Palestine History

By | June 1, 2022


According to localcollegeexplorer, since the Paleolithic the Palestine was occupied by groups of hunter-gatherers who lived in the shelters of the coastal area. The neolithization process that led to a production economy occurred through various phases (intensive harvesting, incipient production, non-sedentary agriculture). This process began in the Natufian (10,000-8,000 BC) when the man, coming out of the shelters, organized himself in small semi-sedentary groups in fertile oases (Jericho, lake sites), where he built huts, practiced selective hunting of gazelle and the collection intensive, attested by the presence of underground silos. The phases that followed from the Aceramic Neolithic (9th-8th millennium BC) saw the persistence of elements of the previous phase and the introduction of innovations in the production system, more stable housing structures, the cult of the dead. After a period of crisis in the development of these groups, in the 6th-5th millennium followed the resumption with the diffusion in the fertile valleys of the Palestine of a Neolithic culture, coming from the middle valley of the Euphrates, with advanced ceramic production. The 4th millennium marked the transition to the Chalcolithic, characterized by the emergence of metallurgy and by aspects that anticipate the Ghassulian culture, which will extend to Transjordan, Sinai and Negev, with villages organized and based on mixed subsistence activities of hunting, gathering and agriculture. The exploitation of the territory, the exchanges and the need for defense were fundamental factors that led to early urbanization: the cities arose in favorable areas as early as the Ancient Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC) and in dominant positions on the main communication routes. In the 2nd millennium the centers of Palestine reached their maximum power, and then began to decline due to the conflicting relations with Egypt, responsible, together with the wars between cities, for the crisis in the region in the late Bronze Age.


  1. Pre-Israelite period

With the 3rd millennium the Palestine enters history. The theory that the Semitic invasion of the Canaanites took place at this time was found to be unfounded. Semitic lineages in the 3rd millennium were already present in Palestine: when and how they reached it is not known; it was probably a peaceful occupation, carried out more with infiltration than with violent conquest, similarly to what happened in the following millennium with another Semitic people, that of the Amorites, who settled in the northern part of the country. In the 2nd millennium the Palestine was under the jurisdiction of the pharaohs of Egypt, who ruled it through local lieutenants, as evidenced by the diplomatic correspondence of Tell al-Amarna (14th century BC). From the invasion of the ‘ peoples of the sea ‘, originated in the 12th century. BC the settlement of the Philistines in the southern coastal area.

  1. Hebrew period

According to tradition, the Israelites, led by Joshua and coming from Egypt, arrived in Palestine towards the 13th century. BC and gradually conquered the country dividing it among the 12 tribes. Thus divided, and reunited only occasionally under the command of judges (Deborah, Gideon and Samson remained famous), they fought for a long time against the neighboring Canaanites and Philistines. The criticism historical alongside this traditional view of ancient Israelite history the prospect of a progressive and peaceful infiltration, culminating in the establishment of a confederation of tribes around the common sanctuary of Silo. The establishment with Saul of the monarchy (around 1000), consolidated with David, gave the Jews the necessary strength to establish themselves definitively: the last Canaanite stronghold, Jerusalem, was conquered by David and made the capital of the new state. Solomon, reaping the fruit of his clever paternal politics, was able to dedicate himself to great works such as the construction of the Temple and the Royal Palace in Jerusalem; at his death the kingdom split in two: the southern kingdom of Judah, with Jerusalem as its capital, made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin; the northern kingdom of Israel, formed by the other tribes, with Samaria as its capital.

