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Middle East Information Centre
Source:Encarta 2000

   I-The Middle East

Middle East Map / Middle East,the term / ANCIENT PERIOD / The Earliest Civilizations  / Hellenistic and Roman Times  / ISLAMIC PERIOD / Turkish and Iranian Hegemony / European Domination  /
The 20th Century
Palestine, the name / land  in History  /  The Israelite Kingdom  /  Persian Rule/ The Arab Caliphate  /
The British Mandate /The Post-World War II Period   / Middle East Peace Accord, 1993 (Illustration)

" I INTRODUCTION   Middle East, region loosely defined by geography and culture, located in south-western Asia and north-eastern Africa. In most current usage, the term Middle East refers collectively to Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, and the states and emirates along the southern and eastern fringes of the Arabian Peninsula, namely, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. When used to designate a so-called culture area, the unity of which is based on Islamic law and custom, the term Middle East usually embraces a much more extensive region, stretching from the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east through all of North Africa, including Sudan and the Maghreb, comprising Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. The term Middle East as it is now applied was first used by the British military command during World War II. The term Near East, which was formerly used to describe the region, is now sometimes applied to the central core area encompassing the Mediterranean region of the Middle East."1

"II ANCIENT PERIOD   Since ancient times invaders and traders have crossed the area known as the Middle East in search of food, raw materials, manufactured goods, or political power. Ideas, inventions, and institutions have spread from this area to affect people in all other parts of the world, earning it the name "Cradle of Civilization". The earliest farms, cities, governments, law codes, and alphabets were Middle Eastern. Four of the world's major religions—Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam—began here. "2

"A The Earliest Civilizations   States and governments arose as ancient peoples learnt how to tame the great rivers of the Middle East—the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, and Indus—to support agriculture, and elaborated into religions their beliefs about the universe, human relationships, and the meaning of life and death. The first such Middle Eastern states were ancient Egypt and Sumer, which began around or before 3000 BC. Both had powerful kings, priests, scribes, and large work forces to protect the land from floods or invasions. But invaders came anyway. Sumer was captured, first by the Semitic Akkadians and Amorites from the south, and later by various Indo-European peoples from the north, leading to the formation of the Babylonian Empire in the Tigris-Euphrates region, or Mesopotamia. Egypt was occupied by a Semitic group called the Hyksos, but the Egyptians drove them out and built a powerful empire. About 1000 BC new waves of invaders unsettled the region, giving rise to new kingdoms, in Phoenicia, Israel, and other areas of the Middle East. The Phoenicians were seafaring traders who developed one of the first alphabets. The Hebrews were the first people known to believe in one all-powerful God revealed by sacred writings. The Assyrians, a warlike people who pioneered the use of iron tools and weapons, conquered a large area from their stronghold in Mesopotamia. In the 6th century BC the Persians overran the whole Middle East and set up a system of government which became the model for all later empires. Sprawling from the Indus to the Nile, Persia could not make its subjects all think and act alike. It therefore let them keep their beliefs and practices, as long as they obeyed Persian laws, paid their taxes to the Persian state, and sent their sons to serve in Persia's armies. Although tied together by roads, a postal service, and a common governmental language, the empire's peoples still controlled most of their own affairs. The state religion was Zoroastrianism, but other faiths were tolerated. In the 4th century BC Persia, weakened by revolts and internal conflicts, was conquered by Alexander the Great of Macedonia. "3

"B Hellenistic and Roman Times   Alexander's conquest started a millennium in which the Middle East was part of the Hellenistic (culturally Greek) world. Greek culture was mixed with local ways, as Alexander borrowed ideas and customs, as well as clerks and soldiers, from the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and Persians. Egypt's port, Alexandria, became a centre of trade and culture, a lasting monument to the conqueror who founded it and after whom it was named. As Macedonian power waned, the Romans conquered most of the Middle East, but Persia remained independent under two ruling dynasties: the Parthians (248 BC-AD 226) and the Sassanids (AD 226-641). Roman rule brought uniform laws, good roads, and trade to Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor. Several Middle Eastern religions—Judaism, then Christianity, and the cult of Mithraism—competed for adherents throughout the Roman Empire. Christianity prevailed in the early 4th century AD. Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman emperor, stressed the empire's Eastern ties by moving his capital to Byzantium, a port on the Bosporus. Renamed Constantinople, it became a great city and was the capital of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire for more than a thousand years. "4

