Who’s Killing Who? A Viewer’s Guide

Because you can’t tell the players without a pogrom!

The animated characters, in order of appearance, represent: Early Man, Canaanite, Egyptian, Assyrian, Israelite, Babylonian, Macedonian/Greek, Greek/Macedonian, Ptolemaic, Seleucid, Hebrew Priest with Maccabee, Roman, Byzantine, Arab Caliph, Crusader, Mamluk of Egypt, Ottoman Turk, Arab, British, Palestinian, European Jew/Zionist, PLO/Hamas/Hezbollah, State of Israel, Guerrilla/Freedom Fighter/Terrorist, and finally…The Angel of Death

A pictorial program is at the This Land is Mine Blog.


Ancient Times

(all dates are designated Before Common Era – BCE – or Common Era – CE, rather than the Christocentric Before Christ – BC – and Anno Domini – AD)

Palestine has been settled continuously for tens of thousands of years. Fossil remains have been found of Homo Erectus, Neanderthal and transitional types between Neanderthal and modern man. Archeologists have found hybrid Emer wheat at Jericho dating from before 8,000 BCE, making it one of the oldest sites of agricultural activity in the world. Amorites, Canaanites, and other Semitic peoples related to the Phoenicians of Tyre entered the area about 2,000 BCE, and the area became known as the Land of Canaan.

Divinsion of Canaan 1200 to 1030

In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic (from the Biblical “Shem”) was first used to refer to a language family of West Asian origin, now called the Semitic languages.

A Semite is a member of any of various ancient and modern Semitic-speaking peoples originating in the Near East, including: Akkadians (Assyrians/Syriacs and Babylonians), Ammonites, Amorites, Arabs, Arameans, Canaanites (including Hebrews/Israelites/Jews and Phoenicians/Carthaginians), Chaldeans, Eblaites, Dilmunites, Edomites, Ethiopian Semites, Hyksos, Nabateans, Maltese, Mandaeans, Mhallami, Moabites, Shebans, and Ugarites.

Shem was the eldest son of Noah in the Hebrew Bible as well as in Islamic literature. The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram. Abraham, the patriarch of the Hebrews and Arabs, was one of the descendants of Arphaxad.

The 1st-century historian Flavius Josephus recounted the tradition that these five sons of Shem were the progenitors of the nations of Elam, Assyria, Chaldea, Lydia, and Syria, respectively.

Some time between about 1800 and 1500 BCE, it is thought that a Semitic people called Hebrews left Mesopotamia and settled in Canaan. Based on biblical traditions, it is estimated that King David conquered Jerusalem about 1000 BCE and established an Israelite kingdom over much of Canaan including parts of Transjordan. The kingdom was divided into Judea in the south and Israel in the north following the death of David’s son, Solomon.

Empire of David & Solomon c 1000-925 BCE

Empire of David & Solomon c 1000-925 BCE


Abraham’s Journey from Ur

The adjective “Hebrew” derives from from the Greek Hebraios, and from Aramaic ‘ebhrai, corresponding to Hebrew ‘ibhri, literally “one from the other side”, in reference to the River Euphrates, which Abraham crossed in his journey from Mesopotamia to Canaan.

In Biblical tradition, Abraham (born Abram), was from Ur, the capital of the ancient Chaldean Empire in Mesopotamia, near the mouth of the Euphrates River on the Persian Gulf. Sometime around 1900 BCE, the Lord told Abraham to leave his home and country and go to a land that He would show him.


The story goes that Abram traveled to Haran in Mesopotamia, on to Damascus, and then to Shechem in Canaan, a journey of nearly 1,000 miles. Following a great famine, Abram and his family migrated to Egypt, but finally returned to Hebron, where God reminded him of his covenant and changed his name from Abram to Abraham (father of nations), and where his first son, Ishmael, was born of his slave woman, Hagar. Later, in Beersheba, Abraham’s wife Sarah gave birth to Isaac, and Ishmael and his mother Hagar were expelled.

Ishmael & Hager, Isaac & Sarah with Abraham

Ishmael & Hager, Isaac & Sarah with Abraham

Isaac’s son Jacob was renamed Israel (God-wrestler) after a life-changing encounter with an angel of God, and became the patriarch of the nation of Israel, while Isaac’s half-brother Ishmael became the progenitor of the Arab people – two nations engaged in sibling rivalry over their common birthright to the land of Palestine.

To further exacerbate the rivalry, Jacob tricked his elder brother, first-born Esau, out of his birthright, so Esau married the daughter of his scorned uncle Ishmael and became one of the Ishmaelite progenitors of the Arab peoples.

Sibling Rivalry

The term ‘ibhri (plural Ibrim), is one of several names for the Jewish people, based on the root meaning “to cross over”, as in the people who crossed over the river Euphrates to take Canaan from its native inhabitants.

