Book Full Title: The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler-Colonial Conquest and Resistance, 1917-2017.
Book in A Paragraph
The book talks about the history of the conflict in today’s Palestine and Israel since its beginning in the 19th century. The author is a professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia university; the book cites many authentic sources and archival materials. The book is divided into parts where each part talks about a significant period of time in the conflict.
I started reading the book after the current episode of the conflict started in October 2023. Although I’m familiar with the situation as I’m from the region, this book gave me a lot of new information about the history of the conflict. I liked that it cites many references including many western and Israeli sources and archives, not only Palestinian and Arabic sources. I think it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the conflict and its important history.
I took a lot of notes while reading the book: it was filled with important details and historical material that are essential to understanding the conflict as a whole with the right context. So I ended up with 64 pages of notes! I thought it’s not practical to share all of them here in a blog post. So I used GPT-4 on ChatGPT to summarize the notes of each chapter in quick bullet points. They give a good idea about what the chapter is about. However, they are definitely not a replacement for reading the book.
Here are the AI summarized notes from each chapter.
- Early Zionist Congresses: The first two Zionist congresses occurred in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 and 1898, marking the formal beginning of the Zionist movement.
- European Jewish Settlers in Palestine: The earliest European Jewish settlers arrived in Palestine in the late 1870s and early 1880s, beginning the process of Jewish immigration to the region.
- Theodore Herzl’s Views: Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, contemplated the colonization of Palestine as early as 1895. He considered the gentle expropriation of private property and the discreet removal of the impoverished local population to facilitate Jewish settlement.
- Palestine as a Colonial War Zone: The author shows the history of Palestine as a colonial war against the indigenous population, driven by various parties aiming to establish another people in the region against the will of the locals.
- Zionism’s Biblical Appeal: Zionism, seen as a colonial-national movement, gained support particularly in Great Britain and the United States due to its biblical connections, which overshadowed its modern, colonial nature.
- Misrepresentation of Palestine’s History: There is a significant amount of literature attempting to portray pre-Zionist colonization Palestine as barren, empty, and backward, often riddled with historical inaccuracies and bigotry.
- Herzl’s Reference to Palestinian Arabs: In a letter to Yusuf Diya, Herzl referred to Palestinian Arabs, who constituted about 95% of the local population, as the “non-Jewish population.”
- The 1917 Balfour Declaration: This British cabinet declaration committed to the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine but failed to mention the Palestinian majority. This omission set the course for the region’s future.
- Denial of Palestinian Existence in Literature and Culture: The denial or negation of Palestinian existence is a recurrent theme in some Western and Israeli popular culture, literature, and political discourse.
- Zionism’s Colonial Roots: Many early Zionists, including Ze’ev Jabotinsky, openly acknowledged the colonial nature of their project. This perspective was dominant until the post-World War II era, when colonialism became widely discredited.
- Zionism’s Institutional Foundations: The social and economic institutions established by early Zionists, essential to the movement’s success, were understood and described as colonial. The Jewish Colonization Association was a key example.
- Rebranding of Zionism: Following World War II, in an era of decolonization, Zionism and Israel distanced themselves from their colonial origins. Zionism, previously supported by British colonialism, rebranded itself as an anti-colonial movement, especially after the British limited Jewish immigration with the 1939 White Paper.
1. The First Declaration of War, 1917–1939
The chapter “The First Declaration of War, 1917–1939” from the book “The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine” discusses the impacts of World War I and subsequent British policies on Palestine, leading to a prolonged conflict with the Palestinian people.
- Ottoman Empire’s Heavy Losses in WWI: The Ottoman Empire suffered the heaviest losses of any major combatant in WWI, with over three million deaths, mostly civilians. This included the Armenian, Assyrian, and other Christian massacres.
- Palestinian Experience of Ottoman Rule’s End: Palestinians, after 400 years under Ottoman rule, faced the disconcerting shift to alien rule and learned of the Balfour Declaration amidst great suffering and loss.
- Balfour Declaration (1917): The British cabinet, led by Arthur James Balfour, expressed support for a Jewish national home in Palestine, promising only civil and religious rights to the non-Jewish communities. This declaration ignored the political or national rights of the Arab majority, who constituted 94% of the population.
