The area known as Palestine has taken on different geographic and political connotations over time. The following discussion distinguishes between (a) pre-twentieth-century history of the area; (b) Palestine as a territory under British administration from late 1917 to early 1948; and (c) Palestine as the territory administered by the Palestine National Authority since 1994, also known as the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Palestine has since ancient times been a crossroads between Asia, Europe, and Africa. Its climate is arid. The southern half, the Negev, is desert, but in the north there are several fertile areas. The principal water source is the Jordan River, which flows south through Lake Tiberias into the Dead Sea.
Palestine is of central importance to three monotheistic faiths: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. For 1,300 of the past 1,400 years, the land was under Muslim rule. Most European and North American Christians and Jews consider Palestine on both sides of the Jordan to be the Holy Land of the Old Testament of the Bible. Although the British initially designated the area of the Palestine Mandate to extend eastward to Mesopotamia (Iraq), by the early twentieth century most people took the Jordan River to be the eastern border of Palestine.
The earliest inhabitants of Palestine were the Canaanites. The land was conquered by numerous invaders, including (in the fourteenth century b.c.e.) the Hebrews and the Philistines, who gave the country its name. The Israelites, a confederation of Hebrew tribes, established a unified kingdom in the area under David and Solomon (c. 1000–922 b.c.e.), which subsequently split into the kingdoms of Israel in the north and Judaea in the south. From 587 b.c.e., Palestine became a province of the Persian Empire, and was later ruled by Jewish kings as part of the Roman empire. The Romans crushed the Jewish revolts of 66–73 and 132–135 c.e., killing and exiling many Jews, and renaming the area Syria Palaestina.
In 638 c.e. Arabian Muslim armies captured Jerusalem and replaced the Byzantine rulers of the area, which thereafter became known as Filastin. Arab geographers in the tenth century referred to Filastin as one of the provinces of Syria, but by the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the term was no longer used.
From the fifteenth century until the end of World War I, the region was part of the Ottoman Empire. Changing provincial and administrative boundaries within the empire blurred Palestine's separate existence. In an attempt to centralize government administration, the Ottoman Empire was divided into new administrative regions under the Vilayet Law of 1864. Under this arrangement the central and largest part of Palestine, as well as Transjordan, became part of the vilayet (province) of Damascus. The northern part of the country, including Acre, Haifa, Tiberias, Safed, Nablus, Jenin, and Tulkarm, was part of the vilayet of Beirut. Jerusalem, Gaza, Hebron, and Beersheba became the sanjak (district) of Jerusalem, which, because of the city's special religious status and because of European interest, was established as an independent unit governed directly from Constantinople (now Istanbul).
By the mid-nineteenth century the population of Palestine was about 500,000, the vast majority of whom were Muslims. The southern half of the country, later called the Negev, was mostly desert, sparsely inhabited by bedoun tribes. Overall, only about a third of Palestine was suitable for cultivation.
By the end of the nineteenth century, a commercial bourgeoisie comprised of Muslims, Christians, Jews, and German Templars played an important role in the incorporation of Palestine's economy into the world economic system. There was a major increase in cultivation of export commodities that included wheat, barley, sesame, olive oil, and oranges. Small-scale industries produced textiles, soap, oil, and religious items.
Palestine as a modern political entity came into existence as a result of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. Although the Arabs of the region considered themselves to be a distinctive group, there was no serious conflict between them and the Ottoman Turkish establishment until the early twentieth century. Nineteenth-century Palestinian elites approved of and benefited from the Ottoman reform effort (Tanzimat, from 1839 to 1876), and many of them held influential posts in the ruling establishment in Constantinople. Several served in the parliament; Nablus was reputed to be especially favored by Sultan Abdülhamit II. It was against this backdrop that an Arab "decentralist" movement would emerge before World War I, and within this wider pan-Arab political sentiment the first seeds of a distinct Palestinian nationalism were sown.
Although Jews had been living in Palestine (which they call Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel) for millennia, the first politically motivated Jewish immigration came in 1882. At the time, the Jewish population was about 24,000, mostly comprised of Orthodox Jews unaffiliated with the Zionist movement. They were settled mainly in Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberias. There was little friction between these Jews, the "Old Yishuv," and the indigenous Arab population. However, as the number of Zionist settlements increased, quarrels arose between them and neighboring villages over grazing, crops, and land issues. Between 1886 and World War I, there were several armed clashes that resulted from Jewish settlers purchasing land from absentee Arab owners and subsequently dispossessing the peasant cultivators.
Growing opposition to Zionism and emergence of a new pan-Turkish ideology following the Young Turk Revolution in 1908 led to a heightened sense of distinctive Palestinian patriotism. Although most of the Palestinian elite remained loyal to the Ottoman sultan during World War I, a few prominent intellectuals identified with the nascent pan-Arab nationalist movement. During the war, opposition to Ottoman authority increased because of economic disasters (caused by a locust plague, drought, and famine) with which the Ottoman authorities failed to cope, and because of the repressive measures imposed by the Turkish governor, Cemal Paça.
Palestine under British Rule
Before World War I the area that became Palestine was sometimes known as "southern Syria." With the retreat of the Ottoman Army, Palestine was occupied by British forces under General Sir Edmund Allenby in 1917 and 1918, and was placed under a military government administration known as Occupied Enemy Territory Administration South (OETA-S) until 1 July 1920, when the military regime was replaced by a British civil administration. During three decades of British rule, Palestinians further developed their national consciousness and were able to exercise some degree of national-communal political activity.