"III ISLAMIC PERIOD   Early in the 7th century, Prophet Muhammad, ( led peoples of the Arabian Peninsula. He founded a community of believers who called themselves Muslims ("those who surrender" to God's will) and their faith Islam ("surrender"). By the time of the Prophet's death (632), his doctrines, based on Judaeo-Christian and Arabian traditions, had been widely accepted among the Arab tribes. A Arab Dominion   Muhammad's successors, called caliphs, led the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula in a series of thrusts into Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Egypt, expanding greatly the realm of Islam. These Arab conquests were aided by the anger of many Middle Eastern Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians at the persecution they had suffered under the Byzantine Empire (which lost much of its territory) or Sassanid Persia (which was totally absorbed by the Arabs). The early caliphs tolerated non-Muslims, as long as they paid taxes and did not rebel. Few of the conquered peoples converted to Islam at once, but centuries of intermarriage and conversion eventually made the area predominantly Muslim. The Caliphate was controlled by two successive dynasties: the Umayyads (661-750), who governed from Damascus, and the Abbasids (750-1258), who usually ruled in Baghdâd. With help from the peninsular Arab peoples, the Umayyads conquered North Africa, Spain, and Central Asia. The Abbasids promoted commerce and culture, giving non-Arab converts equal status with Arab Muslims, but they lost control of the outlying areas. New dynasties arose. By 945 the Abbasids no longer controlled even their own capital. Iranians and Turks took over, as the Arab tribes returned to the desert. Despite political division, however, manufacturing and trade flourished, along with scholarship, the sciences, and the arts. "5

"B Turkish and Iranian Hegemony  Beginning in the 10th century, the Middle East was invaded by Turks from Central Asia. They adopted the faith, laws, and culture of local Muslims and soon governed most of their lands. One dynasty, the Ghaznavids (962-1186), spread Islam throughout India. Another, the Seljuks (1040-1302), took Asia Minor from the Byzantines in 1071. The Turkish invasion helped spark the Crusades, bringing European forces to the eastern shore of the Mediterranean and to Jerusalem to fight and pillage in the name of Christianity. More harmful to Islam was the 13th-century Mongol invasion, which destroyed much of Iraq and Iran. A group of slave-soldiers, the Mamelukes of Egypt, stopped the Mongol advance in 1260. Although the Mamelukes and various Mongol groups formed powerful states in the following centuries, the greatest and longest lasting was the Ottoman Empire. Starting in the western hills of Asia Minor, Turkish tribes led by Osman and his sons raided and seized Byzantine lands, first in Asia, then in south-eastern Europe. In 1453 they took Constantinople. Renamed Ýstanbul, it became the capital for the descendants of Osman, or Ottomans. Their conquests continued until their empire stretched from Hungary in the north to Yemen in the south, and from Algeria in the west to the Iranian border in the east. They tried to conquer Iran as well, but were repelled by that country's Safavid dynasty (1502-1736). "6

"C European Domination   After the 16th century, the great Muslim empires declined. The Ottomans lost European lands to Austria and Russia; the Safavids lost their entire country. Iran's revival in the 18th century under Nadir Shah was followed by years of decay. The Ottoman Empire lasted longer because Russia and the other European powers could not agree on how to divide it. Some 19th-century Ottoman rulers tried to Westernize their army and administration, and the influx of European experts, entrepreneurs, and technology changed many aspects of Ottoman society. Many Muslims, suspicious of the West, resisted the changes. Other Muslims were influenced by the nationalistic and democratic beliefs of the Europeans. The Ottoman province in which Westernization went furthest was Egypt. Muhammad Ali, who ruled the country as viceroy from 1805 to 1849, revolutionized Egypt's economy, introducing such crops as sugar and cotton, installing mills and factories, building roads and canals, and importing Western technicians and teachers. His successors, however, were unable to maintain their independence, and after 1882 Egypt fell under British control. Iran lagged behind in Westernization. Russia took some of its northern lands, and other Western countries tried to take control of its finances and natural resources. The struggle by Britain and Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to control Iran resulted in the country being divided into spheres of influence. Iranian nationalists, angered at foreign intervention and at the corruption of Iran's weak rulers, in 1906 forced the reigning Shah to establish a national assembly which drew up a liberal constitution. The discovery of oil in south-western Iran at the turn of the century was hardly noticed, although the British would draw on it heavily in two world wars. In fact, this resource, found in increasing quantities throughout the Middle East during the following decades, would gradually assume overriding importance—not only to the countries of the region but even more to the industrialized nations of the West."7