- British Strategic Interests and Zionist Support: Britain’s support for the Zionist movement was motivated by geopolitical strategic interests, religious sentiments, and the desire to reduce Jewish immigration to Britain. This was not an act of altruism but served Britain’s imperial ambitions.
- Colonial Conflict Initiated: The Balfour Declaration effectively started a colonial conflict, aiming to establish a Jewish majority at the expense of the Arab population.
- Palestinian Reaction to Balfour Declaration: The news of the declaration reached Palestinians slowly, causing shock and protest. They began to organize politically, opposing both British rule and Zionist movement.
- Palestinian National Identity Emergence: Palestinian identity emerged in response to various stimuli, including opposition to European control and Zionism. Local newspapers and memoirs of the time reflect this growing national consciousness.
- Palestinian Political Efforts: Palestinians held a series of congresses and established an Arab executive to demand independence and oppose the Balfour Declaration, but their efforts were largely ignored by the British.
- Popular Palestinian Resistance: There were multiple instances of spontaneous popular resistance against British support for Zionist aspirations, leading to demonstrations, strikes, and riots.
- League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (1922): This mandate formalized British governance and amplified the Balfour Declaration, further marginalizing Palestinians by ignoring their historical connection to the land.
- Jewish Population Growth and Nazi Persecution: The Jewish population in Palestine grew, particularly with the rise of the Nazis in Germany and the resulting Jewish immigration.
- Palestinian Revolt (1936-1939): A massive grassroots uprising, including a six-month general strike, led to the formation of the Arab Higher Committee. The British, however, suppressed this revolt with severe force, weakening the Palestinian position significantly.
- British Attempt at Appeasement (1939): In response to the revolt and international pressure, Britain issued a White Paper proposing limits on Jewish immigration and land sales and promising self-determination, but these promises were not fully implemented.
- Persistent British Reluctance to Modify Policy: Despite Palestinian protests, British policies remained largely unchanged, influenced by obligations to the Zionists under the League of Nations Mandate.
2. The Second Declaration of War, 1947–1948
- Palestinian Displacement: By 1949, a large portion of the Palestinian population, approximately 720,000 out of 1.3 million, became refugees due to forced displacement, with the new state of Israel emerging in the territory.
- Global Power Shifts: Post-World War II, the United States and the USSR emerged as dominant powers in the Middle East, influencing the Palestinian situation. The U.S., in particular, became a significant external actor in the region.
- Zionist Movement and the Biltmore Program: The Zionist movement, under David Ben-Gurion, anticipated this power shift. The 1942 Biltmore Program marked a pivotal moment, openly advocating for a Jewish state in Palestine, gaining significant American support and public opinion, partly due to the Holocaust’s impact.
- Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry (1946): This committee’s formation and its recommendations, favoring the entry of Jewish refugees into Palestine, indicated a shift in control from Britain to the United States in the region. The Palestinians, lacking a central state system and effective allies, were at a disadvantage against the organized Jewish Agency.
- British Withdrawal and UN Intervention: Britain’s diminishing role led to the UN’s involvement, with the United States and the USSR playing dominant roles. The UN’s partition plan in 1947 favored the Jewish minority, igniting further conflict.
- The Nakba: This period saw the systematic expulsion and flight of Palestinians, termed the Nakba. Notable events included the ethnic cleansing of major Arab urban centers and massacres, such as the one in Dayr Yasin.
- Israeli State Formation and Arab Response: The formation of Israel on May 15, 1948, led to further military confrontations, with the new Israeli army defeating the Arab armies. The Palestinians’ military and diplomatic weakness was evident.
- Personal Accounts: The author shares personal stories, like that of his grandparents being displaced from their home.
- Israel and International Dynamics: Post-1948, Israel did not immediately receive extensive American support. The United States often condemned Israeli military actions at the UN, reflecting a complex international stance.
- Palestinians in Israel: The minority of Palestinians who remained in Israel faced martial law and land expropriation, transforming Palestine into a predominantly Jewish state.
- Jordan’s Role and Regional Fear of Israel: Jordan’s Arab Legion was the only effective Arab force against Israel in 1948. The Arab world’s fear of Israel’s military strength was profound.
- Israeli Military Actions and International Reactions: Israeli reprisals and attacks on Palestinians and their neighbors often led to UN condemnations. Notable incidents include the Qibya massacre and the Suez War of 1956, where Israel, alongside Britain and France, attacked Egypt.