In London, the British foreign secretary, Arthur J. Balfour, wrote a letter on 2 November 1917 defining His Majesty's Government's new policy favoring the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine. In April 1918 a Zionist Commission arrived in Jaffa with a mission (despite a local publication ban on the Balfour Declaration) to prepare the Yishuv to enjoy special status and privileges under an expected pro-Zionist British regime that would encourage Jewish immigration, settlement, land purchase, and—eventually—statehood. Rumors about the impending implementation of the Balfour policy alarmed many sectors of the Palestinian population, whose local leadership created, during the first year of the British occupation, a country-wide organization to express its opposition to Zionism. The Muslim-Christian Association (MCA) first appeared in Jaffa early in November 1918, and in Jerusalem later the same month; subsequently it set up branches in various Palestinian towns. The purpose behind creating the MCA was to organize a Palestinian national struggle against the threat of Zionism.
The top leadership of the MCA was drawn largely from the older generation of urban notables who had social standing in Ottoman times. Initially, the
MCA, under former Jerusalem mayor Musa Kazim al-Husayni, did not have much political power, and its significance derived from the fact that it embodied the concept of political cooperation between Muslims and Christians in Palestine. Gradually, however, it became a group of leaders and activists who were able to mobilize important segments of Palestinian society around a program of independence and opposition to Zionism. Their main instruments of political action were petitions submitted to the Palestine government and the organizing of demonstrations and other campaigns on instructions from the Jerusalem secretariat, which was headed by Jamal al-Husayni. Yet the notables who led the MCAs were interested in maintaining friendly relations with the new British masters of the country.
As part of its efforts to promote Palestinian national demands, the MCA was instrumental in convening a country-wide congress in Jerusalem from 27 January to 9 February 1919. Called the first Palestine Arab Congress, it was followed by six more, the last of which was held in 1928. The MCA also initiated the formation of the Arab Executive (AE) Committee that tried to coordinate the national struggle in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Government of Palestine under the Mandate
Following the British takeover, Palestine acquired fixed boundaries, its own government, and a political identity separate from the surrounding countries carved from the Ottoman Empire by Great Britain and France. Its separate identity was given international recognition when Great Britain assumed the Mandate for Palestine under the League of Nations in July 1922. In 1923 the British unilaterally divided the area of the original mandate into Transjordan (east of the Jordan River) and western Palestine, with the Jewish national home provisions of the mandate applying only to the latter territory. The area east of the river became the autonomous emirate (principality) of Transjordan (later the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan) under the Amir Abdullah, son of the sharif of Mecca.
According to the terms of the Mandate for Palestine, Great Britain was ultimately responsible to the League of Nations for governing the country, which was ruled, in effect, like a colony, under a high commissioner (HC) appointed by the British government. The HC was responsible to the Colonial Office in London rather than to the local population and had authority to make all government appointments, laws, rules, and regulations. He was backed by British military forces and police. Most high commissioners were former British colonial officials or army generals. The government of Palestine created its own courts, postal service, police force, customs, railroad and transportation network, and currency backed by the British pound sterling. Until 1948 the inhabitants of the country, both Arabs and Jews, were legally called Palestinians and considered British subjects.
The British attempted to introduce a limited measure of self-government through establishment of advisory and legislative councils during the 1920s and 1930s. The first, set up in October 1920, was a nominated advisory council (AC) pending the establishment of a legislative body. The AC was composed of ten Palestinian officials: four Muslims, three Christians, and three Jewish members of the Yishuv.
In August 1922 the HC, Sir Herbert Louis Samuel, proposed as a first step toward self-government a constitution that called for the replacement of the AC with a legislative council (LC). The proposed LC was to be composed of twenty-three members: eleven appointed British members, including the high commissioner, and twelve elected Palestinian members, incuding eight Muslims, two Christians, and two Jews. However, in order to safeguard the Balfour policy of support for the Jewish national home, the HC would retain a veto power and the council's legislative authority would not extend to such central issues as Jewish immigration and land purchase.
The Jews reluctantly accepted, but the Palestinians rejected the proposed constitution and boycotted the elections for the LC in February 1923. Palestinian leaders argued that participation in the council would be tantamount to acceptance of the British Mandate and Balfour policy, which they feared would lead to their subjugation under a Jewish majority in an eventual state. The poor election turnout caused the HC to shelve the LC proposal and revert to the idea of an advisory council. But Samuel failed to convince Palestinian leaders to sit on a revised AC; nor was his subsequent proposal to establish an "Arab Agency" (to be parallel to the "Jewish Agency" recognized under the mandate) any more successful at winning the cooperation of local politicians. Samuel thereupon abandoned the idea of encouraging popular participation in the governing of Palestine. Although the idea of establishing a LC would be revived in 1928 and again in the early 1930s, the British were unable to win both Arab and Jewish support for their proposals. As a result, Palestine was governed, from 1923 until the end of the Mandate in 1948, by a HC in consultation with an AC composed only of British officials.
Britain's Dual Obligation and Intercommunal Rivalry. The League of Nations Mandate for Palestine incorporated provisions of the Balfour Declaration calling for "establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." It also recognized the "historical connexion of the Jewish people with Palestine," promised support of Zionist objectives, and gave preference to Jewish land acquisition and settlement. Although the mandate (like the Balfour Declaration) made no specific reference to the Arab population as possessing national rights (referring to them as the "existing non-Jewish communities"), it prohibited "discrimination of any kind . . . between the inhabitants of Palestine."
