Israeli-Palestinian conflict

From TSL Encyclopedia

On June 6, 1982, Israel invaded southern Lebanon attacking PLO bases there. It was initially described as an attempt to establish an expanded security zone 40 km from the border to put northern Israel out of reach of PLO rockets, but Israeli forces quickly advanced to Beirut. Elizabeth Clare Prophet gave presentations on this situation on July 1 and July 18, giving the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict up to that time. These lectures are excerpted here.

The current conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians revolves around claims to the territory that each group calls its homeland—Palestine. Known to the ancient Hebrews as the “Land of Canaan,” Palestine derives its name from the Philistines, a people who occupied the southern coastal part of the country in the twelfth century B.C. In approximately 1250 B.C., under Joshua, the Israelites conquered and inhabited Canaan. It was the fulfillment of the promise of God to Abraham. A Hebrew kingdom—established in 1000 B.C.—was divided into the kingdoms of Israel (to the north) and Judah (to the south) after the reign of Solomon.

Israel and Judah were subsequently invaded by Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, and Byzantines. When Israel was annexed by Assyria in 722 B.C., the ten tribes from the Northern Kingdom were exiled and were subsequently dispersed never to be discovered again as Jews.

With the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., the Jews, or the descendants of Judah, one of the twelve tribes, were dispersed throughout the world. Thereafter, the Jews always wished to be restored to Palestine. The movement to reconstitute a Jewish national state in Palestine was later known as Zionism. But it was centuries before this goal was even remotely realizable.

In 634 to 40 A.D. the Arabs took Palestine from the Byzantine Empire. With the exception of a Frankish Crusader Kingdom from 1099 to 1187, Palestine remained under Moslem rule until the twentieth century. Then British forces, under General Sir Edmund Allenbey, defeated the Turks and captured Jerusalem on December 17, 1917.

The Balfour Declaration and Zionism

In 1897, after Theodore Hertzel issued a call for a Jewish state, Jews began to colonize the Palestinian territory. Hertzel, an Austrian journalist, gave Zionism its political character. By 1914, there were 90,000 Jews in Palestine, 13,000 of whom lived on agricultural settlements supported by Baron Edmund de Rothschild of France.

On November 2, 1917, the Zionist movement received official approval from the British government with the publication of a letter from Arthur Balfour, British Foreign Secretary, to Lord Lionel Rothschild—the cousin of Baron Rothschild and one of the leading figures in the British Zionist movement. Known as the Balfour Declaration, the letter promised British support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, with the understanding that the civil and religious rights of non Jewish Palestinians would be safeguarded.

Embroiled in World War I, the British hoped the Balfour Declaration would rally Jewish opinion in Britain’s behalf, especially in the United States. Britain hoped American Zionists would use their influence to guarantee continued American financial support during the war.

The Jewish settlement in Palestine was key to the defense of the southern flank of the Middle Eastern theater. The British reasoned that if Palestinian Jews were allied with Britain, American Jews—by ties of sentiment and interest—would rally to support the Allies. The net result would be to secure American help in protecting the approaches to the Suez Canal.

The British also believed that most of the leadership of the first Russian Revolution in 1917 was Jewish and sympathetic to Zionism. Thus, the British hoped the Balfour Declaration would also influence the Russians to stay in World War I and on Britain’s side.

You will notice that the fallen ones never act for right reason, right motive, and right cause. They always have their ulterior reasons for doing what they do.

British rule of Palestine

In 1921, the League of Nations granted Britain a mandate to rule Palestine that became effective in 1923. The British tried to create a partnership government by offering both the Jews and the Arabs a government agency. The Jews accepted and formed the “Jewish Agency,” but the Arabs refused the offer. From then until 1936, there was little Arab political action.

The economic shock of 1929 reversed a temporary trend in Jewish emigration from Palestine, largely to Europe and the United States. And the first large scale attacks upon the Jews by the Arabs began. A British commission investigated the conflict and found the attacks were caused by the disappointment of Palestinian Arabs in not gaining an independent Palestinian state, and Jewish expansion which created a “landless and discontented” Arab class in the country. The commission called for an immediate halt in Jewish immigration. The British government accepted the advice and issued the Passfield White Paper to implement it. But Zionist reaction forced its cancellation.

