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30 years since ‘independence’, Palestine still bleeds

On Nov. 15, 1988, Palestine Liberation Organization announced ‘independence’ of Palestinian state

Ali Murat Alhas   | 15.11.2018
30 years since ‘independence’, Palestine still bleeds File Photo

By Mustafa Deveci

JERUSALEM 

Thirty years since its declaration of independence in 1988, Palestine has faced difficult times due to the ongoing Israeli occupation and pro-Israel bias on the part of many western states.

On Nov. 15, 1988, the Palestine National Council, which is affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), announced -- despite the continued occupation -- the independence of the Palestinian state.

Given that its land was still under Israeli occupation, however, it was apparent that the struggle for freedom would face numerous challenges.

Thousands of Palestinians, who only wanted to live freely, were killed, while hundreds of thousands of others were driven from their land.

Despite this, 140 countries now recognize the Palestinian state, with the notable exception of several western countries.

The U.S., France and the U.K., the so-called cradle of democracy, still don’t recognize the Palestinian state. They also turn a blind eye to Israel’s illegal policies.

Despite all these hypocritical policies, and the ongoing Israeli occupation, the Palestinians continue their fight to have an independent state, whose capital is East Jerusalem and which includes the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Post-Ottoman rule 

Jerusalem, the heart of Palestine, includes Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is the first qiblah of Muslims and where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to Mi'raj. In addition, Jerusalem also contains sacred places for Judaism and Christians.

Given these reasons, Palestine has throughout history been targeted and occupied.

The painful situation of Palestine started when the British occupied the region that was under Ottoman rule. Following the occupation, the British entered the holy city on Dec. 9, 1917, and Palestine has never been the same.

Shortly before the occupation of Jerusalem, the Balfour Declaration of Nov. 2, 1917 changed the course of Palestine's fate.

The British Empire shut its eyes to the Jewish settlers coming from all corners of the world and let them settle on Palestinian soil.

The influx of Jews into the Palestinian territories later triggered conflicts between Arab and Jewish people; the British later took the issue to the UN.

The partition plan adopted by the UN in 1947 granted 55 percent of the land to Israel whereas only 45 percent was given to the Arabs, who were living in their own country.

Moreover, Jerusalem was given a special status and was to be controlled by the international community.

After the British Mandate came to an end in the region, the new state of Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948.

The Arab countries, including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, waged war against Israel only a day after Israel declared independence.

After winning the war, Israel invaded and occupied Western Jerusalem. In the 1967 war, also known as the Six-Day War, Israel invaded all of Palestine by entering East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

East Jerusalem 

East Jerusalem, regarded as the greatest obstacle to resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict, is currently under total occupation of Israel. Its connection to other parts of Palestine was broken after a barrier was built between it and the West Bank in 2002.

The state of Israel has carried out a policy of Judaization in East Jerusalem, where there are 18 illegal Jewish settlements. Some 220,000 Jewish people live there.

On the other hand, despite the pressures of the occupation, some 316,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem.

Palestinians who refuse Israeli citizenship use "Jerusalem Identity Cards" for residence permits.

According to a resolution adopted by the Israeli parliament in 1980, Jerusalem, including the eastern and western parts, was declared the "eternal and united" capital of Israel, consecrating the annexation of East Jerusalem.

In response, the UN adopted Security Council Resolution 478, which condemned Israeli attempts to annex East Jerusalem.

The international community, including the U.S., considers East Jerusalem under occupation. However, things changed when U.S. President Donald Trump took a decision that changed the fate of the city.

On Dec. 6, 2017, Donald Trump inked a decree that recognized Jerusalem as the "capital" of Israel. Then, on May 14, 2018, the U.S. relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

West Bank

The West Bank, which remained under the British Mandate from 1917 to 1948, then became part of Jordan and this continued until 1967 when the Six-Day War broke out between Arab states and Israel.

Following the 1967 war, Israel occupied the West Bank, saying it was part of "Judea and Samaria".

Israel began to administer the West Bank through military laws and build illegal Jewish settlements in the region so it could Judaize the area.

Today, there are some 500,000 Jewish settlers living in about 250 illegal settlements in the West Bank.

Within the framework of the Oslo II Accord, which was inked by the Palestinian and Israeli administrations in 1995, the West Bank was divided into areas A, B and C.

ministration and security of Area A, corresponding to 18 percent of the West Bank, was to be provided by Palestine; the administration of 21 percent of "Area B" was rendered to Palestine, while security responsibility went to Israel. 

As for "Area C", which comprises 60 percent of the West Bank, the role of providing administration and security was given to Israel.

According to the agreement, a transition period of five years was expected following Israeli troops' withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Ariha (Jericho).

The parties also agreed on a temporary period in which the administration of Gaza and the West Bank would be transferred to the newly-created Palestinian Authority.

Thus, it was envisaged that the parties would sign a final status agreement by 1999 and the Palestinians would form their own administration.

While Palestine demanded Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, things didn't go according to plan and Israel didn't fulfill its commitments.

Today, all the institutions belonging to the Palestinian government are currently located in the West Bank's Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority’s administrative capital.

Due to the barrier wall, the Palestinians in the West Bank cannot enter Jerusalem for 11 months of the year.

Only in the holy month of Ramadan does Israel allow Palestinian women and men below 12 or above 40 years old to visit Jerusalem.

Gaza

Despite the fierce battles by Ottoman soldiers against the British army, the Gaza Strip was occupied in 1917.

One year after occupying Gaza in 1967, Israel began to build numerous Jewish settlements in strategic areas with a view to controlling the region.

Israel built 19 Jewish settlements on 23,000 square kilometers in the Gaza Strip and annexed another 23,000 on the pretext of setting up "safe areas" near the new settlements.

Ariel Sharon, who served as Israeli prime minister, in response to the armed resistance in Gaza, put a "disengagement plan" on the agenda, which called for the evacuation of Jewish settlements from the region for the first time.

On June 15, 2005, Israel evacuated the settlers and withdrew from Gaza after demolishing the settlement buildings.

After Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections and became the governing force in Gaza, Israel imposed a blockade on the enclave, where some two million Palestinians live.

Since 2006, there has been an aerial, land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip, leading to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

The people of Gaza have no freedom of travel and cannot leave the region apart from exceptional circumstances.

Israel carried out four major attacks on Gaza within the past decade in which thousands of Palestinians were killed and tens of thousands left without homes.

"The Great Return" protests in Gaza, which have been ongoing since March 30, have been met with overwhelming force by the Israeli army.

Israel hasn’t refrained from using deadly force against protesters, who demand an end to the Israeli blockade and the return of some six million Palestinian refugees who were banished from their homeland in 1948.

Israeli soldiers have used live ammunition against peaceful protestors and more than 210 Palestinians, including reporters and medics, have been martyred, while tens of thousands of others have been injured.

*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara

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