- Aftermath of the Suez War: The Suez War’s political outcomes were unfavorable to the aggressors, with superpower pressure leading to their withdrawal. Israeli actions in Gaza during this time were condemned internationally.
3. The Third Declaration of War, 1967
- Misconception of Israeli Vulnerability (1967): Contrary to the prevalent myth of Israel being a small, vulnerable state in 1967, the reality was different. U.S. officials, including McNamara and Johnson, acknowledged Israel’s military superiority over Arab states.
- 1967 War and Military Superiority: The war unfolded as predicted by the CIA and Pentagon, with Israel’s air force striking first and gaining air superiority. This advantage allowed Israel to swiftly conquer territories including the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank, Arab East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights in six days.
- Causes of the War: The war’s roots lay in various factors, including the rise of Palestinian commando groups and Israel’s diversion of Jordan River waters, leading to regional tensions. Fatah’s attack on a water-pumping station in 1965 was a significant event.
- Egypt’s Provocation and Israel’s Response: Despite its military being stretched in the Yemeni civil war, Egypt provoked Israel by moving troops into the Sinai Peninsula and expelling UN peacekeepers, which Israel used as a casus belli for its preemptive strike.
- US and Soviet Union Roles: The U.S. realigned its Middle Eastern priorities, moving closer to Israel, while the Soviet Union sought to protect its interests and allies in the region, as seen in the Security Council’s actions.
- Security Council Resolution 242: This resolution, which followed the war, emphasized the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” but linked Israeli withdrawal to peace treaties with Arab states. Its ambiguous language left loopholes regarding the territories Israel could retain.
- Palestinian Erasure and Israeli Diplomacy: Post-war, Israeli and international narratives often ignored or denied Palestinian identity and rights. The Palestinian struggle for recognition and rights faced significant challenges.
- Palestinian Resistance and PLO’s Role: Palestinian resistance groups like Fatah and the PFLP played significant roles in regional politics and the evolution of the Palestinian identity. The PLO, under Arafat’s leadership, gained prominence but also faced complex strategic and diplomatic challenges.
- Israeli and US Strategies: Both Israel and the U.S. worked to divide and weaken Arab unity and influence, often exploiting internal Arab rivalries.
- Assassinations and Political Violence: The period saw numerous assassinations and acts of violence, including those targeting Palestinian leaders and figures by various parties, including Israel’s Mossad and conflicting Arab regimes.
- Palestinian Diplomacy and Struggle for Recognition: Despite challenges, the PLO achieved some diplomatic successes, gaining recognition and presenting the Palestinian cause on international platforms.
- Shifts in Palestinian Objectives: Over time, Palestinian political objectives evolved, moving from the idea of a single democratic state to the concept of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
- Arab States’ Stance and SC 242: Arab states gradually accepted Security Council Resolution 242, which indirectly amounted to recognizing Israel within its 1949 armistice lines.
- Complex Regional Dynamics: The chapter also highlights the intricate and often conflicting interests of regional players like Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, and their interactions with Palestinian groups and Israel.
4. The Fourth Declaration of War, 1982
This chapter focuses on Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, particularly against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
- Initial Assault: Israel’s invasion began with an intense aerial bombardment of Beirut and southern Lebanon, followed by a massive ground assault on June 6, leading to the occupation of much of Lebanon.
- Casualties and Scale: The invasion resulted in nearly 50,000 casualties in Beirut and Lebanon. Israel mobilized over 120,000 troops, its largest since the 1973 war, engaging in battles with Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian forces.
- Israeli Military Casualties: Israel suffered significant military casualties, with more than 2,700 injured and 364 killed. The occupation of southern Lebanon lasted until 2000.
- Intensity of the Siege: The siege of Beirut was described as intense and ferocious, with heavy Israeli artillery and aerial bombardments. It was more severe than previous conflicts in the region.
- Strategic Advancements: Israeli forces reached strategic locations around Beirut by mid-June, encircling West Beirut and starting a siege.
- Characterization of Bombardment: The Israeli bombardment was sometimes described as indiscriminate, causing massive destruction in Beirut, particularly in the western part.
- PLO’s Forced Evacuation: The PLO, under pressure from Israel, the US, and Lebanese allies, and without support from Arab governments, was forced to evacuate Beirut.
- US-Israeli Cooperation: The US fully endorsed Israel’s demand for the PLO’s withdrawal and provided significant military aid. Arab governments failed to effectively support the PLO.