By 1933, growing Nazi persecution increased the flow of Jewish refugees into Palestine. The Arabs, largely ignorant of Nazi politics, held fast to the provisions of the Passfield White Paper. They reacted to the new refugees by lapsing into sullen noncooperation with the government and began boycotting British goods. The Jews, fearful of Nazism and chafing under British immigration restrictions, also protested and rioted. The British were caught in an impasse.

In 1936, the Arab High Committee was formed by the Arabs to unite the Palestinian Arabs against the Jews. Its formation was followed by attacks that led to three years of civil war between the Jews and the Arabs. A 1937 British proposal called for an Arab and a Jewish state separated by a mandated area incorporating Jerusalem and Nazareth. The Arabs opposed this, demanding a single state with minority rights for the Jews.

A 1939 British White Paper retracted the 1937 proposal. It recommended the formation of a single independent “Palestine State” which would be neither Arab nor Jewish, and which would limit further Jewish immigration to 75,000. Although the White Paper satisfied neither side, further discussion ended at the outbreak of World War II. At that time, the Jewish population of Palestine was nearly 500,000, or thirty percent of the total.

The World War II interlude

When the systematic slaughter of the Jews by the Nazis began in 1942, the flow of immigrants became a flood. Illegal and legal immigration during the war brought the Jewish population to 678,000 in 1946. The Arab population was 1,269,000 at that time. In 1921, the Jews formed a secret army called the Haganah (“defense”). By 1936, it changed its character from a purely defensive force to an aggressive one. As the Jewish population grew, the Zionists became more violent.

In general, the Jews and Arabs cooperated with the British during the war, although extremists from both camps carried on anti-British wars. During the war, two Jewish groups—the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the National Military Organization to which Menachem Begin belonged, and the Stern Group or Gang, named for Abraham Stern, their fanatical leader—were convinced that Britain had betrayed the Zionist cause. In order to remind the British of their commitment, the two groups resorted to terrorist attacks and political murders.

The formation of modern Israel

By the end of World War II, Zionists had won the support of the United States government. Britain, unable to resolve its problems in Palestine, was glad for U.S. involvement. Harry Truman urged that European Jewish refugees be admitted immediately into Palestine.

The British were not happy about the idea. But for want of anything better, they participated in yet another commission—the Anglo American Committee of Inquiry. The committee recommended the immediate admission of 100,000 Jewish refugees into Palestine and the eventual incorporation of both the Jewish and the Palestinian communities in a binational state under U.N. trusteeship.

The British rejected the refugee provision. Since they had already exhausted all of their political and diplomatic ploys, the British referred the problem to the U.N. in 1947. The U.N. suggested a partition of Palestine into two separate states: Israel and Palestine. But it urged that the consequences of a partition be mitigated by maintaining an economic union.

The U.N. decision was a major Zionist victory. It affirmed the right of a Jewish state in Palestine and gave it territory far out of proportion to the relative numbers of Jews to Arabs in the area—more than half of Palestine including the valuable coastal area. Shocked and angry, the Arabs rejected the U.N. decision and decided to oppose it by force. Volunteers began arriving from all Arab countries to help Palestinian Arabs. But the Arabs were highly disorganized and poorly trained, led, and equipped.

On May 13, 1948, the day before the State of Israel was proclaimed, Zionist forces secured full control of the Jewish share of Palestine—and they captured important positions in areas allotted to the Arabs. The Irgun Zvai Leumi (the National Military Organization to which Menachem Begin belonged) stormed and captured the village of Deir Yasin and massacred much of the population, terrorizing Arab villagers, who began a mass exodus from Palestine.

Britain did not help implement the U.N. decision. On May 14, 1948, their mandate to govern Palestine expired and they withdrew. On the day of British departure, the Jewish National Council proclaimed the State of Israel. United States and Soviet recognition came within hours. The following day, the uncoordinated armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq invaded the new nation. But they were no match for Israeli troops. Israel defeated the Arabs.

On January 7, 1949, the defeated Arab states signed armistice agreements that left Israel in possession of all the areas it won by conquest: the whole of the Palestinian coast minus a reduced Gaza Strip, the whole of Galilee, all of the Negev, and a strip connecting the coastal region to Jerusalem including the northwestern section of the city. Israel had increased its original territory by fifty percent.

