attacks on Israel. Syrian authorities hang a high-level Israeli spy in front of a crowd in Damascus, broadcasting the execution live on state TV and leaving the body on display.

1966 – A new regime in Syria encourages Palestinian guerrilla attacks on Israel, calling for a “war of liberation.” Fatah, in particular, answers the call. Border skirmishes between Syrian and Israeli forces increase.

1967 – Tensions between Israel and Syria escalate into a full-scale border battle. Syria appeals to Egypt for aid. Egypt orders U.N. troops out of the Sinai, inserts its forces, and blockades the Israeli port of Elat. Israel responds by destroying nearly the entire Egyptian air force on the ground in a surprise air attack. The Six-Day War begins. In days, Israel routs the armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and conquers the West Bank (including east Jerusalem), Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, and Sinai Peninsula. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs flee. Israel annexes east Jerusalem and sets up a military government for the occupied territories. The U.N. Security Council passes Resolution 242, calling for an Israeli withdrawal and for an “acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of every state in the area.”

1968 – Israel’s wartime success sparks the settler movement, which says Israel has rightfully reclaimed the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria. Jewish settlers occupy a hotel on the outskirts of Hebron, raise an Israeli flag, and refuse to leave. The Israeli government lets the settlers move into the town’s police fort. A few months later, it consents to the start of a Jewish neighborhood around Hebron. The PLO, increasingly controlled by groups such as Fatah rather than by Arab states, revises its charter. It now calls explicitly for the “liquidation of the Zionist presence” through “commando action.”

1969 – Fatah leader Yasser Arafat becomes PLO chairman. Guerrilla attacks against Israel surge. Egypt begins the “War of Attrition,” bombarding Israeli positions in the Sinai with artillery fire. Israel responds with air strikes. Attacks and counterattacks continue until 1970.

1971 – PLO operatives hijack three western planes and force them to fly to Jordan, where the PLO leadership resides. Responding to western outrage and PLO challenges to Jordan’s sovereignty, Jordan’s King Hussein orders his army to destroy the PLO. Its leadership flees to Lebanon.

1972 – PLO operatives murder 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Israeli agents begin a long-term campaign to track down and assassinate the operation’s planners.

1973 – Egypt and Syria launch a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish year. The Yom Kippur (or Ramadan) War begins. Caught off guard, Israeli forces in the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights fall back. But after several weeks of fighting, Israel fends off the attacks and reclaims nearly all held territory. Oil-producing Arab states begin an oil embargo against Israel’s supporters, creating an energy crisis in the West.

Jerusalem today

1977 – For the first time since Israel’s start, Israeli voters turn to a party other than the leftist Labor Party to lead the government, bringing the right-wing Likud Party to power. Likud leader Menachem Begin promotes Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which he regards as part of “Greater Israel.” Begin takes a different tack on the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt and Israel begin secret peace negotiations. Shocking the world, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat flies to Jerusalem and addresses the Israeli Knesset (Israel’s parliament).

1978 – Egypt and Israel negotiate the first Arab-Israeli peace accord at Camp David in the United States, with U.S. president Jimmy Carter mediating. As part of the final agreement, Israel agrees to return the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt within three years. The United States agrees to provide both nations with billions of dollars in economic aid.

1981 – Israeli warplanes destroy a nuclear reactor in Iraq, fearing that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein will use it to develop nuclear weapons. Radical Islamists assassinate Egyptian president Anwar Sadat for concluding the Egyptian-Israeli peace. Israel formally annexes the Golan Heights.

1982 – Israel invades Lebanon to root out the PLO, which had been conducting rocket and artillery strikes on Israel in addition to guerrilla attacks. The First Lebanon War begins. Israeli forces advance all the way to Beirut, where Israeli planes, tanks, and artillery bombard PLO strongholds for two months–until PLO leaders agree to leave for Tunisia. Israeli forces allow Lebanese Christians allied with Israel into Palestinian refugee camps to search for remaining PLO militants. They kill hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

1985 – Israeli forces withdraw from most of Lebanon, after years of unprecedented Israeli public protests against the war. Israel maintains a “security zone” three to four miles inside Lebanon for 15 more years. Israeli warplanes bomb PLO headquarters in Tunisia after continued PLO attacks.

1987 – The first Palestinian intifada, or “shaking off,” begins. The popular uprising shifts attention away from the PLO in Tunisia and toward the West Bank and Gaza Strip. New Islamist groups such as Hamas gain influence.

