There are a couple of articles in Al Jazeera about Palestine I have been reading (and, what the heck? I was eager to write something about this suffering country). One of them deals with the issue of Palestine and Arab nationalism, the other is a timeline of Palestine's recent history.
The first one begins as follows:
What immediately stands out when reflecting on the plight of the Palestinians over the past 60 years is not only that they have been occupied and displaced, but that they are also being replaced by a totally different people brought to Palestine from the four corners of the globe.
Their land, their belongings and even their culture and history, are being usurped by a different population.
It is a painful repetition of the plight of native Americans we ignorantly refer to as 'red Indians'.
The Israelis, who have become the new masters of the land, are Jewish immigrants that began populating
In fact this is a quite benevolent image of Jewish colonization: most Jewish colonists arrived only after 1945, pushed by the demolishing impact of the Holocaust. But still, in 1946, just at the end of the (quite pro-Zionist) British mandate, Jews were only about 1/3 of the total population of Palestine and they were concentrated in very specific areas, mostly urban ones (see: map of distribution of the population in Palestine 1946 - PASSIA). They were majority only in the district of Jaffa (Tel Aviv) and a large minority in those of Haifa, Tiberias and Jerusalem.
Still the UN partition plan gave them more than half of Palestine. I must note here that the UN of the 1940s was not the UN we know now, as most modern sovereign countries were then just colonies of European powers or the USA, and that included most Muslim and Arab countries. Also it must be mentioned that a UN comitee had proposed a unified multiethnic Palestine instead as best solution - but that obviously clashed with the Zionist project that was being fed not just by the Western powers but also had the complicity of the USSR. Only the few sovereign Muslim countries (Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yeme, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon) and handful of other states (Cuba, India, Greece) opposed the unjust plan of partition.
The partition plan left 33% of Arabs inside the Israeli borders (only 1% of Jews in Arab-Palestinian ones), making up 45% of the population of would-be Israel. Additionally the city or Jerusalem would remain as international territory.
The news were recieved with joy among Jewish colonists but with despair among native Palestinians. The plan was totally unacceptable and soon clashes begun. As soon as the British retreated, the Israeli and Palestinian militias tried to take over. Also the neighbour states, most of them just newly born as well, sent their armies to help their "Arab brethen", though the attitude of Transjordan specially was quite dubious. The Israelis though had good leadership and finances and managed to gather enough weapons and soldiers to even their enemies, whom they defeated or stalemated separately. What looked like a triumphal march for the Arab armies became a shameful defeat.
Meanwhile the Zionist militias comitted a massacre at Deir Yassin, murdering maybe as many as 250 villagers, most of them women, children and elder people. This sparked panic and favored the ethnic cleansing by the Israeli forces. Eventually, an armistice was signed with Israel getting not just the lands assigned by the partition plan but many others as well (notably Galilee and West Jerusalem) and Egypt and Jordan getting the rest. This armistice line of 1949 is what are the "internationally recognized" borders of Israel - though Israel disputes it, and so do several Palestinian organizations.
The vast majority of Palestinian refugees settled in Transjordan (renamed as Jordan) and Gaza strip, with lesser but meaningful ammounts arriving to Syria and Lebanon, as well as the West Bank (see: map of Palestinian refugees - PASSIA). Palestinian refugees, many of them still living in refugee camps after so many decades, account for 1/3 of the population of Jordan and the West Bank and for 85% of the population at Gaza Strip, the largest concentration camp in the World. There are more than 4 million Palestinian refugees in total and they demand the right to return.
But their villages have often been razed to the ground (see: corresponding map - PASSIA) and their lands expropiated by Israel. And of course Israel flatly rejects any concession on that issue. The situation reminds to the Serbian-controlled lands in Bosnia, where after the ethnic cleansing (euphemism for genocide) Bosniaks are still unable to return in most cases. But it is actually much worse because Israel, unlike Serbia, has the backing of the so-called "international community" (i.e. the USA and its allies).
There was some hopes years ago (1993-95) on the possibility of reaching an agreement but the murder of Yitzak Rabin and later of Yassir Arafat (I believe it was a murder) threw any hopes to the trash bin. Now virtually dead provoker Ariel Sharon ignited the Second Intifada. After sidelining Arafat and getting a more sheeply Al Fatah leadership, militant Hamas became terribly popular and won the elections.
Meanwhile the Israeli proposals in the negotiating table were each time more backwards. Their latest proposal of "final status" basically tried to create a bantustan in the West Bank (see: Final Status map presented by Israel - Taba, 2001 - PASSIA). And really the comparison of Israel with racist South Africa is not far-fetched, not in vain they were best allies for all the Cold War period, supporting each other in their secretive nuclear programs and otherwise. Israel, with its very special ethnic laws, that allow anyone with a Jewish ancestor to migrate to that country but do not allow the original inhabitants to return, is balatantly racist. Furthermore, the anti-Arab feeling is increasing in Israel and a majority of Israeli Jews seem now in favor of apartheid even regarding Israeli Arab citizens.
Another frequent comparison is with the Crusader states, in particular the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Personally I see only one solution to the Israeli problem: the supression of Israel altogether and the creation of a unified multiethnic and laicist Palestinian republic, alowing the refugees that so wish to return to their country. Also I think that, in the long run Israel has no hopes of surviving: eventually US global leadership position will change and with it the fate of the Zionist entity will be sealed.