Palestine’s significance extends far beyond its borders. This longstanding struggle, rooted in historical and territorial tensions, has a profound impact on global politics, influencing international diplomacy, security, and peace efforts. As we see key events unfolding in the media, understanding the history of this struggle is essential to making sense of today’s global landscape.
1917 – The Balfour Declaration
The seeds of the Israel-Palestine conflict find their origins in the early 20th century, a period coinciding with World War I when Britain was embroiled in a conflict against the Triple Entente Powers, one of which was the Ottoman Empire. During this tumultuous time, Arthur Balfour penned a letter to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a prominent figure within Britain’s Jewish community. This historical milestone, known as the Balfour Declaration of 1917, marked a turning point, signifying the British government’s endorsement of the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in the region of Palestine. Just half a decade later, following Britain’s triumph over the Ottoman Empire and its subsequent control of Palestine, a British Mandate was instituted in 1923, a mandate that would endure until 1948.
1936 – The Arab Revolt
Before 1948, tensions were simmering as Jewish immigrants began settling in Palestine, leading to friction with the Arab population. As tens of thousands of Jews migrated from Europe, the Arabs revolted against the British occupation between 1936 to 1939. During the revolt, 5000 Palestinians were killed, 15,000-20,000 were wounded and 5,600 were imprisoned.
1948 – The Nakba
The year 1948 marked a turning point. Israel declared independence after the UN gifted the Israelis with 56% of Palestine while being 33% of the population and previously owning only 6% of the land. This led to the First Arab-Israeli War. This war saw significant casualties, with estimates of around 15,000 Palestinians killed, and 750,000 displaced in what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or “catastrophe.” Israel annexed a further 21% of Palestinian land.
1950s – After the Nakba
After the Nakba, a wave of discontent swept through the Muslim world. Egypt assumed authority over the Gaza Strip, while Jordan implemented administrative governance in the West Bank in 1950. Fast forward to 1964, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation was founded, followed by the formation of the Fatah party in 1965.
1967 – The Six-Day War
In the tumultuous year of 1967, a coalition comprising Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait initiated hostilities against Israel, igniting the flames of the Six-Day War, a conflict of astonishing brevity that ultimately favoured the Israeli forces. This intense conflict exacted a staggering toll, claiming the lives of approximately 20,000 individuals. Israel’s triumph in this campaign saw the acquisition of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, heralding a monumental realignment of power dynamics in the region. Subsequently, the establishment of Israeli settlements, widely considered illegal, commenced within the Gaza Strip and persists within the West Bank to this day.
Palestinian land occupied by Israel since the 1946 (Palestine Awareness Coalition)
1973 – The Yom Kippur War
In a shocking turn of events on Yom Kippur in 1973, Syria and Egypt jointly initiated a surprise offensive against territories under Israeli control. The Yom Kippur Conflict resulted in a tragic toll of around 21,000 casualties, with approximately 18,000 lives lost on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts, leading to the defeat of the Arab forces. This pivotal conflict underscored the enduring instability in the region and the persistently unsettled status of Israeli-occupied territories.
1978-79 – Camp David Accords and Normalisation with Egypt
In 1978, the Camp David Accords led to a historic peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Egypt became the first Arab nation to officially recognise Israel. The treaty contributed to a reduction in military clashes in the region but did not address the core of the occupation of Palestine.
1987-93 – The First Intifada
The First Intifada, spanning from 1987 to 1993, was ignited by the tragic death of four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, struck by an Israeli truck. Throughout the course of this tumultuous period, approximately 1,000 Palestinians lost their lives, among them 237 children, while over 175,000 Palestinians found themselves detained. Protests and strikes against Israeli occupation surged as Palestinians fervently voiced their discontent. During this time, Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, emerged, positioning itself as an armed opponent of Israeli occupation. Notably, the Arab League officially recognised the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole representative of the Palestinian people in 1988.
1993 – The Oslo Accords
In 1993, the culmination of the Intifada was marked by the signing of the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA), an interim governing body entrusted with limited autonomy within select areas of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Within the framework of the Oslo Accords, the West Bank underwent a division in 1995 into three distinct regions: Area A, constituting 18% and under Palestinian administration; Area B, comprising 22% and subject to joint Israeli-Palestinian oversight; and Area C, encompassing 60% and under the dominion of Israeli authorities, which includes significant control over the region’s water and land resources.
1994 – Normalisation with Jordan
In 1994, Jordan became the second Arab country to normalise relations with Israel. The Israel-Jordan peace treaty aimed to promote regional stability, but the issue of the occupation of Palestine remained unresolved.
2000-2005 – The Second Intifada
Likud opposition figure Ariel Sharon’s controversial visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, bolstered by a substantial security presence in and around Jerusalem’s Old City, set off the Second Intifada. This tumultuous period saw roughly 3,000 Palestinian and 1,000 Israeli individuals suffer casualties, ultimately stalling the peace negotiations and maintaining an atmosphere of instability.
2006-07 – Gaza Blockade
In the wake of Hamas’s electoral triumph in Gaza in 2006 and the subsequent removal of its rival, the Fatah party, from the West Bank, Israel enforced a comprehensive land, air, and naval embargo on the Gaza Strip in 2007. This stringent measure precipitated a decline in the quality of life for Palestinian residents, coupled with a sequence of armed confrontations.
2008 – Operation Cast Lead
Under the banner of Operation Cast Lead, spearheaded by Israel, Gaza bore witness to approximately 1,400 Palestinian fatalities and 5,000 individuals left injured. The Israeli military’s primary objective was to quell rocket attacks originating from Gaza, provoked by an Israeli incursion into a tunnel originating from the same region. Nonetheless, the operation drew widespread global condemnation. It is noteworthy that Israel deployed phosphorus gas, a chemical weapon prohibited under international law, during this campaign. In the year 2009, Israel executed a 15-day ground invasion into the Gaza Strip
2012 – Operation Pillar of Defence
Operation Pillar of Defence resulted in the demise of an estimated 2,100 Palestinians, among whom were 500 children. This military campaign was initiated as a countermeasure to rocket assaults originating from Gaza, triggered by the targeted assassination of a prominent Hamas military chief.
2014 – Operation Protective Edge
Operation Protective Edge resulted in roughly 2,250 Palestinians killed including 500 children. 20,000 homes were destroyed resulting in approximately 500,000 people displaced. It was one of the deadliest conflicts in recent years, drawing global attention and condemnation. As part of the operation, the IDF led a 19-day ground invasion into the Gaza Strip.
2017 – US Recognises Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel
In a controversial move, the United States officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to the historic City. This sparked protests and outrage among Palestinians and across the Muslim world.
2021 – Al-Aqsa Raid by Israeli Police
In May 2021, Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam, leading to an escalation in violence. Hamas responded with rocket fire over Israeli cities which prompted a response from the IDF. Over 500 Palestinians were killed, mostly civilians.
2023 – Operation Al-Aqsa Flood
For the first time in Hamas’ 17 years in power, they have launched a surprise operation into Israeli- occupied territory and gained a footing. Many are calling this the worst Israeli intelligence failure since the 1973 Yom Kapur War. The IDF swiftly gained back lost territory and launched a heavy bombing campaign on Gaza with plans of a full ground invasion. As of the time of this writing, 900 Israelis have died, and 800 Palestinians have been killed.