~ Read Israel and Palestine Conflict forum questions from Pakistan with answers from a Jewish Israeli. Learn Palestinian Authority facts and misconceptions. ~
The Israel/Palestine conflict is plagued with misconceptions and misinformation disseminated in all parts of the world. This is especially true in Pakistan under government censorship (which includes some pages on Wikipedia and content on YouTube), deference to the attitudes of its fanatic neighbor Iran, dependency upon its supporter Saudi Arabia, and its own history of religious animosity for beliefs other than the Sunni Muslim sect. In addition, illiteracy rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.
What follows are questions from Pakistanis about Israel, a country their government will not allow them to visit. The questions themselves indicate the degree of erroneous information influencing Pakistani opinions about Israel, Israeli Arabs, and Arabs living under the Palestinian Authority. Hopefully, the facts presented in the following answers will help give a greater understanding of the current situation west of the Jordan River.
TABLE OF CONTENTS - Jump to Section
Creation of Israel
1948 Israel War of Independence
1956 Suez Crisis
1967 Six Day War
1973 Yom Kippur War
1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty
Oslo Accords 1993
Second Intifada and Security Fence
Israeli Checkpoints and Border Crossings
Operation Protective Edge in Gaza 2014
Everyday Palestinian Life
Pakistan and the Palestinians
How Was Israel Created?
It's interesting that the Pakistani posting the question above believes that the Palestinians "gave Jews a place to live" in Israel. It is also interesting that there is a perceived ingratitude. This perception comes from classic Islam which teaches that Jews and Christians must remain subservient to Muslims. As you can read in the answer above, Palestinian Arabs had nothing to do with giving Jews the land of Israel.
Another popular misconception in Pakistan is that Israel was created because of the Holocaust during World War II. The fact is, almost one hundred years ago the British declared in 1917 its desire to create a Jewish Homeland with its issuance of the Balfour Declaration. Britain then presented its partition of the land in 1922.
Jewish Presence in the Land of Israel
Since the return from Egypt during the Exodus 3,500 years ago, there have always been members of the Twelve Tribes of Israel living in the land of Israel. The twelve sons of Israel (whose name was changed from Jacob) were the great grandchildren of the patriarch Abraham, who was given the land (originally settled by the accursed Canaanite people) 4,000 years ago by the God he worshiped. One of the Tribes of Israel was the Tribe of Judah; the term 'Jew' is a reference to those of this tribe, the tribe of Israel's royalty.
Of his eight sons, Abraham bequeathed the land of his covenant with God (Genesis 17:1-15) to his son Isaac, the only child born of his beloved wife Sarah. His other seven sons received an inheritance and moved to the east. To Isaac was born Jacob and his twin Esau. The deed to the land of Abraham's covenant was bequeathed to Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel), and Esau was given an inheritance of land in what is today southern Jordan.
Thus, the deed to the Jewish Homeland is one of the oldest in the world. When Abraham's wife Sarah died, he purchased a field and a burial site from a Hittite man and the transfer of property was witnessed by members of the non-Arab Hittite tribe. Abraham and his wife Sarah, Isaac and his wife Rebecca, Jacob and his wife Leah are buried in the family crypt in a double cave on the land Abraham purchased in Hebron, Israel. The deed is recorded in Genesis 23 (read the text in the Urdu language), predating the life of Muhammad by 27 centuries.
Hebron was named for Abraham's ancestor, Eber, the father of the Hebrew language and of the several tribes of Hebrews living in Ur of the Chaldees.
About a thousand years later, the land of the Tribes of Israel had recognized boundaries under the reign of King David. During this time, the military boundaries extended from the Nile to the Euphrates Rivers.
The land of Israel has been ruled by Ancient Egyptians, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Sunni Arab Caliphates, the Shia Fatimid Caliphate, Crusaders, Ayyubids, Mameluks, Mongols, Ottomans and the British.
The Balfour Declaration
"His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object ..."
– from The Balfour Declaration, November 2, 1917
Fast forward a few thousand years from the Biblical Kingdom of Israel to the aftermath of World War I. The lands of the Ottoman Empire were in the hands of the Allied Powers. United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour issued a declaration on November 2, 1917, which called for the establishment of a Jewish Homeland in their ancestral land, a place where 85,000 Jews were already living at that time and where more were arriving every day from Russia and Europe.
