Palestine -- Geography --
Palestine can be divided into four main distinct regions:
Coastal and Inner Plains.
These are among the best fertile land in Palestine and elsewhere, with adequate resources of irrigation (from rainfall and underground water). They are where most of the Palestinian citrus groves used to stand. The coastal stretch is divided by Jabal al-Karmel (Mount Carmel) into the plain of Akka (Acre) and the plain of Palestine (also called Saruunah). The inner part consists, largely, of Marj bin 3aamir. This one is triangular in shape, with Jenin and Nazareth (An-NaaSirah) as its base and the SE edge of the Akka plain as its sharp corner.
The Mountains and Hills.
This part is largely rocky but has terraces which make it suitable for a number of trees. Olives is one of the most planted trees in these regions. There are almonds, apples and others. Also, there are patches of plains scattered around in this region and these are fully utilized: they are planted wheat, barely, lentils .. in Winter and vegetables during the Summer (mostly tomatoes, melons, maize and other vegetation that stands the hot weather). Mountains are located in al-Jaliil (Galilee), al-Karmel, Nablus and Hebron areas.
The Jordan Valley and Ghawr.
This is well below sea level, hence the name ghawr, with very good soil but very little water resources. Agriculture there depends on irrigation either from local streams or the Jordan River. Due to its climate, that region used to produce summer vegetables in late Winter stretching the availability of fresh produce before electricity and refregerators. The two lakes are at the northern edge of this region.
The Southern Desert:
This region comprises almost half of the land of Palestine. It is also triangular in shape. The base is fertile and the rest, with its apex near the town of Aqaba, is poor with scattered patches of regions suitable for cultivation. Bi'r as-Sab' (renamed Beersheba by the occupation) is the main town in that region.
Palestine -- History --
Kingdom of Jerusalem Period 1099–1187.
The proximate cause of the Crusades, following 1095, by the Christian European powers was the desire to reconquer the birthland and holy land of Christianity, which had been lost to the Islamic Arab invasion of the Byzantine Roman empire in the 7th century. The Christian forces established the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which lasted from 1099 until 1291, though Saladin reconquered the city of Jerusalem in 1187.
Ayyubid Period 1187–1244.
The Ayyubid Sultanate, founded by Saladin, controlled Jerusalem and some but not all of the region until 1250, when it was defeated by the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt.
Mamluk Period 1244–1517.
The Mamluks destroyed all towns on the flat coastal plains in order to rid the land of the Crusader presence and make sure it never returned. The main exceptions were Jaffa, Gaza, Lydda and Ramle. As a result of this, most trade with the west was curtailed. Due to the many earthquakes, the religious extremism and the black plague that hit during this era, the population dwindled to around 200,000 souls. It is during this period that the land began to have an indigenous Levantine Muslim majority and even in the traditional Jewish stronghold of Eastern Galilee, a new Jewish-Muslim culture began to develop.
The Mamluk Sultanate ultimately became a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire, in the wake of campaigns waged by Selim I in the 16th century.
Ottoman Period 1517-1917.
In 1516 the Ottoman Turks occupied Palestine. The country became part of the Ottoman Empire. Constantinople appointed local governors. Public works, including the city walls, were rebuilt in Jerusalem by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1537. An area around Tiberias was given to Don Joseph HaNasi for a Jewish enclave. Following the expulsions from Spain, the Jewish population of Palestine rose to around 25% (includes non-Ottoman citizens, excludes Bedouin) and regained its former stronghold of Eastern Galilee. That ended in 1660 when they were massacred at Safed and Jerusalem. During the reign of Dahar al Omar, Pasha of the Galilee, Jews from Ukraine began to resettle Tiberias.
