Old name for the Middle Eastern area which is now Israel, supposedly derived from "Philistine," a biblical-era name for a part of the region.

In 1948 a United Nations mandate divided the area between Arabs and Jews -- the Palestinian leaders and leaders of surrounding countries (who were all Arabs) did not accept this and have several times since then invaded or attacked Israeli territory. In the process of fighting back, Israel actually gained about 80% of the territory originally divided about equally between the two groups. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank are some of these areas; they are now partially ruled by the Palestinians native to the areas but are still overall under Israeli control. Many Palestinians, both those who've left the area and those who've stayed, are part of resistance movements with the goal of regaining some or all of the territory once called Palestine back from Israel.

"Provicia Palaestina" was the name given by the Romans to Provincia Iudaea, after the 132 CE rebellion of the Jews against them failed, the name appears nowhere before. Many Jewish cities in the area were sacked at that time, including Jerusalem, which was renamed "Ilia Capitolina", and their Jewish inhabitants deported.

The Romans chose to call the province after the philistines, although they were long since extinct by that time. By the changing of the name the Romans hoped to disconnect the Jewish people (Populus Iudaeus in Latin) from their homeland, since the Jews were considered by that time a dangerous element (The 132 CE rebellion was the third Jewish rebellion against the Romans).

The term actually included the territories of what are now both Israel and Jordan. The British mandate in Palestine included the territories of both future states, and only in 1946 did the British government decide to cut off of the Palestine mandate the territory that was first called Transjordan and later The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Palestine should be re-instated to the Palestinians, the UN mandate made the same mistake the Allies did before the second world war, they divided up another country (in that case CzechoSlovakia) for their own political needs, ignoring the wishes of the native population. In that case it was a step to a huge conflict with bitterness that extended for generations, and in this case it may very well be the same.

The simplicity of the first w/u belies the complex issues of religious identity, political freedom, and justice. There can be no doubt that Palestine was taken from the Palestinians against their will, a process comparable to the invasion of any other country. There can also be no doubt that the invasion and subsequent occupation would have foundered a long time ago had it not been for political backing and intervention from countries like the USA and Britain. Even now, when Israel is accused of some of the most hideous violations of international human rights, these two countries refuse to accept responsibility and withdraw support.

This generates intense bitterness both on the ground in Palestine, and also across the world by anyone who is familiar with the situation.

There can also be no doubt that the invasion and subsequent occupation would have foundered a long time ago had it not been for political backing and intervention from countries like the USA and Britain.

Britain voted against the UN recognition of the State of Israel, not wishing to have its Mandate repealed, and has never directly supported Israel's struggle for survival either with aid or on the international arena.

The US did not directly intervene in the fates of Israel until 1973, when Nixon initiated the aerial convoy of ammunition and weaponry to Israel to help it fight the Yom Kippur War. Israel has already withstood attack on all its borders twice before that, as well as several border actions and continual terrorism.

While I am of the opinion that an insular Jewish entity has no long term future in an increasingly Islamic Middle East, and that crimes of war and violations of international law have been perpetrated against the Arab population of Mandatorial Palestine, I'm afraid I cannot allow that the statehood, economy, society and culture which make up the colourful Isreali mosaic are all the product of a selfish experiment by Western powers.

Jewish settlement (or, as many Israelis would have it, re-settlement) of Palestine started 50 years before the foundation of Israel as a state, while the territory was a rundown backwaters of the Ottoman Empire. By 1948, the Jewish society in Palestine was almost self-reliant, and entirely distinct from the Arab one. There were even then many differences and conflicts between the two cultures, which this is probably not the time or place to go into.

The very name of the area is a matter of a telling ideological disparity. The Palestinians, having lacked political and national definition before the beginning of the conflict, fall back on an appelation which is not directly derived either from their history or their culture, whereas the Jews resurrected a personally relevant name, language and culture to found their state upon.

Allow me again to reiterate, I believe that the Zionist endeavour in Israel is doomed, and that it was founded upon a mistaken interpretation of the nationalistic ideology. However, to deprive the generations of people who made Israel into a modern state of any credit is narrow minded and can only lead to the speaker's opinions being dismissed on grounds of ignorance.

Imagine the Palestinian situation in your country.

