The history of the Israeli-Palestinian region is filled with questions about ownership rights and dominion, but the events of the last 150 years have brought a heightened sense to the power struggle. The area constitutes approximately 10,000 square miles of land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.
More than 3,000 years ago, the Egyptians expelled the Jews from Egypt, and the Jews migrated to the area known as Palestine (what is now Israel, plus or minus some parts of Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt).
In 586 B.C., the Babylonians expelled the Jews from Palestine; the Romans did the same in 70 B.C. Since the Roman Empire fell in 476, the area of Palestine itself has been controlled successively by the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Ottoman Turks, the British.
The present state of Israel formally occupies all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by Egypt to the south, Lebanon in the north and Jordan in the East.
The Gaza Strip occupies an additional 141 square miles south of Israel along the Mediterranean coast, and is mostly under the control of the Palestinian Authority, though a significant portion of southeast Gaza is occupied by Israeli settlements.
The sharp increase in the Jewish population was in large part attributable to a movement known as Zionism. In 1897, an Austrian Jew named Theodor Herzl founded the World Zionist Organization, which called for the creation of a Jewish nation-state in the area known as Palestine, through the aid of international intervention.
Following the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were eradicated by the German Nazis, Britain allowed Jews to freely seek refuge in Palestine.
Facing increasing hostility from both the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs, Britain asked the United Nations to help negotiate the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab territories, which was to lead to the declaration of a Jewish state in 1948.
Arabs throughout the Middle East soundly rejected the terms of the partition, and almost immediately, armies from Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq invaded Palestine. War broke out, and the Jews won a decisive victory, as they were well organized and well-armed by the Western Allies, including, though not yet significantly, the U.S.
In the aftermath of victory, Israel expanded its borders on all three land-bordered sides, creating several hundred thousand Palestinian refugees in the process.
It is the plight of those refugees, who now number more than four million, and their claim to ownership of some or all of the land now occupied by Israel that lies at the root of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
"Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (sidebar)." Issues & Controversies On File: n. pag. Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services, 17 Dec. 2004. Web. 1 Sept. 2010.