- Failed Diplomatic Initiatives: The US’s Reagan Plan for Middle Eastern peace, emerging from the conflict, ultimately failed to gain traction.
- Pre-War Negotiations and Provocations: Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon had detailed war plans to US Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who indicated a need for a provocation to justify the invasion. The attempted assassination of Israel’s ambassador in London provided this pretext.
- Eroded Support for PLO in Lebanon: The PLO’s behavior over the preceding decade had eroded its support among the Lebanese population.
- Final Evacuation and Bombardment: The PLO’s departure from Beirut was negotiated under intense bombardment, with the US pressuring Israel to stop the attacks.
- Withdrawal of International Forces: International forces overseeing the evacuation were withdrawn suddenly under US decision, influenced by Israel, leaving the civilian population unprotected.
- Sabra and Shatila Massacre: Israeli forces facilitated a massacre in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by LF militias, leading to over a thousand deaths. An Israeli inquiry later found senior Israeli officials responsible.
- US and Israeli Responsibility: The US government’s support and Israel’s actions during the invasion are viewed as a joint military endeavor, with significant blame attributed to both for the atrocities and casualties.
5. The Fifth Declaration of War, 1987–1995
The chapter “The Fifth Declaration of War, 1987–1995” from “The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine” covers a significant period in Palestinian-Israeli history, focusing on the First Intifada and its aftermath. Here’s a summary of the key points and events:
- Background and Invasion of Lebanon (1982): Ariel Sharon and Menachem Begin launched an invasion of Lebanon aiming to weaken the PLO and end Palestinian nationalist opposition in the West Bank and Gaza. This was part of the broader goal of Zionism to create a Jewish state in all of Palestine. The war did weaken the PLO but ironically strengthened Palestinian nationalism within Palestine, leading to increased resistance against Israeli colonization.
- The First Intifada (1987-1993): The Intifada erupted spontaneously across the Occupied Territories after an Israeli army vehicle killed four Palestinians in Gaza. It was a significant uprising against the Israeli occupation, with Gaza being a central point of unrest. Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s harsh response, including the policy of breaking the bones of protestors, led to international backlash against Israel.
- Colonization of the Occupied Territories: Post-1967, Israel rapidly colonized the West Bank and Gaza, creating settlements and imposing harsh measures against any form of Palestinian nationalism. This included suppression of trade unions, prohibitions on displaying Palestinian symbols, and severe penalties for resisting occupation.
- Shift in Palestinian Resistance: A new generation of Palestinians, having grown up under occupation, showed less acquiescence and more resistance, expressing support for the PLO despite the risks.
- Casualties and Media Coverage: Throughout the First Intifada, Israeli forces and settlers killed 1,422 Palestinians, including many minors, while 175 Israelis were killed by Palestinians. The eight-to-one casualty ratio was not accurately reflected in much of the American media.
- Nature of the Intifada: The uprising was largely a nonviolent campaign of civil disobedience, including strikes, boycotts, and tax withholding, although some protests turned violent, often ignited by soldiers inflicting heavy casualties with live ammunition and rubber bullets used against unarmed demonstrators or youths throwing stones.
- Influence of Palestinian Activists and Intellectuals: Figures such as Hanan ‘Ashrawi, Edward Said, and others played significant roles in raising awareness and advocating for the Palestinian cause.
- Rise of Hamas: Hamas, founded in 1987 and initially supported by Israel to counter the PLO, began to gain significant influence, causing concern within the PLO leadership.
- PLO’s Diplomatic Efforts: The PLO sought to engage in peace negotiations, but the frameworks, such as SC 242, were seen as disadvantageous to the Palestinians, lacking recognition of key Palestinian issues.
- Oslo Accords (1993): The landmark agreement between the PLO and Israel, facilitated by direct negotiations, led to mutual recognition but did not equate to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The PLO recognized the state of Israel without achieving liberation or statehood in return.
- The Oslo II Agreement (1995): This agreement further fragmented the West Bank and Gaza into different administrative areas, with Israel retaining significant control. It led to increased restrictions on Palestinian movement and life.
- Consequences of the Oslo Accords: The agreements were seen as flawed, leading to a deterioration in the situation for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. They were criticized for failing to address key Palestinian demands and for effectively maintaining Israeli control.
