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A disputed territory between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean.

Early history (before 1914)

It was ruled by the Kings of Judah until the expulsion of the Jewish people after the unsuccessful Bar Kochba rising, 132–5 ad. Since then it has been populated by a majority of Arabs, though it remained a central reference point to the dispersed Jewish people as their homeland, Eretz Israel (Land of Israel). In the light of renewed pogroms in eastern Europe, a first wave of Jewish immigration into Palestine began in 1882, and there was another wave in 1904–14. Though the second wave contained many intellectuals and people of middle‐class origins, the 60,000 Jews who had immigrated in total by 1914 were driven less by a vision of a new state than by the hope of making a new living, free from persecution.

The growth of nationalism (1920s–40s)

In 1918 the area, which had been under the authority of the Ottoman Empire since 1517, came under British rule, formalized as a League of Nations Mandate in 1920. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 had fostered the hope of a Jewish state in Palestine, which was given further impetus by a third wave of Jewish immigration (around 35,000 people), this time with explicitly Zionist aims. At the same time, however, British encouragement of Arab nationalism, partly through T. E. Lawrence, also fostered an increasing sense of identity among Palestinian Arabs. They began to feel threatened, particularly by relatively sophisticated and well‐organized Jewish quasi‐state institutions, such as the Histadrut or Haganah. Arab attacks on Jewish settlers climaxed in 1929, when over 200 Jews were massacred in Hebron, and in 1936–9, during the Arab uprising. Tensions intensified partly because Jewish immigration continued, as 80,000 people arrived in 1924–31. In 1932–8, 200,000 Jews immigrated, fleeing from the rise of anti‐Semitism in Europe (particularly, though not exclusively, in Germany and Austria). The unspeakable suffering of Jews in Nazi concentration camps such as Auschwitz changed world opinion, and made the creation of an Israeli state inevitable.

In Israel's shadow (1947–1980s)

Palestinian Arabs, supported by Arabs elsewhere, refused to accept this, and in 1948–9 they rose against the new state of Israel, but to no avail. Western Palestine came under Jewish rule, the Gaza Strip under Egyptian sovereignty, and eastern Palestine became Jordanian territory as the West Bank. The latter territories came under Israeli administration after the Six Day War in 1967; but perhaps the darkest days for Arabs in Palestine (Palestinians) came in 1970, when their leaders and many of their people were violently expelled from Jordan by fellow Arabs. They gradually recovered from this blow, and became increasingly self‐confident as their leadership, especially the PLO, grew in international stature. The Palestinians' most concerted effort to have their claim for their own state recognized came in the Intifadah uprising, which finally convinced Israel that it could not defy Palestinian demands forever. In 1988, in response to Jordan's final renunciation of its claims to the West Bank, the PLO declared it the independent state of Palestine, and later that year finally recognized the state of Israel.


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