In the Bible, the Hebrew language is called Yәhudit  because Judah (Yәhuda) was the surviving kingdom at the time of the writing (late 8th century BCE). In the Book of Isaiah, it is also called səpaṯ kəna‘an (the language of Canaan). Later Hellenistic writers such as Josephus used the term Hebraisti  to refer to both Hebrew and Aramaic. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Hebrews/Israelites and their ancestors.

The dialect of Biblical Hebrew flourished during the Kingdom of Israel & Judah through the 6th century BCE, the time of the Babylonian exile, though the common language of the region was Aramaic.

Hebrew had ceased to be a spoken language somewhere between the first and fourth centuries CE – during the time of Roman occupation – and survived into the medieval period only as the language of Jewish liturgy and rabbinic literature. It was not until the 19th century that Hebrew was revived as a spoken and literary language, with Modern Hebrew quite distinct from its ancient version and now the official language of Israel.

If a common language is one of the fundamental elements of national identity, then it’s fair to say that Jewish nationhood disappeared following the Roman expulsion from Palestine in CE 135, and Judaism became a shared ethnicity and religious community dispersed across the Mediterranean region.


Conquered & Reconquered

The Assyrians conquered Israel in 722 BCE. The Babylonians conquered Judah around 586 BCE, destroyed Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, and exiled a large number of Jews. About 50 years later, the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylonia. Cyrus allowed a group of Jews from Babylonia to rebuild Jerusalem and settle in it.

The Persians ruled the land from about 530 to 331 BCE. Alexander the Great then conquered the Persian Empire. One of Alexander’s generals, Seleucus, founded a dynasty that gained control of much of Palestine about 200 BCE, and at first allowed the practice of Judaism, but later tried to prohibit it.

In 167 BCE, the Jews revolted under the leadership of the Maccabeans and established a kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem, which received Roman protection in 164 BCE, according to the records of Roman historians.

About 61 BCE, Roman troops sacked Jerusalem, made Judea a client state of Rome, and put down Jewish revolts in about CE 70 and CE 132. In CE 135, the Romans drove the Jews out of Jerusalem, and named the area Palaestina, derived from the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus.

In the decades immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, an extremist splinter group of the Jewish Zealots attempted to expel the Romans and their partisans from Judea. Their name, Sicarii, derives from the small daggers, or sicae, concealed in their cloaks. At public gatherings, often religious feast days, they pulled out these daggers to attack Romans or Jewish sympathizers, blending into the crowd after the deed to escape detection.


Sicarii – the World’s First Terrorists

The Sicarii were also known to kidnap prominent officials and exchange them for many of their own captured assassins, much like Hamas has done in Israel in modern times. And, much like modern terrorists, they were prepared to submit to even the most horrible of deaths and to see their relations and friends tortured rather than accept domination, according to the Jewish contemporaneous historian Josephus.

In an account in the Jewish Talmud, the Sicarii destroyed Jerusalem’s food supply so that the people would be forced to fight against the Roman siege instead of negotiating peace, much like modern Israel is doing through state terrorism to the people of Gaza.

The Sicarii played a principal role in provoking the Roman onslaught against the Jewish population in Jerusalem and in the eventual destruction of the city. When some of the Sicarii escaped to the abandoned fortress of Masada, most of them committed suicide rather than surrender to the Romans, much as modern suicide bombers are willing to die for their cause.

Jerusalem was conquered about 638 CE by the Caliph Umar, and Muslim powers controlled the region until the early 1900’s, allowing Christians and Jews to practice their religions, though most of the population gradually accepted Islam and the Arab-Islamic culture of their rulers.

The Seljuk Turks conquered Jerusalem in 1071, but their rule in Palestine was replaced by the Fatimid rulers of Egypt, who made an alliance with the crusaders in 1098 and captured Jerusalem, Jaffa and other parts of Palestine. The Crusaders, however, broke the alliance and invaded Palestine about a year later, capturing Jaffa and Jerusalem in 1099, slaughtering many Jewish and Muslim defenders and forbidding Jews to live in Jerusalem. They held the city until 1187, when the Muslim Saladin conquered Jerusalem, and the crusaders left Palestine for good in 1291.

In the mid-1200’s, Mamelukes, originally soldier-slaves of the Arabs based in Egypt, established an empire that in time included Palestine. Beginning in the late 1300’s, Jews from Spain and other Mediterranean lands settled in Jerusalem and other parts of the land. The Ottoman Empire defeated the Mamelukes in 1517, and absorbed Palestine. The Turkish Sultan invited Jews fleeing the Spanish Catholic inquisition to settle in the Turkish Empire, including several cities in Palestine.

In 1798, Napoleon entered the land, and subsequent mis-administration by Egyptian and Ottoman rulers reduced the population of Palestine, with both Arabs and Jews fleeing to safer areas. Revolts by Palestinian Arabs against Egyptian and Ottoman rule at this time may have helped to catalyze Palestinian national feeling. The Turkish Empire allowed the beginnings of Jewish settlement under various Zionist and proto-Zionist movements, and both Arab and Jewish population increased. By 1880, about 24,000 Jews were living in Palestine, out of a population of about 400,000 (6% Jewish).


