MIDDLE EAST

Background to the Problems in the Middle East

Background to the Problems in the Middle East

Middle EastThe conflict in the Middle East is one of the most complicated international problems to understand that you will ever come across. Seriously, ask a grown-up to tell you about it. The chances are they won’t be able to explain it to you in too much depth. This is because the current conflict is one that goes way back down the centuries. Even to understand the conflict in the sixties and seventies, it’s necessary to go way back into the past. And we mean Roman Empire far back. Let’s try and keep this as simple as possible. Here are the most essential things you need to know:

* The Jewish people inhabited the area that we now know as Israel and the Palestinian Territories way back before BC turned into AD. According to the teachings of Judaism, it is the land promised to the Jews by God.

* But the Romans expelled the Jews from Palestine in the second century AD after they tried to revolt against Roman rule. The Jews were forced to go out into the world and try to settle in other areas. Very often they suffered persecution and were not welcomed.

* From around the nineteenth century, a movement started to develop amongst Jews to get their ancient homeland back. This became known as Zionism.

*The thing was (although this didn’t create problems until later on), by this point Palestinian Muslims had been living in Palestine for centuries. In their view it was their homeland.

* World War One helped create future further problems, when the British simultaneously promised the Palestinians their own independent country (they were part of the Ottoman Empire at this point) if they fought against the Ottomans, and also promised Jews in America they could have Palestine as their own State if they convinced the US Government to enter the War. In the end the British controlled Palestine in the years after the War.

* The years of British control saw lots of tensions and conflicts in Palestine, between Arabs and Jews. Both groups also organized revolts and terrorist attacks on the British as they tried to establish the region as their own State.

* After World War 2, thousands of holocaust survivors started arriving in Palestine. The Holocaust created much more international support for a Jewish homeland, especially from the USA.

* In November 1947 the United Nations proposed to partition Palestine so it was shared between Jews and Arabs, with the British withdrawing. But Arab groups didn’t accept this, and turned to fighting their Zionist enemies.

* In May 1948, the Jewish Agency for Israel declared an independent homeland for the Jews called Israel. The very next day the 1948 Arab-Israeli War broke out, with the Palestinian Arabs receiving backing from several neighbouring Arab countries such as Egypt. During the conflict many Arabs were removed from Israel. Meanwhile Jews in Arab countries suffered discrimination or expulsion. The Israelis had superior military forces and managed to gain more territory in the region than the 1947 UN agreement had given to them.