In 1917, Britain sent troops to occupy Palestine and declared its support for a Jewish homeland in the Balfour Declaration. This document stated that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” At the time, less than 10 percent of the residents were Jewish. The declaration was later folded into the British Mandate, which laid the foundation for the creation of Israel. The British civil administration ruled the region from 1920 to 1948.
After the 1920 British Mandate, Jewish settlers began to emigrate from Europe. By 1946, they had grown to 33 percent of the population in Palestine, with the Zionist Jewish community controlling six percent of historic Palestine.
In 1947, the U.N.’s partition plan divided the region. Despite outrage from Palestinian Arabs, 56.47 percent of historic Palestine became a Jewish state, leaving 43.53 percent to a non-contiguous Arab state -- divided into three Jewish sections and four Arab sections. Jerusalem was given special international status.
The 10-month war between Israel and Arab states ended in an Israeli victory. More territory from historic Palestine went to Israel, leading to a mass exodus of Palestinians from their homes.
Israel’s decisive victory over Egypt, Jordan and Syria led to 100 percent control of Palestine. The Six-Day War, also known as the June War, expelled an estimated 300,000 Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank; Syrians also became refugees. Meanwhile, Jewish minorities groups in Arab countries were also expelled, with many fleeing to Israel or Europe.
Today, more than 5 million Palestinian refugees have become one of the largest refugee populations in history. While some territory was returned in 1994, Israel occupies much of Palestine today.
Nerdeen and her parents are Brooklyn-based New Yorkers. They found sanctuary here from an earlier life among the world’s 5 million Palestinians refugees.
Their numbers grew after the 1948 war with Israel. Back then, 85 percent of these Palestinians were living in an area that would become the future Israel. By 1967, the Six-Day War forced an additional estimated 280,000 to 325,000 Palestinians from Israeli-captured territories into refugee camps.
Nerdeen’s story begins in Jordan. Because of the war, Nerdeen’s father fled his native village of Beit Iksa to Jordan, where he met her mother, another Beit Iksa native. When Nerdeen was around two years old, the family came to America.
Today, the Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation do not have rights of citizenship. They cannot vote or make decisions that impact their lives. Palestinians have no control over the flow of goods. Access to electricity and water is limited. Their travel is limited to occupied territories.
International leaders warn that occupation threatens the idea of a peaceful, two-state solution for the two countries.
Controversy continues as the Israeli government steps up plans for expanding new housing for its citizens within Palestinian territory. In April 2017, 212 new settler units in East al-Quds were approved. This follows the January 2014 announcement plans to build 2,500 new settlement homes in the West Bank.
The new settlements have brought more Israeli police forces into the region, which critics say is threatening plans for creating two separate states with defined borders.
The growing Israeli presence has continued despite international alarm. In January 2017, more than 70 countries -- including the United States -- met in Paris to warn Israel against expansion.
As for Pres. Trump, he recently said settlements “don’t help the process,” and he doesn’t believe that “going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace.” But Jared Kushner, his senior advisor and son-in-law, donated money to expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank between 2011 and 2013, according to the Washington Post.