Jewish Land Tenure

If we consider that the region has been settled since the beginning of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, and has been occupied by nation-states since the time of the Canaanites about 4,000 years ago, then Palestine has been ruled by Jews historically (Kingdoms of Solomon & David and the Maccabean Kingdom) for 3.8% of settlement and 9.6% of the period of national identity. Including the 66 years of the current State of Israel, those percentages of land tenure become 4.5% and 11.2% respectively.

Muslims have historically controlled the land of Palestine for 1278 years, or 12.8% of total settlement and 31.8% of national identity. That’s 3.3 times as long as the historical Jewish control and 2.8 times as long as historical & current Jewish statehood combined.

The Jewish people experienced more religious freedom and autonomy under Muslim rule than under most other imperial overlords, including Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek, Roman, Christian Crusader and British. The only other tolerant ruler was the Persian Cyrus, and modern-day Persia is Iran which is home to the largest population of Jews outside of Israel in the Middle East, and where there has been a continuous Jewish presence for 2,700 years, constituting as much as 20% of the population of ancient Persia. At the time of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, there were 140,000–150,000 Jews living in Iran.


The Zionist Movement & WWI

Rabbi Yehuda Alcalay, who lived in what is now Yugoslavia, published the first Zionist writings in the 1840s. Beginning in the late 1800’s, oppression of Jews in Eastern Europe stimulated emigration of Jews to Palestine.

The Zionist movement became a formal organization in 1897 with the first Zionist Congress, organized by Theodor Herzl. The Congress was planned for Munich, Germany, but due to considerable opposition from the local Jewish leadership, both Orthodox and Reform, it was decided to transfer the proceedings to Basel, Switzerland. The Congress was attended by some 200 participants, of whom 69 were formal delegates.

The Zionists wished to establish a “Jewish Homeland” in Palestine under Turkish or German rule, and were not concerned about the Arab population, which they ignored, or thought would agree to voluntary transfer to other Arab countries. The Zionists established farm communities in Palestine and later the city of Tel Aviv. At the same time, Palestine’s Arab population grew rapidly. By 1914, the total population of Palestine stood at about 700,000. About 615,000 were Arabs, and 85,000 to 100,000 were Jews (13-16%).


Betrayal of Promises to the Arabs

During World War I (1914-1918), the Ottoman Empire joined Germany and Austria-Hungary against the Allies, and a large number of Jews were forced to flee Palestine. The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 called for part of Palestine to be under British rule, part to be placed under a joint Allied government, and for Syria and Lebanon to be given to France. However, Britain also offered to back Arab demands for postwar independence from the Ottomans in return for Arab support for the Allies.

Sykes-Picot Division

In an exchange of letters from July 1915 to January 1916 between the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali, and Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt, it was agreed that the Arabs would revolt against the Ottoman Empire in alliance with the United Kingdom, and in return the UK would recognize Arab independence in Transjordan and Palestine.

In 1916, Arabs led by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) revolted against the Ottomans in the belief that Britain would help establish Arab independence in the Middle East. The United States and other countries pressed for Arab self-determination.

The secret Sykes-Picot Agreement, negotiated between Britain and France at the same time that McMahon was making promises to Hussein, undermined British promises to their Arab allies.

[The Sykes-Picot betrayal of promises to the Arabs was a turning point in Western-Arab relations that erupted not only in perennial resistance to the Zionist State of Israel, but in the 2014 rise of the Islamic State (ISIL, ISIS, or IS). The Islamic State claims one of the goals of its insurgency is to reverse the effects of the Sykes–Picot Agreement. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a July 2014 speech at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, vowed that “this blessed advance will not stop until we hit the last nail in the coffin of the Sykes–Picot conspiracy”.]


The Balfour Declaration & Palestinian Nationalism

In November 1917, before Britain had conquered Jerusalem and the area known as Palestine, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, a letter addressed to Lord Rothschild, stating Britain’s support for the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine, without violating the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities.

After the war, the League of Nations divided much of the Ottoman Empire into mandated territories. US President Wilson insisted that the mandates must foster eventual independence. The British were anxious to keep Palestine away from the French, and decided to ask for a mandate that would implement the Jewish national home of the Balfour Declaration. The Arabs opposed the idea of a Jewish national home, considering that the areas now called Palestine were their land.

The First Palestinian Congress of February 1919 issued its anti-Zionist manifesto rejecting Zionist immigration, but extended a welcome to those Jews “among us who have been Arabicized, who have been living in our province since before the war; they are as we are, and their loyalties are our own.” The seven Palestine Arab Congresses between 1919 and 1928 were ignored by the British, who refused to allow them the representative government they demanded.

At the Paris Peace conference, the British plan was adopted, with the main issues being division of rights between Britain and France, rather than the views of the local inhabitants. In 1920, Britain received a provisional mandate over Palestine, which would extend west and east of the River Jordan.

