Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Is Palestine a Country?

If you watch the news, you have definitely heard about a place called "Palestine", and people called "Palestinians". But maybe you can't find such a place on a map, especially if you live in a Western country. A typical map of the area that you map find is like this:

Map of Israel and occupied territories
The map above shows Israel and the "occupied territories". So where is Palestine? Well, before 1948 this whole area of Israel and the occupied territories was called "Palestine". It was controlled by the British, but there were two main groups of people living there: Arabs, and Jews. Jews of the Zionist movement wanted to create a Jewish country in Palestine because it was the land where the Jewish people originated, while Arabs didn't want this and saw Zionism as a land grab by Jews from other countries.

There was a war, with the Jews fighting against the British and the Jews and Arabs fighting each other. In 1947 the United Nations General Assembly voted for the partition of Palestine into two states: a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews reluctantly accepted this, while the Arabs said no to it (which is understandable from their point of view). In 1948 when the British left, the Jews created their state (called the state of Israel), but the Arabs in Palestine didn't create a country because their areas were invaded and occupied by Jordan and Egypt. The area controlled by Jordan became called the West Bank, and the area controlled by Egypt became called the Gaza Strip. Israel conquered these areas in 1967 after the Six Day War, but these areas are now partly under the control of the local Arabs, who call themselves Palestinians.
Map of Westbank and Gaza

Now when people talk about a country by Palestine, they are usually talking about a country for the Arabs of the Westbank and Gaza. There are negotiations between the Palestinian Arabs and Israel to create a Palestinian state (ie. Palestine) in the Westbank and Gaza so that it can exist next to Israel and there can be peace. However, some Palestinians are not happy with only the Westbank and Gaza. They consider the entire area of Israel to be part of Palestine. So, depending on who is talking, "Palestine" might mean all of Israel and the occupied territories, or just the Westbank and Gaza.

In Arab countries and many Muslim countries, Israel does not appear on the map, it is all labelled "Palestine". Like this:

Map of Palestine with no Israel

So is it a country? Well, right not it is not an independent country. Maybe someday it will be an independent country, but right now it is partly controlled by Israel. I think this is good, if Israel and Palestine agree to it and it brings peace.

What do you think? Should Palestine be an independent country?

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