The Palestinian Question is a centuries old problem which at different stages of history has involved different nations and civilizations. The strategic position of the territory of Palestine, and the location of Holy Shrines belonging to three principal religions of the world, namely Islam, Christianity and Judaism, have been the main factors responsible for the contention among the Christians, Muslims and Jews over the land of Palestine.
The Palestinian Problem in the modern sense starts with the capture of the territory by the British during the First World War and issuance of Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917 pledging to establish a Jewish National Horne in Palestine. Before that Palestine was under the suzerainty of Ottoman Empire but after the defeat of Turkey, the British were entrusted the control over Palestine under the Mandate system of the League of Nations. During the Mandate period (1922-1948) the British endeavoured to convert Palestine into a National Home for Jews as promised by them under the Bal four Declaration. For this purpose, they allowed large scale immigration of Jews into Palestine. This was opposed by the Palestinian Arabs who constituted more than two third majority of the population of Palestine, with the resultant outbreaks of Arab revolts against the British rule over Palestine The British crushed the revolts in a ruthless manner with the help of the Jews.
The atrocities perpetrated on the Palestinian Arabs provoked resentment and condemnation throughout the Arab and Muslim World including the Muslims of South Asia who were strongly linked with the land of Palestine on the basis of common religion, culture and history.
In 1948 Palestine was partitioned in accordance with a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, and the state of Israel was set up. The Western Powers, particularly the United States who had vital strategic and economic interests in the Middle East played crucial role in the establishment of Jewish state of Israel. The Western Powers continued to finance, arm and provide other assistance to the Israelis, as a result of. Which they were able to defeat the Arab armies in the First Arab-Israel War of 1948.
The principles on which Pakistan's policy towards Arab Israel Conflict is based have been formulated by such factors as geographical contiguity, common religion, traditional, cultural links and considerations of economic benefit and political support in her disputes with India.
These principles have largely remained unchanged, but there have been variations due to Pakistan's security links with the Western Powers, especially the United States who have been principal supporters of Israel against the Arabs.
In mid-1950s, Pakistan allied herself with the Western Powers by joining SEATO and Baghdad Pact (later CENTO). It was the security pressure from India and Afghanistan which compelled Pakistan to join these military pacts, but the military alliance with the West led to a divergence of perception of the nature and implications of the Arab-Israel Conflict between Pakistan and the Arabs. This divergence sharpened during the 1956 Suez Crisis. As a results Pakistan lost much of the Arab good will that she had earned in the earlier years by openly supporting the Arabs against Israel and her Western patrons. Thus, an important objective of Pakistan's policy towards the Arab-Israel Conflict, namely to win Arab political and moral support in disputes with India, suffered a serious set back.
In June, 1967 the third Arab-Israel War broke out. In this war Israel captured large territories belonging to Egypt, Jordan and Syria, including Jerusalem. The occupation of Arab territories and Jerusalem gave new dimension to the Palestinian Problem. The occupation and subsequent annexation of Jerusalem by Israel created great resentment and bitterness in the Muslim world. The firing incident at the Holy Mosque al-Aqsa caused further anguish among the Muslims throughout the world. These developments led to the holding First Islamic Summit at Rabat in September, 1969 which decided to mobilize world public opinion to force Israel to relinquish her occupation of Arab territories and Jerusalem. The Summit also decided to extend full support to the Palestinian Liberation organization as the legitimate and sole representative organization of the Palestinian people.
Pakistan extended full support to the Arab states attacked by Israel in the June, 1967 War. The Government of Pakistan even offered material assistance to Egypt, Syria and Jordan. On the question of occupied Arab territories, Jerusalem and al-Aqsa, the Government of Pakistan fully endorsed the Arab stand.
The convergence of perception of the Arab-Israel Conflict between Pakistan and the Arab states that grew during and after 1967 War was due to the weakening of military pacts which, previously, put a constraint on Pakistan's foreign policy. But, a shi ft in the US foreign policy under Kennedy Administration, the development of Super-Power Detente and the attitude of the United States during the 1962 Sino-Indian border war, compelled Pakistan to distance herself away from the military pacts like SEATO and CENTO. The growth of close and friendly relations between Pakistan and China, and improvement in bilateral relationships between Pakistan, and the Arab countries were the symbols of Pakistan's independent and (practically) nonaligned foreign policy. Under this policy Pakistan was able to take more independent stand on the Palestinian Question as it is evident from. Pakistan's representative‚€™s performance at the United Nations and other international forums.
In October, 1973, the fourth war between the Arabs and Israel broke out. The war had become inevitable because of Israeli refusal to vacate the occupied Arab territories and Jerusalem. In this war the combined forces of Egypt and Syria achieve some important tactical victories in the initial phases of the war. But their military gains were thwarted by huge US arms airlift to Israel after two weeks of intense fighting. Angered by the American arms supply to Israel, the Arab countries resorted to an embargo on the oil supplies to the Western nations. Shah Faisal of Saudi Arabia played a leading role in the oil Embargo which ultimately forced the Jewish State to enter into two disengagement of Forces agreements with Egypt on the Canal front.
Pakistan expressed complete sokidarity with the Arabs during 1973 October War. The Government of Pakistan provided not only material assistance to the Arabs, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Z. A. Bhutto toured a number of Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries to mobilize political and diplomatic support to the Arabs on a broadly based united front of the entire Muslim world.
Pakistan's policy during the 1973 October War was greatly appreciated by the Arab countries. This was evident from the speeches and statements of the Arab leaders, including the chairman of P.L.O, Mr. Yasser Arafat, who participated in the Second (Lahore) Summit of Islamic countries held at Lahore in February, 1974.
Pakistan not only supported the Arab's war against Israel, she also endorsed the use of oil weapon by the Arabs against the Western countries. The pursuit of such an independent policy by Pakistan was due to further weakening of country's links with the western countries through military pacts, especially after the separation of East Pakistan which led to Pakistan‚€™s dissociation from SEATO.