1920 Mandate Palestine

1920 Mandate Palestine

However, Abdullah, the son of King Husayn of the Hijaz, marched toward Transjordan with 2,000 soldiers to reinstate the Hashemite monarchy. In 1922, the British declared that the boundary of Palestine would be limited to the area west of the river. The area east of the river, called Transjordan (now Jordan), was made a separate British mandate and eventually given independence.

A part of the Zionist movement felt betrayed at losing a large area of what they termed “historic Palestine”, while the Arabs claimed that Jewish immigration and land purchases were displacing and dispossessing the Arabs of Palestine.

The British attempted to stop immigration to Palestine to limit infringement on the existing Arab population, but Jewish immigration swelled in the 1930s, driven by persecution in Eastern Europe, even before the rise of Nazism.

Evolution of Mandate Palestine


Attacks & Counter-Attacks

In the spring of 1920, spring of 1921 and summer of 1929, Arab nationalists opposed to the Balfour Declaration instigated riots and pogroms against Jews in Jerusalem, Hebron, Jaffa and Haifa, which led to the formation of the Haganah Jewish self-defense organization in 1920.

In 1936 widespread rioting, later known as the Arab Revolt or Great Uprising, broke out, thousands of Arabs and hundreds of Jews were killed, with half the 5,000 residents of the Jewish quarter of the old city of Jerusalem forced to flee.

The Yishuv (Jewish community) responded with both defensive measures, and with random terror and bombings of Arab civilian targets, perpetrated by the Irgun (or “Etsel”, the military underground of the right-wing Zionists headed by Vladimir Jabotinsky and later by Menachem Begin).

The Peel Commission of 1937 concluded: “An irrepressible conflict has arisen between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country. There is no common ground between them. Their national aspirations are incompatible. The Arabs desire to revive the traditions of the Arab golden age. The Jews desire to show what they can achieve when restored to the land in which the Jewish nation was born. Neither of the two national ideals permits of combination in the service of a single State.”

The Commission recommended partitioning Palestine into a small Jewish state (though more land than they then held) and a larger Arab one, and recommended voluntary transfer of Arabs and Jews to separate the populations (the first formal apartheid). The Zionist leadership considered the plan a step toward expansion into all of Palestine, but the Palestinian and Arab leadership, including King Saud of Saudi Arabia, rejected partition of land they deemed their own and demanded that the British curtail Jewish immigration.

Peel Partition Plan (red boundary for Jews)

Peel Partition Plan (red boundary for Jews)

The British began limiting immigration and a 1939 White Paper decreed that 15,000 Jews would be allowed to enter Palestine each year for five years. Thereafter, immigration would be subject to Arab approval.

The Jews of Palestine responded to the White Paper and the Holocaust by organizing illegal immigration to Palestine from occupied Europe. The Zionist leadership met in the Biltmore Hotel in New York City in 1942 and declared that it supported the establishment of Palestine as a Jewish Commonwealth, and determined that the British were an enemy to be fought rather than an ally (even though the British had freed Haganah underground leaders in a general amnesty in 1941 to join the British in fighting the Germans).

On November 6, 1942, members of the Jewish Lehi underground (which included Yitzhak Shamir, who later served as Israel’s Foreign Minister and Prime Minister) assassinated Lord Moyne, the anti-Zionist British Minister of State for the Middle East, in Cairo. In the summer of 1945, the Zionist underground groups, in particular the Irgun and Lehi (“Stern gang”), united and used force to try to drive the British out of Palestine, including the bombing of trains, train stations, an officers club and British headquarters in the King David Hotel, as well as kidnapping and murder of British personnel.

Irgun Poster Showing All of the Mandate Area as Israel

Irgun Poster Showing All of the Mandate Area as Israel

According to Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt, “During the last years of sporadic anti-British violence, the IZL [Irgun] and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, window-smashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute.” (letter to the NY Times, Dec. 2, 1948)

The British found Palestine to be ungovernable and returned the mandate to the newly-formed United Nations, the successor to the League of Nations.


The UN Partition Plan

The United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) recommended that Palestine be divided into an Arab state and a Jewish state, with Jerusalem under international administration. The UN General Assembly adopted this plan on Nov. 29, 1947 as UN Resolution (GA 181), owing to support of both the US and the Soviet Union.

3 - Palestine Partition Plan 1947

At that time, slightly less than half the land of Palestine was owned by Arabs, slightly less than half were British “crown lands”, and about 8% was owned by Jews or the Jewish Agency. There were about 600,000 Jews and about 1.2 million Arabs in Palestine (1/3 Jewish).

The resolution divided the land into two approximately equal portions in a complicated scheme with zig-zag borders, with the intention of an economic union between two states with open borders. The Jews accepted the UN decision, but the Arabs rejected it.

The UN, and President Wilson in particular, were unwilling to force implementation of the internationalization of Jerusalem. The Arab League declared war to rid Palestine of the Jews, but there was no common cause among them. Abdullah, king of Jordan, had an informal and secret agreement with Israel, negotiated with Golda Meir, to annex the portions of Palestine allocated to the Palestinians in the West Bank, and prevent formation of a Palestinian state. Syria wanted to annex the northern part of Palestine, including Jewish and Arab areas.


