Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
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Visual History of the World
First Empires
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Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Contemporary World

1945 to the present

After World War II, a new world order came into being in which two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, played the leading roles. Their ideological differences led to the arms race of the Cold War and fears of a global nuclear conflict. The rest of the world was also drawn into the bipolar bloc system, and very few nations were able to remain truly non-aligned. The East-West conflict came to an end in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent downfall of the Eastern Bloc. Since that time, the world has been driven by the globalization of worldwide economic and political systems. The world has, however, remained divided: The rich nations of Europe, North America, and East Asia stand in contrast to the developing nations of the Third World.

The first moon landing made science-fiction dreams reality in the year 1969.
Space technology has made considerable progress as the search for new
possibilities of using space continues.



The Arab World and the Near East

SINCE 1945


see also: United Nations member states -
Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon,
Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman,
Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan


After gaining independence from European colonial rule the Arab states looked to the USSR and Pan-Arabism as alternative paths to nation-building. However, î authoritarian rulers soon established themselves in the region. Since the 1970s a growing educated population lacking employment opportunities has begun to undermine many regimes, and this frustration has been exploited by politically radicalized Islamic groups. Ironically, the only freely elected Arab government in the region is that of the Palestinians, who do not have their own state.


Palestine and Jordan up to "Black September," 1970

In 1948 thousands of Palestinians fled the Arab-Israeli fighting that accompanied the founding of Israel. The arrival of the refugees destabilized Jordan until King Hussein II reasserted control.

The "Palestinian problem" is intimately tied to the history of Israel. The UN decision on November 29,1947, to divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab states failed. Following the founding of Israel, Palestinians fled en masse into the West Bank and Jordan, and their land was expropriated by Israel. Jordan, which was structurally weak with a small population and which had only become an independent kingdom in May 1946, struggled to cope with the waves of refugees. In 1950 it annexed part of the West Bank territory (now West Jordan). Clashes broke out between Palestinian guerrillas and Jordanian forces.

While the grand mufti of Jerusalem, 3 Amin al-Husayni, the political leader of the Palestinians, called for a war of annihilation against Israel, 2 King Abdullah I of Jordan sought rapprochement with the Jewish state.

3 Amin al-Husayni, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, 1941

2 King Abdullah I (left) of Jordan,
broke with the Palestinians after 1970

He was assassinated by a Palestinian gunman on July 20,1951, in al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.

The increasingly radicalized Palestinians sought help from the rest of the Arab world and in the 1950s looked to Egyptian president Nasser above all. In the name of Arab solidarity, other countries in the region also became involved and armed Palestinian fighters. There were raids and skirmishes with Israel.

Abdullah's grandson 5 Hussein II had been ruling in Jordan since August 1952. In 1957, Great Britain withdrew its last soldiers from the country. Under pressure from the Palestinians, Hussein allied himself with Nasser while still maintaining contacts with the West. He survived several assassination attempts and attempted coups.

His son, 1, 4 Abdullah II, succeeded him to the Jordanian throne in 1999.

5 King Hussein II of Jordan during his service as an air force pilot, 1955

1 Jordan's King Abdullah II followed by his honorary guard

4 King Abdullah II of Jordan
during his pilgrimage to Mecca,
November 2004

During the 1967 Arab-Israel war, Israeli forces occupied all of Jerusalem and the West Bank, leading to a new influx of Palestinians into Jordan.

Following the Arab defeat, 7 Yasir Arafat, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), began organizing guerrilla attacks against Israel, operating out of Jordan.

The Palestinian group threatened to take control of the capital 6 Amman until in 1970, after protracted and heavy fighting, King Hussein militarily broke the PLO's power during "Black September."

7 PLO leader Yasir Arafat, 1978

6 The main street, named after King Talal,
in the center of the Jordanian capital of Amman



On the Path to a Palestinian State

After speaking at the United Nations, PLO leader Arafat began to gain international recognition for Palestinian claims to an independent state. Attempts at direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations began in 1993 with the Oslo Peace Process but have yet to yield a comprehensive settlement.


In 1971 a general reconciliation took place between Jordan and the Palestinians, as well as between Jordan and its neighbors Egypt and Syria, both of which had sided with the Palestinians in 1970.

From 1972 the Palestinian leadership began a series of spectacular attacks and 13 airplane hijackings, such as the 1977 Lufthansa seizure, with the aim of drawing international attention to their cause.

13 Lufthansa flight hijacked by Palestinian
militants on October 13, 1977 during a forced
landing in Mogadishu, Somalia

After the Arab defeat in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and Egypt's reconciliation with Israel, the Palestinians increasingly sought support from other Arab countries—especially Syria, Libya, and Iraq—while the PLO brought its goal of founding a Palestinian state before the United Nations. The United States shielded Israel from much of the pressure but also sought to mediate, notably with the 1977 "Carter Initiative." Arafat and the PLO leadership revised their thinking and increasingly sought to negotiate. However, this process suffered a major setback in 1982 when, following the occupation of West Beirut, Israel's ally, the Christian Falangist militia, carried out a massacre in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila.

The Palestinian 10 Intifada (national uprising) began in 8 Gaza and the West Bank in 1987.

10 Intifada: Israeli policemen fire tear gas at Palestinian youths during the first Intifada, Eastern Jerusalem, December 21, 1987

8 Israeli military checkpoint in the southern
part of the Gaza Strip

Initially peaceful, it soon deteriorated into violent street clashes between stone-throwing civilians and Israeli troops. After recognizing Israel's right to exist in 1988, Arafat stepped up his demands for an autonomous Palestinian state. The Oslo Accords, signed in 1994, set out a framework for a negotiated peace.

The following year, the Palestinian Authority was set up to administer the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, and in 1997 9 Hebron was returned to the 12 Palestinians.

But this process was increasingly undermined by continued violence, marginalizing moderates on both sides. In 1995 Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli extremist. Conflict returned in 1996 when suicide bombings by the terrorist group Hamas were met with an Israeli bombardment of southern Lebanon. A second Intifada began in 2000, and after a wave of bombings, the Israeli army reoccupied the Palestinian autonomous territories in April 2001 and then besieged Arafat's headquarters. In April 2003, the United States proposed a "road-map to peace" that envisaged a Palestinian state.

President Arafat 11 died in November 2004, and many saw the election of his successor, the moderate Mahmoud Abbas, as an opportunity to break the deadlock.

9 Rooftops in the Palestinian city of Hebron, occupied by Israel until 1997

12 After signing the Hebron agreement Israeli President Benjamin Netanjahu and Yasir Arafat shake hands, 1997

11 Palestinian mourners at Arafat's funeral in Ramallah
November 13, 2004



Excerpt from the PLO Founding Charter of 1964

"The Palestine Liberation Organization, representative of the Palestinian revolutionary forces, is responsible for the Palestinian Arab people's movement in its struggle— to retrieve its homeland, liberate and return to it and exercise the right to self-determination in it—in all military, political, and financial fields..."
(Article 26)

Arafat supporters mourn his death,
November 6, 2004


see also: United Nations member states - Jordan,
Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon,
Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman,
Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan



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