As a result of this dual obligation to both foster the establishment of the Jewish national home and ensure "that the rights and position of other sectors of the population are not prejudiced," British policy was ambivalent, and at first seemed destined to arouse unrealizable expectations on the part of both communities. Initial support for Zionist objectives was indicated in the appointment of Herbert Samuel, an Anglo-Jewish leader sympathetic to Zionism, as the first HC to Palestine (1920–1925). However, opposition by the country's Arab majority to the establishment of a Jewish homeland and to larger imperial interests became a major obstacle to full British cooperation with Zionist leaders who were eager, for their part, to proceed full speed toward their objectives of a Jewish majority and an eventual Jewish state in Palestine.
The dissatisfaction of Palestine's Arab population with Britain's pro-Zionist policy was expressed peacefully in the forms of public demonstrations, protest letters and petitions, and the dispatch of several delegations to London and Geneva. Palestinian leaders, seeking self-determination and the establishment of an Arab state in Palestine, feared Jewish domination (through increasing immigration and land purchases) and the establishment of a Jewish state. Nationalist frustrations led to periodic rioting (April 1920, May 1921, November 1922, August 1929, November 1933) and to a full-scale rebellion known as the Arab Revolt (1936–1939). Local British security forces restored law and order, and the Colonial Office in London issued several policy statements (White Papers) in attempts to redefine or clarify its Palestine policy. But all attempts to bridge the gap between the Arab and Jewish communities were unsuccessful; each community proceeded to develop itself with little, if any, contact with the other. By 1939 Great Britain had retreated from its position on implementing the Balfour provisions of the mandate.
Each community developed its own educational, health, welfare, cultural, political, and labor organizations. Arab schools supported by the Mandatory government's Education Department were conducted in Arabic with their own curriculum. The Yishuv had its own schools, where the language was Hebrew, and its own Hebrew University, founded in 1925. The two communities lived largely separately; contact was only at the peripheries, in government offices, or in a few business enterprises. The Yishuv was mainly urban, concentrated in the coastal region and in the city of Jerusalem, whereas the Arab sector was largely rural, in central Palestine.
By the end of the mandate in 1948, the Palestinian population had doubled, mostly through natural increase, from just over 650,000 (1922 census) to 1.3 million. During the same period the population of the Yishuv increased even more dramatically, largely through immigration, from about 84,000 to approximately 650,000. The increase in the Jewish population from about a tenth to a third of the total population of Palestine was accompanied by extensive expansion of the Yishuv's socioeconomic and politicomilitary infrastructure. The number of rural collectives (kibbutzim), cooperatives (moshavim), and private farms increased several times; the all-Jewish city of Tel Aviv grew from an adjunct of Jaffa to the second largest municipality in the country. Jewish-owned industry dominated the economy. Despite the growth of its rural sector, the Yishuv was 85 percent urban by the end of the mandate, and Jewish-owned land comprised less than 7 percent of the total, although more than a quarter of the cultivated area was Jewish.
The Yishuv developed its own political parties and self-governing institutions that took responsibility for functions not under jurisdiction of the mandatory government, such as courts, education, and social welfare. The British recognized the World Zionist Organization as the official agency to implement establishment of the Jewish national home. Within Palestine the Yishuv elected its elected assembly (Assefat ha-Nivharim), whose national council (Vaʿad Leʾumi) ran the day-to-day affairs of the Jewish community. More than a dozen political parties were divided into four principal categories: labor, general Zionist, Orthodox religious, and Sephardic or Oriental. The strongest political bloc was labor by virtue of its control of the Histadrut, the large labor federation that controlled much of the Yishuv's economy, and of the largest paramilitary group, the Haganah.
Palestinian Political Organization during the Mandate. The Palestinian community was much less centralized and more loosely organized than the Yishuv. The older politicians, representing the traditional elite and notable families who had been closely associated with the Ottoman establishment, had formed the MCA in 1918 and continued to lead the Palestine Arab Congresses by holding positions on the Arab Executive.
With the defeat of Faisal's Arab kingdom by the French in July 1920, Palestinian leaders who had previously been engaged in the struggle for independent "Greater Syria" focused on local problems, primarily the struggle against the British mandate and the Jewish national home. Later that year, the third Palestinian Arab Congress convened in Haifa, elected an AE committee, and sent a delegation to plead the Palestinian cause both at the Colonial Office in London and at the League of Nations headquarters in Geneva. Neither the congresses nor the AE were successful in attaining their objective, and both gradually lost credibility. When its chairman, Musa Kazim al-Husayni, died in 1934, the Arab Executive ceased to exist.
Throughout the mandate period serious rivalry for political office and government favor existed between members of the Nashashibi and Husayni families. The most influential Palestinian leader was al-Hajj Muhammad Amin al-Husayni, appointed by the British as mufti of Jerusalem in 1921 and elected president of the Supreme Muslim Council in 1922. By virtue of these positions he commanded extensive financial resources and influence throughout the Palestinian community. Prior to 1936 the mufti pursued a policy of cooperation that aided the High Commissioner in keeping the peace. However, following the outbreak of the Arab Revolt in 1936, al-Hajj Amin al-Husayni became more militantly anti-British. His activities ultimately led the British to seek his arrest, but in mid-1937 he escaped, first to Lebanon, then to Iraq.