"D The 20th Century   At the start of the 20th century it looked as if the entire Middle East would fall under European control. When the Turks sided with Germany in World War I, Britain helped the Arabs revolt against Turkish rule. After Germany and Turkey were defeated in 1918, the Arabs hoped to form states in Syria, Iraq, and western Arabia. The British, however, had already agreed to give Syria to France and to support a Jewish national home in Palestine. The League of Nations assigned Syria to France and mandated both Palestine and Iraq to Britain. Egypt, under a British protectorate since 1914, demanded independence. This was granted in 1922, but Britain still controlled many aspects of Egypt's government. The tide began to turn when the Turkish-speaking remnant of the Ottoman Empire rose from the humiliation of defeat. The soldier and nationalist leader, Mustafa Kemal (later Atatürk; "Father of Turkey"), defended Turkey against a Greek invasion, compelled the Western powers to rewrite the Treaty of Sèvres which had been forced on the Ottoman Empire, and transformed Turkey into a secular republic. In Iran an army officer, Reza Shah Pahlavi, seized power in 1921 and, following his abdication in 1941, his son Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi tried to imitate Kemal's reforms. In the 1930s and 1940s most Arab countries became independent from Britain or France, riding on a regional Arab nationalism. In Palestine, however, rising Jewish immigration sparked protest riots by the Arab majority, who feared that the Jews would soon take control (see Zionism). British attempts to curb immigration angered Palestinian Jews, who rebelled against the government during and after World War II. The United Nations voted in 1947 to divide Palestine between the Jews and the Arabs, but all Arab states rejected the plan. In 1948, when British troops withdrew from Palestine, the Jews declared the independent state of Israel. The Arab states attacked Israel, unsuccessfully, and most of Palestine's Arab inhabitants fled to Jordan and other neighbouring states. Numerous wars and more than four decades later, the Palestinian problem was still unsolved. Arab-Israeli relations remained hostile, although Egypt and Israel signed a separate peace accord in 1979. The breakup of the old Soviet Union in 1991 led to a decline in Russian sponsorship of Arab governments and the emergence of new Muslim-dominated states on the northern fringes of the Middle East, opening new economic and cultural opportunities in Central Asia for Middle Eastern countries. "8

" Conflicts during the 1980s and early 1990s included Israeli and Syrian interventions in Lebanon, already racked by factional fighting; the brutal Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988; and the Gulf War, in which a multinational coalition liberated Kuwait, which had been occupied by Iraq in 1990. The Gulf War triggered an insurrection by the Kurdish minority in northern Iraq, which eventually resulted in a Kurdish safe haven being established there with Western assistance. Turkey made occasional forays into this region in the course of its continuing conflict with rebels in its own Kurdish minority population. Underlying trends during this period were the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism, most notably in Iran but also in Egypt, Turkey, and, in the wider Middle East, Sudan and Algeria. The industrialized nations continued to be largely dependent on Middle Eastern oil, giving the region a pivotal role in the world's economy that was frequently undermined by disagreements among the oil-producing states on pricing policy and production levels (see Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries). For more than four decades after 1945 the United States and the Soviet Union vied for influence in the region, with the United States generally supporting Israel and the Soviet Union backing certain Arab states. In October 1991, however, the two superpowers joined in sponsoring the first comprehensive Middle East peace conference. In September 1993, the violent Arab-Israeli conflict took a surprising turn when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasir Arafat agreed to the signing of an historic peace accord. The longtime enemies travelled to the United States for the signing of the treaty, which paved the way for limited Palestinian self-rule in Israeli-occupied territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In May 1994 Israeli soldiers completed their withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho; two months later Arafat arrived in the Gaza Strip for his first visit to self-rule areas. In July 1994 Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan signed a peace agreement laying the groundwork for a formal peace treaty. The agreement also called for economic cooperation between the two countries. Peace talks with Syria, which had been broken off after the February 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians in the Hebron mosque by an Israeli extremist, resumed in 1995. In November 1995 the assassination of President Rabin by a right-wing Israeli fanatic slowed the peace process. Nevertheless, in January 1996 free elections were held within the newly semi-autonomous Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to create a Palestinian National Council, and Yasir Arafat was elected President of Palestine. The election of the right-winger Binyamin Netanyahu as Israel's new President in April 1996 severely handicapped Arab-Israeli dialogue and stalled the peace process. Israeli relations with Arab states were severely strained in September 1996, when Israel's opening of a controversial access tunnel under the Old City in Jerusalem ignited widespread clashes between Palestinians and Israelis, and again in March 1997, when Israel began the construction of a new Jewish settlement at Har Homa in Jerusalem. Throughout the rest of 1997 and the first half of 1998 there was a lack of progress in reinvigorating the stalled Middle East peace talks. Despite separate visits to the United States by Netanyahu and Arafat for rounds of talks with Bill Clinton, the issue of Israeli troop redeployment in the West Bank remained a stumbling block. In October 1998 Netanyahu finally concluded a new peace agreement with the Palestinians, but suspended it soon after. In December he was forced to call a general election for May 1999. In February 1999 King Hussein of Jordan died and was succeeded by his son as King Abdullah II. Netanyahu lost the May 1999 Israeli general election to Ehud Barak and the Labour Party. "9