  • The two states led autonomous lives for centuries, participating in the political game of Syria, allying themselves now to one and then to the other of the Aramaic states (Soba, Damascus, Ḥamāh) or Phoenicians (Tire), often rivals. The kingdom of Israel, troubled by dynastic conspiracies, despite its greater military strength, due to its geographical position first fell under the blows of the expanding Assyrian empire (722 BC). In 586 it was the turn of the kingdom of Judah, overwhelmed by the Babylonians who succeeded the Assyrians: Nebuchadnezzar II conquered Jerusalem, razed it to the ground and deported part of the population to Babylon. With the exile the ancient autonomous history of Palestine ended. However, a Jewish population continued to live in it: to the north there were the Samaritans, a mixed population of Israelites who remained in the country after the Assyrian deportation and other peoples imported from the Assyrians; to the south, after the conquest of the Babylonian empire by Cyrus (538 BC), which allowed the return to Palestine clergy of Jerusalem.
  1. Hellenistic-Roman period

The life of Palestine in the epochs of Alexander the Great, the Diadochi and the Ptolemies is little known; the Jewish community, all gathered around Jerusalem, devoted itself to an arrangement of the religious tradition and a deepening of its spiritual values. With the battle of Panion (ca. 200 BC) the Palestine passed under the rule of the Seleucids, who, contrary to the policy of non-intervention in internal matters implemented by the Ptolemies, wanted to introduce the Hellenistic culture, causing the armed rebellion of the Maccabees against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, followed by the recognition of religious freedom for the Israelites (168-135 BC). Later some descendants of the Maccabees, the Hasmoneans, created a royal dynasty that recognized only nominally the sovereignty of the Seleucids, fortified the country and opened it to Hellenistic influence, which became maximum with Herod the Great (37-4 BC). Herod spread the Roman civilization in Palestine, built the city of Caesarea and rebuilt Samaria, which he called Sebaste in honor of Augustus; Jerusalem also acquired a new physiognomy with the theater, the palace and the new temple, in Roman style. The Romanization process, continued by the sons of Herod, developed further with the passage of the Palestine directly under the Roman dominion.

  • The rebellion of 66 AD, followed by the destruction of Jerusalem (70) and the deportation of the Jews, nullified any semblance of independence, and the Palestine became a Roman province, with the name of Iudaea. In 132 a new rebellion, led by Bar Kōkĕbāh and which lasted until 135, made the transformation of the country even more radical: the name was suppressed, and the Palestine was called Syria Palaestina and Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina. In the 4th century. AD, with Constantine’s adhesion to Christianity, Palestine experienced a spiritual revaluation, as the cradle of that religion, a destination for pilgrimages: basilicas and monasteries were built there; nor did Christian activities cease after Julian the Apostate’s ephemeral attempt to rebuild the Jewish temple. ● Divided the Roman Empire in two, the Palestine passed under the sovereignty of Constantinople and for a few centuries enjoyed great prosperity, while monasticism was developing. In 614, the Persians of Chosroes II devastated the region and the city of Jerusalem, but in 628-629 they were rejected by the emperor Heraclius. The Arab conquest followed: in 637 the caliph ‛Omar entered Jerusalem putting an end to the Byzantine rule.
  1. Islamic period

The Arabs divided the Palestine into two military provinces: Filasṭīn (Judea and Samaria) and al-Urdunn (the Jordan); Jerusalem, also considered sacred by Muslims, depended directly on the caliph. Under the Arab rule (up to the 10th century) the Palestine enjoyed prosperity; the different dynasties of caliphs (Umayyads, Abbasids) showed themselves tolerant towards Jews and Christians and continued the pilgrimages to the Holy Places ; the sanctuaries were restored and Jerusalem was enriched with monuments. The Arabization of Palestine dates back to this period, especially after the sacking of Mecca by the Carmates (929); however, there were also many conversions of Christians and Jews to Islam.