1993 – After secret negotiations at Oslo, Norway, Israel and the PLO sign a mutual recognition agreement, with the PLO recognizing Israel’s right to exist and Israel recognizing the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. Israel promises to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and West Bank city of Jericho and to allow limited Palestinian self-rule. The agreement sets a five-year deadline for more withdrawals and for a “final-status” agreement on issues such as borders, Jewish settlements, the return of Palestinian refugees, Palestinian statehood, and control of Jerusalem.

1994 – A Jewish settler opens fire with an assault rifle in a Hebron mosque. Hamas begins suicide bombings. Israel and the PLO implement the Oslo agreement nonetheless. PLO leader Yasser Arafat comes to Gaza to head the new Palestinian Authority. Jordan makes peace with Israel. Yet at a mosque in South Africa, Arafat likens the Oslo agreement to a peace treaty made by Muhammad with those in control of Mecca in 628. Muslims conquered Mecca two years later.

1995 – Israel and the Palestinian Authority agree on a plan for more withdrawals from the West Bank, with most cities going over to Palestinian control but most land remaining in Israeli hands. A Jewish extremist, infuriated by the plan, assassinates Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

1996 – Hamas steps up suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, striking restaurants, buses, and crowds. Israeli voters turn to right-wing Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who demands “peace with security.”

1997 – Israel withdraws from the West Bank city of Hebron. Netanyahu lifts a freeze on Jewish settlements and begins construction of Jewish neighborhoods in disputed parts around Jerusalem. Arafat suspends security cooperation with Israel and releases Hamas militants from Palestinian jails.

1998 – Israel and the Palestinian Authority agree to more withdrawals, to occur in two stages. Israel completes the first stage but suspends the second, accusing Arafat of failing to honor security commitments.

1999 – Israeli voters return the Labor Party to power. Labor leader Ehud Barak promises to deliver a final peace settlement with the Palestinians. New Israeli withdrawals, completed the following year, leave the Palestinian Authority with direct or partial control of 41 percent of the West Bank and 65 percent of the Gaza Strip.

2000 – Final-status peace negotiations at Camp David end when Yasser Arafat rejects the last offer of Ehud Barak. A second, more violent intifada begins.

2001 – All attempts to halt the escalating violence and to restart peace negotiations fail. Suicide bombings increase. In an early election, Israeli voters reject Ehud Barak and turn to Likud leader Ariel Sharon to restore security. Sharon orders reprisal attacks in Palestinian-controlled territories.

2002 – Palestinian suicide bombers launch a string of deadly attacks, starting on the Jewish holiday of Passover. In response, Israeli forces reoccupy most of the West Bank and begin mass arrests. Israel declares former Oslo agreement partner Yasser Arafat an enemy and demolishes his compound in Ramallah. Israeli forces also begin construction of a security barrier between Israel and the West Bank. Palestinians protest that the barrier makes deep incursions into West Bank territory and unilaterally fixes a border.

2003 – Suicide bombings continue. Israeli forces reoccupy parts of the Gaza Strip and assassinate Hamas leaders. The United States, European Union, Russia, and United Nations release a “road map” of steps designed to get Israel and the Palestinian Authority back into negotiations. Both sides shake hands on the plan, but the conflict goes on.

2004 – Israel’s parliament approves Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip and evacuate all Jewish settlements there. Suicide bombings abate. But now Hamas rocket attacks, carried out from the Gaza Strip, begin to kill Israeli citizens. Yasser Arafat dies.

2005 – Mahmoud Abbas becomes president of the Palestinian Authority. He and Ariel Sharon meet and declare an end to the violence. But rocket attacks, and Israeli reprisals, go on. Israel pulls out of the Gaza Strip.

2006 – Ariel Sharon suffers a stroke and slips into a coma. New leader Ehud Olmert says he’ll continue Sharon’s policy of unilateral disengagement. Meanwhile, Hamas wins the majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament. In the south, rocket attacks increase, and Israeli troops reenter the Gaza Strip. In the north, Hezbollah militants cross into Israel from Lebanon to kill and kidnap Israeli soldiers. The Second Lebanon War begins. For a month, Israeli forces bomb targets throughout Lebanon and try to root out Hezbollah guerrillas, while Hezbollah fires rockets into Israel.

2007 – Hamas militants seize control of the Gaza Strip, splitting away from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. Israel declares Gaza an enemy entity. It responds to continued rocket attacks by Hamas with air strikes, military incursions, and a border blockade, allowing only humanitarian aid into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

2008 – Rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip reach an all-time high. A six-month ceasefire ends most attacks, but Israel’s blockade continues. When the ceasefire ends, and the rocket attacks begin again, Israel declares an “all-out war with Hamas,” with eight days of air strikes followed by the move of Israeli tanks, troops, and artillery into Gaza.

–Michael Himick

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