Supporters of the mufti, called Councilites (almajlisiyyun), were opposed by "the Opposition" (almuʿaridun) led by the Nashashibi family. Both groups were supported by extensive clan (hamula) networks and client relationships. The Husaynis, the larger network, were considered more militant than the Nashashibis, who were willing to compromise with the British. Even though both factions rejected the Jewish national home, these internal rivalries constituted a weakness vis-à-vis the more cohesive Jewish community.
Following demise of the Arab Executive in 1934, younger and more militant elements became active in local Palestinian politics, leading to the creation of the Palestinian branch of the pan-Arab Independence (Istiqlal) Party headed by Awni Abd al-Hadi, who was joined by Akram Zuʿaytir and Muhammad Izzat Darwaza. The old MCA and AE forces also regrouped into rival Arab political parties, chiefly the Palestine Arab Party, organized by the Husaynis, and the National Defense Party, headed by the Nashashibis. The Palestine Arab Party was founded in March 1935 by Jamal al-Husayni, a relative of alHajj Amin al-Husayni. Many political activists who had previously supported the AE (1920–1934) joined its ranks. Its leaders maintained close contact with the Roman Catholic community through its officers, Alfred Rock and Emile al-Ghuri, and with the activist scouts' movement and workers' societies in Jerusalem and Haifa. The party endorsed the following set of "national demands," which were later endorsed by an umbrella organization representing all major parties: (a) repudiation of the Balfour Declaration; (b) full stoppage of Jewish immigration and land purchases; and (c) the immediate establishment of Palestine as an independent state under Arab control.
The National Defense Party was formed on 2 December 1934 by the supporters of Raghib alNashashibi, the former mayor of Jerusalem. The leaders encompassed most Arab mayors; important politicians from large landowning families; influential middle-class Christians; and the Jaffa branch of the Palestine Arab Workers Society. The party denounced the sale of land to Zionist landholding companies and sought limitations on Jewish immigration. Nonetheless, it was tacitly more cooperative with the British authorities and Zionist leaders, and (unlike the Husaynis) maintained good relations with Amir Abdullah of Transjordan.
General Strike and Revolt, 1936–1939. By April 1936, growing Palestinian concern at the rapid influx of Jewish immigration and the accompanying frustration at British unwillingness to fulfill their national demands led to a general strike against the British authorities and the Yishuv. The strike soon became an uprising, drawing support from the whole Palestinian community and from Arab nationalist circles in the neighboring lands. The Arab Higher Committee (AHC), chaired by the mufti and representing a broad coalition of Arab political organizations, was formed to lead the uprising. Elements of the Palestine Arab Party formed an underground paramilitary force that remained active until suppressed by the British in early 1939.
During a lull in the fighting (1936–1937), the British sent a Royal Commission of Inquiry under William Robert Wellesley, the first Earl Peel, to ascertain the causes of the rebellion and to propose solutions. In July 1937 the Peel Commission recommended a form of radical surgery: the partition of Palestine into a small Jewish coastal state, and a larger Arab state to be joined with Transjordan. The Palestine Arab Party denounced the plan, and the revolt resumed, this time with greater support from nationalist groups in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The National Defense Party, for its part, accepted the Peel Commission concept of territorial partition and was not averse to the idea of linking the Arab portion of Mandatory Palestine to Abdullah's Trans-jordan. The party was criticized by other Palestinian politicians for deviating from the antipartition consensus.
The short-lived unity behind the AHC was broken when the uprising entered its second phase in 1937. The Nashashibi member of the AHC resigned, leaving leadership in the hands of the mufti and his allies. In 1937 the British outlawed the AHC and arrested and deported several of its members. The mufti and several of his associates fled to Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, from which they attempted to keep the rebellion alive. During 1937 and 1938 a number of assassinations took place as the struggle between followers of the Nashashibis and Husaynis turned violent, contributing to a leadership vacuum in the Palestinian community. By 1939 the rebellion petered out as a result of the conflict within the Palestinian community and the massive use of force by the British. In the end, the Palestinians had suffered staggering losses: more than 3,000 dead, 15,000 to 20,000 wounded, and more than 5,000 leaders and fighters in detention.
In their search for a political formula that would reestablish tranquility in Palestine in light of a looming European war, the British convened a roundtable conference of Arab and Zionist representatives at London's St. James's Palace in early 1939. Bickering over who should represent the Palestinians contributed to the ineffectiveness of the small Palestinian delegation (headed by Jamal al-Husayni and George Antonius) that sat through many meetings alongside those of Iraq, Egypt, Transjordan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. When the conference broke down without reaching consensus, Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald issued a White Paper in May that retracted the Peel Commission's partition recommendation and proposed instead that, over a period of ten years, self-governing institutions would be developed for an eventual independent Palestinian state that would not be dominated by either Arabs or Jews. At the same time, the White Paper restricted Jewish immigration to 75,000 over five years, with any subsequent immigration dependent on Arab approval. Furthermore, the purchase of land by Jews would be limited in some parts of Palestine and forbidden in others. The White Paper thus limited the expansion of the Jewish community and its territorial holdings, but fell short of the Palestinians' demands for total stoppage of immigration and the immediate granting of independence.
During and after World War II. Overshadowed by the necessities of prosecuting the British war effort after 1939, local political activity in Palestine was quiescent, despite the absence of consensus in support of the new White Paper policy. Within the Yishuv, official Zionist policy was to fight the restrictions of the MacDonald White Paper as if there were no war against Germany, while helping in the fight against the Axis powers as if there were no White Paper. Britain was left to pursue its war effort without official Zionist, Arab, or Palestinian endorsement of the provisions in the White Paper.
