Introduction to Israel/Palestine History

The establishment of the nation-state of Israel in the Middle East in 1948 grew out of several decades of Zionist settlement and the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe. Land which had been part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries and then a British mandate after WWI was declared a homeland for Jews and, as a result, over 750,000 Arab citizens were displaced and their lands appropriated. The Palestinians refer to this as “The Nakba” or “Catastrophe.”

In 1967 the state of Israeli occupied the additional territories of the Gaza strip (which had up until that point been administered by Egypt), the Palestinian Territory of the West Bank (which had been ruled by Jordan), and East Jerusalem. Most Americans are familiar with the narrative about the founding of the state of Israel, however few know the corresponding Palestinian narrative of dispossession. Both peoples have suffered profound traumas in their recent history.

Israel is now a prosperous, heavily militarized, nuclear-armed nation state whereas the Palestinians are an illegally (under international law) occupied people still waiting for a state of their own and the freedom to rule themselves. It is important to understand that there are a wide range of views in Israel, Palestine and the United States about the history and causes of the current conflict, the possible solutions, and that the language used to describe the issues is fraught with connotation and assumptions.

It is crucial for Americans to become better educated about this conflict since we are all heavily involved. The US government considers Israel a crucial ally in the Middle East, and our taxes pay the $3 billion in military aid that we send to Israel each year. The present administration has been unable to influence the Israeli government to stop the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land, and the “peace process” has come to a halt.

Our Task Team seeks to elevate the grassroots movement for peace with justice being pursued non-violently by groups in Palestine, Israel and the US.