The territory was called Palestine, because that was the ancient Greek word for the area, named after the ancient Philistines who were not Arabs but of Greek origin from the Isle of Cyprus. There was never a tribe of people known as Palestinians and there was never a nation or state of Palestine.
The San Remo Conference
At the end of World War I, the Allied Powers – Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan (and the U.S. as a neutral observer) – met to distribute the land of the Ottoman Empire. They held a conference in San Remo, Italy.
There it was determined that Britain be given a mandate to establish a Jewish Homeland in the ancestral Jewish territory and the Balfour Declaration was confirmed by all parties as part of the British Mandate.
In the breakup of the Ottoman Empire in 1917, as the Allies carved up the territory, the land in the map below was put under the governorship of the British Mandate and represented about one-half-of-one-percent of the lands of the Middle East to be portioned.
These new nations were created by the victors of World War I, who carved up the Ottoman Empire into new political boundaries. These Mandates were given to the French and the British by the Allied Powers:
Israel (Jewish Homeland)
The British assumed the Ottoman role, with appointed governors, in:
After World War II, the British created these new nations from the former East India Company (part of the British Crown since 1858):
Under its Mandate for Palestine, the British divided the region into a Jewish Homeland called Palestine and a region for Arabs called Transjordan (meaning 'across the Jordan River').
Transjordan was designated for Arab residents and it was given 74 percent of the British Mandate. Although no Jews lived in Transjordan, Arabs residing in the Jewish Homeland of Palestine were allowed to remain, pending their transfer when given autonomous rule in Transjordan. The land designated for the Jewish Homeland represented one-tenth-of-one-percent of the Mandate lands of the Middle East.
This division of the land was approved by the 56 member nations of the League of Nations in 1922 – the forerunner of the United Nations – and ratified in 1923.
This is quite similar to the way India and Pakistan were created by the British Parliament with the division of the former British East India Company (assumed by British Crown rule in 1858) after World War II in 1947. Before that, there was no country called Pakistan and no tribe called Pakistani people. The separation of Pakistan from India was an attempt to provide a separate region for a population which was predominantly Muslim. However, Muslims still lived in India and people of other religions, including Hindus, lived in the new Pakistan.
According to the British representative in the area, Transjordan was:
"... intended to serve as a reserve of land for use in the resettlement of Arabs once the National Home for the Jews in Palestine, which [Britain was] pledged to support, became an accomplished fact. There was no intention at that stage of forming the territory east of the River Jordan into an independent Arab state."
Sir Alec Kirkbride, British Mandate Governor of Transjordan (1920 – 1946) and of the Jewish Homeland (1922 - 27 and in 1937- 39)
In order to permanently establish the entities of Transjordan and the Jewish Homeland, a 1936 British Royal Commission of Inquiry (known as the Palestine Royal Commission or the Peel Commission) proposed transferring all of the Arabs of Palestine to Transjordan, as was the original British intent.
Arab riots broke out. All the while, more and more Jews were entering the Jewish Homeland as they fled the growing Nazi movement in Eastern Europe and Hitler's election as Führer of Germany in 1934. In 1935, Hitler cancelled the citizenship of 500,000 German Jews.
The Jewish population in the Mandate land now numbered 450,000. During the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in the Jewish Homeland of Palestine against the British, the Arabs were brutally suppressed by the British army. The uprising left 8,864 Arabs dead and 14,760 wounded. According to Arab historian Walid Khalidi:
"Over ten percent of the adult male Palestinian Arab population between 20 and 60 was killed, wounded, imprisoned or exiled. Estimates of the number of Palestinian Jews killed range from 91 to several hundred."
The Arabs also attacked Jews and often vandalized their farms and businesses. Arab volunteers from neighboring Syria, Mandate Transjordan and Iraq flooded the Mandate Jewish Homeland and assisted in attacking the British forces. More and more foreign Arabs entered the Jewish Homeland and became de facto immigrants.
The Arabs demanded a further partitioning of the Mandate Jewish Homeland and objected to the proposed population exchange. Additionally, the Arabs demanded that Jewish immigration be halted. After three years of rioting, the British formulated a new policy for the mandate which was known as The White Paper of 1939.
