What and Where is PalestineHistoric Palestine is located in the Middle East, in a region bordering Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. Part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire until 1918, it was then occupied by Britain until 1948. The Palestinians refused the UN plan to partition their homeland into a Jewish and a Palestinian state, but in 1948 the establishment of the state of Israel was unilaterally declared. By 1949, the Nakba (“catastrophe”) had resulted in the ethnic cleansing of two thirds of the Palestinian population and the Israeli occupation of 78 per cent of the land. The West Bank and Gaza Strip have been under an illegal Israeli military rule since they were occupied in the 1967 war, and today are referred to as the “Palestinian Occupied Territories”. East Jerusalem was also annexed illegally by Israel in 1967. For 60 years the Palestinians have been denied the right to self-determination and statehood.
The refugee issue
About 800,000 Palestinians were forced into exile in 1948-9 and during the June 1967 war a further 325,000 Palestinians became refugees. Under UN Resolution 194, the Palestinians have the right to return to their homes, but Israel has always refused to implement the Resolution. Today over 6 million Palestinians live as refugees, hundreds of thousands of whom still live in overcrowded refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, and in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.Life under occupation The past 40 years have seen the establishment of over 200 illegal Israeli settlements, housing nearly 500,000 settlers, within the Occupied Territories. The ‘separation barrier’ in the West Bank, construction of which was started in 2002, cuts deep into Palestinian land and, along with the “settler only” roads, cuts off many communities from water supplies, hospitals and their agricultural land. The residents face severe travel restrictions and for many it is impossible to enter Jerusalem or to travel abroad. This treatment of the Palestinians, both within Israel and in the Occupied Territories, is widely recognised as a system akin to the Apartheid regime of South Africa.
Palestinians are continually under attack from the Israeli occupying forces and are increasingly harassed by settlers, who attack farmers and steal their land. Collective punishments, such as prolonged curfews and house demolitons are frequently imposed. The Palestinians who remained in what is today the state of Israel, as non-Jewish members of a Jewish country, also face discrimation in all areas of Palestine and are considered to be second class citizens.