Middle East Conflict Israel vs. Palestine vs. Background

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Middle - East Conflict Israel vs. Palestine


  • Anti-Semitism had been relatively widespread in Europe for centuries. It dates back to the simple fact that Jews were different.

  • Christians, Jews, and Muslims all had ties to the Holy Land

  • By the 18th century most European Jews resided in central and eastern Europe. They often had few rights and were regarded as aliens. Jews were most often isolated from mainstream society.

  • Religious discrimination caused the Jews to become socially, religiously, and legally inferior.

  • Jews would find that any freedoms granted by one ruler could simply be taken away by the next.

  • From about 1850- 1880 things started to look brighter. They received full rights in many Western European countries and were involved in the political and cultural lives of nations. Immigration to the West increased.

  • However, Anti-Semitism reappeared in the late 1870s as Jews were associated with economic stagnation. Organized Anti-Semitism arose in Germany and France (Dreyfus Affair).

  • Also during this time period, Anti-Semitic racial theories championed by Houston Stewart Chamberlain (Englishman living in Germany) spread Anti-Semitism into European political life. The false book Protocols of the Elders of Zion was also formulated and spread during the 1870s.


  • The Zionist movement was founded by Theodore Herzl in 1896 to found a separate Jewish state. Herzl stated that the political and social situation of Europe could never fully protect Jews. Theodore Herzl

  • Zionism began as a minority movement as many Jews believed liberal politics would once again prevail to guarantee their rights.


  • Great Britain had built an extensive imperial empire within which they held significant territories in the Middle East. In 1917 while promising the Arabs that they would create an Arabic state out of the Ottoman Empire, they issued the Balfour Declaration.

  • The Balfour Declaration promised the Jews a national home in Palestine.

  • Between World Wars, many Jews immigrated to the area then governed by Great Britain. The Jews developed their own communities, laws, and way of life and often clashed with the Palestinians who saw them as intruders.

  • Before WW2, there was talk of placing the Jewish state in South Africa or Madagascar which seemed reasonable for both Arabs and Jews.

  • However the Holocaust and Nazi atrocities towards Jews sparked a rise in Zionism and the victorious powers believed the Jews deserved something (land in Palestine) after all they had gone through.

  • In 1947, the UN took control of the area and divided it into a Jewish and an Arab state.

  • In May 1948, Britain withdrew from the area and Israel declared independence. That same day, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq invaded Israel and the modern Arab-Israeli conflict was born.


  • By the end of the War for independence, Israel had significantly increased its borders. Although it survived, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia among others did not recognize Israel.

  • In the early 1950s, the situation in the Middle East truly became reflective of the Cold War as the Soviet Union gave aid to the Arab nations and the US and Western Europe supported Israel.

  • While fighting against Egypt during the Suez crisis of 1956, Israel became permanently tied to the Western nations. Israel would size all of the Sinai Peninsula but reluctantly gave it back.

  • 1967-Six Days’ War- Israel attacked Egypt after months of provocation on June 5th. Syria and Jordan entered with Egypt but by June 11th Israel had won. Israel then occupied the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the Jordan River.

  • 1973- Yom Kippur War- Egypt, led by Anwar el-Sadat joined with Syria and launched an attack against Israel on Yom Kippur. A truce was arranged after about a month of fighting.

  • 1977- President Sadat flew to Israel and spoke with Prime Minister Begin. This was the first time the leader of an Arab state recognized Israel.

  • 1978- US moderated the Camp David Accords which were supposed to lead to further peace discussions. Sadat would be assassinated in 1981 which strained the long term impact of the Accords.

  • Camp David Accords

  • 1981- Israeli Parliament annexed the Golan Heights.

  • The PLO- Palestinian Liberation Organization- was a major block to peace talks. The PLO demanded a separate Palestinian state which Israel believed would threaten its existence.

  • 1982- Israel invades Lebanon- a base for the PLO.

  • 1987- Arab uprising against Israeli rule on the West Bank. The general Arab uprising is known as intifada. Since 1987, Israel has responded to trouble in the West Bank with deadly force.

  • 1988- The PLO, led by Yasir Arafat stated that Israel had a right to exist and that it would refrain from terrorist activity. However, the PLO also declared the existence of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

  • Yasir Arafat

  • 1993- Israel and PLO recognized each other and agreed to Palestinian self-government in Gaza and city of Jericho.

  • Since the agreement, terrorist attacks on both sides have increased as extremists oppose its implementations.


  • As the PLO became more moderate, it has been replaced by the more radical Hamas.

  • Hezbollah, an organization that grew out of the political vacuum of the 1980s in Lebanon, is now regarded as a terrorist organization by Israel.

  • Lebanon still holds Israeli troops hostage from several years ago.

  • The most recent flash-point of the region occurred last winter when after an uprising in the Gaza Strip, Israel cut off most supplies from the area. Fighting ensued and the area was very dangerous for several months. Related violence still occurs.

  • The current conflict was greatly shaped by the Cold War.

  • Gaza Violence

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