Massacres & Refugees

Clashes between Israeli underground groups and Arab irregulars began almost as soon as the UN passed the partition resolution, though the Arab countries did not invade. Massacres took place at Deir Yassin (by Jews of 107 villagers) and at Gush Etzion (by Palestinians of 127 Haganah soldiers and kibbutniks) in retaliation a month later. [Gush Etzion is where three Israeli West Bank teenagers were kidnapped on June 12, 2014, initiating the 2014 Gaza War.]

Menachem Begin, leader of the Irgun, revealed to a party of foreign correspondents that “Deir Yassin was captured with the knowledge of the Haganah and with the approval of its commander”, as a part of its “plan for establishing an airfield”.

Deir Yassin, like hundreds of other Palestinian villages to follow, was wiped off the map. Years later, in 1980, what was left of Deir Yassin’s cemetery was bulldozed by the State of Israel to make way for a new highway.

News of the killings of men, women and children at Deir Yassin sparked terror within the Palestinian community, encouraging them to flee from their towns and villages in the face of Jewish troop advances, and it strengthened the resolve of Arab governments to intervene, which they did five weeks later.

Al Nakba 1948 - Depopulated Palestinian Villages

Al Nakba 1948 – Depopulated Palestinian Villages (red dots)

To break the siege of Jerusalem, the Haganah activated “Plan Dalet” – a plan prepared for general defense that required use of regular armed forces and army tactics, fighting in the open, rather than as an underground. It also envisioned the “temporary” evacuation of Arab civilians from towns in certain strategic areas, such as the Jerusalem corridor. This provision has been cited as evidence that the Zionists planned for the exodus and expulsion of Arab civilians.

Plan Dalet specified: “Destruction of villages (setting fire to, blowing up, and planting mines in the debris), especially those population centers which are difficult to control continuously.” According to Israeli historian Ilan Pappé, “each brigade commander received a list of the villages or neighborhoods that had to be occupied, destroyed, and their inhabitants expelled”.

The Haganah mounted its first full scale operation with 1,500 troops and attacked the Arab villages of Qoloniyah and Qastel, occupied by Arab irregular forces after the villagers had fled, on the road to Jerusalem and temporarily broke the siege. Following attacks by Arab irregulars, the Irgun attacked the Arab town of Jaffa, just south of Tel Aviv, and Palestinians fled en masse.

The Israeli historian Benny Morris, in his book, Righteous Victims, said that Israeli generals received direct instructions from Ben-Gurion during the War of Independence to kill civilians, line them up against the wall and shoot them, in order to encourage the exodus that resulted in more than 700,000 Palestinians driven out of their homes.

Palestinian Exodus

Palestinian Exodus

The governments of neighboring Arab states were more reluctant than is generally assumed to enter the war against Israel, despite bellicose declarations. However, fear of popular pressure combined with fear that other Arab states would gain an advantage over them by fighting in Palestine, helped sway Syria, Jordan and Egypt to go to war. While officially they were fighting according to one plan, in fact there was little coordination between them.


Israel is Declared a State & War Begins

On May 14, 1948, the Jews proclaimed the independent State of Israel, and the British withdrew from Palestine. In the following days and weeks, neighboring Arab nations invaded Palestine and Israel. The fighting was conducted in several brief periods, punctuated by cease fire agreements.


During a cease fire in June, the Israelis reorganized and trained soldiers, and brought in large shiploads of arms, despite treaty terms which forbade it, to equip a fighting force of 60,000 troops. During the truce, the underground armies of the Haganah, Palmah, Irgun and Lehi were amalgamated into a single national fighting force, the Israel Defense Force (IDF). The revisionist Irgun movement attempted to bring a shipload of arms into Israel in order to maintain a separate fighting force, but Israeli PM Ben Gurion ordered the IDF to sink the ship when Irgun leader Menahem Begin refused to give up its cargo. Arab states were reluctant to commit more men to the struggle or to spend more money.

During the “ten days” period of fighting between two truces, the IDF invaded the Arab towns of Lod and Ramla that had been blocking the road to Jerusalem and expelled most of the Palestinians living there, after killing a large number. The IDF also destroyed numerous small Palestinian villages surrounding Tel Aviv, so that virtually no Palestinians were left in central Israel.

When the fighting ended in 1949, Israel held 78% of the area west of the Jordan River. The UN made no serious attempt to enforce the internationalization of Jerusalem, which was now divided between Jordan and Israel, and separated by barbed wire fences and no man’s land areas. The rest of the area assigned to the Arab state was occupied by Egypt and Jordan, with Egypt holding the Gaza Strip and Jordan holding the West Bank. About 726,000 Arabs fled or were driven out of Israel and became refugees in neighboring Arab countries. Arabs call the defeat and exile of the Palestinian Arabs in 1948 the Nakba (disaster).