- Impact on Palestinian Authority (PA): The PA, formed as an interim self-governing body, had limited authority and was largely responsible for security, often serving the interests of Israel and the U.S.
- Second Intifada (2000s): The ongoing occupation and the limitations of the Oslo Accords contributed to the outbreak of the Second Intifada, marked by intense violence and further Israeli control measures.
6. The Sixth Declaration of War, 2000–2014
- Disappointment with Oslo Accords: Palestinians were disillusioned with the Oslo Accords soon after their 1993 signing, as hopes of restored freedoms and economic opportunities were unmet.
- Restrictions and Separation: Israel enforced stringent movement restrictions, creating a complex system of permits, checkpoints, and walls. Gaza was isolated from the West Bank and Jerusalem, exacerbating economic and social hardships.
- Economic Strangulation: The confinement, especially in Gaza, led to economic struggles due to restricted work opportunities in Israel and limited export capabilities.
- Impact on Jerusalem: The closure of Jerusalem to West Bank and Gaza Palestinians devastated the city’s economy and deepened hardships.
- Rise of Hamas: Hamas emerged as a significant force, promoting a militant Islamist approach as an alternative to the PLO, and emphasizing armed struggle over diplomacy.
- Failures Post-Oslo and Camp David Summit: The extended interim period of the Oslo Accords, the failure of final status negotiations, and the unsuccessful Camp David summit in 2000 fueled Palestinian disappointment and furthered Hamas’s position.
- Second Intifada: Triggered by Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Haram al-Sharif in 2000, the Second Intifada marked a severe escalation in violence and conflict.
- Suicide Bombings and Israeli Responses: Some Palestinian groups carried out suicide bombings in Israel as a response to the Oslo process. The Palestinian Authority (PA) repressed these groups to maintain the peace process, leading to internal conflicts.
- Targeted Killings and Gaza Assaults: Israel conducted targeted killings and major offensives in Gaza in 2008, 2012, and 2014, leading to significant Palestinian casualties and infrastructure damage.
- Hamas’s Electoral Victory and International Reactions: Hamas won the 2006 elections, altering the political landscape. This led to international boycotts and stringent conditions for Palestinian aid, further entrenching the conflict.
- Internal Palestinian Dynamics: The struggle for power between Fatah and Hamas, including violent clashes, led to a divided Palestinian polity, with Hamas controlling Gaza and Fatah the West Bank.
- Gaza’s Deteriorating Conditions: The Israeli blockade of Gaza resulted in severe economic and humanitarian crises.
- US and International Policies: The chapter discusses the complexity of U.S. and international policies towards Israel and Palestine, noting the influence of political and donor interests, and the challenges faced by those seeking a peaceful resolution.
Conclusion: A Century of War on the Palestinians
- British and American Stances: The chapter begins by highlighting the disregard for Palestinian wishes in the establishment of Israel. In 1917, British leader Arthur James Balfour admitted to ignoring the desires of Palestinians during the creation of Israel. Fast forward to a century later, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, indicating a continuation of Western powers’ indifference to Palestinian perspectives.
- Settler-Colonial Dynamics: The chapter compares the Palestinian situation to historical settler-colonial confrontations, noting three outcomes: subjugation or elimination of natives (as in North America), expulsion of colonizers (rare, as in Algeria), or compromise and reconciliation (like in South Africa). The Israeli advantage is partly due to the Western perception of Israel as a normal state facing irrational hostility, masking the colonial nature of the conflict.
- Understanding the Conflict: Three approaches have helped to expand understanding of the conflict: comparing Palestine to other colonial-settler situations, focusing on the power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinians, and emphasizing the issue of inequality. However, making these comparisons is challenging, especially in the U.S., which struggles with acknowledging its own colonial past.
- Perceptions and Realities: The chapter challenges the common narrative of Israel as a peace-seeking victim, pointing out its historical military superiority and support from major powers. The issue of inequality is underscored as central to the conflict and its resolution.
- Trump’s Approach: President Trump’s actions, such as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the proposed “deal of the century,” are critiqued for favoring Israel and undermining Palestinian rights. This includes a plan for a non-contiguous, non-sovereign Palestinian entity, lacking full control and sovereignty.
- Contradiction with Democratic Ideals: The chapter asserts that modern Zionism’s discriminatory essence is increasingly at odds with the principles of Western democracies, notably equality.