Faced with these new directions in British policy, attempts were made to revive the AHC, but these were marred by the continuing rift between the Husaynis and Nashashibis and by the absence of many exiled leaders whom the British had prevented from returning to the country. By 1941 the National Defense Party had become inactive, although Raghib al-Nashashibi continued to issue statements in its name. Some leaders of the Palestine Arab Party were able to return to Palestine and reopen the party's offices in April 1944 and to use its connections with the Arab Bank and the local press to regain substantial influence. A Husayni-dominated AHC was organized in 1945, but it was countered by an opposition Arab Higher Front. When Jamal al-Husayni returned in February 1946 he gained control over the AHC as well as the Palestine Arab Party. Later that year the Arab League intervened, and another AHC was set up.
In the struggle following World War II the AHC rejected various British and Anglo-American compromise proposals and, ultimately, the 1947 United Nations (UN) partition proposal. Paramilitary organizations formed to oppose partition were split between the Husayni al-Futuwwa and the opposition al-Najjada. The 29 November 1947 announcement of the UN General Assembly vote recommending partition led to Palestinian attacks on Jewish quarters in Jerusalem, triggering an intermittent "civil war" that lasted from December 1947 to May 1948. The 14 May proclamation of Israel's independence, immediately upon the official termination of the mandate and the withdrawal of British forces and administration, was followed by the invasion of Palestinian territory by the armies of Transjordan, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. The first Arab–Israel war, which also involved Lebanese forces and volunteers from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, ended in early 1949 with the defeat of the Arab forces and the signing of armistice agreements between Israel and Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
The fighting of 1948 to 1949 displaced more than 700,000 Palestinians (approximately half the Arab population of Palestine) who had fled or been expelled by Jewish (later Israeli) forces. This fragmentation of Palestinian society and the creation of a huge refugee population became known as alNakba —the catastrophe. For many years, controversy has swirled around the question of responsibility for this massive defeat and for the creation and persistence of the Palestinian refugee problem. Blame has been attributed variously to a deliberate Israeli policy of expulsion; disunity, distrust, and disorganization among Palestinian leaders and their supporters in the neighboring Arab countries; and tactical or strategic errors made by the Palestinian leadership—notably their rejection of the UN partition proposal. Recent archival research has unearthed new evidence for the first explanation, and has drawn attention to a fourth contributing factor: the asymmetry or imbalance of forces—throughout the Mandate period, but especially after 1937—between the Yishuv and the Palestinian community. The former was growing, determined, better armed, and highly disciplined, and had enjoyed British protection during its formative years. The Palestinians, on the other hand, were demoralized, disunited, and without effective leaders, many of whom had been killed or exiled during and after the revolt.
Disappearance and Reemergence of Palestine
With the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel in May 1948 and the occupation of the Gaza Strip by Egypt and of the West Bank by Jordan, Palestine ceased to exist as a separate political entity. Yet, during the 1950s, Arab, British, and UN documents continued to refer to the situation "in Palestine" when dealing with Israel, the neighboring Arab states, and areas inhabited by displaced Palestinians. Even without a political territory or government, Palestinians maintained their distinctive national and historic consciousness, and were reluctant to cease identifying with their lost home-land.
Putting their hopes in UN resolutions, the declarations of their own exiled leaders, and the promised support of neighboring Arab regimes, most Palestinians continued to dream of their eventual return to their homes and the establishment of an Arab Palestinian state. As refugees, the Palestinians became the focus of international relief efforts; successive generations of Palestinians were born in exile and in refugee camps of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Yet, political solutions based on the Palestinians' right to return or compensation (UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of December 1948) eluded generation after generation of Middle Eastern leaders.
Some Palestinians in exile became active in seeking political and military solutions that would result in their return and the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state. Despairing of the efforts on their behalf of members of the League of Arab States, Palestinians developed their own leadership, known as the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Initially created by Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1964, the PLO's first chairman was Ahmad Shuqayri. After 1968 the PLO became an autonomous umbrella organization under the leadership of Yasir Arafat, bringing together many Palestinian groupings. For the next decade, the PLO adopted "armed struggle" as its primary mode of operation, thereafter developing a diplomatic campaign to restore Palestinians to their homeland by replacing the Jewish Israeli state. The boundaries of the future Palestinian state were declared to be those of the former British mandate.
The PLO's quest for international recognition of Palestinian rights was crowned with its first major success in 1974, when the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 3236 in support of the "inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine" to "self-determination without external interference," to "national independence and sovereignty," and "to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted." The following year, the UN created the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Although they provided only moral support, such declarations and activities added much-needed international legitimacy to the Palestinians' quest for recognition of their right to a homeland during a period when both Israel and the United States were defining the PLO as a terrorist organization unworthy of inclusion in diplomatic discussions.
A decade later, in a further effort to open a dialogue with the United States, and hoping to capitalize diplomatically on the intifada against Israeli occupation that had been sparked in December 1987 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, representatives at the twentieth meeting of the Palestine National Council in Algiers in November 1988 issued a symbolic declaration of Palestinian independence. At the same time, they formally endorsed the land-for-peace and mutual recognition approaches contained in UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967—a resolution whose text makes no mention of the Palestinians or their rights. Afterward, PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat issued several prepared statements denouncing the use of terrorism by all parties, and implying that the future Palestinian state would exist alongside, rather than in place of, the Jewish state of Israel. Arafat's last step resulted in the opening of a PLO dialogue with the United States.
