When I was in school I had to present a fairly complex project and this presentation ended almost in a disaster. Why? I got so obsessed with all this nifty and small solutions I found for specific problems that I jumped right into explaining this solutions and forgot totally about presenting the general concept and the goal of this project. Through a phone call with a good friend of mine I realized that I once again ran into the same problem. So let’s try to fix this! In this blog post I will give a hopefully understandable overview of the historic background of this conflict.
First at all a short disclaimer: I am not Wikipedia (,but using it as a source ;) and this is just a rough overview of the conflict. People filled entire libraries on this topic. So don’t expect this blogpost to tell you the TruthTM. Furthermore I focus on the facts related to the Palestinian-Israel conflict.
In 1947 the freshly founded United Nations agreed on a partition plan to divide the British Mandate of Palestine in two states: Palestine and Israel. The whole UN? Not entirely. The neighboring Arabic countries disagreed with this decision and how it was good costume at this times (and unfortunately it is still today) they declared war on the newly founded state of Israel and attacked. This later got known as the “1948 Arab-Israel War“. And this is where all the troubles started. Stop. As I told you this conflict is way to complex to find a single starting point. There were already Jews living in this area before even anybody thought remotely on a Zionist state of Israel. There was the Roman Empire ruling this region, the Ottoman Empire ruling it and surprise, surprise Britain also had its British Mandate of Palestine here. So there was always things going on in this region. But lets concentrate on what happened after 47.
During the war of 48 and the preceding civil war in the British Mandate lots of Palestinians got driven out of their homes, fled in panic of massacres or got killed by the various Jewish paramilitary groups operating in Palestine. An event in the Palestinian society related to as the “Nakba” - the catastrophe. At the end of this violent period of Civil war and Arab-Israel war about 725.000 (this number is disputed) of Palestinians found themselves as refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Palestinian territories which where not yet occupied. The UN set up UNRAW to deal with the refugee issue and this organization takes care about Palestinian refugees ever since.
The 48 war ended with an agreement upon a permanent ceasefire and an armistice line (later know as the green line) during peace talks on Rhodes between the war parties in 1949. This armistice line got internationally recognized and Israel joined the UN in the same year.
In 1967 following various provocations from neighboring Arabic countries like Egypt, Israel preemptively attacked and got hold of the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula in the (in-)famous “Six-Day War“.
Update: You might find this video useful to asses whether the 67 war was justified (and legal) or not:
This generated another 300.000 Palestinian refugees which left Gaza and the West Bank. The Sinai Peninsula went back to Egypt in 1982. The rest is under Israeli occupation until today.
This is more or less how we got to the political and military situation of today. I hope this helped to clarify the historic background.
One last word to the refugees. UNRAW takes especially care about the Palestinian refugees. All other refugees in this world are handled by another UN Agency UNHCR. The Palestinian UNRAW refugees are special in this respect that they keep their refugee status over generations. UNHCR refugees can not inherit their refugee status. Because of this special condition of the Palestinian refugees, Israel tries to avoid generating new refugees. They already have a natural growth of Palestinians with a right of return to their homes which nowadays lay within the state of Israel. This is something to keep in mind when we have a look at the recent developments in Palestine and Israel. But this will be in another blogpost.