Palestine has always been a center of political, cultural, social, and spiritual life. A testament to Palestine’s ancient past, the country’s archaeological history is incredibly rich and diverse. Innumerable excavated sites are found throughout Palestine and a huge variety of artefacts have been discovered: ancient tools, pottery, sculptures, mosaics, drawings, cave dwellings, burial places, temples, shrines, castles, fortresses, and even entire cities.

By virtue of Palestine’s position geographically – linking Europe, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Asia – it became a centre of social, cultural, religious, and economic exchange and interaction between many civilizations. Palestine thus influenced many other cultures and was influenced by them.

Palestine is a place of great importance for all three of the world’s major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Judaism had appeared in Palestine by the end of the second millennium BCE and, of course, Christianity began with the birth of Jesus in the Palestinian village of Bethlehem. By the seventh century CE Islam was conceived with the appearance of the Prophet Mohammad on the Arabian Peninsula. The Islamic opening of Palestine took place in 636 CE. From that date on, Palestine remained under Islamic rule, with the exception of the Crusader invasions, which began at the end of the 11th century and continued for nearly 2 hundred years.

Most Arabs of Palestine are not descendants of the newcomers who came here with the Islamic opening or the Crusades. Rather, their relationship with the land goes back to the very beginnings of human settlement in Palestine.

Until relatively recently most modern accounts of the history of Palestine were written by European and American archaeologists and scholars. Their emphasis was generally very narrow, especially in the 19th century, when most studies focused on attempts to prove the historical accuracy of the Bible. This emphasis on the biblical dimension led to the marginalization of all evidence that pointed to the depth, diversity, and richness of native Palestinian civilization, including its unique contributions to architecture, agriculture, industry, and art, to name but a few. A conscious process was undertaken by Western scholars to justify the claims over Palestine made by European imperial powers, which sought to use it as a bridgehead to the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The Zionist enterprise was the agent of these imperialist interests.


Palestine. General information


In order to understand the current situation in Palestine, we must also know the background. We hope that this quick and very brief look at the past of Palestine will help you understand the situation today a little better.


Palestine is located between three continents, Africa, Asia and Europe and has thus been occupied over time by a number of different actors. The 400-year-old Ottoman rule ended in World War I. When the Ottoman Empire disintegrated, European powers divided the Middle East into their own “spheres of influence”. Britain acquired Palestine as its own mandate, granted by the League of Nations.


Seeds of conflict


Even before World War I, the Zionist movement, which had emerged as a counterweight to European antisemitism, decided to build its Jewish state in Palestine.


In 1917, Great Britain presented the leader of Zionism with the Balfour Declaration, promising to consider positively the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine, and encouraged mass Jewish immigration to Palestine to replace the original Palestinian population. This was the beginning of the conflict between the Palestinian Arabs and the Jewish settlers in Palestine.


At this point, in 1920, 90% of the Palestinian population was Arab, Christian and Muslim.


The beginning of the migration of Jews to Palestine, the Palestinian people did not realize the intentions of colonialism and Zionism aimed at uprooting them from their homeland to replace the Jews, so the Palestinians dealt with the Jewish immigration with humanity and they did not guess that the refugees pose a threat to their existence and their national identity.


Gradually, the majority of the Palestinian population realized the danger of the Zionist economic and political programs to their national aspirations.


Partition of Palestine


As tensions escalated, various international actors began to consider options for partitioning Palestine, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted in favor of partitioning Palestine. At a time when the Jews made up a third of the total Palestinian population and owned only 7% of the land, as they were granted more than 55% of the Palestinian land.


The neighboring countries reacted to this unjust division and tried to resist it by various political and military means. Nevertheless, and with the support of the British Mandate, the Zionists were better equipped militarily and politically than the neighboring countries, and especially better than the Palestinian peasants.


The Arab-Israeli conflict witnessed five major wars in the years 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982, in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed and injured.


The Arab-Israeli war (1948-49), known as the Nakba War. It is the name given by the Palestinians to their displacement and the demolition of most political, economic and cultural features of their society in 1948. It is the year in which the Palestinian people were expelled from their homes and lands and lost their homeland in favor of establishing the state of Israel. The events of the Nakba include the occupation of most of Palestine by the Zionist movement, the expulsion of more than 750 thousand Palestinians and their transformation into refugees, and the events also include dozens of massacres, atrocities and looting against the Palestinians, the demolition of more than 500 villages and the destruction of the main Palestinian cities and turning them into Jewish cities, the expulsion of most of the Bedouin tribes that lived in the Negev and the attempt to destroy the Palestinian identity, erase the Arab geographical names and replace them with Hebrew names, and destroy the original Arab nature of Palestine.


In 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan, and the Sinai, more than 350,000 were forced to leave the West Bank. More than half of them became refugees for the second time.


Today, more than 72 years after the establishment of the State of Israel, the Palestinian people have grown from 1.4 million to more than 12 million, more than 750,000 still live-in refugee camps, as the United Nations works to provide food, housing, clothing, education and medical care in poor conditions. In addition to more than 6 million people living in the diaspora.


State of Palestine


On 29 November 2012, the General Assembly adopted resolution 67/19 entitled “Status of Palestine in the United Nations” with 138 votes in favor, 9 against and 41 abstentions. The resolution accorded to Palestine non-Member observer State status in the United Nations, marking the first time that the General Assembly considered Palestine to be a State.  The rights and privileges of Palestine in the work of the United Nations remained the same as they were enhanced by resolution 52/250, which gave Palestine maximum rights without becoming a Member of the United Nations.


On 12 December 2012, the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine sent a letter to the U.N. Secretariat that recalled resolution 67/19 and requested that in all U.N. documentation including “the Blue Book” Palestine’s designation be changed to “State of Palestine” and that H.E. Mr. Mahmoud Abbas is the President of the State of Palestine.  On 17 December 2012, the Secretariat replied to the Mission and confirmed all the changes and now lists Palestine under category II, after the Holy See, as a “Non-member State having received a standing invitation to participate as observer in the sessions and the work of the General Assembly and maintaining permanent observer mission at Headquarters.”


Diplomatic Relations


The State of Palestine currently enjoys bilateral recognition from 139 States. Many States extended recognition to the State of Palestine following the Declaration of Independence by the Palestine National Council on 15 November 1988 in Algeria.  Other States recognized the State of Palestine in the recent period following extensive bilateral and multilateral diplomatic efforts.  


Palestine’s status in the United Nations has evolved considerably over last half-century.  Beginning as an Observer Mission of a national liberation organization, the Palestine Liberation Organization, now as an Observer State.  Palestine remains committed to obtaining full United Nations membership – taking its natural place in the international community, among the community of nations.


To know more on the question of Palestine: An Eye on PALESTINE. Prepared by Negotiations Affairs Department, Palestine Liberation Organization