"I INTRODUCTION Palestine, historic region, the extent of which has varied greatly since ancient times, situated on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in the Middle East, and now largely divided between Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories. II THE LAND   The region has an extremely diverse terrain that falls generally into four parallel zones. From west to east they are the coastal plain; the hills and mountains of Galilee, Samaria, and Judaea; the valley of the River Jordan; and the eastern plateau. In the extreme south lies the Negev, a rugged desert area. Elevations range from 395 m (1,296 ft) below sea level on the shores of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the surface of the Earth, to 1,020 m (3,347 ft) atop Mount Hebron. The region has several fertile areas, which constitute its principal natural resource. Most notable of these are the Plain of Sharon, along the northern part of the Mediterranean coast, and the Plain of Esdraelon (or Jezreel), a valley north of the hills of Samaria. The water supply of the region, however, is not abundant, with virtually all of the modest annual rainfall coming in the winter months. The River Jordan, the region's only major stream, flows south through Lake Tiberias (the region's only large freshwater lake) to the intensely saline Dead Sea."10

"III HISTORY   The Canaanites were the earliest known inhabitants of Palestine. During the 3rd millennium BC they became urbanized and lived in city-states, one of which was Jericho. They developed an alphabet from which other writing systems were derived; their religion was a major influence on the beliefs and practices of Judaism, and thus on Christianity and Islam. Palestine's location—at the centre of routes linking three continents—made it the meeting place for religious and cultural influences from Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor. It was also the natural battleground for the great powers of the region and subject to domination by adjacent empires, beginning with Egypt in the 3rd millennium BC. Egyptian hegemony and Canaanite autonomy were constantly challenged during the 2nd millennium BC by such ethnically diverse invaders as the Amorites, Hittites, and Hurrians. These invaders, however, were defeated by the Egyptians and absorbed by the Canaanites, who at that time may have numbered about 200,000. As Egyptian power began to weaken after the 14th century BC, new invaders appeared: the Hebrews, a group of Semitic tribes from Mesopotamia, and the Philistines (after whom the country was later named), an Aegean people of Indo-European stock. "11

"A The Israelite Kingdom   Hebrew tribes probably migrated to the area centuries before Moses led his people out of serfdom in Egypt (c. 1270 BC), and Joshua conquered parts of Palestine (c. 1230 BC). The conquerors settled in the hill country, but they were unable to conquer all of Palestine. The Israelites, a confederation of Hebrew tribes, finally defeated the Canaanites about 1125 BC but found the struggle with the Philistines more difficult. The Philistines had established an independent state on the southern coast of Palestine and controlled a number of towns to the north and east. Superior in military organization and using iron weapons, they severely defeated the Israelites about 1050 BC. The Philistine threat forced the Jews to unite and establish a monarchy. David, Israel's great king, finally defeated the Philistines shortly after 1000 BC, and they eventually assimilated with the Canaanites. The unity of Israel and the feebleness of adjacent empires enabled David to establish a large independent state, with its capital at Jerusalem. Under David's son and successor, Solomon, Israel enjoyed peace and prosperity, but at his death in 922 BC the kingdom was divided into Israel in the north and Judah in the south. When nearby empires resumed their expansion, the divided Israelites could no longer maintain their independence. Israel fell to Assyria in 722 and 721 BC, and Judah was conquered in 586 BC by Babylonia, which destroyed Jerusalem and exiled most of the Jews living there."12

