Dear Mmusi Maimane, here is what you need to know about Palestine


The conflict in the middle east goes back decades. Is it religion, or land, or colonialism that started all this? And why is no end in sight? DANA DA SILVA rounds up ten videos that will help you (and Mmusi Maimane) understand just what is going on in Palestine.

1. Where exactly is Palestine?
You won’t find Palestine by looking for it on a map, since it only holds the status of “observer state” at the United Nations. To explain why, you need to go back to 1917. At the time, Britain captured an Arab-majority region called Palestine from the Ottoman Empire. They wrote the Balfour declaration, which encouraged European Jews to join the Jewish minority that already lived there.

In 1947, after the end of World War 2 and a mass exodus of Jews to Palestine, the UN proposed a plan for both a Jewish state and for an Arab-Palestinian state to be formed, but this never happened. War broke out between the Arabs and Jews. By 1948, the British had left and the state of Israel was created. As a result of the war more than 700, 000 Palestinians became refugees and were forcibly moved to the West Bank, Gaza and beyond.

2. Is Palestine also the birthplace of Christianity?
Yes, it is, and today Palestine still has Christians. Just last year, Pope Francis declared two Palestinian nuns as saints. The numbers of Palestinian Christians have dwindled though, for example in 1947 Bethlehem’s Christian population was 85% and in 2015 it was less than 20%. The reason for this is Israel’s occupation, which has created daily hardships for all Palestinians. In Bethlehem, the city where Jesus was born, Israel has imposed 32 checkpoints, roadblocks, dirt mounds and gates that limit movement. On top of that, Palestinian Christians and Muslims have been denied access to worship at their holy sites.

3. What about the wall?
In 1967, Israel occupied the West bank. Today, the wall is the most imposing part of the occupation and is actually illegal according to the International Court of Justice . The Israeli government says that the “separation barrier” is to keep out Palestinian attackers. But thousands of Palestinians still have to cross every day looking for work. Since it started going up in the early 2000s it has destroyed neighbourhoods, strangled the economy and illegally grabbed more land. Palestinians call it the Apartheid Wall.

4. What are Israeli settlements?
Israeli settlements are residential areas built by Israel on occupied Palestinian land for Jewish communities, but are illegal under international law The vast stretches of suburbs are a violation of the Geneva Convention according to the UN. The Fourth Geneva convention forbids states from transferring their citizens to occupied land, which Israel has been doing since it occupied the West Bank in 1967. By building these illegal settlements, Israel is trying to make sure that it keeps possession of that land even under a future peace deal. Israeli settlers are bound by Israeli civil law while Palestinians who stay there live under Israeli military rule, meaning that they are subject to checkpoints, curfews, and detention, among other limitations.

5. How is Life in Gaza, if it’s this bad in the West Bank?
Gaza has a population of more than 1.7 million. This tiny piece of land is one of the most densely populated in the world and one of the worst places to live. It’s been called the world’s largest open-air prison. Gaza has been home to a majority refugee population since 1948, when Israel declared its statehood and forced thousands of Palestinians out of their homes.

ALSO READ: Gaza’s senior citizens describe their most treasured memories

For decades, Israel has controlled Gaza by air, land and sea, regulating what goes in and what goes out. Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which makes life unbearable, has been condemned by the UN as a violation of international law.

6. What exactly is BDS?
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement works to get individuals and institutions to withdraw their money and support from Israel. The goal is to pressure Israel to end the illegal occupation, settlement building and attacks on Palestinians. This also means boycotting companies that are linked to the occupation of Palestinian land, such as McDonald’s, Victoria Secret and Soda Stream (Scarlett Johansson even left Oxfam to endorse the bubbly water).

ALSO READ: For Palestinians, art cannot be separated from politics

7. Why does Israel keep doing what it wants?
One of the theories is that Israel has friends in high places. They have a special relationship with the United States, so much so that Israel gets more than half of all US foreign aid – a total of over $121 billion. Unlike US aid to other countries, money to Israel is mainly given to its military: for the security of Israel, preventing a “nuclear” Iran and ending the Israeli-Palestine conflict. With the help of the USA, Israel has one of the most advanced militaries and is one of the top ten arms dealers in the world.

8. What is Israel trying to achieve in Gaza?
This narrative is one that has changed quite a few times. In 2014, it was about the three Israeli teens that were kidnapped and killed in 2014. Israel’s president Netanyahu immediately blamed Hamas, but it was later confirmed by Israeli officials that they were carried out by a lone cell not operating under Hamas’s leadership.

After the kidnappings, Israel heavily cracked down on the West Bank with raids and arrests. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel. Israel says that 2, 825 rockets were fired from Gaza. After the kidnappings and the rocket attacks, Israel now says the operation is about the tunnels. Israel launched a ground invasion into Gaza in 2014 to destroy what it says is a network of tunnels used by Hamas. Palestinians say they have used the tunnels to smuggle in supplies that have been banned from entering the Gaza strip. Israel has known about them for years, but now it says it won’t end its offensive until all the tunnels are destroyed.

9. Who is Hamas?
Hamas is a political movement and Palestinian armed wing which was first founded in 1987 during the first uprising (intifada) against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. It gained support by establishing food banks and other social services. They say they are fighting to regain Palestinian land, but it also advocates for a long-term ceasefire with Israel. When Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006, Israel intensified its siege because it considers Hamas to be a terrorist organisation.

