The European term Middle East refers to the countries concerned as a secondary place in world history. From a historical perspective, however, the Middle East has played a central role for long periods. In the so-called fertile crescent, extending from Mesopotamia over Palestine to Egypt, occurred about 7000 BC. the earliest known agriculture with the cultivation of barley and wheat and the domestication of pigs and cattle. From approx. 4000 BC rich urban cultures emerged in Mesopotamia such as the Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian (see Near Eastern ancient cultures), while the Egyptians in the Nile Valley created a well-organized, stable culture and state formation. Together, they ruled the Middle East for a few millennia, and from them and their neighbors, the Phoenicians and Jews, emitted significant cultural impulses: an efficient agriculture based on irrigation, urban communities with highly developed crafts, administration and justice, a strong military with archers and horse drawn tanks sciences such as math, astronomy and medical arts. The area’s trade and religion were also a prerequisite for the development of writing systems such as hieroglyphs and cuneiforms, culminating in the Phoenician simplification of an alphabet approx. 1200. The complicated astral and natural religions were rationalized by the Jews into a monotheism, which in the Christian and Islamic form became world religions. The stability of the region was threatened from the outside by the Hittites in the north and by the Medes and Persians in the east, who in 700 AD. conquered Babylon and Egypt, and later by Greeks and Romans, both of whom left powerful footprints.
In the first centuries AD, the Middle East was ruled by the Byzantine Empire and the Persian Empire, but in the 600th century. the two kingdoms were both politically and religiously pushed back by the Islamic caliphate, which in a short time had created a new unity culture based on Islam and with Arabic as the dominant language. The old religious communities were reduced to disadvantaged minorities: Copts, Syrians and Armenians.
From Central Asia came new conquerors, Turkish and Mongolian fast rider armies, as in 1000-1400. drastically changed the Middle East and most countries in Middle East, according to Countryaah. Baghdad and the caliphate fell in 1258 to the Mongols, and Byzans in 1453 to the Ottoman Turks. The Ottomans conquered Cairo and Mecca in 1517, and in ca. For 400 years they were masters of the Middle East’s core countries as well as much of Southeastern Europe. The Crusader period from 1099 to 1291 became only a brief interlude, but it left deep traces of European and Arab consciousness.
During the 1700-t. the Ottoman Empire was weakened, and the growing European influence became evident through Napoleon’s brief invasion of Egypt in 1798 and the construction of the Suez Canal in 1869. From 1875, the English took control of the canal, while France secured influence in Syria and Lebanon, where an Arab culture and national self-awareness grew. A religious reform movement in Egypt called for the reinterpretation of Islam as a modernizing force, and in the 1920s it gained a more radical direction in the Muslim Brotherhood.
When the Ottoman Empire collapsed in World War I, a new Middle East emerged with the now secular Turkey confined to Asia Minor and the Istanbul area. The League of Nations mandated Britain to rule Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq, while France took over Syria and Lebanon. After World War II, these countries became independent, and a new state, Israel, emerged in 1948. The Great Powers of the United States and the Soviet Union became increasingly strong, not least because of the oil and Israel. Military coups in the 1950s in the leading Arab countries, Egypt, Syria and Iraq, raised hopes of renewal, social progress and pan-Arab action, but resulted in ineffective dictatorships, made visible in the defeat of Israel in 1967. The region’s main oil countries are Saudi Arabia and the states of the Persian Gulf.
In Iran, in 1979, the religious scholars succeeded in overthrowing the provocative Shah’s rule and establishing an Islamic republic. It inspired inspiring Islamic uprisings in neighboring countries. The Iranian regime was challenged by Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, which led to the 1980-88 Iran -Iraq War, which revived Arab-Iranian contradictions. A weakened Iraq annexed Kuwait in 1990, citing that it was part of historic Iraq. In 1991, the international community led by the United States liberated Kuwait and invaded parts of southern Iraq to retreat later (see Gulf War). The disintegration of the Soviet Union meant that the United States was the only superpower in the region, and it subsequently led to attempts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With the conclusion of the Principles Agreement of 1993, this seemed to succeed, but the process stalled again from 2000. In March 2003, an international army led by the United States invaded Iraq to force a system change. However, the situation remained unresolved; Since 2004, Iraq has been characterized by fierce internal struggles, but also by a political process of change ensured through the presence of the international alliance. Since 1991, the Middle East states have sought to find their place in the international political system dominated by the United States.
