Maps of Israel and Palestine
Historically, the land of Palestine was populated by a people known as the Palestinians. Palestinians have always been religiously diverse, with the Muslim majority maintaining friendly relations with their Christian, Jewish, and Druze brethren.
At the turn of the 20th Century, a new Jewish nationalist ideology called Zionism was developing. Zionism called for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
During this time, increasing numbers of Jewish Europeans immigrated to Palestine, causing the Jewish population to grow from a tiny minority to 35% of the population.
Source: McCarthy, Justin, The Population of Palestine, Columbia University Press: New York, 1990, pp. 10, 35.
In 1947, the United Nations partitioned Historic Palestine, giving 55% to the Jewish population and 45% to the Palestinian population. The indigenous Palestinians rejected the division of the land on which they had lived and farmed for centuries.
At the time of partition, the Jewish population owned less than 6% of Palestine.
In 1948 Israel declared its "independence," but chose not to name its borders (Israel may be the only nation in the world with undeclared borders). Following its founding war of 1947-49 Israel came into existence on 78 percent of Palestine, a percentage it has steadily increased in subsequent years, a process that continues today.
Between the time of partition and the declaration of Israel on 78% of historic Palestine in 1948, the newly formed Jewish state had depopulated (through massacres, expulsion orders, and fear tactics) over 400 villages and made refugees of at least 726,000 Palestinians (see U.N.).
As Moshe Dayan put it, “Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either.”
Learn more about refugees.
In 1967, Israel occupied the remaining 22% of historic Palestine: the West Bank and Gaza (as well as large sections of Syria and Egypt). Since then Israel has transferred many of its citizens to Jewish “settlements,” (colonies, which are illegal according to the fourth Geneva Convention). Today 40% of the West Bank is off-limits to Palestinians, as they are not allowed to live in Israeli settlements, drive on Israeli-only roads connecting these settlements, or even live or travel through “security zones,” surrounding the settlements.
Learn more about life under occupation.
Following the 1967 war, Israel created what it calls “Greater Jerusalem.” It did this by expanding the borders of East Jerusalem to include surrounding areas of the West Bank where the Palestinian population was minimal. It annexed this new “Jerusalem,” and declared it to be it’s capitol.
Since 1967, Israel has established numerous illegal settlements in this “Greater Jerusalem,” thereby ensuring a Jewish majority in the city. While the municipal government encourages the construction of new Jewish homes in the city, Palestinian families (many of whom have lived in Jerusalem for centuries) are rarely able to acquire the permits necessary to build new homes and are only allowed to live in certain areas of the city due to systematic discrimination against non-Jewish citizens.
For more information on housing discrimination in Jerusalem, watch Jerusalem: An Occupation Set in Stone?
Following the 1967 war, Israel began establishing numerous settlements, or illegal housing developments for Jewish Israelis only on stolen Palestinian land (colonies). There are now thousands of these settlements throughout the West Bank and Gaza, as well as numerous settlements in the Syrian Golan Heights.
Settlements are one of the major blockages to a peaceful and just resolution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and other Arabs. The "roadmap" to peace calls on Israel to dismantle these settlements and to return the land to the rightful owners. Unfortunately, Israel continues to expand existing settlements and to build new ones.
Israeli settlers, who are known for their Jewish fundamentalism and desire to take the rest of Palestine (and perhaps even parts of other Arab lands) for Israel, usually carry large guns. They travel on specially built “bypass roads,” that now crisscross the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians are not allowed to use these roads.
Learn more about Settlements.
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IF AMERICANS KNEW