The Green Line

1949 Armistice Line

1949 Armistice Line

The borders of Israel were established along the “green line” of the armistice agreements of 1949, though they were not recognized by Arab states, and consequently never received de jure (legal) international recognition. Negotiations broke down because Israel refused to readmit more than a small number of refugees. The USSR, initially in favor of the Zionist state, then aligned itself with the Arab countries. The Arab League instituted an economic boycott against Israel that was partly honored by most industrial nations and continued in force until the 1990s.


The 1967 Six-Day War

In the 1960s, Israel began to implement its National Water Carrier plan, to pump water from the Sea of Galilee to irrigate south and central Israel. The newly formed Palestinian Fatah movement seized on the Israeli diversion as an “imperialist event” that would catalyze their revolution, and Yasser Arafat began calling for war to eliminate Israel. Nasser decided to found the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a “tame” alternative to the Fatah.

Arab leaders ratified the establishment of the PLO, declared their resolve to destroy Israel, and decided to divert the sources of the Jordan River that feed the Sea of Galilee to prevent Israel from taking the water. Israel responded by firing on the tractors and equipment doing the work in Syria, followed by Israeli attempts to cultivate the demilitarized zones (DMZ). Moshe Dayan claimed many years later that 80% of the incidents were deliberately provoked by Israelis. The Syrians responded by firing in the DMZs, and when Israelis responded in force, Syria began shelling Israeli towns in the north, and the conflict escalated into air strikes.

In Mid-May 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Nasser began making bellicose statements, and asked for the withdrawal of the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) from Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Despite the bellicose rhetoric, analysts such as Avi Shlaim (The Iron Wall) and others believe that each country was dragged into the conflict by inter-Arab rivalry and did not contemplate a war, and that Nasser never intended to attack Israel.

Menachem Begin, the former Irgun terrorist who became the leader of the Likud party and Israeli Prime Minister, admitted publicly in 1982: “In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”

Prime Minister Eshkol and Foreign Minister Abba Eban opposed unilateral action, and Ariel Sharon now admits that he and others, including Yitzhak Rabin, had discussed the possibility of a sort of coup against their government to allow the Army to initiate a war.

In May and June, Jordan and Iraq signed a defense pact with Egypt. When it became apparent that Egypt would not stand down, Israel attacked the Egyptians on June 5, 1967, and quickly conquered the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza. In regard to the pre-emptive Israeli strike that wiped out the Egyptian air force on the ground, Israeli politician Shimon Peres said, “It took 80 minutes to execute a plan that had been in the making for 10 years.”

After warning King Hussein of Jordan to cease fire and withdraw, Israel conquered the West Bank and Jerusalem. After dealing with Egypt, Israel decided to conquer the Golan heights, despite opposition and doubts of some in the government, including Moshe Dayan, who had been appointed defense minister, and despite the fact that the UN had already called for a cease fire. Israel agreed to a cease fire on June 10, 1967. UN Resolution 242 called for negotiations of a permanent peace between the parties, and for Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied in 1967.

Israel acquired extensive territories – the Sinai desert, the Golan heights and the West Bank – that were several times larger than the 1948 borders. The defeat of the Arabs contributed to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, and brought about a million Palestinian Arabs under Israeli rule.

Moshe Dayan, the Israeli Defense Minister, ordered the destruction of Syrian villages and towns in the occupied Golan Heights.  Within months, Israel began to colonize the occupied Palestinian territories and Syria’s Golan Heights, in spite of its own legal adviser’s insistence that this was a contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Conquered Territories

Conquered Territories

The occupation, the subsequent war of attrition at the Suez Canal, the 1973 war, the wars in Lebanon in 1976 and 1982, and the suppression of the 1987 and 2000 intifadas required the increasing militarization of Israeli political life and society as a whole, turning it into a garrison state. Israel also then became the indispensable US ally in the region in a proxy war with the Soviet Union, and US aid increased to $3 billion per year.

In return, Israel served Washington’s Cold War aims by bombing Iraq’s (then allied with Moscow) nuclear reactor in 1981, supplying arms to Iran during the Iran-Iraq War and backing other regimes that the US could not be seen to be openly supporting. In 2006, Israel launched a war against Hezbollah to eradicate opposition to the US-backed government in Lebanon.

The Fatah organization (The Movement for Liberation of Palestine) and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) became one under the direction of Yasser Arafat, and in 1974 the PLO was recognized by the UN as the representative of the Palestinian people.


[No] Land for [No] Peace

The United States called for withdrawal from the conquered territories in return for peace. On June 19, 1967, the Israeli government offered Egypt and Syria return of the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights for peace settlements. The offer apparently did not include the Gaza strip, and called for demilitarization of Sinai. Jordan and the West Bank were not mentioned. The offer was transmitted in secret through the United States, but was turned down. Egypt and Syria refused to negotiate with Israel.

Jordan’s King Hussein had a secret meeting with Israeli diplomat Ya’akov Herzog in London, and said that if there were to be peace, there would have to be peace with honor.