Let's take the US as an example. It's 1948 and the UN has passed a mandate stating the 50% of the continental US shall be given over the Jewish people as theirs. A line is drawn following the eastern borders of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Texas. Everything west of this is to be called Israel and is now no longer under US control. Most American citizens living in western states are moved east. Those that remain must accept Israeli rule.

Over the following years countries such as say Britain and Japan bank-roll the new Israeli state to the tune of billions of pounds and yen. Not only that but they ship vast amounts of armaments too. Subsequently after a few skirmishes along the border, Israel uses these monies and armaments to invade eastwards and annexes a further 30% of what was originally the USA.

US territory now consists only of the north-eastern corner; or everything north of Tennessee and North Carolina and east of Wisconsin and Illinois. Many Americans left behind in the western and southern states now live suppressed under the rule of a foreign power. The rest are crammed into the remaining 20% of their former homeland.

Now, how would you feel?

Disclaimer: For the record I do not condone terrorism in any way, shape or form. This node is merely intended to be an illustration of why the people of Palestine and some Arab countries take an extremist anti-western stance.

imagine the Palestinian situation in your country....Let's take the US as an example.

But this example is not very near to the truth, for several reasons:

The Jews have always lived in the mideast. Even after the Romans drove them out, a few thousand hardy souls stayed in place and continued to occupy small pockets in the middle east.

In the late 1890's, a new Zionist feeling was sweeping through the Jewish culture, spread by a taste for a country where Jews could really be free to persue any fate they wished. After 2000 years of exile, they wanted to return home.

Over the next 50 years, hundreds of thousands of Jews legally returned to their roots. Most of them arrived dirt poor and worked as laborers, trying to turn land the Arabs found worthless into cropland. They drained swamps and irrigated dessert to create land that had never been fertile before. They prospered and bought land (at inflated prices, later in the process) from Arabs. Conditions for newly arriving Jews were extremely harsh and many starved to death or died of deprivation.

At the end of WWI the British were given the mandate to bring the area into statehood and expressed every intention at the start of creating a Jewish Homeland (see the Balfour Declaration). As time wore on, however, the British began to see that the Jews were a small minority of the people in the mid east and that Palestine was small potatoes compared to the oil riches of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Changes in the British government subsequently lead to generally anti-jewish policies within the Mandate. Taxes collected from Jews, for example, were generally spent to help the poorer Arabs and Jewish immigration was at times restricted.

It is very interesting to note that during this period the standard of living rose sharply (for both Jews and Arabs) in the region. It was also the only area of the middle east to experience a net positive immigration of Arabs. The Jews were having a very positive effect on the economy of the region and people naturally wanted to get in on it. The Arab population in the region thus climbed even more sharply than the Jewish population.

Despite this, the Jews remained loyal to the west and went on to fight for the British during WWII (generally speaking, the Arabs of the region stayed out of WWII). During the war, the Jews turned their entire economy to the production of war materiel for the Allies. If they were thinking this would cause the British to turn around and support Jewish statehood, they were sadly mistaken. The British snubbed them after the war and gave no support to the UN partition resolutions.

After WWII there were millions of displaced Jews in Europe who wanted to be allowed to immigrate to Palestine. None of the western powers wanted to offend the Arabs and allow this, however (it's interesting to note that Europe is far more dependent on middle eastern oil than the US). Even in the US, official policy was generally against letting the "displaced persons" immigrate to the mideast. Opinion varied about what else could be done with so many persons, but immigration to the mideast was prevented (many Jews were killed by the British and others while attempting to get to the middle east against the embargo).

Harry Truman saw it differently. He decided that it was only fair to let the beleaguered Jews have thier own country, free from the persecution that had been their lot for more than 2000 years. Truman knew that this would anger the Arabs, but he decided it was the right thing to do and put his support behind the creation of a Jewish state. He laid down the law to his state department and forced them to stand with him and back the creation of a Jewish state, much to the anger of Britian.

By the end of WWII, nearly 500,000 jews lived legitimately in Palestine. The UN resolutions for partition didn't come out of thin air, they reflected the fact that the Jews had simply formed their own communities, by their own efforts. They had built farms, schools and hospitals. They had their own structure of leadership and their own religious law. It's worth noting that the Arabs rejected the UN partition resolutions, even though they would have created an independent Arab state as well as Israel.

