The question of Palestine is an issue that has generated a vast amount of literature. The transformation from the Palestine of nineteen-forty-eight to present day Israel has a rich and complicated history. The question of Palestine encompasses many different demographic, political and cultural features. In nineteen-fourteen Palestine did not exist formally. The whole area was part of the southern Levant. It was part of an organized geopolitical state that was subject to Ottoman rule. It had no formal boundaries but it was comprised of a community whose language, dialect and culture were identical with the rest of the Levant.
This area was also known as Syria. Syria at that time did not have formal political boundaries but instead had administrative boundaries called Sanjaa or Mutasarifiat. Sanjaa was a small district administered by locals while Mutasarifiat was an administrative area a bit bigger then a Sanjaa but still a district. At this time the Jews who lived there comprised only 8. 6% of the total population and all of them spoke Arabic. In nineteen-twenty Palestine was formally created by a mandate given to the British by the League of Nations.
The area of the Levant was divided as the French were given a mandate for northern Syria. The mandate given to the British was not just to govern Palestine but also had a stipulation that efforts would be made to establish a permanent Jewish national home. In nineteen-twenty the Jews in Palestine made up only eleven percent of the population of Palestine according the first British census. In nineteen-twenty-three the area of the southern Levant was further dismembered as everything east of the Jordan River became Jordan and the small area to the west of the Jordan River remained as Palestine.
Nineteen-forty-eight is what the Palestine’s call the year of the disaster. The creation of Israel in nineteen-forty-eight caused a mass displacement of more than 800,000 Palestinians. Until nineteen-forty-eight Palestine was a secular pluralistic society in which Muslim, Christians and Jews lived side by side. There were churches, mosques and synagogues in almost every important town. Magazines were published in Arabic, English and Hebrew. And the newspapers showed no animosity between the groups and advertisements would be published in non denominational ways in each language.
The different ethnic and religious groups lived there for thousands of years in harmony. Sometimes they fought against one another but never did any one group establish control over Palestine by expelling the other. All of this would change in nineteen-forty-eight when Zionist guerrilla organizations and militant units of Zionist terrorists surrounded one village after another and occupied it and establishes control over one district after another. Non Jews fled and became refugees behind enemy lines.
These refugees assumed that it was only temporary and had faith that they would soon be returned to their homes. Jewish settlers moved in to occupy Arab homes, Arab villages and Arab lands. Many Palestinians were escorted by force out of their villages and placed in what was called security zones by the Zionist forces. This led to the forced emigration of some 800,000 Palestinians in nineteen-forty-eight out of their country and resulted in the liquidation of Palestine as a state. A hundred thousands Arabs left to go to Lebanon.
The number of Arabs who immigrated to Syria was 75, 000 and 70,000 went to Jordan. Two hundred and fifty thousand Arabs were forced into the area called the West Bank and one hundred and ninety thousand were forced into the Gaza strip. The distribution of population at the end of nineteen-forty eight was 758,678 in Israel with an Arab minority of 8. 8%. The west bank had 420,673 and Gaza had 80,200. The neighbouring countries received 828,200 immigrants. Approximately 69,927 Arabs went missing and are presumed dead.
The total population of the area is 2, 183,678 with a Jewish minority of 32. 8%. This form of exploitation is known as demographic colonization as the native population was expelled. The establishment of Israeli settlements discriminated against the Palestinian population on ethno-cultural-religious grounds. This is a very different interpretation of the formation of Israel then is portrayed in western society. In our media Israel is portrayed as a modern western style democracy establish by heroic people to end thousands of years of exile and bondage.
Supporters of Israel are outraged by equating Israel as a colonial state and the Palestinians as colonially oppressed. The fact remains that militant Zionists in pursing its objectives has inflicted upon the Palestinians the same injustices which Jews everywhere hated most such as oppression, religious discrimination and exile. During the three decades of British rule the two questions of Jewish immigration and land holding played a major role in the countries demographic colonization. For the Zionists unrestrictive Jewish immigration was vital for the building of a Jewish national home.
For the Palestinians increased Jewish immigration was becoming a threat to their political existence and their economic and cultural position. The Zionist movement itself admitted to colonization by calling its first bank the Colonial Trust Company and its settlement department was called The Department of Colonization. The colonization thesis seems to be still a continuing process today as more and more settlements are being built in the west bank and Sharon’s wall was built. Various governments of Israel relied on creeping annexation and creating facts which in other words means colonization.
Since nineteen-sixty-nine the United Nations began to recognize the status of the Palestinians no to much as refugees but as a colonized people entitled to independence. Two important resolutions were passed by the general assemble in nineteen-seventy-four. The first is resolutions 3236 which recognized the right of the Palestinians to independence and sovereignty in Palestine. The second is resolution 3237 which conferred full observer status on the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.
Of the two million inhabitants, both Arabs and Jews, of Palestine in nineteen-forty-seven some 600,000 Palestinians remained in the West bank of Jordan and the Gaza strip and inside Israel itself at the end of nineteen-forty-eight. Some 800,000 had been forcibly removed outside of Palestine making room for the 716,000 Jews reported in the first Israeli Census of nineteen-forty eight. Today through the process of migration, natural increase, and boundary changes there are eight million claimants to the soil of Palestine.
Demographically they are forty-four percent Jewish and fifty-two percent Palestinian. The Jews enjoy the benefits of conquest while the Palestinians suffer. The situation in Palestine is just as tense today. The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died on November 11th 2004. Many thought that his death could be used as a turning point in the peace process. He was a national hero to his own people but the Israeli’s considered him an unreformed terrorist. Either way he became an obstacle to the peace process as neither the Israelis or the Americans would talk to him.
The Palestinians refused to abandon him and while he lived the dream of an independent Palestine arising peacefully in the West Bank and Gaza could not be realized. The Palestinians have elected a new president Mahmoud Abbas who is on speaking terms with America. On the Israeli side, Ariel Sharon has withdrawn all of Israel’s settlements and soldiers from the Gaza strip. It seems like now would be a good time to resume the peace talks but as the Economist explains: Right now, alas, no serious diplomacy appears to be taking place beyond the reiteration by all sides of the significance of the international “road map”.
This ordains that Israel’s occupation shall end and that an independent Palestine shall come into being. But as to how, where and when, nobody agrees. Mr Abbas wants to talk right away about borders, refugees and the sharing of Jerusalem. Not till you dismantle the terrorist groups, retorts Mr Sharon–but even then Jerusalem is not for sharing and, according to the road map, the borders of the new state would first be “provisional”. 1 The question of whether Hamas should have a role in the new Palestinian government is questionable.
On the one had Israel does not want to talk peace with Abbas if he supports this violent movement. On the other hand if Hamas is dismantled very little attention would be drawn to this cause as there would be peace already and no pressure for an independent Palestinian state. Many Palestinians also believe that it was the intifada that pushed Israel out of Gaza and that only another wave of violence can gain control of the West Bank. Whether it is terrorism or military strategy depends on which side of the conflict you are on.