The U.N. Assembly voted on November 29 to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Trouble flared immediately. Syrian demonstrators attack U.S., Soviet and French Legations in Damascus; November 30, as Abdul Rahman Azzam Pasha, Arab League secretary general, declares that the U.N. decision will be resisted “by force.” At Acre Prison guards open fire when Arab prisoners attack Jewish inmates. Five Jews are killed in two gunfire attacks on buses near Tel Aviv. A general strike begins in Nablus while police break up protest meeting of 300 Arabs in Jenin.

Early conflicts with Israel

After the January 1949 armistice, no entity remained that was officially called Palestine. One million Palestinian Arabs left Israel, leaving the Jews with the majority they required. The humiliating failure of the Arab intervention left the Arab governments in serious trouble and drastically increased the instability in the region.

In April 1950, King Abdullah of Jordan concluded his armistice with Israel by annexing into his kingdom the areas of eastern and central Palestine that had been designated by the U.N. for an Arab state, together with the old city of Jerusalem. Many Palestinians, now under Jordanian rule, viewed Abdullah as the ultimate enemy. On July 20, 1951, he was assassinated in Jerusalem by a Palestinian terrorist. Two years later King Hussein came to power.

There was a great deal of tension between the Palestinians and the other Arab states. According to General George Keegan, prior to the 1948 Arab attack on Israel, the Palestinians were subjected to a massive propaganda campaign from Arab newspapers and radio. The Arabs told the Palestinians to leave the Jewish sections of Palestine because Arab armies were going to crush the Jews. When the war was over, the Palestinians could return and take the lands and houses occupied by the Jews.

Many Palestinians left and the Arabs, of course, were defeated. Thereafter, the Palestinian Arab relations were strained at best, hostile at worst. Most Arab nations view the Palestinians as a potential security threat, treat them as second class citizens, and under no circumstances would consider giving them a piece of land. That, and the treatment by the Israelis, eventually helped to radicalize them. There are now large Palestinian communities in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, the Gulf states, and Israel.

Until 1964, the displaced Palestinians were unorganized and largely leaderless. They received U.N. aid and were a source of cheap labor for “host countries.” Then, in 1964, the PLO and a secret movement called the Palestine National Liberation Movement, better known as al-Fatah (“the Conquest”) were organized and began training guerrillas for raids on Israel. Until 1970, these were launched from Jordan.

In 1967, war broke out between Israel and the Arab states. The 1967 war was really an extension of the wars of 1948 and 1956. It focused on the issue of Israel’s right to exist. And it also brought the U.S. and the Soviet Union into near confrontation.

When the 1967 war broke out, Jordan had just signed a defense pact with Egypt. Thus, Jordan was forced to take part in the war by a five-day-old pact. Israel offered Jordan an informal separate peace. But King Hussein could not accept it and survive. As a result, he lost most of his kingdom to Israel, including the whole of the West Bank of the Jordan River. The West Bank is heavily populated by Palestinians.

By the June 11th, 1967 cease-fire, the Arab states had lost huge territories, much of their productive capacity, five percent of their best labor force, millions of dollars in productive equipment and tourist revenues. Of greater importance were the psychological and political loss, which gave a powerful impetus to the Palestine guerrilla movement.

The rise of the PLO

Following the 1967 cease-fire, the more militant members of the PLO took control of the leadership and began making guerrilla raids into Israel and its controlled territory. In retaliation, Israel attacked the host countries—Lebanon and Jordan.

Friction grew between the PLO and their host countries, particularly Jordan. The PLO insisted on the right to act as an independent state. They also humiliated and tried to assassinate King Hussein.

In “Black September” of 1970, the Jordanian army swept through the refugee camps, disarmed the guerrillas, wiped out the resistance, and deported the leaders. Driven from Jordan, the PLO focused its activities in Lebanon.