The UN had no way to enforce their resolutions, however, and the partition resolutions rotted on the vine. There was much debate, but no action. Finally, in 1948, the British Mandate ran out and the Union Jack came down. At that time, the Jews declared their independence.

The Arabs within the new state immediately began to flee, despite pleas from the Jewish leaders to stay. Israel didn't want world opinion against their new state, so the pledged that Arabs would have full protection under the law and complete civil rights. This wasn't adequate for most Arabs, however, and they continued to flee. Also, the Arabs knew that a war was brewing that they had best get out of the way of the coming Arab onslaught. Eventually, when it was clear that the Arabs where leaving and that war was immanent, the Jews persuated the remaining Arabs to leave.

Israel was then attacked by its five neighboring Arab states. Fortunately for the Jews, arms arrived just in time and they were able to put the skills they learned fighting WWII to use and withstand the invasion. The Arabs suffered greatly from disunity, disorganization and poor preparedness. At several times during the war, the Arabs were within one battle of taking Israel. No other nation took action against the invading Arabs on Israel's behalf, although several nations (interestingly, Czechoslovakia was one of Israel's best supporters in Europe) sold Israel arms. The US took no action at all, other than to eventually recognize Israel.

The creation of the Jewish state created approximately 700,000 Arab refugees. The other Arab states refused to admit these refugees and they were relegated to concentration camps (Transjordan was a notable exception to this policy, they made the refugees citizens and absorbed them). The war also created about 400,000 Jewish refugees. After losing the war, the various Arab states in the region immediately expelled their Jewish populations, usually after confiscating all of their possessions except the clothes on their backs. Israel took in this huge bolus of immigrants, however, and fed and housed them as well as they could.

Arabs who stayed in Israel were eventually granted full citizenship and rights. Although discriminated against for jobs and housing, they had representation in the Israeli government from the start and they used it to force change. By the late 1950's they had overcome almost all of their lowered status and were full citizens.

By 1967 the Arabs felt like they were once again ready to take on Israel and they began to mass troops and tanks along their various borders with Israel. Israel saw that an attack was immanent and struck preemptively with their air force. Their timing and tactics were successful and they wiped out the Egyptian and Syrian airforces, mostly on the ground. With no air support, the Arab offensive went nowhere. Israel was able to push the Arabs back and expand the borders of their country once again. Also once again, the Arabs suffered from disunity and disorganization.

By 1973, the Egyptians were resupplied by the Soviets and ready for revenge. They aligned with Syria and planned a surprise attack for early in the morning of Yom Kippur. The Israelies were caught flat-footed and almost beaten. Again, they were within a single battle of being overrun and losing their statehood. They held out, however, and, with extra supplies airlifted in from the US, were able to once again push the Arabs back. Sadat of Egypt made some terrible tactical mistakes and would have lost his entire army except for the intervention of the UN. The UN forced Israel to free the trapped Egyptian army and withdraw from Egypt. In the subsequent peace process, Israel gave back most of its gains in the Sainai Dessert. Similarly, the Isralies were stopped from taking most of Syria and forced by the international community to give back some of their gains of 1967.

The wars left ever more refugees in their wake. Confined to camps, the Palestinian Refugees became more and more bitter and disposed to commit terrorist acts against Israel.

Most of this is cribbed from A History of Israel from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time by Howard M. Sachar (Knopf; ISBN: 0679765638; 2nd ed., 1996) .

Editorial aside: It's clear that the "Palestinian People" (and I put that in quotes because there never has been a state called Palestine) have been screwed over mercilessly. It's not the Jews who screwed them the most, however, it was the leaders of the various Arab nations. They could have taken them in and made them happy, productive citizens, as Israel did with their refugees, but they found it much more useful (especially after losing three wars with Israel) to use them as proxy forces and fight Israel through them. Today it's clear that the various militant groups will do anything they can to prevent a peaceful settlement that would create a Palestinian state and defuse the situation. The Arab leaders who hate the Jews with consuming passion need the Palestinians and their hopelessness. It's the only weapon they've been able to successfully bring to bear against Israel.

One thing needs to be cleared up, not because the other write-ups are necessarily incorrect, but because they don't make something clear: Palestine is a region of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan. Nothing less, nothing more. To say there is a dispute between "Israel" and "Palestine" is not only factually inaccurate, but it actually clouds the whole central issue of the conflict, which is the nonexistence of a Palestinian state.

