Israel’s control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza has been referred to as an “occupation” for decades. Yet until recently, many people have not fully understood the significance of the historical event that led to Israel occupying Palestinian territory since 1967.
The history of this conflict is long and complex, but understanding it can help us make sense of the current situation and perhaps point towards a resolution. If you have read many news articles about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or watched discussions online, you are likely aware that there are two main narratives about why Israel occupies Palestinian territory.
Many pro-Israel advocates will tell you that it’s because they have a right to defend themselves from aggression and terrorism by Palestinians. Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian voices will say that Israel has taken over the land to expand their settlements for further control of resources (like water) and increase their displacement of Palestinians through home demolitions, checkpoints, roadblocks, military raids on villages, curfews, armed settler “guardians” in Palestinian homes, etc.
What you should know about Israel’s occupation of Palestine
The term “occupation” is an important one to understand because it gives us a starting point to understand the conflict. In this case, it refers to a situation in which a sovereign nation takes over territory outside its borders. These acts are often called “annexation” or “an exercise of sovereignty.”
Again, Israel’s control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza has been referred to as an “occupation” for decades. Yet until recently, many people have not fully understood why it is that Israel has occupied Palestinian territory since 1967. The history of this conflict is long and complex, but understanding it can help us make sense of the current situation and perhaps point towards a resolution.
The Mandate of Palestine and the Balfour Declaration
The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be traced back to the end of World War I. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the British won control of Palestine from the Turks in a military campaign from 1917-to 1919. They then became the governing power over the region. One of the key reasons Britain took control of Palestine was its desire to help establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
The British played a role in creating the State of Israel in 1948. They were charged with governing what was called the “Mandate of Palestine.” This mandate was based on the British’s promise to help create a Jewish homeland in the region. Although the mandate did not specify a particular location, the British chose Palestine, which they had recently gained control of. The mandate and the Balfour Declaration are considered key factors in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Balfour Declaration was a letter written by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to a leading British Jew urging the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
The Partition of British-Occupied Palestine in 1948
The mandate mandated that the British government help the Jewish people establish a homeland in Palestine. However, the British also promised to eventually support the creation of a Palestinian state. This promise helped fuel a growing anti-British sentiment and a desire for independence in the region.
In the 1930s, Jewish resistance fighters known as the Haganah began to attack British army forces in the region. The group blew up bridges, attacked British police stations, and targeted British soldiers. The struggle for independence became more intense when the British announced plans to end the mandate and leave Palestine.
This, coupled with the intense conflict between Jews and Palestinian Arabs, led to a United Nations plan to partition the British-occupied territory. The UN plan would have partitioned the British-occupied territory into two separate states. This would have created a Jewish state and a Palestinian state in the region.
Six-Day War in 1967
The UN partition plan eventually failed to slow down the fighting in the region. By the mid-1950s, the Green Line had broken down, and both sides had returned to fighting each other. In 1967, Israel launched a military campaign against Jordan, Syria, and Egypt known as the Six-Day War.
Israeli forces captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip from these countries. They also took control of the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the region known as the Sinai Desert from Jordan.
During their quest to establish a “Jewish state,” the Zionist forces expelled around 750,000 Palestinians from their homelands and destroyed many of their homes. They also destroyed many villages. When Israel declared statehood, armed forces from neighbouring Arab countries joined the fight to defend the Palestinian nation.
The Six-Day War is considered a critical point in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many historians believe the occupation of the Six-Day War to be the most crucial factor in creating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The First Israeli-Palestinian Accord and the ROEP
In the years following the occupation of the Six-Day War, the Israeli government began to implement policies that were seen as unfair and oppressive to the Palestinian people living on the West Bank and Gaza.
Many of these policies led to a growing sense of frustration and anger toward the Israeli occupation among Palestinians. In addition to these oppressive policies, many Palestinians were also upset that they were denied the right to return to their homeland as promised by the UN partition plan.
This led to a growing sentiment against the Israeli occupation. In an attempt to create a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the United Nations created the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. This resolution urged Israel to withdraw from the “territories” it had occupied in the Six-Day War.
Oslo Accords, Camp David, and The Second Intifada
The Israeli government did not respond to UN Resolution 242. Instead, they continued their occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. In 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) officially recognised Israel’s right to exist and promised to end the use of violence against the country.
This allowed the Israeli government to begin peace talks with the PLO. Over the next eight years, the Israeli and PLO governments took part in a series of negotiations. They were ultimately able to come to an agreement. This agreement was known as the Oslo Accords.
The Oslo Accords set out a plan to create the Palestinian Authority (PA), a governing body that would control the West Bank and Gaza. It also laid out a series of steps that the two governments agreed to take in order to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Over the decades, the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has created a sense of animosity and distrust between the two sides. There is a humanitarian crisis in Palestine and many people have lost hope for peace in the region. It is a fact that the Israeli government has unfairly treated the Palestinian people, expelling them from their homes and taking their land.
Some openly say Israel has no right to exist. However, many people hope for peace between the two groups and an end to the Israeli occupation. How can this conflict be resolved with Israel illegally occupying so much of Palestine?