10.Has Hamas has been doing just as much damage as Israeli forces?
The warfare carried out between Hamas and Israel is asymmetrical, since Israel has an advanced military and Hamas mainly uses homemade rockets. Since 2009, Israeli forces have killed over 600 Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank while the number of Israelis killed by Palestinians during that time was just over 40. Unlike Israel, Gaza has no sirens to warn of incoming strikes, no bomb shelters and no “iron dome” missile defence system.

This is part of a special series called Apartheid 2.0, which The Daily Vox is running this month in partnership with Al Jazeera’s Palestine Remix.


  1. The omissions in this piece claiming to inform readers and in particular the leader of the opposition Mmusi Maimane, are revealing. For starters, the colonial perspective in which the narrative of British colonialism and its successor the UN, is related as the chief cause for the existence of the state of Israel, begs the question how did some 850 000 Jews from Arab countries end up, by departing, migrating, fleeing, and getting expelled? The same racist narrative excludes the story of Arab Jews. It excludes earlier deals made between Arabs and Jews, and independent of the colonial powers, in particular, the Faisal–Weizmann Agreement signed on 3 January 1919, setting up a Jewish homeland in Palestine and also an Arab State. It fails to note the absence of any Freedom Charter or similar document on the part of Palestinians setting out a workable roadmap for the future and likewise the absence of a Bill of Rights in the state of Israel. A notable and startling omission is that the writer neglects to inform readers that Jerusalem, a city named on virtually every page of Jewish liturgy, is in the West Bank. The centuries long conflict involving displacement theology has resulted in conservatives on either side, deploying the city as a trump card (excuse the pun). Whether you are a Muslim defending Al Aksa and therefore the Muslim claim to Quds, (the entire Levant is ceded to Islam), a religious Jew invoking the Torah, an Orthodox Christian reciting the catechism, the fact remains this holy city is an important landmark for the world’s people. In my opinion, the Palestinian claim to the holy city is as ridiculous as the Israeli claim, both claims should be rejected, and the city rather placed back under UN control.

    • Cheap political point scoring deflection by a European Ashkenaz zionist propagandist as they would be the first to admit.
      Its not a centuries long conflict. Palestinians count Jews among their population and although they were a tiny minority (4%) they were Palestinian first and foremost. Palestinian Jews were never zionists and they obtained permission from Britain, the mandatory power, to declare in writing that they did not wish to be represented by the Zionists or any of their groups particularly not by Zionist quasi-govt organisations such as the Va’ad Leumi, “National Council.” Through forced sterilization, language and culture repression and more, Israel and Zionism have worked hard for decades to destroy groups of Jews. But being a settler colony the first group of Jews Zionism’s “new Hebrews” targeted for elimination were Palestinian. Palestinian Jews were a vibrant community, one of many communities pre-colonial Palestine. Zionism tore Palestinian Jews from their indigeneity, including from their relationships with Palestinian Muslims and Christians, and articulated them instead to the settler society, turning them into Israelis.

      Jews that left Arab countries should each make a separate claim to that country. Of course, Israel doesn’t want them to take this route because they need the total Arab Jewish numbers to offset them against the total number of Palestinians that Israel evicted. This Zionist offsetting strategy was exposed in detail by Shenhav in Annie’s Magic Carpet Ride “Any reasonable person must acknowledge that the analogy drawn between Palestinians and Mizrahi Jews is unfounded. Palestinian refugees did not want to leave Palestine. Many Palestinian communities were destroyed in 1948, and some 700,000 Palestinians were expelled, or fled, from the borders of historic Palestine. Those who left did not do so of their own volition. [emphasis added]
      In contrast, Jews from Arab lands came to this country under the initiative of the State of Israel and Jewish organizations.”

      “In the absence of the European Jews [who preferred to go west], the state of Israel had to bring in Jews from Arab countries. Ben Gurion compared them with the Africans who were brought in as slaves to America.”
      – Israeli historian – Tom Segev, April 1998

      Jews of North Africa and the Middle east were needed “As cannon and demographic fodder” for the state, in the words of Hanna Braun, a Haganna member involved with bringing them into Palestine awa your underclass. “In the absence of the European Jews [who preferred to go west], the state of Israel had to bring in Jews from Arab countries. Ben Gurion compared them with the Africans who were brought in as slaves to America.” Precisely why you needed to up the numbers for your dem
      – Israeli historian – Tom Segev, April 1998.
      Naiem Giladi was an Iraqi Jew and a Zionist (the two are not the same), who took part in the Zionist plan of getting Arab Jews to leave their countries. “I wrote my book: to tell the American people, and especially American Jews, that Jews from Islamic lands did not emigrate willingly to Israel; that, to force them to leave, Jews killed Jews; and that, to buy time to confiscate ever more Arab lands, Jews on numerous occasions rejected genuine peace initiatives from their Arab neighbors. I write about what the first prime minister of Israel called ‘cruel Zionism’. I write about it because I was part of it.” Excerpt from Naeim Giladi’s book
      Ben-Gurion’s Scandals: How the Haganah and the Mossad Eliminated Jews


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