Looking back in History to find some clarity about the current situation, we found out that Palestine was commonly used to describe the region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, being controlled in different ages by the Assyrian, Babylonian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires.
The modern history of Palestine begins in 1948 with the foundation of Israel, the only state of Jewish people after the horrors of the Holocaust. The British Mandate, the Independence of Israel, and the no success interference of the UN in the partition of the territory was followed by a war between Israel and the Arab League.
The 1948 war was won by Israel and a tragic consequence of this conflict was the eviction of 700,000 Palestinians from their homes, creating a refugee crisis that is still not resolved, this is known as Nakba, the Arabic word for “catastrophe”. Today, there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees, defined as people displaced in 1948 and their descendants.
The 1967 war is particularly important for today’s situation because before this war most of the Palestinians territories are under Jordanian and Egyptian authority but after this Six-Days War, Israel was in control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, two territories home to large Palestinian populations as in the maps below:
There were initiatives for making peace along the time and one of them took the form of the Oslo Accords marking the beginning of a potential two-state solution. Key ‘final status’ issues remained unsolved, among which: 1) the nature and borders of a Palestinian state; 2) the status of Jerusalem; 3) Palestinian refugees, and 4) Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
Following the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 1995 Interim Agreements, the West Bank was divided into three zones, A, B and C. Areas A is under the Palestinian Authority control and consists of 18% of the West Bank, afterward Area B is under Palestinian civil control and Palestinian-Israeli security control. Israel maintained full control of Area C, including over the planning and development of infrastructure. Area C constitutes over 60% of the West Bank and contains the most significant land reserves available for Palestinian development, as well as the bulk of Palestinian agricultural and grazing land.
Today, the West Bank is nominally controlled by the Palestinian Authority and is under Israeli occupation, maybe the term occupation is not agreed by everybody but as we saw before Israel is controlling most of the Palestinian territory and the resources while the Palestinian Authority is more a formal government.
The occupation is visible in the form of Israeli troops, who enforce Israeli security restrictions on Palestinian movement and activities, and Israeli “settlers,” Jews who build ever-expanding communities in the West Bank that reduce the right for building to Palestinians. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, an Islamist fundamentalist party, and is under Israeli blockade but not ground troop occupation.
This is just a brief review of the main historical facts but the reality is that History doesn’t help us so much because there are details from both sides omitted on the way to build their own truth. What I realized during my travel is that simple, ordinary people don’t live in the past, they don’t let themselves driven by hate and fear and they just want to have peace.
My purpose is to write about experiences that I had on both sides of the Wall and to invite you to understand that it’s a big difference between the governments of both states and the people that are living there. Did I choose a side of this conflict? Maybe…it’s impossible not to feel empathy for the people with who I interacted. Do I have a clear image of the entire situation and could I present the victims and the persecutors in this conflict? Definitely no.