"B Persian Rule   The exiled Jews were allowed to retain their national and religious identity; some of their best theological writings and many historical books of the Old Testament were written during their exile. At the same time they did not forget the land of Israel. When Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylonia in 539 BC he permitted them to return to Judaea, a district of Palestine. Under Persian rule the Jews were allowed considerable autonomy. They rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and codified the Mosaic law, the Torah, which became the code of social life and religious observance. The Jews believed they were bound to a universal God, Yahweh, by a covenant; indeed, their concept of one ethical God is perhaps Judaism's greatest contribution to world civilization. C Roman Province   Persian domination of Palestine was replaced by Greek rule when Alexander the Great of Macedonia took the region in 333 BC. Alexander's successors, the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria, continued to rule the country. The Seleucids tried to impose Hellenistic (Greek) culture and religion on the population. In the 2nd century BC, however, the Jews revolted under the Maccabees and set up an independent state (141-63 BC) until Pompey the Great conquered Palestine for Rome and made it a province ruled by Jewish kings. It was during the rule (37-4 BC) of King Herod the Great that Jesus was born. Two more Jewish revolts erupted and were suppressed—in AD 66 to 73 and 132 to 135. After the second one, numerous Jews were killed, many were sold into slavery, and the rest were not allowed to visit Jerusalem. Judaea was renamed Syria Palaistina. Palestine received special attention when the Roman emperor Constantine the Great legalized Christianity in AD 313. His mother, St Helena, visited Jerusalem, and Palestine, as the Holy Land, became a focus of Christian pilgrimage. A golden age of prosperity, security, and culture followed. Most of the population became Hellenized and Christianized. Byzantine (Roman) rule was interrupted, however, by a brief Persian occupation (614-629) and ended altogether when Muslim Arab armies invaded Palestine and captured Jerusalem in AD 638."13

"D The Arab Caliphate  The Arab conquest began 1,300 years of Muslim presence in what then became known as Filastin. Palestine was holy to Muslims because the prophet Muhammad had designated Jerusalem as the first kiblah (the direction Muslims face when praying) and because he was believed to have ascended on a night journey to heaven from the area of Solomon's temple, where the Dome of the Rock was later built. Jerusalem became the third holiest city of Islam. The Muslim rulers did not force their religion on the Palestinians, and more than a century passed before the majority converted to Islam. The remaining Christians and Jews were considered "People of the Book". They were allowed autonomous control in their communities and guaranteed security and freedom of worship. Such tolerance (with few exceptions) was rare in the history of religion. Most Palestinians also adopted Arabic and Islamic culture. Palestine benefited from the empire's trade and from its religious significance during the first Muslim caliphate dynasty, the Umayyads of Damascus. When power shifted to Baghdâd with the Abbasids in 750, Palestine became neglected. It suffered unrest and successive domination by Seljuks, Fatimids, and Europeans during the Crusades. It shared, however, in the glory of Muslim civilization, when the Muslim world enjoyed a golden age of science, art, philosophy, and literature. Muslims preserved Greek learning and broke new ground in several fields, all of which later contributed to the Renaissance in Europe. Like the rest of the empire, however, Palestine under the Mamelukes gradually stagnated and declined. E Ottoman Rule  The Ottoman Empire of Asia Minor defeated the Mamelukes in 1517 and, with few interruptions, ruled Palestine until the winter of 1917 and 1918. The country was divided into several districts (sanjaks), such as that of Jerusalem. The administration of the districts was placed largely in the hands of Arabized Palestinians, who were descendants of the Canaanites and successive settlers. The Christian and Jewish communities, however, were allowed a large measure of autonomy. Palestine shared in the glory of the Ottoman Empire during the 16th century, but declined again when the empire began to decline in the 17th century. The decline of Palestine—in trade, agriculture, and population—continued until the 19th century. At that time the search by European powers for raw materials and markets, as well as their strategic interests, brought them to the Middle East, stimulating economic and social development. Between 1831 and 1840, Muhammad Ali, the modernizing viceroy of Egypt, expanded his rule to Palestine. His policies modified the feudal order, increased agriculture, and improved education. The Ottoman Empire reasserted its authority in 1840, instituting its own reforms. German settlers and Jewish immigrants in the 1880s brought modern machinery and badly needed capital. The rise of European nationalism in the 19th century, and especially the intensification of anti-Semitism during the 1880s, encouraged European Jews to seek haven in their "promised land", Palestine. Theodor Herzl, author of The Jewish State (1896; translated 1896), founded the World Zionist Organization in 1897 to solve Europe's "Jewish problem" through Zionism. As a result, Jewish immigration to Palestine greatly increased. In 1880, Arab Palestinians constituted about 95 per cent of the total population of 450,000. Nevertheless, Jewish immigration, land purchase, and claims were reacted to with alarm by some Palestinian leaders, who then became adamantly opposed to Zionism."14