Menachem Begin and Yigal Alon favored annexation, while Moshe Dayan proposed that the Arabs of the West Bank should be given autonomy. Begin believed large numbers of Jews could now be brought to Israel to settle the territories, and the Arabs would be given a choice between becoming citizens or leaving. The Mossad had proposed a Palestinian state under Israeli protection in a report dated June 14, 1967, but this was not accepted.

An increasing number of settlements were established as it became evident that Arab states would not negotiate with Israel. In 1970, King Hussein of Jordan offered to make peace in return for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and return of the holy places, but the offer was turned down.

In 1971, President Sadat of Egypt offered Israel a full peace treaty in return for withdrawal from the Sinai. Israel rejected it, as it planned to carry out extensive development programs in the Sinai, build a huge city on the Mediterranean, dozens of settlements and infrastructure, driving tens of thousands of Bedouins off the land.

Egypt’s War of Attrition, the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the Arab oil embargo followed. Yasser Arafat was invited to address the UN General Assembly, the PLO was granted permanent observer status at the UN, and the Zionism is Racism resolution passed the General Assembly in 1975.

In 1978, Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, and Israel’s Menahem Begin signed the Camp David framework agreements, leading to a Peace treaty in 1979, and Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982.

Settlement expansion became official Israeli policy after the Likud party came to power in 1977, and continued during the 1991-93 Oslo Peace Process. PLO Chairman Arafat announced PLO acceptance of UN Resolution 242 in 1988.

Israeli Settlements in Golan (1996)

Israeli Settlements in Golan (1996)

Israeli Settlements West Bank (1996)

Israeli Settlements West Bank (1996)

Israeli Settlements Gaza (1996)

Israeli Settlements Gaza (1996)

On August 20, 1993, the completed Oslo Accord provided for the creation of a Palestinian interim self-government, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. In the Letters of Mutual Recognition, the PLO acknowledged the State of Israel and pledged to reject violence, and Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and as partner in negotiations. In 1995, the Oslo I Accord was followed by Oslo II. Neither, however, promised Palestinian statehood.

Oslo Areas & Barrier Wall

Oslo Areas & Barrier Wall

In August 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all military forces from Gaza and dismantled all Israeli settlements. Following the withdrawal, Hamas was elected as the Palestinian government which started the chain reaction leading to Operation “Summer Rains” later within that year in which IDF corporal Gilad Shalit was captured and ransomed five years later for 1027 Palestinian prisoners.

In January 2007, fighting between Hamas and Fatah spread to several points in the Gaza Strip with both factions attacking each other. By June 2007 the Fatah–Hamas conflict reached its height and Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip. This led to the 2008-09 Gaza War, followed by another in 2012, and yet another in 2014.

The 30-day 2014 war resulted in the deaths of two Israeli civilians, one Thai worker, and 64 IDF soldiers. In Gaza, there were 1,938 deaths, including more than 1,600 civilians (a ratio of more than 500 Palestinian civilians for each Israeli civilian), including nearly 400 children, more than 200 women, and at least 74 elderly. Approximately 10,000 more were injured, including nearly 2,000 children. The IDF bombardment also damaged or destroyed more than 14,000 Palestinian homes, 141 schools, 26 medical facilities and 7 UN shelters, as well as much of the Gazan electrical, water and sewer infrastructure.

In July 2012, according to the Israeli interior ministry, 350,150 Jewish settlers lived in the 121 officially recognized settlements in the West Bank, 300,000 Israelis lived in settlements in East Jerusalem and over 20,000 lived in settlements in the Golan Heights. The four largest settlements have achieved city status.

Annexation, Expansion & Settlement of Jerusalem

Annexation, Expansion & Settlement of Jerusalem

2013 Jewish Settlements

2013 Jewish Settlements

The actual buildings of the Israeli settlements cover only 1.7% of the West Bank, but their jurisdiction and regional councils extend to about 42% percent of the West Bank land, according to the Israeli NGO B’Tselem. Between 2001 and 2007 more than 10,000 Israeli settlement units were built, while 91 permits were issued for Palestinian construction, and 1,663 Palestinian structures were demolished in Area C.

The Oslo II Accord divided the West Bank into three administrative divisions: the Areas A, B and C. Area A has full civil and security control by the Palestinian Authority, and comprises 3% of the West Bank.

This area includes Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho and 80% of Hebron. Entry into this area is forbidden to all Israeli citizens, though the IDF occasionally enters to conduct raids to arrest suspected militants.

Area B has Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control, and comprises 23-25% of the West Bank. This area includes some 440 Palestinian villages and their surrounding lands, and no Israeli settlements. According to Dror Etkes, of the Israeli Peace Now settlement tracking project, Israeli settlers have violated the accords by spreading into Area B and seizing private Palestinian land for cultivation and settlement.

