The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is a modern one, beginning in the 1900s and continuing today. At least since the end of World War I, Israelis and Palestinians have both claimed their right to exist as separate countries, with Jerusalem, or a section of Jerusalem, as their capital city. Although this conflict is a modern one, the history of the people involved dates back thousands of years. As with many conflicts in history, to correctly understand the modern conflict, it is important to understand the thousands of years that predate it.
The Ancient Hebrews
The Hebrews were ancient people who lived in roughly the same area that is Israel. Sometime between 2000 B.C. and 1600 B.C., Hebrews believe God told Abraham to move with his wife Sarah to Canaan, what is today approximately Israel. Abraham and Sarah are the founders of the Hebrew people. The Hebrews established a kingdom in this area c. 1050 B.C. The religion of the Hebrews was Judaism and the believers called Jews. In A.D. 135, the Romans forced all Hebrews to scatter throughout the world. The Hebrews moved to Asia, Africa, and Europe, where for centuries they kept their religion and customs intact.
Who Were the Ottomans?
The Ottomans were a ruling dynasty (family) of Turks who had a large empire in both Europe and Asia from the 1400s to 1922. The Turks were an Asian people who migrated to Arabia and Europe, became Muslim, conquered the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium), and ruled Palestine and the rest of Arabia for five hundred years.
Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire from the 1500s to its fall after the end of the World War I in 1922. In 1878, there were about 462,465 inhabitants of the area of Palestine. There were 403,000 Muslims, 43,000 Christians, and 25,000 Jews. Palestinians did not consider themselves part of a single political unit, and for the most part, under the Ottoman Empire, there was no conflict between the three religious groups that existed.
The Rise of Nationalism and World War I
Before the 1700s, people were content to live in empires or kingdoms and did not consider it important if their leader spoke the same language as they did, or if they had the right to vote. In the late 1700s and throughout the 1800s, however, people throughout the world began to see themselves as part of nations, with the right to have their own countries. Both Arabs and Jews began to dream of their own, independent country in Palestine.
During World War I, the people of Palestine wanted to separate from the Ottoman Empire and form their own countries. Great Britain made a secret promise to the Arabs (known as the Husayn-McMahon understandings) that if they attacked the Ottomans, the Arabs in Palestine would have their own state. At about the same time, British foreign minister issued the Balfour Declaration announcing British support for a Jewish national home in Palestine. And, secretly, Great Britain and France agreed to carve up the Arab provinces once the Ottomans were defeated.
1. What did two men do in a synagogue in Jerusalem?
2. How old is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
3. Who were the Hebrews?
4. Who were the Ottomans and how was Palestine related to the Ottoman Empire?
5. How did the rise of nationalism change the relationship between the Arabs, the Jews, and Ottomans in Palestine?