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.