  • In the 10th century. began for Palestine a long period of wars and upheavals were at first the Fatimids who installed themselves in North Africa and Egypt, moved to its conquest by 969 the country remained under their rule, despite the intervention of ‘ emperor Giovanni Zimisce (975). The Fatimids were on the whole tolerant towards Christians; only the caliph al-Ḥākim carried out a ferocious persecution which led to the destruction of the church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem (1009). The Seljuk Turks, on the other hand, were very intolerant, and in 1076 they took over the country permanently. The violence they perpetrated caused great indignation in Europe and they were not least the cause of the Crusades, which had Palestine as the main field of action. Following the victorious conclusion of the first crusade (1099: conquest of Jerusalem), the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was established which re-proposed in Palestine the western schemes of the feudal organization. In 1174 Saladin proclaimed himself independent sultan of Egypt and declared holy war on Christians: the Latin Kingdom was progressively reduced in size and, after the reconquest of Jerusalem (1189), the last stronghold, St. John, fell (1291) of Acre.
  • The Palestine remained under the dominion of the Mamluk sultans of Egypt until the Turkish conquest of 1517; after that, while in Egypt the Mamluks, although subjected to the sovereignty of Istanbul, maintained a considerable degree of autonomy, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine were fully integrated into the Ottoman administration. This showed tolerance towards the numerous religious minorities present in the Syrian-Palestinian area: Jews, Christians of different confessions, Druze and non-Sunni Muslims enjoyed a wide freedom of worship overall. Starting from the 18th century, economic stagnation, excessive fiscal pressure, administrative and military dysfunctions caused a decline of imperial power, which first resulted in greater independence of local governors, then in a growing interference of European powers. After the conquest of Palestine and Syria by Muḥammad ‛Alī (1831), it was the latter’s intervention that re-established the sultan’s authority in 1840;
  1. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the British administration

After the end of the First World War, the Palestine was entrusted in mandate to Great Britain and the desert region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of ‛Aqaba was included in the Palestinian territory, while the area E of the furrow of al-Ghür was assigned in the northernmost part (Golan) to Syria (French mandate) and for the rest to Transjordan (English mandate); along the Mediterranean the Palestinian borders were marked to the S of Gaza by the traditional border with Egypt and to the North of Acre by that with the French mandate of Lebanon. The commitment made by the British government (Balfour declaration of 1917) to facilitate in Palestine the creation of a national headquarters for the people caused a series of protests, incidents and attacks on Jewish settlements (which resulted in a real revolt in 1936), which lasted until 1939, when Britain withdrew the initial plan, presenting a new project for the creation, by 10 years, of a single independent Palestinian state that guaranteed the essential interests of both communities.

  • The crisis re-exploded with violence after 1945; the General Assembly of the United Nations approved (1947) a plan for the partition of Palestine between a Jewish state, an Arab state and an area, including Jerusalem, to be subjected to UN trusteeship, and the termination of the British mandate by 1 August 1948. The project was rejected by the Arabs; the Zionist military forces occupied large areas of the planned Arab state and at the end of the conflict over 75% of the Palestine had been conquered by Israel, while the Arab-Palestinian state had not been able to constitute itself.
  1. The Palestinian resistance

After 1948, therefore, the history of Palestine came to be identified, to a large extent, with that of the State of Israel. Despite this situation, the Arab-Palestinian population managed to maintain a sense of national identity and since the 1950s the Palestinians gave rise to cultural, political and military resistance. The attacks conducted by the refugee collection areas and the Israeli reprisals that followed them helped to trigger both the 1956 and 1967 wars (➔ Arab-Israelis, wars). As regards relations between Israel and the Arab states, the ‘six-day war’ opened the way to an ever more explicit transformation of the dispute from the original contestation of the existence of the Jewish state to the conditions for peace with it. As for the Palestinian resistance, the extent of the defeat suffered by the Arab armies and the extent of control of Tel Aviv to the entire territory of the former mandate they laid the foundations for its growth and transformation. Palestinians from the eastern sector of Jerusalem became part of the Israeli Arab population: qualified as ‘permanent residents’, they obtained the possibility of accessing Israeli citizenship, but only a minority applied for it. All the others were subjected to a regime of military administration which excluded them from civil and political rights. This situation was aggravated in the following years by the development of a colonization process of the West Bank and Gaza through Israeli settlements, by the progressive acquisition of land and water resources by the latter and by the occupation forces, and by the repressive measures adopted by the administration. military.

