Middle East

Relief aid, development work - and back again

In the early 1950s the churches in the Middle East contacted the recently established Lutheran World Federation, asking for their help to come to the rescue of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees.

The many Palestinians had fled or had been driven out of their homes during the war that followed the establishment of the Israeli state.

Challenges

Imperial interests that came to nothing and a new state

At the turn of the last century, imperial interests made Britain enter into three conflicting agreements regarding Palestine – which, at the time, was controlled by the Turks.

In 1915 the British promised the Arabs a nation state in exchange for active military help against the Turks (the Hussein–McMahon correspondence).

In 1916 the British and the French came to an agreement with the Russian about how to divide the area of land between them once the Turks had been thrown out. According to this agreement, Palestine were to be internationalised (the Sykes-Picot Agreement).

In 1917 the British promised to help the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine (the Balfour Declaration).

None of these agreements were fulfilled in the years leading up to the Second World War.

Jewish immigration

In the 1930s and 40s hundreds of thousands of Jews fled the Nazi persecution in Europe.

Palestine became a natural refuge, because the refugees considered Palestine the historical homeland they had been driven out of 2.000 years before.

In 1947, 700.000 Jews (who had purchased about 6 % of the country) and 1.500.000 Arabs lived in Palestine.

Partition plan and war

Following the Second World War, Britain left it to the UN to produce a partition plan according to which the Jews were to have 52 % and the Palestinians 48 % of Palestine while Jerusalem was to remain under international governance.

Subsequently, the British soon withdrew from the country.

The Arabs rejected the partition plan. The result was a war between the new Israeli state and the neighbouring Arab countries.

After the war the state of Israel was proclaimed in 77 % of what was originally Palestine, and half of the Palestinian population who lived within the borders of the new state fled or was driven out.

Since then the region has been the setting of several wars (1956, 1967, 1973) that have neither solved the fundamental question about the partition of the country nor fulfilled the Jewish or Palestinian national hopes and dreams.

What remains is a series of complicated questions about:

  • dotThe demarcation
  • dotThe illegal Israeli settlements
  • dotThe Palestinian refugees’ UN secured right to return home
  • dotThe status of Jerusalem

What we do in the middle east

DanChurchAid has worked among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank since the early 1950s.

Today, DanChurchAid is primarily present in Gaza and the West Bank. Our work focuses on:

  • dotRelief aid
  • dotWomen’s rights
  • dotImproving the living standards of the Palestinian population
  • dotAdvocacy