People of goodwill on both sides of the dispute eventually hope there will be a state of Palestine which will be capable of monopolizing violence within its borders and stop the direction of this violence outwards toward Israel. At the moment, there isn't. Going around talking about "Palestine" obfuscates this problem.

On 15 November, 1988 the Palestinian Liberation Organization declared the existence of a state of Palestine. This "state" is today recognized by 94 countries, including all members of the Arab League, a large number of African countries, Russia, and a number of countries in Eastern Europe and Asia. However, it is a mirage. The PLO made its declaration from Algiers and was at the time in control of no actual territory. Nor has such control come about in law or reality since.

The recognition of the "state of Palestine" by various states around the world is, to generalize, forthcoming for two reasons. One is a sympathy for the establishment of an actual Palestinian state, either in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, or across the whole of historic Palestine (i.e. involving the destruction of Israel). The second and related reason is to try and offer the Palestinians carrots to make them carry out action likely to bring this about, i.e. non-violent action.

One school of diplomacy holds that if you're going to influence someone, you'd best be nice to them. This means you offer them carrots rather than beating them with sticks, and certainly that you carry on talking to them. The basic solution to the Palestinian problem is to encourage the emergence of a legitimate and non-terroristic state which is capable of living peacably side by side with Israel. It makes sense to do everything possible to bring this about, and when the world diplomatically recognized that "state of Palestine", it was doing what it could to encourage Palestinians aspirant to statehood. This does not mean this situation has come about.

The essential meaninglessness of the "state of Palestine" proclaimed by the PLO was first revealed by the launching of the First Intifada, which had begun a year earlier. It was subsequently revealed again and again, every day in the political life of the Palestinian territories. The PLO had no idea the Intifada, which was essentially a popular uprising, was coming, and it could do little to control it once it arrived. The PLO was sat in Algiers, but facts on the ground were being rapidly changed by angry young men in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank of the River Jordan.

To be a state, the PLO would have to have control over sovereign territory. It demonstrably did not have that in 1988. Nor has it gained it since. Israel had direct control of all of the territory it claimed as its own, and the obviousness of this only waxed and waned as the Israelis chose to exercise this control. The devolution of power to the Palestinian National Authority following the Oslo Accords didn't change this situation. We've all heard about Area A, B and C and the various control or influence the PA is supposed to exercise in these areas. It exercises this control at the leisure of Israel only, as has been frequently shown when Israel has found the situation not to its liking. Nor is Palestinian violence the monopoly of the PA in the Territories, where groups like Hamas roam free.

I don't think I really need to go on racking up evidence, and I don't want to lose you by making you think this is some sort of anti-Palestinian hatchet job. The point is this: I said earlier that the basic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the creation of a viable Palestinian state which controls violence in its own society and stops this violence being directed at Israel. Unless you believe in Greater Israel or the destruction of Israel, this is what you want.

This is why it's not wise to go around talking about "Palestine". By making it sound like there's a state of Palestine, the whole problem gets redrawn. There's no "Palestine" for us to talk to, there are just "Palestinians". Over three and a half million of them, many belonging to different political groups with different aims and different beliefs. It's not possible just to "give Palestine what it wants" because we tried that already and discovered that it's an unusually schizophrenic society which contains many people wanting many contradictory things, and of which no-one is in charge. It is this society, not some fantasy "state of Palestine" with which a dialogue needs to be had, and who we need to change the facts on the ground in relation to.

Diplomatic recognition of the PA isn't a terrible idea, because it shows we support the aspirations of the Palestinians to statehood. But then, refusing to recognize it isn't a bad idea either - it shows we think the PA should get tough on extremist groups and cease to be itself terroristic, which it undoubtedly is in part. You can swing both ways on this and the way I swing isn't important. But for as long as the rule of law is over-riden by the law of the gun in Gaza and the West Bank, and for as long as this is the essential fact which needs to change before we can move this sorry mess forward, let's call them the "Palestinian Territories".

Comic Journalism (and a History Lesson, too)

Sacco, Joe. Palestine. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books Inc., 2001.

