British Mandate of Palestine

map of Israel (click for larger) Palestinians are enraged by Israel’s brutal invasion of the Gaza Strip, in the months before Barack Obama’s inauguration. However, this was a reaction to epic increases in rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli citizens every year since Hamas was elected to lead Gaza. In response, it is pointed out that during the period of the 2008 ceasefire, the rocket attacks were cut to practically zero, while the Israelis did not stop the blockades of food and supplies to the Gaza Strip as they had promised. To that, Israel responds that ten (give or take) rocket and mortar attacks per month is hardly a ceasefire, and furthermore that Hamas has still not backed off from its claims that Israel is an illegitimate state that must not be allowed to survive. However, most Gaza citizens support Hamas not because they agree with its extreme anti-Israel position, but because of the corruption of their previous leadership. This leads us to a long series of conflicts that dotted the second half of the 20th century, resulting in a dramatic sequence of border changes, the 1967 border we often hear about being just one example.

How far back can these conflicts really be traced? Well, my initial research took me to the British Mandate of Palestine. Aha, I said, British colonization of the 19th and early 20th Century — here’s one other ongoing world problem we can attribute to it (hence the original title of this post). In 1948, Israel was established as a nation following the Holocaust. But in some sense this merely formalized what had already taken place. The Zionist movement began in the late 19th century, and between 1880 and 1914, the number of Jews living in Palestine doubled to about 60,000. Around this time anti-Semitism in Europe began to escalate, and the floodgates really opened.

While they were moving to the area peacefully and purchasing land to live on legally, the Jews attracted increasing hostility from the existing Arab population as their ambitions at political independence became increasingly apparent. This resulted in ongoing conflict, including a violent series of incidents in 1929.

So, when the Zionists talk about “returning” to Israel, what are they talking about? Well, we have Jewish Diaspora, an exodus from Israel in the first and second centuries during an occupation by the Romans. Before that, the 8th, 7th, and 6th centuries BC (!) saw a mass exodus with the destruction of the First Temple and the conquests of the ancient Jewish kingdoms. And, yeah, you’re pretty much back to the Biblical accounts, with all the clarity that brings.

Please note that this is just the result of some preliminary reading.