Everyone seems to have an opinion of the Middle East, and everyone seems to have an opinion about the seemingly everlasting Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the land in what has come to be known by many as the “Holy Land”. Of course the Middle East includes many other surrounding countries, but this post is a short history of what used to be a geographical area called Palestine.
I won’t attempt to go into great detail, but will do more in subsequent posts. This post is only an overview of the history of the area - a first step for readers who would like to know what is going on there and why.
First of all, both the Israelis and the Palestinians (and a lot of other historical inhabitants) have a “claim” to that land, but, in point of fact, it has seldom actually been “controlled” by any of the claimants for any length of time in history. By that I mean there has almost always been some outside “landlord” or “occupier” to whom the actual inhabitants were more or less subjugated.
Going far back in time, the Egyptians enjoyed great influence over a pretty vast area in that part of the world, but coming forward in time more recently, lest we spend too much time on the real early stuff, one might logically start with the Babylonians. They took over in 586 BC, although the Assyrians already held sway over parts.
50 years later, the Persian Empire was the owner of the moment, under Cyrus the Great, followed by Greek rule after being conquered by Alexander the Great. They were all “great” back then. Then the Egyptians again and then ancient Syria. In 63 BC came the Roman Empire, which eventually morphed into the Byzantine Empire in that area. In 638 AD began the long 1300-year rule of the Arab Conquest. In 1517, the Ottoman Turks conquered, and held the territory until the Ottoman Empire was defeated and broken up in World War One.
I don’t present the above to confuse you, only to illustrate that the long-term residents of the area (and there were more than just the present day Israelis and Palestinians) were, with few exceptions, seldom actual masters of their own domain. Even after World War I, the area was controlled by the French and the British.
I point all this out to remind you that the concept of sovereignty by the actual inhabitants is a fairly recent event, and simply because they and their ancestors lived there for a very long time does not mean they were the rightful controllers of the land over everyone else. To the contrary, all of the inhabitants of the area were almost always tenets of some occupier or another. That gives the lie to whether Israeli or Palestinian (or others) REALLY have a pure ancestral claim to the land any more than any other long-term inhabitant. There were indeed some short-term exceptions, but to put it bluntly, they were almost always the conquered people of this or that Empire.
Next: The British Mandate land area (which had been issued by the League of Nations following WWI) is broken up and apportioned by the United Nations.
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