What is the background of Jewish settlements in Palestinian Arab areas?
The land of Palestine has always been populated with religiously diverse people with Muslims maintaining a majority and having cordial relations with all the minorities. The 20th century brought a new Jewish ideology, Zionism, which called for a Zionist homeland in Palestine. With the rise of Zionism, a large number of Jewish populations started immigrating to Palestine from all over Europe, increasing the minority of Jews to 35% of the Palestinian population.
In 1947, United Nations did a historic partition in which it divided Palestine into 55% of Jews and 45% of Arab population whereas Jewish population came up to only 6% of the population. In 1948, Israel declared that it is an ‘independent’ state; however, it did not define its borders and preferred to remain a nation with undefined borders. A war followed its declaration of independence from 1947 to 1949 and Israel was created on the 78% of Palestinian land. This percentage steadily increased in later years and continues to the present day.
During the time of declaring independence and partitioning, Israel took over this 78% percent of land by depopulating more than 400 villages through spreading fear, expulsion order and massacres. Around 726,000 refugees came out of these depopulated areas. According to Moshe Dayan:
“Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either.”
Gradually, Israel took over the remaining 22% of Palestine, including the historic West Bank and Gaza Strip. These areas also included large sections captured from Syria and Egypt. Israel has transferred much of its population in the settlements established there, colonies which were declared illegal by the fourth Geneva Convention. At present, 40% of the West Bank is inaccessible by the Palestinians as they are not allowed to reside in that area or to pass on the Israel-only roads. Moreover, they are also not allowed to travel through the security zones surrounding these settlements.
The result of 1967 war was the establishment of what Jews called the “Greater Jerusalem” which it expanded by including the surrounding areas of the West Bank where there was less Palestinian population. They made this “new” Jerusalem their capital. Since then, Israel has established many illegal settlements in “Greater Jerusalem”, forming a Jewish majority. Although municipal government encourages establishing new households in Jerusalem, they do not allow Palestinian families to build new homes or to live in certain areas altogether due to the discrimination shown towards non-Jewish citizens.
Establishment of numerous Israeli settlements followed the 1967 war where Jews built their colonies illegally on Palestinian lands. These settlements have grown to thousands throughout the West Bank and Gaza and even in the Syrian Golan Heights. And it is due to these settlements that no just solution can be reached for the Arab-Israel conflict. Roadmap to peace regards these settlements as major blockages in peace process and calls for Israel to dismantle these settlements; however, the situation is growing worse instead of improving.