Overview of Palestinians

Overview of Palestinians Last updated on Thursday 22nd April 2010

Overview Palestinians

Palestine is the ancient name of a Middle Eastern country situated on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Its size has varied greatly throughout its history and its exact borders are even now in dispute.

Its location at the junction of trade routes linking three continents has meant that it was a melting pot for religious and cultural influences. It has also, unfortunately, been a natural battleground for the region's powerful states and thus subject to domination by them, the first of these being Egypt in the third millennium BC.

When Egyptian power began to wane in the 14th century BC, the country was again invaded: this time by Hebrews, who were a Semitic tribe from Mesopotamia, and by Philistines (from whom the country took its name), an Indo-European people.

The West Bank

The West Bank is a Palestinian occupied territories occupied by Israel; it is located west of the Jordan River. Its area is about 5900 sq. km (2278 sq. mi.) and it holds many sites of religious importance to Muslims, Christians and Jews. The largest cities of the West Bank are Hebron (Al-Khaleel) and Nablus.

The West Bank was a part of the British Mandate for Palestine from 1920-1948. It was formally annexed by Jordan in 1950 -- an act that was not recognized by the Arab League, the United Nations or the United States.

Israel occupied the West Bank in June 1967.

The Gaza Strip

The Gaza Strip is a narrow area of desert land along the western Mediterranean Sea. It is about 42km (26 miles) long and 6.5 to 8km (4 to 5 miles) wide. It too, like the West Bank, was a part of the British Mandate from 1917 to 1948. Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip from 1948 until the 1967 Arab-Israeli War (except for a brief period of Israeli occupation in 1956-57) until it was occupied by Israel in the Arab-Israeli war in June 1967.

The Gaza Strip is densely populated -- an estimate in 1993 gave the figure as 800,000 -- with more than 99% of its population being stateless Palestinian Arabs. The majority are refugees from Israel who have lived under extremely difficult conditions in refugee camps since 1948.

The flimsy economy is based upon agriculture, livestock, fishing and some small industry. Poverty and unemployment are widespread and the success of the 1993 peace accord between the Palestinians and Israel depends in no small way upon whether economic progress for the people of the Gaza Strip is an outgrowth of the accord.

The intifada

The intifada is a revolt by Palestinian Arabs against Israeli military occupation of lands taken in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It began in late 1987 in the Gaza Strip and soon spread to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It involved throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, strikes and business boycotts. Neither the Israeli government nor the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was prepared for the movement.

The cause of the intifada is undoubtedly the frustration growing out of the many diplomatic failures to address the grievances of the Palestinian Arabs. Israeli response to the movement drew worldwide criticism for its harshness, and the intifada in fact compelled the Israeli government to re-evaluate Palestinian nationalism as well as the depth of Palestinian discontent, anger, and utter frustration.

In September 1993, the PLO and Israel signed an agreement on Palestinian autonomy in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho. The last Israeli troops withdrew on 18 May 1994.

al-Aqsa Intifada

al- Aqsa Intifada erupted in September 2000 and is still going on. The new Intifada succeeded in altering agendas both in Israel and the region at large. Inside Israel, al-Aqsa Intifada has already drawn Arab citizens into the struggle for the first time, while pushing the Israeli Labour Party rightward. In the Arab world, the on-going Palestinian Intifada wins the support and solidarity of millions. Worldwide, it forces leaders of the major world powers, such as the US president Geroge Bush and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, to talk about the necessity of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

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