The White Paper of 1939
The British policy paper severely limited Jewish immigration to the Mandate lands, just when Eastern European Jews needed a new homeland the most. At this point, most Jewish immigration became clandestine under a newly developed Jewish underground movement in the Jewish Homeland.
The White Paper forbade the sale of Arab owned properties to Jews, a practice that had been ongoing since the 1880s. To appease the rioting Arabs, the British formulated a new policy against transferring Arabs from the Jewish Homeland to Transjordan.
The paper evaluated the possibility of further dividing the Jewish Homeland with a region exclusively for Arabs, but concluded that a small Arab conclave could not be self-supporting as most Arabs in the Jewish Homeland were employed by Jewish businesses and had little independent economy. Therefore, the paper concluded that the land west of the Jordan River should not be further divided.
The League of Nations unanimously voted against approving the White Paper, but offered no plan of its own for the final independence of the Jewish Homeland and Transjordan. With the outbrake of World War II in 1939, discussions were halted.
With no approved decision on transferring Arabs from the Jewish Homeland, Britain made the surprise move to grant Transjordan, with a total population of 400,000, complete independence. On April 18, 1946, the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan was recognized by the League of Nations and the British Mandate for Transjordan ended on May 25, 1946.
The British further limited Jewish immigration to the Mandate Jewish Homeland and established yearly maximum quotas. On the Island of Cyprus, the British imprisoned 50,000 Jews in internment camps for attempting to illegally immigrate to the Jewish Homeland. Pressure was mounting against the British from U.S. President Harry S. Truman to allow more Jews to immigrate.
A major news story of 1947 involved the Exodus 1947, a ship transporting 4,515 Holocaust survivors from France to the Mandate Jewish Homeland. As the ship neared Haifa port in the Mandate, the British Royal Navy intercepted it. The British sent the Jews to Germany where the passengers were forcibly removed to displaced persons camps.
Out of frustration in reaching a consensus on increasing quotas of Jewish immigration and about the Arabs living in the Mandate Jewish Homeland, the British referred the matter to the United Nations in November, 1947. The U.N. drafted its own plan, Resolution 181(II), recommending a further division of the Palestine Jewish Homeland into separate areas for Arabs and Jews, with each receiving approximately 50 percent of the Mandate; the area in and around Jerusalem was recommended to be governed by an international regime. The resolution, however, allowed Jews to live in Arab areas and Arabs to live in Jewish areas, with each side responsible for the protection of minority rights in their respective areas.
While the plan was being considered by the Jewish residents, the Arabs rejected it completely and refused further discussions to negotiate. In November, 1947, Arabs began attacking Jewish buses. Violence escalated and Jews organized defense militias and mandatory subscription for military training for all Jewish men and women. Over the next four months, it is estimated that 2,000 – 4,000 Jews and Arabs died from violence under the watchful eyes of British soldiers. Amid continuing violence, more than 100,000 middle class Arabs sold their properties and permanently left the country.
Claiming to represent all Arabs in the Mandate Jewish Homeland, the Arab Higher Committee (a group banned by the British) announced to the Secretary General of the U.N. on February 6, 1948, that it would not accept any partition plan nor would it accept a Jewish state.
"The Palestinian Arabs consider any attempt by Jewish people or by whatever power or group of power to establish a Jewish state in an Arab territory to be an act of aggression that will be resisted by force ...
"The prestige of the United Nations would be better served by abandoning this plan and by not imposing such an injustice ... The Palestinian Arabs make a grave declaration before the U.N., before God and before history that they will never submit to any power that comes to Palestine to impose a partition. The only way to establish a partition is to get rid of them [Jews] all: men, women, and children."
– Haj Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti (Sunni Muslim cleric) of Jerusalem
This was the state of affairs when the British announced they were leaving the country and that the British Mandate would end on May 14, 1948. No provisions were made for governorship or leadership after the British withdrawal. Further, the British did nothing to assure that the outnumbered Jewish population would survive their withdrawal and a wholesale slaughter of Jews seemed inevitable. The Jews were left to their own devises.
In contrast, the Arabs in the area were surrounded by well-equipped Arab armies preparing to assist them on the announced date of the British withdrawal. It is a well-known fact that the British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin and a number of British military officers predicted an Arab military victory.
