In the early part of the 20th century, Palestinian/Arab terrorism against Jews functioned as an expression of contempt for, and fear of, the Zionist endeavor that Jews had begun in the mid-1800s -- to rebuild a homeland in what was then the Ottoman or Turkish Empire by purchasing land from the Turkish Crown and from Arab landowners (Effendi). The work of those Jewish pioneers had allowed the region's economy to prosper, and had enabled the society at large to slough off the shackles of serfdom that had typified the Effendi relationship with the Fellahin (serfs) of the Ottoman era. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Arab migrants poured into the region from surrounding states, seeking a better life and greater economic opportunity. This development threatened the medieval stranglehold of the Effendi over the peasantry. Thus, after World War I, when the Ottoman empire was dismantled and Britain took over the governance of British Mandatory Palestine (today’s State of Israel and Kingdom of Jordan), Arab leadership stoked religious hatred with lies about the Jews’ alleged intent to destroy Islam. Representatives of the leading Effendi families, led by the Hajj Amin el-Husseini, began an Islamic jihad involving a series of pogroms against the Jews.
In 1919, 1921, 1922, 1929, and 1936, Arab violence against Jews hit new peaks in terms of its scope and brutality, with the British doing almost nothing to curtail it. At the end of World War II, at which time Zionist organizations owned about 28% of what is today Israel, Arab leadership again promoted terrorism against Jewish settlements.
Weary of the violence (and facing its own political and economic crises), Britain decided to place “the Palestine Question” into the hands of the United Nations, which in turn established the State of Israel in 1948. The countries of the Arab world, utterly rejecting the presence of even this tiny Jewish state in their midst, dubbed Israel's creation Al Nakba (Arabic for "The Catastrophe"). Consequently, the armies of five Arab states launched a war of annihilation against Israel on the very day of its birth. Defeated in this endeavor, the Arabs nonetheless continued to wage war, but in a different form: From 1949 to 1956, Egypt carried out some 9,000 attacks against Israel from terrorist cells situated in the refugee camps of the Gaza Strip. The 1956 “Sinai campaign” ended Egypt’s aggression.
The Arab aggression continued on another front, however. In 1964, Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) began a 40-year campaign of terror whose avowed goal was the destruction of Israel and the genocide of its Jews. Sponsored first by Kuwait, and later by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran, Arafat declared unending jihad against Israel until all of “Palestine” would be liberated, redeemed in “fire and blood.”
At its inception, the PLO was actually an umbrella organization for a number of other factions:
- Fatah, founded in 1956 by a group of young Gazans;
- Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which carried out some spectacular skyjackings in the 1970s;
- Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which perpetrated the May 1974 terrorist raid on Ma'alot, where 21 young Israeli schoolchildren were murdered;
- Al Saiqa, tightly controlled by Syrian intelligence; and
- Arab Liberation Front, a minor player in the terrorism against Israel.
Over the ensuing decades, the influence of these organizations would be augmented and superseded by that of Islamic Jihad, the al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Tanzim.
Twice within the space of six years -- in 1967 and 1973 -- Israel repelled united military attacks in which such nations as Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait tried, unsuccessfully, to wipe the Jewish state from the face of the earth.
From the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, Israel suffered repeated terrorist attacks from PLO bases in Lebanon; among these attacks were the Avivim school bus massacre of 1970, the aforementioned Ma'alot massacre of 1974, and Samir Kuntar's 1979 murder of two young men and a 4-year-old girl -- the latter of whom the terrorist killed by smashing her head against a rock.
After Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon ("Operation Peace for Galilee") resulted in the exile of Arafat and his PLO to Tunis, there was a temporary lull in the Arabs' terrorist war against Israel.
Then, in 1987, the PLO initiated a violent, six-year Intifada (uprising) directed against Israeli soldiers and civilians alike, after false rumors of Israeli atrocities had circulated through Palestinian territories. During the first four years of the uprising, Palestinians carried out more than 3,600 Molotov cocktail attacks, 100 hand-grenade attacks, and 600 assaults with guns or explosives.
In 1993 the Oslo peace process was initiated, based on the pledge that both parties (Arabs and Israelis) would renounce violence as a means of settling their disputes. But the Palestinians never followed through on this pledge. During the so-called "peace process" -- between 1993 and 1999 -- they carried out some 4,000 terrorist attacks that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 Israelis.
In September 2000, the Palestinians officially launched a new, Second Intifada against Israel, effectively terminating any pretense of a "peace process." This latter uprising would persist until early 2005, claiming the lives of approximately 1,100 Israelis.
In August 2005, Israel decided to try a “land-for-peace” approach -- dismantling all of its Gaza settlements and forcibly relocating their 8,500 Jewish inhabitants. The relocation process -- which involved the uprooting of some 1,700 Jewish families in 21 communities at a cost of nearly $900 million -- was completed on September 12, 2005. But rather than eliciting a peaceful Arab response, this withdrawal sparked a renewed wave of Arab violence and terrorism led by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. As the last of Israel's military personnel left Gaza, the Palestinians blew up the Egypt-Gaza border wall and immediately began transferring unprecedented quantities of heavy weaponry into Gaza.
Between September 2005 and December 2008, Hamas terrorists fired thousands of Qassam rockets from Gaza into southern Israeli cities and villages, vowing to turn them into "ghost town[s]." Meanwhile, the terrorists embedded their infrastructure inside schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings – thereby taking cover behind “human shields.” In response to these years of provocations, on December 27, 2008 Israel launched “Operation Cast Lead,” a defensive military operation targeting Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza.
Adapted from: "Occupation and Settlement: The Myth and the Reality," by David Meir-Levi (June 5, 2005), and "Why Israel Is the Victim and the Arabs Are the Indefensible Aggressors in the Middle East," by David Horowitz (January 9, 2002).