A Brief Chronological History of Palestine


Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh – TRANSCEND Media Service

Mazin QumsiyehPalestinians are the endogenous people of the Southern Land of Canaan (Western Part of the Fertile Crescent), the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan.  Key milestones in human civilization occurred in this Land of Canaan: animal and plant domestication, development of the alphabet, and development of laws and religions.   Key historical periods:

12,000-10,000 BC: Development of Agriculture by Netufian ancestors. Cognitive revolution made possible as well as high increase in population.

5000-1500 BC: Canaanites develop city-states. Phoenician Canaanites in the north develop commerce and shipping around the Mediterranean. Philistine (flst) Canaanites develop desert routes and commerse.  Nebatean Canaanites build cities like Petra and Bir Saba and ‘Asqalan. Possible beginnings of the mosaic traditions at 1000 BC which is an amalgam of religious mythologies derived from Mesopotamia and Egypt (Adam and Eve, Flood,  parting a sea, satan etc.).


1500 BC-500 BC:  Palestine remains a multi-religious amalgam of small kingdoms and tribal ruling groups but all Canaanites (Jebusites, Amurites, Nebateans, Hebrews, Phoenicians, Philistines).  The predominant language was Aramaic with local dialects of Arabic Aramaic, Hebrew Aramaic and Syriac Aramaic modifying their writing scripts from proto-Aramaic. The name Palestine (philistine) is referred to in Greek literature of the period.

500 BC-765 AD: Palestine remains an amalgam of small tribes and religions but now ruled by empires (Assyrian, Persian, Egyptian, Byzantine, Roman). Christianity develops under the Roman Empire in Palestine and becomes the predominant religion among the natives by 300 AD (some Judaic, Nazarene, Samaritans and others remained on the Abrahamic tradition). Around the same time a new religion based on the Abrahamic religion evolved and became known as Talmudic Rabbinical “Judaism”.  Remaining adherents of the Abrahamic faith reject it (e.g. Samaritans).  The Talmud came more than 200-300 years after the New Testament (primarily evolved in Safad in Palesine and in Mesopotamia).  Technically there are no “Jews” prior to the 2nd to third century AD.  There are Judaic people, Nazarene People, Samaritans etc (denoting a geography not a religion).

765 AD-1919 AD: Natives largely convert to Islam but large segments of the population (some 15%) are Christians and 3% are native Jews, Samaritans and Bahai. All speak and adopt the dominant Arabic language (itself evolved from Aramaic).

1516:  Palestine becomes a province of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

1845: British Empire and some sympathetic Jews embark on a program for Ashkenazi (European) Jewish colonization in Palestine, with the aim of establishing a Jewish state/homeland (political ideology called Zionism).

First Zionist settlement established 1880.

First Zionist Congress in Switzerland held 1897.

1916: British and French secretly agree to divide the Arab world while publicly claiming support for independence and self-determination.

1917: French and British Empires issue proclamations in support of Zionism (Jules/Balfour Declarations).

1919: After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WWI, Britain occupies Palestine and lobbies for a “Mandate” from the League of Nations to rule Palestine and implement Zionist program (contrary to the League’s charter which supported self-determination).

1920s and early 1930s: Palestine under rule of Zionist British commissioner Herbert Samuel arms underground Zionist forces buttressed by British troops.  Non-violent Palestinian resistance IS suppressed by lethal force. “Inter-religious” violence is also initiated, claiming the lives of innocents of all religions.

1936-1939: Palestinian uprising against British rule and Zionist Colonization is crushed violently.  Most leaders of the liberation movement are killed or deposed.

1947: In 1919 population is 94% Muslim and Christian, 6% Jewish.  By 1947 it is 68% Muslim and Christian and 32% Jewish.  Native Jews are opposed to Zionism.  UN Partition Resolution 181 pushed for by the US is adopted recommending partition.  Natives of all religions reject UNGA 181 because it violates UN Charter’s fundamental premise of self-determination of peoples and because of the inherent unfairness of giving sovereignty and rule to Zionists over 55% of the land when Jews represent only 32% of the population and own less than 7% of the land (most were new immigrants).

1947-1949: UNGA 181 is a recommendation that was never implemented. Zionist forces, well equipped by the British begin a process of removing non-Jews in November 1947.  Half the Palestinian refugees were ethnically cleansed before May 1948 when Britain withdrew its forces and Israel declared its independence.  Between Winter 1947 and Summer 1949, over 530 Palestinian towns and villages are completely destroyed and their residents fled and/or expelled (70% of the native Palestinian Christian and Muslims become refugees).  To Palestinians, this is Al-Nakba “the catastrophe” of loss of homes and lands.

1948: December 11, UN passes Resolution 194 reaffirming international law applicability including that Palestinian refugees must be allowed to return to their homes and lands and be compensated for losses.

1949: May 11, Israel admitted to UN on its second application after agreeing to relevant UN resolutions (including 181 and 194). But never implements those.

1967: “Six Day War”: Israeli forces (IDF) attack and occupy parts of Palestine they did not occupy before (West Bank including East Jerusalem and Bethlehem and Gaza, 22% of Palestine).  They also occupy the Syrian Golan Heights and Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. The international community unanimously regards these occupations as illegal and demands Israeli withdrawal (e.g. UN Security Council resolution 242 and 338). Contrary to International Law (Geneva Conventions), Israel instead embarks on a new phase of colonial settlement activity including near Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.

1974 Beginning of PLO capitulation via a ten point program that led to slippery slope of accepting Israel without Israeli politicians accepting Palestine. Ironically it is also a year that the UNGA voted that Zionism was a form of racism.

1987-1991: Large scale non-violent uprising (intifada) suppressed brutally by the Israeli occupation army.

1988 PLO vote on independence and acceptance of UNGA 181.

1993-1996: Oslo Process initiated, facilitates further violation of Geneva Conventions and institutionalization of Israeli control over Palestinians (“bantustanization” of Palestinian population centers via closures, checkpoints, Jewish-only bypass roads, de-development of Palestinian economy).

2000-2005: “Al-Aqsa” intifada (14th in 130 years of struggle against colonialist Zionism). Israeli army respond brutally. Every human rights organization reporting on this has condemned Israeli army and settlers for wide scale targeting of Palestinian civilians and other human rights abuses (also condemned suicide bombings by some Palestinian groups).

2004: The International Court of Justice rules that Israeli settlements/colonies in the occupied areas (including Jerusalem) are illegal and that the Wall Israel is building on Palestinian land is also illegal.  This decision is supported by over 160 countries. Today: 12.5 million Palestinians worldwide, nearly 2/3rd of whom are refugees and displaced persons.  Meanwhile the US government sends $5 billion every year to Israel. The US also vetoed 35 UN Security Council resolutions that attempted to bring peace based on International Law and Human Rights.  The “Road Ma ” advocated by the US is 2002 is 2218 words but lacks these four words: International Law, Human Rights. Israel has over 7000 Palestinian political prisoners (including hundreds of children), regularly demolishes homes and properties of Palestinians, and has managed to take over 91.7% of historic Palestine to illegally make it “Jewish land”. 6.2 million Palestinians are now allowed to use 9.3% of historic Palestine as open air prisons (people warehouses) in places like Gaza, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Neqab (Negev) etc.

Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, author of Sharing the Land of Canaan and Popular Resistance in Palestine. He is a professor at Bethlehem University and director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History in Bethlehem. http://palestinenature.org

For More Information: Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the
Israeli-Palestinian Struggle by Mazin B. Qumsiyeh (Pluto: 2004)


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 30 May 2016.

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