During the 1991 Madrid Conference and subsequent talks at the U.S. State Department, Palestinian leaders were invited to participate (as part of a joint delegation with Jordanians) for the first time in direct negotiations with Israel. Following the historic mutual recognition between the Israeli government and PLO and the signing of the Oslo Accord in September 1993, a process was begun to provide for phased Israeli withdrawals, beginning in Jericho, from occupied Palestinian territories on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
In early 1994 a Palestinian National Authority (or Palestine Authority) was created to administer these areas as further interim negotiations continued for additional Israeli pull-backs and other measures toward a final settlement. The Palestine Authority (PA) thus became an embryo government of a still-to-be-created sovereign Palestinian state. Many disappointments and frustrations prevented the scheduled later stages of negotiation from taking place or bearing fruit. This resulted in an untenable situation marked by violence and repression, most dramatically exploding into the second (alAqsa) intifada in September 2000. In the course of suppressing this Palestinian intifada, the Israel Defense Forces reoccupied, for varying lengths of time, many parts of the territories that had come under the rule of the weakened PA.
see also antonius, george; aqsa intifada, al-; arab–israel war (1948); arafat, yasir; balfour declaration (1917); darwaza, muhammad izzat; gaza strip; husayni, jamal al-; husayni, muhammad amin al-; husayni, musa kazim al-; intifada (1987–1991); israeli settlements; istiqlal party: palestine; london (roundtable) conference (1939); macdonald, malcolm; madrid conference (1991); mandate system; najjada, al-; nakba, al- (1948–1949); nashashibi family; oslo accord (1993); palestine arab revolt (1936–1939); palestine economic corporation; palestine exploration fund; palestine land development company; palestine liberation organization (plo); palestine national charter (1968); palestine national council; palestine national covenant (1964); palestine research center; palestinian arab congresses; palestinian authority; palestinian citizens of israel; palestinians; peel commission report (1937); samuel, herbert louis; shuqayri, ahmad; transjordan frontier force; united nations conciliation commission for palestine (unccp); united nations relief and works agency for palestine refugees in the near east (unrwa); united nations special committee on palestine, 1947 (unscop); vaʿad leʾumi; west bank; white papers on palestine; yishuv; zionism; zionist commission for palestine.
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updated by neil caplan,
muhammad muslih, and
ann m. lesch
"Palestine." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/palestine
"Palestine." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved February 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/palestine
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Palestine (region, Asia)
Palestine (păl´əstīn), historic region on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, at various times comprising parts of modern Israel, the West Bank and Gaza (recognized internationally by nations as independent Palestine), Jordan, and Egypt; also known as the Holy Land. The name is derived from a word meaning
"land of the Philistines."
This article discusses mainly the geography and the history of Palestine until the United Nations took up the Palestine problem in 1947; for the economy and later history, see Israel, Jordan, and Palestinian Authority, West Bank, and Gaza Strip.
In the Bible, Palestine is called Canaan before the invasion of Joshua; the usual Hebrew name is Eretz Israel [land of Israel]. Palestine is the Holy Land of Jews, having been promised to them by God according to the Bible; of Christians because it was the scene of Jesus' life; and of Muslims because they consider Islam to be the heir of Judaism and Christianity and because Jerusalem is the site, according to Muslim tradition, of Muhammad's ascent to heaven. The Holy Land derives its special character from being a place of pilgrimage. Shrines, shared in common by several religions, cluster most numerously in and about Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Hebron.
Palestine's boundaries, never constant, always included at least the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. So defined, the region is c.140 mi (225 km) long and c.30 to c.70 mi (50–115 km) wide. Outside these bounds were such biblical lands as Edom, Gilead, Moab, and Hauran. The British mandate of Palestine (1920–48) included also the Negev, a c.100-mile-long (160-km) desert stretching S to the Gulf of Aqaba.
From east to west, Palestine proper comprises three geographic zones: the depression—northernmost extension of the Great Rift Valley—in which lies the Jordan River, Lake Hula, the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias), the Dead Sea, and the Arabah, a dry valley S of the Dead Sea; a ridge rising steeply to the west of this cleft; and a coastal plain c.12 mi (20 km) wide. In N Palestine the ridge is interrupted by the Plain of Esdraelon (Jezreel) and the connecting valley of Bet Shean (Beisan), the most fertile part of the region. The highland area to the north is called Galilee, its chief centers being Zefat and Nazareth, near which rises Mt. Tabor. To the south of the Plain of Esdraelon the broad ridge stretches unbroken to the Negev. First there are the hills of Samaria, with northward prongs (to the east Gilboa and to the west Mt. Carmel) fronting on the Bay of Acre. The center of Samaria is Nablus, which lies between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim. The mountains of Judaea are W of the Dead Sea. In Judaea are Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron. Well to the south, in the Negev, lies Beersheba.
The towns of the coastal plain are Akko (Acre), Haifa, Netanya, and the twin cities of Tel Aviv and Jaffa. Near Tel Aviv are Petah Tiqwa, Lod, Ramla, and Rehovot. To the south is Gaza. The various sections of the plain are named the Valley of Zebulun, or Plain of Acre, S of Akko; Sharon, S of Mt. Carmel; and the Shephelah, or Philistia, in the extreme south.