Area C is all land outside of Areas A and B, has full Israeli civil and security control, and includes 72-74% of the West Bank. More than 99% of Area C is heavily restricted or off-limits to Palestinians, with 68% reserved for Israeli settlements, approximately 21% for closed military zones, and about 9% for nature reserves. Construction permits for residential or economic purposes are, according to World Bank, “virtually impossible” for Palestinians to obtain.

Area C (in blue)

Area C (in blue)

A 2013 report published by the World Bank analyzed the impact that the limited access to Area C lands and resources had on the Palestinian economy, and calculated that access to the lands and resources of Area C, including the territory in and around settlements, would increase the Palestinian GDP by some $3.5 billion (or 35%) per year. The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that Israeli companies are entitled to exploit the West Bank’s natural resources for economic gain, and that international law must be “adapted” to the “reality on the ground” of long-term occupation.


Expansionism at the Heart of Political & Religious Zionism

Founded in 1973 by former Irgun terrorist leader Menachem Begin, the Likud Party achieved victory in the 1977, 1996, 2003, 2009 and 2013 elections, putting Benjamin Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s seat.

The 1999 Likud charter emphasizes the right of settlement:

“The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”

Similarly, they claim the Jordan River as the permanent eastern border to Israel and it also claims Jerusalem as belonging to Israel.

The ‘Peace & Security’ chapter of the 1999 Likud Party platform rejects a Palestinian state:

“The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river. The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state. Thus, for example, in matters of foreign affairs, security, immigration and ecology, their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel’s existence, security and national needs.”

While Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given lip service to a two-state solution to appease Israel’s international supporters, particularly in the US, his policies have made a Palestinian state all but impossible, and such intransigence guarantees perpetual conflict between the two peoples who claim legitimate title to Palestine.

The current right-wing expansionist agenda for Israel, however, has been at the heart of the Zionist vision from the earliest days. At the 20th Zionist Congress in Zurich (August 1937) David Ben-Gurion, then chairman of the executive committee of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, told those in attendance that, though “there could be no question…of giving up any part of the Land of Israel,… it was arguable that the ultimate goal would be achieved most quickly by accepting the Peel [Commission partition] proposals.”

University of Arizona professor of Middle Eastern History Charles D. Smith suggests that, “[Zionist Organization President Chaim] Weizmann and Ben-Gurion did not feel they had to be bound by the borders proposed. These could be considered temporary boundaries to be expanded in the future.”


Palestine Demographics

Land Division

by Robert Riversong: may be reproduced only with attribution for non-commercial purposes


See also:

Israel and Palestine – No Right to Exist: Israel claims an inalienable “right to exist” while denying the right of a Palestinian state to exist

Israel’s War on Hamas – Israel’s War against Peace

Zionism and Nazism – and Israeli Support for War Criminals and Human Rights Abusers


2 Responses to “An Illustrated History of Palestine”

  1. Blake said

    This is a fantastic piece. However too much focus is on Biblical history – which is not historical fact. As early as the late Bronze Age (1150BC) the land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River was known as “Peleset” in the Egyptian records and “Pilistu” in the Assyrian records (800BC)., the Babylonians called it Palestine, Alexander the Great (the Greek) called it Palestine, the Persians called it Palestine, and the Romans called it Palestine. Father of History Herodotus called it Palestine. Aristotle called it Palestine. Philo called it Palestine. I go by the History Books of ancient Rome, the Greeks, Persians and Egyptians, and they called it The Land of Philistine and variants of that name (Filastin in Arabic). ‘israel’ is one of those great historical shibboleths that tend to exist in any age: however the strange thing about the ‘Kingdoms of Israel’ is that its not mentioned textually by anyone but after the fact in ‘Jewish religious texts’.

  2. Riversong said

    You ignore the fact that the Hebrew so-called “bible” – more accurately, the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses – are, unlike the Christian gospels, primarily a history, albeit with religious cosmology interwoven. And there is a considerable amount of textual and archeological corroboration of the story contained therein.

    Scholars draw largely on three sources to reconstruct the history of ancient Israel — archaeological excavations, the Hebrew Bible and texts that are not found in the Hebrew Bible.

    The earliest mention of the word “Israel” comes from a stele (an inscription carved on stone) erected by the Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah (reign ca. 1213-1203 BCE) The inscription mentions a military campaign in the Levant during which Merneptah claims to have “laid waste” to “Israel” among other kingdoms and cities in the Levant.

    Cuneiform tablets, written by Babylonian scribes, have emerged from Iraq revealing details of the lives of Jewish deportees who lived at a village called Āl-Yahūdu which means the “village of Judea”.

    The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the Hellenistic-period Jewish settlement at Khirbet Qumran in the eastern Judaean Desert, the modern West Bank. The Dead Sea Scrolls include manuscripts from additional Judaean Desert sites that go back as far as the 8th century BCE, and include the second-oldest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Torah.

    The earliest independent reference to the Kingdom of Israel is about 890 BCE, while for that of Judah is about 750 BCE. This is supported by excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, an Iron Age site located in Judah, dating to the late eleventh century BCE.

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