In 1974, one of the most destructive civil wars in modern history broke out in Lebanon. It was caused by a schism between urban Christians and rural Muslims, Syria’s historic claims to Lebanon, and the Palestinians who considered Lebanon their last refuge. Although the Palestinians comprised ten percent of the population, they were constantly aware of their separate and inferior status. Landless and mostly poor, they were exploited as cheap labor. They became increasingly radicalized and threw their lot in with the Lebanese poor, who were rural and mainly Muslim. As the Palestinians gained form, structure, and arms, they were sought out as allies by other radical groups in Lebanon.

The PLO encountered increasing difficulty controlling its more radical factions. When Israel and Egypt concluded an interim agreement in 1975, the Palestinians concluded that the Arab states were deserting them and that they would be suppressed in Lebanon as they were in Jordan. Tension rose and the PLO began to clash with Lebanese security forces.

Lebanon and the PLO made a deal: Lebanon gave the PLO a free hand in the refugee camps and a forward post along the Israeli frontier; in return the PLO promised not to meddle in Lebanese politics. Established in Lebanon, the PLO attacked Israel. The Israelis responded by raiding Lebanon with increasing severity. This encouraged Lebanon’s Christian Right, particularly the Phalangist Party, to attack the Palestinians with its well-organized, well-equipped militia.

As the civil war progressed, the Christians were close to defeat. Then Israel and Syria came to the aid of the Christians: Syria, because it was afraid of an Israeli intervention if the Palestinians won; Israel, because it would not tolerate a partitioned or Left-dominated, Palestine-oriented state.

The civil war in Lebanon lasted through 1976 and set the stage for the later rounds of violence. The nation was in ruins. Twenty thousand Palestinians lost their lives and twice as many were injured.

Background to the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by Israel

From its inception, Israel has never known a lasting peace. Its history has been a search for security combined with steady territorial acquisition. The siege mentality that pervades the Middle East today can be understood by reviewing the major events since 1956.

In 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal and barred Israeli shipping. On October 29, Israeli troops, backed by an Anglo French force, invaded Egypt in a “preemptive attack,” seizing the Gaza Strip and driving through the Sinai to the east bank of the Suez Canal.

In 1957, under American and Soviet pressure, Israel withdrew from its occupied territory in Egypt to its borders. The United States guaranteed Israeli passage into the Red Sea through the previously blockaded Strait of Tiran.

In 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization came into being. It vowed to destroy the State of Israel.

In 1967, Israel threatened retaliation against Syrian border raids, and Syria asked for Egyptian aid. Egypt demanded the removal of U.N. peace-keeping forces from Suez, staged a national mobilization, closed the Gulf of Aqaba, and moved troops into the Sinai.

On June 5, 1967, with a simultaneous air attack against Syrian, Jordanian, and Egyptian bases, Israel totally defeated its Arab enemies in the Six Day War. By the cease fire, Israel held the Golan Heights, the West Bank of the Jordan River, the Old City of Jerusalem, all of the Sinai, and the east bank of the Suez Canal. It had expanded its territory two hundred percent.

As a term for peace, Israel demanded a guarantee that any occupied territory returned would never be used as a base for aggression. Israel also insisted that Jerusalem remain a unified city and that peace negotiations be conducted directly with them—something the Arab states had refused to do because it would constitute a recognition of their Jewish neighbor.

In 1969, Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser renounced the 1967 cease fire and began a “war of attrition” against Israel. Egypt began firing Soviet artillery at Israeli forces on the east bank of the Suez Canal.

In 1972, terrorist activity against Israel by the PLO sympathizers increased. This included a random massacre at Lod Airport and the kidnapping and subsequent death of Israeli athletes at the Olympic games in Munich. In retaliation, Israel began assassinating PLO leaders and carried out raids on guerrilla settlements in Lebanon that sparked a terrorist campaign between the Israelis and Palestinians.

On October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur—the holiest day of the year for Jews—The fourth Arab Israeli war broke out when Egyptian, Syrian, and Iraqi forces launched a surprise attack on Israel. In January 1974, Israel and Egypt agreed on the disengagement of forces. Fighting with Syria continued through May 31, 1974, when the U.S. Secretary of State Kissinger arranged a cease fire.

In November of 1974, the U.N. General Assembly voted Palestinians should be entitled to return to their land and property in the West Bank and granted the PLO permanent observer status. Israel ignored the vote.