The British washed their hands of the fate of the Jews they were entrusted to protect under the British Mandate.
Israel Independence and 1948 Arab-Israel War
The borders of Egypt were established at the end of the Ottoman rule in 1922 and the borders of the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan were finalized in 1946. Both were independent nations with internationally recognized and accepted borders.
As the last British troops sailed away from the Jewish Homeland of the British Mandate, the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, by Head of the Jewish Agency David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister.
The State of Israel was immediately recognized by Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Nicaragua, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Soviet Union, United States, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia.
Upon declaring statehood, Israel was attacked on all fronts by well-equipped armies from Lebanon, Transjordan, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and troops and/or pilots from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Morocco and Pakistan. It was also attacked from within by the tens of thousands of Arabs living in Israel.
Israel had only three underground militias and 18,900 mobilized and armed men and women.
Israel had no tanks, military aircraft, heavy machine guns, artillery, armored vehicles, anti-tank or anti-aircraft weapons. It had no assistance from the U.S. and the entire region was under a U.S. arms embargo and had been for some time.
Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League predicted:
"It will be a war of annihilation. It will be a momentous massacre in history that will be talked about like the massacres of the Mongols or the Crusades."
Pasha vocalized the Arab intent of the war: the total annihilation of the Jewish population. To the Arabs in the Levant, it was never a question of where Jews would live and where Arabs would live. The attack by Arab nations was their decision that Jews should not be allowed to live at all, and this has been the underlying cause of the Israel/Palestine conflict to this day and the reason today's Arab Palestinians refuse to negotiate.
Pasha's prophecies were proved wrong.
Israel won its War of Independence. Egypt and Jordan, however, occupied parts of the Jewish Homeland when a ceasefire was called. A new map was drawn under the Armistice lines of January, 1949. The areas controlled by Egypt and Jordan were not final border lines, but temporarily held under cessation of hostility agreements and were government by military rule.
Compare this to the Partition of India. In the Partition of India, the estimates are that 200,000 to 500,000 were killed in military conflicts between India and the new Pakistan, which has been described as 'retributive genocide.' The warfare created 10 million refugees who fled their homes for one side of the partition or the other. No compensation was ever paid to them for what they left behind. Today, there are still Hindus living in Pakistan and Muslims living in India.
Under the Armistice map, no provision was made for Arabs living within Israel or for Arabs living in areas then occupied by Egypt and Transjordan, and none of the parties even considered the creation of a separate conclave for them. There was only Israel, Jordan and Egypt.
When the war ended, one-half of Jerusalem was held by Israel and one-half was occupied by Transjordan.
All Jews were expelled from the part of the Mandate Jewish Homeland now occupied by Transjordan and from the Gaza Strip now occupied by Egypt.
Population of Israel in 1949
Population of Jordan in 1949
(includes Jordan's occupied territories in the Jewish Homeland)
Under Transjordan's occupation of half of Jerusalem, a barbed wire fence divided the city and Jews were no longer allowed access to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism since the patriarch Abraham first entered the land 4,000 years ago. All Jews were expelled from East Jerusalem and their properties were confiscated, 34 synagogues were destroyed and Jewish cemeteries were desecrated.
On April 24, 1950, Transjordan formally annexed the territories it occupied in the Jewish Homeland, though this was only recognized by Britain (except for Jerusalem), Iraq and Pakistan. Arabs in this territory were given the option of Jordanian citizenship, which most of them accepted.
Egypt did not annex the Gaza Strip and continued to occupy under military rule.
Arabs living within Israel were immediately given full citizenship, voting rights, freedom of the press, freedom of movement and assembly, and freedom of worship. Two Arabs served in the First Knesset (Parliament) and Arabs have served in every Knesset since, winning 13 seats in the last elections on March 17, 2015.
At the encouragement of the attacking Arab armies, 700,000 Arabs fled to other countries during the war, primarily to Syria, Lebanon, and to land either in or occupied by Transjordan and Egypt. Most of these refugees are no longer alive, and their second, third and fourth generation descendants still live in the Arab nations where their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents fled.