Palestine is an excellent and unique book by Joe Sacco. What makes this book different from other books about the conflict between the people of Israel and the people of Palestine is that this book is in comic form. He covers the topics of gender, race, and the militarization of society, while giving his subjects a face (both literally and metaphorically). The book contains a scathing satire of the stereotypes of both Jews and Arabs, and uses some really creative ways of getting the author’s point across.

Palestine is a powerful book because of the author's self-awareness and his treatment of the subject in a manner that is not self-righteous. Sacco adds strange, humanizing details to his characters - such as a mole, messy hair, or a discussion between Cairo hotel employees about how good Pink Floyd is. Because of his inclusion of this information that is not entirely applicable to his argument, the reader is made to feel that he/she is learning things at the same speed as the author. At the same time, the sheer amount of information it contains is staggering. The accounts of the personal lives of people on all sides of the issues, the historical information, and the opinions of the author all piled on top of one another makes this book almost intolerably heavy.

Sacco gives a lot of historical information about the intifada and other aspects of the development of the conflict. He does not fail to demonstrate his biases and feelings on the subject of the Israel/Palestine struggle, interjecting his own opinions throughout the book. I think this is very respectable, because if an author is going to put a bias into his work he should come out and say it. It is also intriguing how his opinions change as he continues his travels. He seems to start out siding with the Israelis, but after talking to many Arabs, his opinion begins to shift. In an interview for The Stranger, Sacco said “A real historical injustice is being perpetrated on the Palestinian people,” and “As far as what I saw or how people reacted when I was there, that's something I have to be objective about." His role in his book as an observer, a gatherer of information, and a teller of stories adds an extra dimension to the information given.

I find his depictions of large toothed, big nosed, people to be extremely stereotypical. Many of the caricatures of his subjects are similar, whether it is because of their looks or their personalities. The characters seem to engage in this competition of who's been shot more, who has more kids in jail, etc., for most of the book. Its hilarious, but at the same time it is really depressing. The characters do have individual stories in some cases, such as the interwoven story of the man's dating life in the beginning. Even the story about "Shreef, the Muslim in Love" does not make up for the fact that the characters are largely just reinforcing the same points over and over. Sacco is thorough, but repetitive. The book becomes hard to read after several chapters of similar responses to interviews, but I do believe the repetitiveness has a purpose.

The militarization of society is very apparent throughout the book, with the stories of peoples' sons in jail and soldiers on the streets during demonstrations as well as daily events in general. Perhaps Sacco's repetition of certain aspects of Palestinian society is for the purpose of levity and in order to stress that it is such a big part of daily life. On the eighty-first page, Sacco says "...it's all but impossible not to sit beside a prison or jail story... I'm so numbed by so many accounts of incarceration that the sort of thing that raises my brow is a male in his mid-20s who hasn't been arrested. I want to ask him why the hell not?” The author, and his representation of himself in the book, realizes he's being repetitive and adds that tidbit of information in so that the reader knows what his purpose has been.

On the eighth page of the first chapter, Sacco puts himself into the story and states that "... my mind gurgles over with televised pools of blood...” I think Sacco does realize the impact of his subject matter, and saying that his mind gurgles over is just another way of espousing just how suffocating the problems of these people may be. He goes on to a situation where he's interviewing some people and one man is saying how one man has one son in prison, another has two in prison, etc. etc. etc. The character goes on and on and I detect a certain tone of mockery in his depiction of the man. Fortunately, the fact that the book is in comic form definitely adds depth to the stories because there are faces to go with the names.

The militarization of society also plays a large part in the adjustment of gender roles in Israel and the area known as Palestine. Sacco shows this throughout the book, with demonstrations he (or his character in the book) witnesses. One demonstration specifically is put on by women and children. One could say that the women are playing an important role, and it is good that they are allowed to play that role. One could also say that they are just using women for their cause (either side) as many causes have done throughout history during tough times. Women, overall, are portrayed as being strong in this book. The deciding factor is whether they are strong because they have to be, or strong because they can be. Sacco does not put any spin on his representation of gender roles in that militarized society, but he does offer a view of the roles people are playing in order to get things done.


Bennett, Katherine E. "Joe Sacco's Palestine: Where Comics Meets Journalism."
The Stranger 1994

Sacco, Joe. Palestine. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books Inc., 2001.

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