Agriculture in the Jordan valley centers around Lake Hula and the Sea of Galilee. The chief town is Tiberias. Farther south the valley is too narrow to be of much use, except for providing water power, and there is only one city, Jericho, E of Jerusalem. The surface—c.1,300 ft (400 m) below sea level—of the Dead Sea, into which the Jordan empties, is the lowest spot on the earth's surface.
The earliest known inhabitants of Palestine were of the same group as the Neanderthal inhabitants of Europe. By the 4th millennium BC Palestine was inhabited by herders and farmers. It was in the 3d millennium that most of the towns known in historical times came into existence. They became centers of trade for Egyptian and Babylonian goods. During the 2d millennium, Palestine was ruled by the Hyksos and by the Egyptians. Toward the end of this period Moses led the Hebrew people (see Jews) out of Egypt, across the Sinai, and into Palestine.
Around 1200 BC, the Philistines ( "Sea Peoples" ) invaded the southern coastland and established a powerful kingdom (see Philistia). The Hebrews were subject to the Philistines until c.1000 BC, when an independent Hebrew kingdom was established under Saul, who was succeeded by David and then by Solomon. After the expansionist reign of Solomon (c.950 BC), the kingdom broke up into two states, Israel, with its capital at Samaria, and Judah, under the house of David, with its capital at Jerusalem. The two kingdoms were later conquered by expanding Mesopotamian states, Israel by Assyria (c.720 BC) and Judah by Babylonia (586 BC).
In 539 BC the Persians conquered the Babylonians. The Jewish Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians, was rebuilt (516 BC). Under Persian rule Palestine enjoyed considerable autonomy. Alexander the Great of Macedon, conquered Palestine in 333 BC His successors, the Ptolemies and Seleucids, contested for Palestine. The attempt of the Seleucid Antiochus IV (Antiochus Epiphanes) to impose Hellenism brought a Jewish revolt under the Maccabees, who set up a new Jewish state in 142 BC The state lasted until 63 BC, when Pompey conquered Palestine for Rome.
Christianity and Islam
Palestine at the time of Jesus was ruled by puppet kings of the Romans, the Herods (see Herod). When the Jews revolted in AD 66, the Romans destroyed the Temple (AD 70). Another revolt between AD 132 and 135 was also suppressed (see Bar Kokba, Simon), Jericho and Bethlehem were destroyed, and the Jews were barred from Jerusalem. When Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity (312), Palestine became a center of Christian pilgrimage, and many Jews left the region. Palestine over the next few centuries generally enjoyed peace and prosperity until it was conquered in 614 by the Persians. It was recovered briefly by the Byzantine Romans, but fell to the Muslim Arabs under caliph Umar by the year 640.
At this time (during the Umayyad rule), the importance of Palestine as a holy place for Muslims was emphasized, and in 691 the Dome of the Rock was erected on the site of the Temple of Solomon, which is claimed by Muslims to have been the halting station of Muhammad on his journey to heaven. Close to the Dome, the Aqsa mosque was built. In 750, Palestine passed to the Abbasid caliphate, and this period was marked by unrest between factions that favored the Umayyads and those who preferred the new rulers.
In the 9th cent., Palestine was conquered by the Fatimid dynasty, which had risen to power in North Africa. The Fatimids had many enemies—the Seljuks, Karmatians, Byzantines, and Bedouins—and Palestine became a battlefield. Under the Fatimid caliph al Hakim (996–1021), the Christians and Jews were harshly suppressed, and many churches were destroyed. In 1099, Palestine was captured by the Crusaders (see Crusades), who established the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Crusaders were defeated by Saladin at the battle of Hittin (1187), and the Latin Kingdom was ended; they were finally driven out of Palestine by the Mamluks in 1291. Under Mamluk rule Palestine declined.
In 1516 the Mamluks were defeated by the Ottoman Turks. The first three centuries of Ottoman rule isolated Palestine from outside influence. In 1831, Muhammad Ali, the Egyptian viceroy nominally subject to the Ottoman sultan, occupied Palestine. Under him and his son the region was opened to European influence. Ottoman control was reasserted in 1840, but Western influence continued. Among the many European settlements established, the most significant in the long run were those of Jews, Russian Jews being the first to come (1882).
Conflict between Arabs and Zionists
In the late 19th cent. the Zionist movement was founded (see Zionism) with the goal of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and dozens of Zionist colonies were founded there. At the start of the Zionist colonization of Palestine in the late 19th cent., the rural people were Arab peasants (fellahin). Most of the population were Muslims, but in the urban areas there were sizable groups of Arab Christians (at Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem) and of Jews (at Zefat, Tiberias, Jerusalem, Jericho, and Hebron).
At the same time Arab nationalism was developing in the Middle East in opposition to Turkish rule. In World War I the British, with Arab aid, gained control of Palestine. In the Balfour Declaration (1917) the British promised Zionist leaders to aid the establishment of a Jewish "national home" in Palestine, with due regard for the rights of non-Jewish Palestinians. However, the British had also promised Arab leaders to support the creation of independent Arab states. The Arabs believed Palestine was to be among these, an intention that the British later denied.
In 1919 there were about 568,000 Muslims, 74,000 Christians, and 58,000 Jews in Palestine. The first Arab anti-Zionist riots occurred in Palestine in 1920. The League of Nations approved the British mandate in 1922, although the actual administration of the area had begun in 1920. As part of the mandate Britain was given the responsibility for aiding the Jewish homeland and fostering Jewish immigration there. The British stressed that their policy to aid the homeland did not include making all Palestine the homeland, but rather that such a home should exist within Palestine and that there were economic limits on how many immigrants should be admitted (1922 White Paper).
