While Judaism was still in existence, “ Jew ” – Yehudi – was used as an ethnic collective term for Israelites – or Hebrews. During the captivity in Babylon – Iraq – Jewish philosophers developed a new religion – Judaism – on the basis of the ancient tribal religion of the Israelites. Thus, in principle, Judaism is not limited to a particular ethnic group.
When the Persians conquered the Babylonian empire in 538 BCE, they allowed the Jews to return to Palestine. Meanwhile, Edomites, Philistines and other tribes had settled in the depopulated areas. The Jews mostly settled in the area around Jerusalem. The next conqueror was Alexander the Great (330 BCE). On his death in 323, the Middle East was divided between two of his generals – Ptolemy with a seat in Egypt and Selevkidius with a seat in Syria. The Ptolemies had power in Palestine until 200 BCE when the Seleucids took over – until 70 BCE Under the leadership of the Maccabees, the Jews revolted against the Seleucids and in 142 BCE took control of the Juda – Roman name of the former Judaic kingdom. However, the degree of independence the Jews gained in relation to the King of the Seleucids before the whole of Palestine was again conquered is uncertain.
After a brief Armenian rule (70-63 BCE), the Romans took power. They kept the land occupied for 700 years – to 638. The Jews revolted against the rule of the Romans, but were brutally beaten – Jerusalem’s fall in 70 and Masada’s fall in 73. During this period, most Jews were expelled from Palestine to various parts of Roman Empire. The last Jewish uprising took place in 132-135.
According to COUNTRYVV, Emperor Hadrian (76-138) was the first to use “Palestine” as the official designation of the country – then the designation of the Roman province in the area. It was three-fold and included today’s Palestine and parts of Jordan and Syria.
During the Muslim expansion, Palestine came under Arab-Muslim rule in 638, and various Muslim rulers retained control of the country until World War I – except during the Crusaders’ reign in Jerusalem (1099-1291). For the last 400 years of this period (1517-1918), Palestine was a province of the Ottoman Empire.
The modern history of Palestine
Palestine is poor in natural resources, but few countries in the world have been exposed to multiple occupations and colonization attempts. This is linked to the country’s geopolitical location at the intersection of Europe, Asia and Africa. Trade avenues have crossed the area since time immemorial. And with this came wars, conquests, migrations and expulsions. But the unique position of Palestine – especially Jerusalem – as the center of three major religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – has also had a major impact on the country’s political history.
The Palestinian conflict peaked when the Zionist movement – a European colonialist settler movement – claimed Palestine. This can be dated to 1897 when the World Zionist Organization was established.
The rise of the Zionist movement coincided with the strong nationalist and imperialist phase of European politics in the latter half of the 19th century, and was itself marked by this. Through a large-scale colonization project, the Zionist movement aimed to create a state of its own for Jews in Palestine. Despite Palestinian resistance from the very beginning (1880s), the Zionists did not imagine that the demands of the indigenous population could become the major obstacle to this plan.
Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) who founded World Zionism and was its first president, based the movement’s strategy on the principle of a firm alliance with a leading imperialist power. In 1917, the British government declared that it would support the establishment of a “Jewish National Home” in Palestine (the Balfour Declaration ). Britain was thus given the role of “motherland” for the Zionist colonial movement.
The Asian background
Seen against an Asian background, the Zionist movement was a colonial alien object planted in the heart of the Arab world during an era when the Arab people began to rally for liberation from colonialism. The nationalist movements in the individual Arab countries were aimed at a common enemy – Turkish and Western European colonialism and imperialism. Furthermore, strong historical, cultural and religious ties existed between the peoples of the Middle East. This allowed the national movements to appear as parts of a pan-Arab movement – cf. the pan-African movement that developed later in the 20th century.
Palestine is strategically located as a wedge between the eastern and western Arab world. Religiously and culturally, the country was the center of the Arab people. That a European organization which claimed to represent “the Jewish people” and demanded ownership of Palestine was not taken seriously at first. It was only when British imperialism became the protector of the Zionist movement and the relationship was blessed by the League of Nations that the fight against Zionism became a rallying point for Arab nationalism.