In 1975, sporadic raids and bombing incidents, carried out chiefly by the PLO, were followed by Israeli reprisals on PLO camps in Syria. Tension generated by the violence made settlement of Arab Israeli differences difficult.

In 1977, Israeli troops crossed into southern Lebanon and fought with Palestinians in the first direct clash between the two sides in more than two years. Menachem Begin became prime minister of Israel and conferred with President Carter in Washington. President Anwar Sadat made his historic visit to Israel. Sadat’s “peace initiative” spurred a round of Egyptian Israeli talks. Begin returned his visit and peace negotiations began.

In 1978, a PLO terrorist attack—the worst in Israel’s history—left thirty seven dead and eighty two wounded. Israel forces retaliated by invading southern Lebanon, and occupying the area for three months.

In March of 1979, Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David peace treaty. The treaty required Israel to withdraw from Egypt within three years and from the occupied oil fields within one year, and required Egypt to sell oil to Israel.

In 1980, Israeli forces completed their withdrawal from Sinai oil fields, and Israeli government opened its borders to Egypt, and the two nations exchanged ambassadors. But Israeli-Egyptian talks on Palestinian autonomy were suspended. And a Knesset bill reaffirmed all of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

In April, 1981, Arab Israeli relations worsened when Israeli jets shot down two Syrian military helicopters in Lebanon. Syria responded by deploying Soviet made anti aircraft missiles in Lebanon in wait of Israeli planes.

On June 7th, 1981, Israeli aircraft bombed a nearly-completed Iraqi nuclear reactor station near Baghdad, Iraq. The bombing increased Arab Israeli tensions. According to Israel, the bombing was preemptive. Israel claimed the real purpose of the nuclear facility was to produce atomic bombs to attack them.

On July 17th, 1981, Lebanon based PLO units fired rockets at Israeli towns. Israeli planes then bombed Palestinian targets, including the PLO headquarters in Beirut, killing 300 and wounding 800, mostly Lebanese civilians. A cease fire was arranged on July 24.

On December 14th, 1981, Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights threatened the stability of U.S. Israeli relations.

In 1982, a sporadic conflict between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers raised tensions on the West Bank and Golan Heights. Exchanges between Israeli and PLO forces across the Israeli-Lebanon border broke the ten-month cease fire.

In April 1982, Israel completed the withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula to comply with the terms of the Camp David agreement, destroying settlements and forcibly evacuating Jewish settlers.

Invasion of Lebanon

On June 6th, 1982, on June 6th, Israeli tanks rolled into Lebanon in pursuit of the PLO. This pursuit of the PLO was nominally based on their attempted assassination of the top Israeli diplomat, but their repeated shelling of Israeli settlements along the Lebanese border was what essentially provoked the Israeli retaliatory attack. What began as a drive, supposedly, to secure a twenty-five mile buffer zone between Israel’s border and the PLO developed into a major assault on West Beirut, the PLO’s stronghold.

In the first 48 hours of its advance into Lebanon, the Israeli army had apparently crushed most of the Palestinian military forces between Beirut and the Israeli frontier, and the PLO operation command in West Beirut was knocked out. But Israel continued its attack, penetrating deeper and deeper into the Lebanese territory. Israel bombed West Beirut repeatedly, devastating large parts of the city, leaving between 600,000 and a million people homeless.

The type of campaign the Israelis waged requires a lot of advanced planning. It is obvious that this operation--including the push to Beirut--was the real plan all along.

A Palestinian homeland

The Palestinians are displaced persons. And so they were living in Syria, in Jordan. They have been kicked out of these areas and they have made their home in Lebanon, where they have built their stronghold in defense of their cause, which is a just cause. And this is the problem of the entire situation.

The Palestinians need a homeland. Their homeland has been stripped from them by the people of Israel. And therefore, because the whole world has neglected to hear their cause or give a just and lasting answer, they have taken it upon themselves to form their Palestine Liberation Organization with Yasser Arafat at the head, which has become militant. You always get fallen ones in the midst who will then ruin the very cause and image of the just cause of the people. And therefore, on all sides there is right and wrong—human relativity.

See also

Middle East

Israel (esoteric meaning of the term)

Twelve tribes of Israel (ancient history of the twelve tribes and their place in the world today)


Lectures by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, July 1, 1982; July 18, 1982.