Social Scientist. v 10, no. 112 (Sept 1982) p. 52.


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PLO : Its Background and Activities

THE first Jewish agricultural settlement called the Mikveh Israel (Ingathering of Israel) was established in Palestine in 1870 by the European Jews with the help of private Jewish capital. The Palestinian Arabs started having skirmishes with the incoming Jews almost from the very beginning, and as such, the origins of the Palestine national movement can be traced back to that fateful year. Till the end of the century, the Arabs constituted 90 per cent of the population and owned 99 5 per cent of land.

World War I and the subsequent years of British Mandate witnessed ever bigger waves of Jewish immigrants. The Palestinian leadership, using the press, pulpit and political persuasion, concentrated its activities mainly on stopping the Jewish immigration to the area and on preventing the Palestinians from leaving their land or selling it to the Jewish settlers at a nominal price. Since the settlers came riding on the wave of persecuted Judaism, the Palestinians instinctively fell back upon Islam as an antidote. The two rival Palestinian families—the Husseinis and the Nushashibis—co-operated with the British mandatory authority spending their efforts more on establishing one-up-manship over each other rather than uniting against the twin sources of danger—from the Zionists and the West.

The League of Arab States —formed in 1945 by the kings of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Trans Jordan and Yemen and the presidents of Syria and Lebanon —accepted political responsibility for the Palestinians. An annexure to the League Charter called upon the League Council to select a Palestinian to take part in its work. After the proclamation of the state of Israel and the first Arab-Israeli war, the Arab armies were completely routed and exposed to be working at cross-purposes. By the end of the war, King Abdullah ofTransjordan formally annexed the 5,600 square miles of Palestinian West Bank to his territory, changing the name of his country to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Egypt extended de facto rule over the Gaza Strip of roughly 135 square miles under the nominal leadership of Hajj Amin al-Husseini.

As a result of the war and the Zionist massacre of the Palestinians, the latter fled their homes. According to rough estimates, 700,000 Palestinians became homeless; out of them roughly 80,000 went to Labanon, 100,000 to Jordan, 70,000 to Syria, 120,000 to Gaza and the rest dispersed to the far-flung Arab land. Nearly 120,000 stayed back in Israel itself.

Yasser Arafat, a Palestinian student-leader in Cairo, initiated



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