Pre-1948 – 1948 – The Nakba – The catastrophe
The history of the Israeli occupation of Palestine begins in the late 1800s & early 1900s, with the creation of the ideology known as “Zionism”. A key figure behind this movement was Theodor Herzl, a Hungarian journalist. In 1896, he published a pamphlet called “Der Judenstaat” (The Jewish State) in which he called for establishment of a “Jewish state” somewhere in the world, that Jewish people across the world could emigrate to. It was generally accepted that wherever this new state was to be founded, local “natives” would need to be forced out, as they constituted a threat to the ethnic integrity of the new state.
Very soon after the beginning of modern Zionism, Palestine became the territory of choice for Jewish emigration, apparently because of its biblical connections to Judaism. From the late 19th century, Jewish settlers began arriving into “historic Palestine”, which was then a part of the Ottoman Empire.
Many prominent Jewish people across the world gave support to this new ideology, and in 1901 the “Jewish National Fund” was founded in order to buy land in Palestine for Jewish settlement. The JNF survives to this day, and the land it owns is still reserved for Jewish settlement only, in what is clear discrimination against Palestinians. Even from the beginnings of this movement, the goal was to secure the land of Palestine for the new “Jewish state”, and to ethnically cleanse as many Palestinians from it as possible.
After World War I, Palestine came under the control of the British and was known as “Mandatory Palestine”. During this time, numbers of Jewish settlers arriving into the area began to increase dramatically. In 1920, the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary force, was founded, which would play a central role in harassing and killing Palestinians in the years before the Nakba.
Numbers of Jewish arrivals increased dramatically in the years during and immediately after World War II and the Holocaust. Both Jewish and Palestinian groups began agitating for independence from Britain, and in 1947 a UN plan was presented to partition the territory into two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian. Jewish groups largely accepted the plan, but Palestinians overwhelmingly rejected a partition that gave a majority of the land to Jewish settlers, despite their only making up a third of the population at that time.
Jewish paramilitary attacks broke out almost immediately after the plan was implemented. The Haganah a known Israeli terrorist organization, was active in attacking Palestinian civilians, as well as the British occupying forces. Eventually, the British pulled out of Palestine completely.
1947-48 (UN PARTITION PLAN & THE NAKBA)
The Nakba (or “catastrophe”) took place in 1948, during the time that the state of Israel was declared based on the borders of the UN plan. All over the territory, Palestinians were forced out of villages at gunpoint by the Haganah paramilitaries, and forced into refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
Nearly 800,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes, and thousands more were killed in what was a brutal act of strategically organized ethnic cleansing across historical Palestine. There are now many “Nakba villages” within the borders of what is now Israel. In these villages, the population now known as, Israelis, moved into the houses of the Palestinians that they had just forcibly removed. Palestinians who were violently forced to leave and physically removed from their homes had nowhere to go, and many died on forced death marches or while seeking shelter elsewhere in, creating an internal refugee population, that still exists today, generations later.
Many of the descendants of these Palestinians who were forced to leave still live in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Some still hold the original keys to their houses, expecting one day to return to their homelands.
Israel managed to expand its borders beyond the 1947 UN plan through war with neighbouring Arab states. In 1956, 1967, and 1973, Israel fought wars with its neighbours which resulted in boundary changes with these countries, and occupation of their territories.
Part 2 to follow- exploring 1967 to 2021