Most refugees who fled to Jordan have been granted citizenship. All Christian refugees and about 60,000 of the Shiite Muslims who fled to Lebanon have also been given citizenship. Refugees without citizenship in their host countries provide a cheap source of labor, without having any rights or access to services.
“The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the UN, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders do not give a damn whether Arab refugees live or die.”
– former Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Jordan
The refugee host countries have no incentive to grant citizenship to these residents and continue to profit from maintaining their refugee status, generation after generation.
Since 1948, the other Arab countries also keep these descendants in perpetual refugee status because this generates funds from the United Nations for their maintenance. It also tugs at the heart of world sympathies for 'refugees', even though – after 67 years – few of those original refugees exist. This is the only group in the world which has ever been given a hereditary refugee status.
"600,000 Jews in Israel absorbed almost one million Jewish refugees forced to leave their homes in Arab countries when Israel statehood was proclaimed in 1948. While 200 million Arabs who had incited the Arabs of Palestine to reject 181 [U.N. Resolution] and go to war, and who have all the oil fields of the Middle East, instead to absorb a less number of Arab brothers and sisters who fled Palestine, put them in miserable camps, without granting them citizenship, treating them like leprous dogs, and using them as cannon fodder against Israel."
– Azmi Bishara, PhD, is an Arab who was born in Nazareth, Israel, in 1956. He founded and led the Arab Student Union at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1976, is a former member of the Israel Knesset (Parliament), a former professor at the Arab Bir Zeit University near Ramallah, and now heads the Doha Institute in Qatar.
And, many of the 1948 refugees were not originally born in Mandate Palestine, but had arrived from other countries in search of temporary employment by Jews. To receive funds under UNRWA (the U.N. agency which provides assistance solely to Palestinian refugees), one must only show that he lived for a minimum of only two years in the land.
Compensation for Palestinian refugees from all UN agencies has amounted to billions of dollars over the years. Money has been paid to four generations of the original 700,000 refugees and now covers five million Palestinians every year – 40 percent of the funding is paid by the U.S. government, which has encouraged the 'perpetual refugee' status.
Refugee assistance and funding is also paid for adopted children throughout these generations, no matter who their parents were. (Former PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat 'adopted' 60 'orphans', but they never lived in his household and were not included in his will when he died.)
After 1948, 851,000 Jews were forced to flee from these Arab nations where they had lived for thousands of years (well before the era of Islam) because of anti-Jewish hatred and violence after Israel's victory in the 1948 War of Independence:
Aden, Algeria, Afghanistan, Bahrain, East Bengal (modern Bangladesh), Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and Yemen
Additionally, 33,000 Jews immigrated to Israel from India.
In Pakistan, all that is left today of the vibrant Jewish community which once lived there is the Jewish cemetery which is part of the Mewa Shah graveyard in the Lyari River neighborhood of old Karachi.
The total value of property these Jewish refugees left behind is valued at more than $300 billion today. The land they owned comprised of more than 38,610 square miles (100,000 sq km), which is four times the size of modern Israel.
Most of these Jews immigrated to Israel because no other country would allow them entrance, which reaffirmed the need for a Jewish Homeland.
Riots broke out, property was burned and many Jews were killed in the predominantly Muslim countries. In Pakistan, an angry mob stormed Karachi's Magane Shalom synagogue, burning the Torah scrolls (Hebrew Bible) and destroying the building. Most of the refugee Jews lost their homes, synagogues, businesses, financial assets, and they left with little more than the clothing on their backs.
These Jewish refugees have never received compensation from the Arab countries which evicted them. Unlike Palestinians, they have never received funding from U.N. refugee agencies.
At the same time, tens of thousands of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust were arriving on the shores of Israel.
Israel's Jewish population more than doubled between 1948 – 1951. The newly arriving refugees were housed in tents and aid for their absorption was collected from Jewish communities throughout the world. It was a massive undertaking by the new country to provide shelter, food, clothing, medical care, Hebrew language lessons, schools for children and employment.
By 1951, a quarter of a million Jewish immigrants were living in tents in Israel and 80 percent of these were refugees from Islamic countries.
More than 2,000,000 Jewish immigrants would arrive in Israel over the next 20 years. Although the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNRWA) was established in 1950, no assistance for the care of Jewish refugees was ever provided by the United Nations.