Israel first became a nation around 1300 BC and a kingdom in 1020 BC. Though it was occupied on several occasions, the main population remained Jewish until the Roman conquest.

By 135 AD some 3 million Jews had been expelled from their homeland by the Romans. Nonetheless, a continuous Jewish presence remained. This population fluctuated depending on the whim of imperial rulers. By the mid-19th century approximately only 20,000 Jews were living in Palestine under the rule of the Ottoman Turks.

Palestine was the name given by the Romans to the region that encompassed Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and parts of Syria and Lebanon. Palestine was never an independent nation, never a country with borders.


After World War One the League of Nations mandated Palestine to Britain. In 1921 the English transferred 75 percent of Palestine to the Arabs. This became the kingdom of Jordan. In 1923 the Golan Heights, comprising 10 percent of mandated Palestine, were given to the French mandate of Syria. Inhabited Israel comprised only 17 percent of the land of mandated Palestine.

In November 1947 the United Nations divided the remaining 22 percent of Palestine, extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, between the Arabs and Jews. Fifty-seven percent of the area was given to the Jews and 43 percent to the Arabs. The bulk of the territory granted to the Jews was the Negev desert, comprising 60 percent of Israel's land mass.

The majority of the people living on the Israeli side of the divide were 538,000 Jews, compared to 397,000 Arabs. The Majority of the people living on the Palestine side were 800,000 Arabs, compared to 12,000 Jews. Jerusalem was internationalized. Its Jewish population numbered 100,000.

The two-state solution, promulgated by the international community through the United Nations and endorsed by the United States, was accepted by the Jewish authorities, but rejected by all of the Arab states. Five Arab states sent armies of invasion to exterminate Israel when it declared its independence in May of 1948. An Arab leader declared, "This will be a war of extermination and massacre, which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the crusades."

As soon as Israel declared its independence in 1948, a war was launched by Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. It resulted in a flood of refugees. Some 600,000 Arabs fled the conflicted region because they feared for their safety but mainly because they were encouraged to go by the invading Arab armies. Arab leaders urged Palestinians to "get out so that we can get in." The refugees fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza. They were not integrated into new homes, but segregated from society and interred in squalid refugee camps.

The Arab League vowed never to recognize the existence of the Jewish state of Israel and issued a call for its destruction. The Egyptian Foreign Minister said: "The Arab people declare that we shall not be satisfied except by the final obliteration of Israel from the map of the Middle East."

The Arab state envisioned by the UN partition plan never materialized. The West Bank was seized by Jordan and Gaza was placed under Egyptian military occupation. 

The West Bank and Gaza were used as staging grounds by Jordan and Egypt for attacks against Israel. From 1949 to 1956 Arab raiders killed and wounded 1,300 Israelis. The Egyptian leader, Gamal Nasser, call the killers "Heroes" and said, "There will be no peace on Israel's borders because we demand vengeance, and vengeance is Israel's death."


Dr. Al Snyder is a former professor of Communications at Liberty University in Virginia and North Greenville University. He has done extensive missionary work in Israel and Africa.

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