The region of the Middle East frequently referred to as Palestine has long been the site of much conflict. In recent years, a major effort on the part of the International community has been employed in an attempt to bring peace to the troubled region, yet every time peace accords seem to be at hand, everything falls apart. In order to fully understand the enmity that keeps causing peace talks to break down, one must look at the roots from which the conflict stems. If the root of the issue can be clearly devised, then movements towards peace in the region will be much more succinct.
Palestinian Development Under Turkish Rule
Issues concerning Palestine’s development in socio-cultural and religious terms begin to become apparent to the modern world once the Turkish Empire moved into the region. The Seljuk Turks, a Muslim group, took control of Jerusalem in 1071. Their rule was characterized by struggles with the Christian crusaders of Europe. Seeking to better their own position, another group of Turks, the Fatimids (from Egypt) allied themselves with the crusaders, but were later betrayed. The betrayal led to the capture of Jerusalem and Jaffa in 1099 along with the slaughter of many Jewish and Muslim defenders at the hands of the Christian Crusaders. The Muslim leader, Saladin, attacked and gained control of Jerusalem finally evicting the Crusaders in 1291. His particular Muslim group was known as the Mamelukes, who were originally “soldier-slaves of the Arabs.” While their empire was far reaching, including Palestine, it was comprised primarily of Arab-speaking Muslims, although Jews from Spain and the surrounding Mediterranean area began to settle in and around Jerusalem in the late 1300s.
With the defeat of the Mamelukes by the Ottoman Empire in 1517, the Turkish Sultan invited Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition to settle within Palestine. While the Turks did operate under a Jihad aimed specifically at the Christians (in response to the havoc wreaked by the Christian Crusades) during the Medieval Age, they became increasingly more acclimated to the cultures of their conquered peoples as they continued to move west. Their addition of these cultures helped create the distinctive culture for which the Ottoman Empire is known. The overall result was an empire that was remarkably tolerant of foreign culture and religion (particularly the Jewish faith and Islam), making the Ottoman Empire a refuge for the Jews of Europe.
In 1798, Napoleon invaded. The combination of war and faulty administration caused many Jews and Arabs to flee the country, significantly reducing the Palestinian population. Revolts by Palestinian Arabs against Ottoman (and Egyptian) rule began at this time. Reorganization of the empire brought order and catalyzed the beginnings of Jewish settlements under a variety of Zionist movements. The result of these changes caused an increase in both Arab and Jewish populations. By 1880, out of a...