  1. The action of the PLO

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) became the unified body of the Palestinian resistance, within which all political-military groups were represented. As a kind of embryonic state, the PLO gave itself in 1964 a Constitution (Palestinian National Charter, amended in 1968), a parliament (Palestinian National Council), a government (Executive Committee, elected by the National Council), administrative structures, health, school, cultural. The organizational and military network of the resistance was developed above all in Lebanon and, until 1970, in Jordan. Expelled from Jordan in 1971, the PLO had to concentrate most of its forces in Lebanon, which was even more exposed to the violent Israeli incursions, helping to unleash the civil war that bloodied the country (1975-91).

  • The hegemony of al-Fatàh among the resistance groups resulted, starting from 1969, in the regular re-election of its leader, Y. ‛Arafāt, as president of the Executive Committee of the PLO. The latter’s program envisaged the establishment of an independent Palestinian state over the entire territory of the former mandate and the armed struggle against Israel as the main means of achieving it. Starting in 1974, however, the PLO took as an intermediate objective the establishment of an independent state in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967 (West Bank and Gaza Strip) and, while not giving up the armed struggle, it showed itself increasingly willing to pursue a political and diplomatic solution to the Palestinian question. In 1974 the PLO was recognized by the UN as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and in the following years by most states and numerous international organizations; from 1976, he became a full member of the Arab League.
  • Despite these successes, his position was weakened after 1977 by Egypt’s decision to conclude a separate peace with Israel, allowing him to recover Sinai: the Camp David accordsthey left the Palestinian question unresolved, but in the following years Tel Aviv was able to displace its forces towards the northern front and increase the pressure on Lebanon, aiming for a definitive liquidation of the PLO bases. This was partially achieved with the invasion of the country in 1982 and the occupation of its southern part until 1985, followed by the maintenance of Israeli control over a ‘security belt’ in the far south of Lebanese territory. The organizational and military structures of the PLO were largely dispersed, the headquarters were moved to Tunis.
  • A revolt of the Palestinian population (➔ intifada) which exploded in Gaza and the West Bank in 1987 contributed to a renewed unity of the resistance.
  1. The proclamation of the Palestinian state

On November 15, 1988 the Palestinian National Council proclaimed the State of Palestine (with Jerusalem as its capital) and in December ‛Arafāt explicitly recognized Israel before the UN General Assembly; by mid-1989 the state of Palestine (of which ‛Arafāt was elected president) had been recognized by over 90 nations. These developments were followed, since 1989, by repeated peace initiatives, but these continued to clash with the hostility of Tel Aviv. The situation was unlocked only when Israel and the PLO finally reached mutual recognition and signed in Washington (Oslo agreements, 13 September 1993) a Declaration of Principles which established that through numerous stages in a period of time not exceeding 5 years, coexistence between the two peoples in two different States should have been achieved, on the basis of the principle of restitution of the occupied territories to the Palestinian representation in exchange for peace. According to the lines of a new agreement, signed on September 28, 1995 in Washington by ‛Arafāt and I. Rabin, the West Bank was divided like a patch into three types of zones: zone A, under Palestinian control; zone B, under joint Israeli-Palestinian control; zone C, under Israeli control. In April 1996 the Palestinian National Council approved the elimination of all passages in the Palestinian National Charter relating to the destruction of Israel.

  • The continuing blockade of the negotiation process favored a further growth of the Islamic opposition, expressed in particular by the fundamentalist political movement Ḥamas. A significant turning point came, in October 1998, with the opening in Wye Plantation (Maryland) of a negotiation between ‛Arafāt, B. Netanyahu and B. Clinton, and with the participation of King Ḥusain of Jordan, which ended the October 23 at the White House with the official signing of a Memorandum. In 1999 ‛Arafāt and the new Israeli Prime Minister E. Barak they signed an agreement to relaunch the peace process, pledging to end the negotiations by September 2000, the date on which about 40% of the territories of the West Bank were expected to pass under the total or partial control of the Palestinian National Authority (ANP). The new stalemate, caused by the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the increasing use of violence by Ḥamas, resulted in yet another shift in the calendar of Israeli retreats. In 2000, the failure of the Camp David negotiations between Israel and the PNA delegation brought to light the ever greater distance between the parties and the strong ambiguities that were never cleared up in the whole negotiation.
  1. The resumption of hostilities