Napoleon of France briefly waged war against the Ottoman Empire (allied then with Great Britain). His forces conquered and occupied cities in Palestine, but they were finally defeated and driven out by 1801. In 1799 Napoleon announced a plan to re-establish a Jewish State in Palestine which was mostly to curry favour with Haim Farkhi the Jewish finance minister and advisor to the Pasha of Syria/Palestine. He was later assassinated and his brothers formed an army with Ottoman permission to conquer the Galilee. Turkish rule lasted until World War I.
Jewish immigration to Palestine, particularly to the "four sacred cities" (Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias and Hebron) which already had significant Jewish communities, increased particularly towards the end of Ottoman rule; Jews of European origin lived mostly off donations from off-country, while many Sephardic Jews found themselves a trade. Many Circassians and Bosnian Muslims were settled in the north of Palestine by the Ottomans in the early 19th Century. In the 1830's Egypt conquered Palestine and made some minor improvements and many Egyptians, in particular soldiers, settled there. It was however during this period that the Jews of Safed were massacred in 1831 by Druzes. Safed was resettled with Kurds and Algerians. This was followed in 1837 by earthquakes in Safed and Tiberias. In 1838 Palestine was returned to the Turks.
British Mandate Period 1917–1948
The rise of Zionism, a political movement started in Europe and Russia in the 19th century seeking to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine, increased the trend of Jewish immigration. By 1920, the Jewish population of Palestine had reached 11% of the population.
Palestine and Transjordan were incorporated (under different legal and administrative arrangements) into the Mandate for Palestine, issued by the League of Nations to Great Britain on 29 September, 1923.
In World War I, Turkey sided with Germany. As a result, it was embroiled in a conflict with Great Britain, leading to the British capture of Palestine in a series of battles led by General Allenby. Allenby famously dismounted from his horse when he entered captured Jerusalem as a mark of respect for the Holy City. He was greeted by the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic leaders of the city with great honor.
At the subsequent 1919 Paris Peace Conference and Treaty of Versailles, Turkey's loss of its Middle East empire was formalized. The British had in the interim made two agreements. In the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence there was an undertaking to form an Arab state in exchange for the Great Arab Revolt and in the Balfour Declaration in 1917 to "favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people" while respecting the rights of existing non-Jewish communities".
McMahon's promises are seen by Arab nationalists as a pledge of immediate Arab independence, an undertaking violated by the region's subsequent partition into British and French League of Nations mandates under the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 1916 which became the real cornerstone of the geopolitics structuring the entire region. Prior to the conference Emir Faisal, British ally and son of the king of the Hijaz, had agreed in the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement to support the immigration of Jews into Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, while creating a large Arab state based in Syria. When the conference did not produce that Arab state, Faisal called instead for Palestine to become part of his new Arab Syrian kingdom.
In 1920, the Allied Supreme Council meeting at San Remo offered a Mandate for Palestine to Great Britain, but the borders and terms under which the mandate was to be held were not finalised until September 1922. Article 25 of the mandate specified that the eastern area (then known as Transjordan or Transjordania) did not have to be subject to all parts of the Mandate, notably the provisions regarding a Jewish national home. This was used by the British as one rationale to establish an Arab state, which it saw as at least partially fulfilling the undertakings in the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence. On 11 April 1921 the British passed administration of the eastern region to the Hashemite Arab dynasty from the Hejaz what later became part of Saudi Arabia as the Emirate of Transjordan and on 15 May 1923 recognized it as a state.
Under the Mandate, Jewish immigration to Cisjordan Palestine increased substantially with a rise in Jewish nationalism, which encouraged Zionism, a return to the ancient land of the Jews. Between 1922 and 1946, Jews went from less than 11% to 33% of the rapidly expanding population, due in part to an influx of Jewish refugees from Nazism in Europe and the refusal of the USA, France, Britain and other countries to allow Jewish immigration.
