Both Jews and Arabs lay historical claims to this land. This programme explains the history of the land across three millennia from the land of Canaan in the late Bronze Age, through conquest by the Romans, Arabs, Ottomans, and British, up to the present day.
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In 1917, Lord Balfour in the British government wrote to Lord Rothschild, the leader of British Jews, promising to support the establishment of a national home for Jews in Palestine.
Was this a great humanitarian gesture which offered a place of safety for a long-persecuted minority? Or was this an act of imperial arrogance which ignored Palestinians’ right of self-determination and which left them still stateless a century later?
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At the end of the First World War, when the Ottoman empire collapsed in 1918, the League of Nations awarded authority (Mandate) over the area to Britain.
Should the British government be praised for its efforts to maintain peace between two irreconcilable groups who refused to compromise? Or should it be blamed for always putting imperial interests ahead of the interests of inhabitants and quitting the Mandate without having brokered any sustainable settlement?
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The withdrawal of Britain in 1947 led to war between Arabs and Jews in Palestine, at the end of which over half the Arab population had left their homes, never to return. Should we blame Jewish armed forces for the forced dispossession of Palestinians? Or should we blame Arab leadership for starting the war and encouraging Arab civilians to leave the war zone?
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In 1967 Israel launched a surprise attack on Syria, Egypt and Jordan and won a comprehensive victory. Was Israel forced to do this because it was threatened by imminent invasion from its more numerous Arab neighbours? Or was Israel’s attack an aggressive move to seize more Arab land for itself?
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The uprising at the end of 1987 in Gaza and the West Bank, territories occupied by Israel after the Six-Day War, took both Palestinian and Israeli leadership by surprise.
Were the Israelis justified in using necessary and proportionate measures to restore order, or was their use of force, which included beatings and shootings, to repress a largely peaceful uprising unjustified?
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Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat took first steps towards a permanent and comprehensive peace based on a Two State solution by signing the Oslo Accords in the mid 1990s. However, a quarter of a century later peace remains as elusive as ever. Is this the Palestinians’ fault for having unrealistic expectations and failing to rein in violence? Or is it the Israelis’ fault because they were never serious about giving up control of Arab lands conquered in 1967?
Download our source pack here: Peace Process Source Pack