In the 1920s, Jewish immigration was slight, but the Jewish communities made great economic progress. In 1929 there was serious Jewish-Arab violence occasioned by a clash at the Western, or Wailing, Wall in Jerusalem. A British report found that Arabs feared the economic and political consequences of continued Jewish immigration with its attendant land purchases. Zionists were angered when a new White Paper (1930) urged limiting immigration, but they were placated by Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald (1931).
The rise of Nazism in Europe during the 1930s led to a great increase in immigration. Whereas there were about 5,000 immigrants authorized in 1932, about 62,000 were authorized in 1935. Arabs conducted strikes and boycotts; a general strike in 1936, organized by Haj Amin al Husayni, mufti of Jerusalem, lasted six months. Some Arabs acquired weapons and formed a guerrilla force. The Peel commission (1937), finding British promises to Zionists and Arabs irreconcilable, declared the mandate unworkable and recommended the partition of Palestine into Jewish, Arab, and British (largely the holy places) mandatory states. The Zionists reluctantly approved partition, but the Arabs rejected it, objecting particularly to the proposal that the Arab population be forcibly transferred out of the proposed Jewish state.
The British dropped the partition idea and announced a new policy (1939 White Paper). Fifteen thousand Jews a year would be allowed to immigrate for the next five years, after which Jewish immigration would be subject to Arab acquiescence; Jewish land purchases were to be restricted; and within 10 years an independent, binational Palestine would be established. The Zionists were shocked by what they considered a betrayal of the Balfour Declaration. The Arabs also rejected the plan, demanding instead the immediate creation of an Arab Palestine, the prohibition of further immigration, and a review of the status of all Jewish immigrants since 1918.
The outbreak of World War II prevented the implementation of the plan, except for the restriction on land transfers. The Zionists and most Arabs supported Britain in the war (although Haj Amin al Husayni was in Germany and negotiated Palestine's future with Hitler), but tension inside Palestine increased. The Haganah, a secret armed group organized by the Jewish Agency, and the Irgun and the Stern Gang, terrorist groups, were active. British officials were killed by the terrorists. The horrible plight of European Jewry led influential forces in the United States to lobby for support of an independent Jewish state, and President Truman requested that Britain permit the admission of 100,000 Jews. Illegal immigration, often involving survivors of Hitler's death camps, took place on a large scale. The independent Arab states organized the Arab League to exert internationally what pressure they could against the Zionists.
An Anglo-American commission recommended (1946) that Britain continue administering Palestine, rescind the land-transfer restrictions, and admit 100,000 Jews, and that the underground Jewish armed groups be disbanded. A plan for autonomy for Jews and Arabs within Palestine was discussed at a London conference (1947) of British, Arabs, and Zionists, but no agreement could be reached. The British, declaring their mandate unworkable and despairing of finding a solution, turned the Palestine problem over to the United Nations (Feb., 1947). At that time there were about 1,091,000 Muslims, 614,000 Jews, and 146,000 Christians in Palestine.
The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine devised a plan to divide Palestine into a Jewish state, an Arab state, and a small internationally administered zone including Jerusalem, and the General Assembly adopted the recommendations on Nov. 29, 1947. The Jews accepted the plan; the Arabs rejected it. As the British began to withdraw early in 1948, Arabs and Jews prepared for war (see Arab-Israeli Wars).
See M. Avi-Yonah, A History of the Holy Land (tr. 1969); Esco Foundation for Palestine, Palestine: A Study of Jewish, Arab, and British Policies (2 vol., 1947, repr. 1970); J. C. Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine (1950, repr. 1968); J. W. Parkes, The Emergence of the Jewish Problem, 1878–1939 (1946, repr. 1970) and Whose Lands? A History of the Peoples of Palestine (1971); A. Schalit, ed., The Hellenistic Age: Political History of Jewish Palestine from 332 descr='[BCE]' to 67 descr='[BCE]' (1972); M. Russell, Palestine (1985); J. Murphy-O'Connor, The Holy Land: An Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (1986); I. Abu-Lughod, ed., The Transformations of Palestine (2d ed. 1987); T. Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate (2000); B. Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949 (1987) and The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (2004); S. K. Farsoun, Culture and Customs of the Palestinians (2004); G. Krämer, A History of Palestine: From the Ottoman Conquest to the Founding of the State of Israel (2002, tr. 2008); R. Davis and M. Kirk, ed., Palestine and the Palestinians in the 21st Century (2013).
"Palestine (region, Asia)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/palestine-region-asia
"Palestine (region, Asia)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved February 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/palestine-region-asia
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"Palestine." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/palestine
"Palestine." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved February 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/palestine
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J. A. Cannon
"Palestine." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/palestine
"Palestine." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved February 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/palestine
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Palestine (city, United States)
Palestine (păl´əstēn), city (1990 pop. 18,042), seat of Anderson co., E Tex.; inc. 1871. It is a market, processing, and rail center for a rich oil area and for the truck crops, livestock, and other produce of the rolling red hills. It has meatpacking plants, and school supplies, crushed stone, aircraft hardware, and concrete are produced. The city has many Victorian homes.
"Palestine (city, United States)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/palestine-city-united-states
"Palestine (city, United States)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved February 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/palestine-city-united-states
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"Palestine." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/palestine
"Palestine." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved February 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/palestine