"F The British Mandate   Aided by the Arabs, the British captured Palestine from the Ottoman Turks in 1917 and 1918. The Arabs revolted against the Turks because the British had promised them, in correspondence (1915-1916) with Husein ibn Ali of Mecca, the independence of their countries after the war. Britain, however, also made other, conflicting commitments. Thus, in the secret Sykes-Picot agreement with France and Russia (1916), it promised to divide and rule the region with its allies. In a third agreement, the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Britain promised the Jews, whose help it needed in the war effort, a Jewish "national home" in Palestine. This promise was subsequently incorporated in the mandate conferred on Britain by the League of Nations in 1922. During their mandate (1922-1948) the British found their contradictory promises to the Jewish and Palestinian communities difficult to reconcile. The Zionists envisaged large-scale Jewish immigration, and some spoke of a Jewish state constituting all of Palestine. The Palestinians, however, rejected Britain's right to promise their country to a third party and feared dispossession by the Zionists; anti-Zionist attacks occurred in Jerusalem (1920) and Jaffa (1921). A 1922 statement of British policy denied Zionist claims to all of Palestine and limited Jewish immigration, but reaffirmed support for a Jewish national home. The British proposed establishing a legislative council, but Palestinians rejected this council as discriminatory. After 1928, when Jewish immigration increased somewhat, British policy on the subject seesawed under conflicting Arab-Jewish pressures. Immigration rose sharply after the installation (1933) of the National Socialist regime in Germany; in 1935 nearly 62,000 Jews entered Palestine. Fear of Jewish domination was the principal cause of the Arab revolt that broke out in 1936 and continued intermittently until 1939. By that time Britain had again restricted Jewish immigration and purchases of land. "15

"G The Post-World War II Period   The struggle for Palestine, which abated during World War II, resumed in 1945. The horrors of the Holocaust produced world sympathy for European Jewry and for Zionism, and although Britain still refused to admit 100,000 Jewish survivors to Palestine, many survivors of the Nazi death camps found their way there illegally. Various plans for solving the Palestine problem were rejected by one party or the other. Britain finally declared the mandate unworkable and turned the problem over to the United Nations in April 1947. The Jews and the Palestinians prepared for a showdown. Although the Palestinians outnumbered the Jews (1,300,000 to 600,000), the latter were better prepared. They had a semi-autonomous government, led by David Ben-Gurion, and their military, the Haganah, was well trained and experienced. The Palestinians, on the other hand, had never recovered from the Arab revolt, and most of their leaders were in exile. The Mufti of Jerusalem, their principal spokesman, refused to accept Jewish statehood. When the UN proposed partition in November 1947, he rejected the plan while the Jews accepted it. In the military struggle that followed, the Palestinians were defeated. Terrorism was used on both sides. The state of Israel was established on May 14, 1948. Five Arab armies, coming to the aid of the Palestinians, immediately attacked it. Israeli forces defeated the Arab armies, and Israel enlarged its territory. Jordan took the West Bank of the River Jordan, and Egypt took the Gaza Strip. The war produced 780,000 Palestinian refugees. About half probably left out of fear and panic, while the rest were forced out to make room for Jewish immigrants from Europe and from the Arab world. The disinherited Palestinians spread throughout the neighbouring countries, where they have maintained their Palestinian national identity and the desire to return to their homeland. The Palastine Liberation Organization became their governing authority. In 1967, during the Six-Day War between Israel and neighbouring Arab countries, Israel captured the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as other areas. In 1993, after decades of violent conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, leaders from each side agreed to the signing of an historic peace accord. Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin met in the United States on September 13, 1993, to witness the signing of the agreement. The plan called for Palestinian self-rule in Israeli-occupied territories, beginning with the Gaza Strip and Jericho. Palestinian administration of these areas began in May 1994. "16

Middle East Peace Accord, 1993 (Illustration),

Works Cited

." Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia. 2000 Edition