Modern history of Palestine
In 1948 and 1967, the most tumultuous events occurred in the modern history of the Palestinians. Since the United Nations voted for a division of the British mandate Palestine, much of the area for Palestinians was blocked by the fact that one part in 1948 became a Jewish state: Israel. In 1967, Israel invaded the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip and began a lasting military occupation of these areas.
The legal basis for the State of Israel was laid down in 1947 in Resolution 181 of the UN General Assembly, which, apart from dividing the area into a Jewish and an Arab state, assumed that Jerusalem would be a city under international administration.
From the Arab side, the split was not accepted. The neighboring countries attacked Israel the day after the Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. The war lasted from 1948 to 1949. Over 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled. The events, in particular the refugee tragedy, are called by Palestinians al-Nakba, the disaster. Several wars have been fought since then and waves of Palestinian refugees have spread throughout the region (See Refugees).
After the end of the war in 1949, the West Bank and East Jerusalem were under Jordanian sovereignty while Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip. Israel, for its part, had taken control of West Jerusalem and expanded its territory significantly compared to the United Nations resolution.
In the 1967 Six Day War (June War), the Arab states suffered a devastating defeat. Israel entered East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria. On the Israeli side, this meant, among other things, that Jews again gained access to holy places such as the Western Wall (the Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem. The war also led Israel to take control of even larger lands and important water resources, and began to move its own citizens into the occupied territories where Israeli settlements were built.
The October 1973 war is called by the Arab Ramadan War, by Israelis yom the Kippur War – Muslim and Jewish holidays coincided. Throughout this war, Arab states attempted, without success, to reclaim land occupied by Israel.
PLO is formed
In the wars, Arab states fought for the cause of the Palestinians. Between the wars, Palestinian organizations conducted guerrilla operations against Israel. In 1959, the Palestinian Liberation Movement (Fatah) was formed with the goal of liberating Palestine by armed struggle. Fatah, led by Yasir Arafat (1929-2004), eventually took over the command also in the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) umbrella organization. PLO recruited guerrillas in the refugee camps and carried out raids into Israeli territory. PLO had its base in Jordan, but it turned on hospitality. Jordan’s King Hussein, who felt threatened, set up his government army in September 1970 and Fatah’s leadership was forced to move from Jordan to Lebanon. In the wake of the events, a Palestinian terror group called the Black September was formed, which murdered members of Israel’s national team squad at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
A host of other acts of terrorism, including aircraft hijackings and bombings, were carried out in the name of the Palestinian people. The attacks before the 1990s peace process with Israel were driven by secular movements with socialist ideals, including the PFLP and its spin-offs PFLP-GC and DFLP (see Political system).
With Fatah’s leadership relocated to Lebanese territory, guerrilla raids against Israel intensified from the north. In Lebanon, a civil war broke out in 1975, complicated by the presence of Palestinian movements in the country.
In the summer of 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. The PLO was forced to leave the country and move to Tunisia. In September 1982, when Israel claimed that there were guerrillas left in the refugee camps in Lebanon, Falangists (Christian militiamen) conducted massacres on Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila camps. The Falangists were allied with Israel, and Sabra and Shatila were surrounded by Israeli soldiers. How many who lost their lives when the phalangists entered the camps has never been clarified. Israel has estimated the number of civilians killed is under a thousand, while Palestinian sources claimed that the deaths were close to 3,000. An Israeli investigation later gave him ultimate responsibility for the massacres.
The entire Arab front had exploded even before Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, when Egypt made peace with Israel in 1978 (the Camp David Agreement). The peace meant that an Arab neighboring country recognized Israel for the first time. Egypt – which got the Sinai Peninsula back – abandoned its claims in Gaza, but at the same time lost reputation in the Arab world, which saw the agreement as a betrayal of the Palestinians. Through the agreement, Egypt pledged to work for Palestinian self-government.
The PLO continued the armed struggle but began advocating a “democratic secular state” for Jews and Palestinians in the 1970s. From 1988, the PLO advocated a “two-state solution”, that is, a Palestinian state would be formed alongside Israel.
At that time, the first intifada, the Palestinian uprising, which began in December 1987, was in response to the settlement policy. At the same time, the Islamist movement Hamas appeared in the Gaza Strip as a new front against Israel.
