"Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours... Everything we don't grab will go to them." - Ariel Sharon







Foundation of Zionism

Jews have been present in Palestine for thousands of years. However, under the oppressive Ottoman Empire, the Jewish population greatly decreased. The Zionist movement, lead by Theodore Herzl, encouraged the return of the Jewish people to the homeland promised to them by God. Between 1882 and 1903 thousands of Jewish people immigrated to Palestine. Though the idea of returning to Palestine was not new, the founding of Zionism is attributed to Theodore Herzl, because of his aid of its development. In 1897, the first Zionist congress was held in Basle, Switzerland.


Conflicting Divisions of the Middle East

Jewish settlement aroused opposition from neighboring Arab nations, and Arabs living in Palestine. Though they did not have the same deep attachment to the land, they feared displacement, and the serious cultural differences that divided them. A series of agreements and promises followed, in an attempt to pacify Arab leaders. In July of 1915, Sir Henry McMahon, a British representative, motivated by the wish to gain Arab military support against Turkey, began a correspondance with Sharif Husayn. McMahon claimed that Britain supported the independence of areas that were considered “completely Arab” and did not belong to France. Though agreements made between the two were not legally binding, they prompted Husayn to lead a revolt against the Ottoman Turks. However, the Sykes-Picot agreement, signed in 1916, stated that France and Britain had agreed to divide the Middle East into different sections, each controlling certain areas, leaving Palestine under international control. [See map of Sykes-Picot agreement] In the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the British also stated their support of a Jewish national home in Palestine. These agreements created significant conflicts as to how this area was to be divided and governed.


The Ottoman empire was defeated in World War I, ending 3000 years of Muslim imperial rule in the area. In July of 1919 an anti-Zionist Syrian congress was held to advocate an independent, undivided Syria. After this congress, the British ceded power over Syria to the French. Several American and British-organized commissions went to Palestine to attempt to discover the true attitude of the people with regard to independence. These were considered biased and their findings had little effect and went unpublished. In March 1920, the Syrian congress claimed independence from France, and chose a king. Later, the French reclaimed Syria and imprisoned supporters of independence.