At the end of September 2000, the second intifada called al-Aqṣā broke out in Jerusalem. The revolt was severely suppressed by the Israeli government. During 2001, the living conditions of the population of the territories worsened and Israeli military retaliatory actions intensified after the formation of the government of national unity of Likud leader A. Sharon. After the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York and in Washington the level of confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians increased again and suicide attacks by Palestinian terrorists against Israeli civilians multiplied. In 2002 the Palestinian territories, repeatedly closed and occupied by the Israeli army during 2001, were overrun by bulldozers and tanks. After a temporary withdrawal of Israeli troops, at the end of June 2002 almost all the cities of the West Bank had been re-occupied or surrounded, while an intervention by US President GW Bush conditioned the birth of the Palestinian state to the renewal of its leadership.

  • Abu Māzen, who came to power (2005) after the death of ‛Arafāt (2004), was unable to prevent the electoral victory of Ḥamas (2006), responsible for an exacerbation of the conflict with Israel, which provoked the incursion of the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip and a real civil war with al-Fatàh in the streets of Gaza. The formation of a government of national solidarity led by I. Haniyeh did not help to restore peace between the two factions and in June 2007 the Palestine split in two: the West Bank under the control of Abu Māzen and al-Fatàh and the Strip of Gaza under the control of Ḥamas. As the launch of missiles from Gaza to Israel continued, the Israeli government responded with repeated air strikes, the closure of all borders and the blocking of supplies and finally between December 2008 and January 2009 with the military occupation. The peace talks between Abu Māzen and Israeli Prime Minister B. Netanyahu resumed after a few months with the mediation of the United States, but amid persistent resistance from both interlocutors. A temporary resumption of conflicts in the Gaza Strip occurred in November 2012, and a bilateral ceasefire agreement was reached only thanks to the mediation of Egypt’s new Islamist government with US support.
  • The request for recognition of the Palestinian state presented to the UN by Māzen in September 2011 aroused harsh reactions from the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, firmly reaffirmed in October of the same year when, with a plebiscitary vote by the General Assembly meeting in Paris, the ‘UNESCO – the first UN agency to comment on this request – declared itself in favor of the accession of Palestine as a full member of the body. An important advance in favor of the Palestinian cause was achieved in November 2012, when with 138 votes in favor (including that of Italy), 9 against and 41 abstentions, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the Palestinian National Authority as an observer State not a member of the UN; this condition confers international legitimacy on the Palestine and allows it to apply for membership as a member state and to appeal to the International Criminal Court.
  • In June 2013, after Prime Minister S. Fayyad resigned due to disagreements over government policies, the Palestine appointed R. Hamdallah as prime minister; a member of al-Fatàh and not recognized by Hamas, he too resigned in the same month of June, but the following month he was assigned the task of forming a new government. In May 2014, after reaching an agreement between al-Fatàh and Hamas, the two factions agreed on the appointment of Hamdallah as prime minister of the transitional government of national unity, which dissolved in June of the following year as unable to impose its authority on the Gaza Strip.
  • A decisive step towards reconciliation between al-Fatàh and Ḥamas was taken in September 2017 with the dissolution of the executive of the Islamist movement in Gaza and with the acceptance of the conditions set by the Palestine, including the calling of general elections which also include Gaza and Palestine. In January 2019, Prime Minister Hamdallah resigned from the government of national reconciliation, taking over from it the following March M. Shtayyeh.
  • In May 2021, violent clashes that broke out following the removal of some Palestinian families from a neighborhood in Jerusalem caused a resurgence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, during which mutual artillery clashes and protracted air strikes resulted in the deaths of about 200 individuals. The truce between Ḥamasand Israel was reached at the end of May, when a ceasefire was agreed between the two sides, both claiming victory.

Palestine History