In the summer of 1988, Jordan released its claims to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, paving the way for the PLO to issue a Palestinian Declaration of Independence in November of that year. At the same time, the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist by approving important UN Security Council resolutions (Nos. 242 and 338 requiring Israeli retreat from occupied territory). The PLO at the same time renounced terrorist methods, but support for armed struggle remained formal until 1993.
That Arab states were no longer willing to go to war for Palestinian interests had shown Egypt’s peace with Israel. The PLO was pressed into exile, and terrorism had given the Palestinians a bad reputation. When violence was judged to have reached the end of the road, they initially began secret peace negotiations which became known as the Oslo Process.
Within the framework of the Oslo process, PLO and Israel signed several agreements, which included a declaration of principle on mutual recognition. Hamas opposed the deal. The first agreement, Oslo I, concluded in 1993, gave the Palestinians autonomy in the Gaza Strip and in the city of Jericho on the West Bank. Oslo II from 1995 extended self-government to Palestinian population centers on the West Bank, but Israel retained control of the lion’s share (see Political system).
In 1994, the Nobel Peace Prize went to the three responsible leaders for the negotiations: PLO leader Yasir Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
The Oslo process resulted in interim agreements, temporary solutions, pending final negotiations between the parties. An unsuccessful negotiation attempt was made in 2000 during Bill Clinton’s time as President of the United States. The difficult questions about the fate of the refugees, the Jewish settlements, East Jerusalem, the external borders and access to water are still waiting for their solution (see also Current policy).
Violence in the tracks of the agreement
The opposition to the peace agreements was great in extreme groups both in Israel and among the Palestinians. In Hebron, a Jewish settler began a massacre against Muslims in prayer in 1994. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an Israeli ultranationalist. The militant Islamist movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad continued to attack Israel, including bombings against buses and rocket fire on Israeli territory. In the peoples’ wide stock, support for the settlements was eroded because the peace agreements were not fulfilled.
In 1996, the Palestinian Authority held presidential and parliamentary elections. Arafat won the presidential election with 88 percent of the vote. Opposition candidate Samiha Khalil reached just over 11 percent of the vote. She was a well-known social worker and connected to the organization DFLP.
A second intifada, from 2000, was based on Palestinian dissatisfaction that the goals of the Oslo process had not been achieved and that the agreements had created a Palestinian autonomy characterized by imperfection and corruption. The sparking spark was a visit that Ariel Sharon, then conservative party leader in Israel, made at the mosques on Temple Mount. Sharon’s presence was perceived by Palestinians as a provocation. During the second intifada there were also Fatah-affiliated groups among those who took up arms against Israel: the al-Aqsamartir brigades and the youth movement Tanzim.
After the turn of the millennium, Israel built an almost 70-mile security barrier against the West Bank – partly concrete wall, partly fence. The border was moved with the barrier further into Palestinian territory than the “green line”, the pre-1967 standstill line which, among other things, in the peace process was regarded as Israel’s external border, see map here. In 2004, the International Court found that the barrier is illegal, but the ruling is not binding.
Arafat passed away in 2004. The circumstances when he thinned away in unexplained illness have not been clarified, and many are convinced that he was murdered. After Arafat’s death, the leadership role was taken over by Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen), who also won the presidential election held in 2005.
Jewish settlements on Palestinian land continued to grow. Ariel Sharon, who has now become head of government in Israel, concluded that Israel must have fixed, internationally recognized borders, and was ready to sacrifice occupied land to achieve this. In the winter of 2004, Sharon announced that Israel would evacuate Gaza, and so in the fall of 2005, despite opposition from some settlers.
Fatah continued to dominate the PLO and thus the Palestinian Authority, but soon the conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip came to a head. Hamas was honored by the fact that Israel evacuated its settlements in the Gaza Strip and that the Israeli army was withdrawn from the area. Hamas ran in the 2006 parliamentary elections – and won. PLO and Fatah are secular organizations, while Hamas advocates Islamization of society. However, the election result is believed to have been more based on dissatisfaction with Fatah’s exercise of power in the Palestinian Authority than on support for Islamization advocated by Hamas.
The new parliament met in March 2006 with the help of a video link connecting the members of Ramallah and Gaza City.
Hamas wanted to form a broad coalition with Fatah and other parties, but when they refused to participate, Hamas formed its own government and set up its own security force in Gaza, despite Abbas trying to ban it.
In Gaza, bloody riots broke out between Hamas and Fatah supporters. New attempts to agree failed, and in June 2007 Hamas threw Fatah out of the Gaza Strip, taking over administration and police operations there.