Palestinian Arab leaders strongly opposed the immigration. In 1936, the British Peel Commission advised that the western part of Palestine be divided between Arabs and Jews. The Arabs then launched the Great Uprising against British rule in an effort to end the immigration. The Jews, for their part, organized militia groups like the Irgun and Lehi to fight the British and the Haganah and Palmach to fight the Arabs. By the time order was restored in March of 1939, more than 5,000 Arabs, 400 Jews, and 200 Britons had been killed.
Palestine -- Economy --
The Palestinian economy refers to the economy of the Palestinian territories, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza strip. Recent geopolitical events have severely damaged the economy of the territories. In September 2000, the Second Intifada began. The increased Palestinian violence and checkpoint closures associated with the conflict caused a recession in 2001-02. The World Bank compared this recession to the Great Depression of 1929 . In 2006, Hamas won legislative control of the Palestinian Authority (PA), triggering a halt in international aid from countries labelling it a terrorist organization, including the United States, members of the European Union, and Israel.
As of December 2006, unemployment has risen from 23% in 2005 to over 50%. Two-thirds of Palestinians are living below the poverty line. In the last four months, approximately 10,000 have emigrated from the territories, and approximately 50,000 have applied to do so. For the past nine months, the 160,000 civil service workers, who are the primary breadwinners for a third of households, have not received their full salaries due to the cuts in foreign aid. As a result of the Israeli blockade on the territory, 85 percent of factories are shut or operating at less than 20 percent capacity. Israel estimates that its own businesses are losing $2 million a day from the closing, but Gaza is losing $1 million a day, an amount it is less able to afford.
Palestine -- Culture --
Today's Palestinians are direct descendants of the Arab people and share their culture, language and history.
Recent history has been far from generous with the Palestinian people. Due to imperialism and the continued colonization that the Palestinians have had to endure in the past 50 years, the majority of the Palestinian people live in the Diaspora. Palestinians number approximately 9 million of which more than 4 million in the Diaspora and around 3.7 million are residing in the West Bank and Gaza. Over 1.4 million Palestinian live inside the Green Line Area (1948 Occupied Territories). Population growth rate in the Palestinian Territories is around 3.3%.
Arabic is the official language of the Palestinian Territories. However, Palestinians are multilingual people, with English being widely spoken and used in business. Several other languages such as Hebrew, French, German, Italian and Spanish are also widely spoken.
Palestine is the Holy Land for three monotheistic religions: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Bethlehem and Palestinians celebrated the year 2000 commemorating the occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ. Palestine is also the place where Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. Islam has dominated the culture of Palestine for the past 1400 years. The city of Bethlehem has long been a destination for Christian pilgrims from all points of the globe, whereas Jerusalem is still the world's biggest religious attraction for Moslem, Christian and Jewish pilgrims.
Palestine -- Political system, law and government --
Palestine has had a short and fairly unstable history, and there have been numerous breaks on human rights. Palestine is based upon a constitutional democracy, but has a strong and dominating leader in Yassir Arafat. Divisions in Palestine is often based upon different views on the peace process.
Palestine has defined itself as an independent country since 1988, and its territory is the West Bank and Gaza strip. Palestine is recognized by more than 100 countries around the world.
At the present the rule of the Palestinian territory is not clearly defined by agreements that are not always respected from the Israeli side, and which have not yet solved some of the most central questions: Jewish settlers living on the West Bank and Israeli control over East Jerusalem.
There has been relative freedom for Palestine under the Israeli supremacy.
The political structures of Palestine are in a process of developing, but as the status of Palestine is far from clear, and will be decided over the following years, the political culture of Palestine will be strongly influenced by this. Over recent years, many structures have deteriorated in quality. Democracy is in some fields limited, and civil rights for ordinary citizens are often violated.
Yet, the relationship between the different Palestinian groups are better than some years ago, and even groups like Hamas, strongly against the agreements with Israel, see the Palestinian authority as a possible partner.
Israel's control over the Palestinian areas, is divided into three sectors (according to agreement of 1995). One sector remains under total Israeli control, a second under strong Palestinian control, and a third sector has joint control.