Archive for the ‘Background’ Category

The Situation

How did the situation between Israel and Palestine begin?  Where is it now and why has it remained so hard to resolve?

Skipping the ancient period through most of the Islamic and Turkish periods, European Jews began to settle in Palestine in the 1880s, driven by religious motivation, the oppression of Russian pogroms against Jews, and general hostility of European countries towards Jews.  But, it was just a trickle.  The first Jews generally settled in Jerusalem and bought land from Turkish landlords as Palestine was nominally under control of the Ottoman empire. 

In 1917, the Balfour Declaration committed England, very reluctantly and tentatively, to creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine–a nation for Jews with a Jewish identity,"His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people," with the understanding that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”  At the end of World War I with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, France and England split up Turkey's former middle eastern territories in a secret treaty.  In 1921, England received control over present day Israel and Jordan, which it then called Trans-Jordan.  Jewish settlement increased, still by purchasing land from Turks or Arabs.

The problem of how Jews and Arabs and a few Christians would live in the land together existed from the very beginning and the earliest Jewish settlers were aware of it.  The same possible answers existed then as now, but a truly workable answer was always put off–then as now.  Jews and Arabs could live side by side in one state that recognized full rights for all.  Not clear was who would be in control of such a state:  Jews or Arabs?  The other alternative was to split the land into separate portions with each separately controlled by Arabs and Jews.  How to split the overall territory, how to determine who got what, and how the people left in the "other" territory would be protected were never figured out.

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Jewish Expulsions and Reprieves

This is going to seem a bit extreme but here is a list of Jewish expulsions from various countries along with significant times when conditions for Jews were improved.  In many ways, you could say this is irrelevant to a territorial and ethnic dispute today, but it informs the Jewish identity and psyche—why the military power of Israel today provides little sense of existential security to Jews.  In today’s media, history of more than 2 years or so seems forgotten so the present is often shorn of important context.  Continue to see the table…

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