The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an ongoing conflict between Israelis and
Palestinians. This conflict is one element of the larger Arab-Israeli conflict.
The area which Israelis and Palestinians are in conflict about is within the
original British Mandate of Palestine of the 1922 League of Nations
Palestine Mandate, which today is defined by the borders of the State of
Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Kingdom of Jordan also called
Transjordan. This area was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1517 until 1917.
Under Ottoman rule, Palestine had substantial regional independence, and
Arab Muslims, Jews, and Christians cohabitated in the area.
In 1917, shortly before the British army took control of Palestine, the
British government issued the Balfour Declaration, "viewing with favor" the
establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, but also stating that
"nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of
existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine".
The Arab nations rejected a 1947 plan by the United Nations for the
partition of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. In 1948 the
British departed, the State of Israel was declared and a number of Arab
nations invaded Palestine. As the proto-Israelis won the subsequent war,
Israel became a reality, occupying about 70% of mandatory Palestine. The
remaning parts of the land (which came to be known as the West Bank and the
Gaza Strip) fell under Jordanian and Egyptian rule, and the UN-proposed Arab
state was never established.
In 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israel took control over the West Bank and
the Gaza Strip, with their large Palestinian populations. These territories
became the heart of the conflict in subsequent years.
Civilian unrest and military conflict has intensified in recent years in two
Palestinian uprisings, called intifadas (literally, the shaking off): the
First Intifada in 1987-1991, and the "al-Aqsa Intifada" beginning in 2000,
up to the present day. The first intifada was followed by a period of
relative quiet and reconciliation from the early to mid-1990s, with hope for
a settlement to all Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, culminating in the Oslo accords.
The Oslo accords was seen as groundbreaking and a first step to a firm and
lasting peace. But after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin the peace
process slowed down to a grinding halt. The Palestinians living on the
occupied territories didn't see their living conditions improve.
Additionally the Israeli settlements, from Palestinian view seen as one of
the largest obstacles for peace, weren't beginning to be withdrawn. Instead
their population almost doubled on the West Bank even if few new were
constructed. This along with sporadic attacks from Palestinian militant
groups and the retribution from the Israelis made the situation unholdable.
After the failure of the summit between USA President Bill Clinton, PLO
Chairman Yassir Arafat, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000,
dubbed Camp David II, and in the wake of the controversial visit of Ariel
Sharon to the Temple Mount, violence erupted resulting in over 2,000 deaths
to date. Certain Palestinian groups started a new wave of suicide bombers,
people who load themselves up with explosives and detonate themselves near
Israelis, often civilians, but sometimes also soldiers. In response, the
Israeli army has reoccupied the West Bank enforcing strict military law, and
sealed off the Gaza strip, imposing economic restrictions on the
Palestinians. The Israeli security forces instituted targeted assassinations
of Palestinian militants, and destroyed the homes of suicide bombers'
families. These things have lead to numerous casualties among civilians
(mostly bystanders) as well as massive damages to property.
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World War I and the British Mandate of Palestine
The British were given a mandate, called the League of Nations Palestine
Mandate by the new League of Nations in 1922 of the land then called
Palestine and Transjordan, including all of what would later become the
State of Israel, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, a part of the Golan Heights,
and the Kingdom of Jordan. The population of this area was mostly Arab, with
a growing Jewish minority (approaching 10%) and Bedouin and Druze. Britain
was given effective control over Iraq, while France received Lebanon and
Syria as mandates.
In 1921 the geographic area of the British mandate was split up into several
administrative units. The British made the area east of Jordan River into
the Arab Kingdom of Jordan; this area, which was mostly arid and populated
by Bedouins, comprised 78% of the British mandate of Palestine, including
all of the Transjordan.
Arabs opposed the division of their lands into multiple territories under
the control of various European nations, arguing that it was unjust and
imperialist. They also opposed the idea of turning part of Palestine into a
Jewish state. This was the source of much of the Palestinian Arab and Arab
resentment against British rule. It also extended to the growing number of
Jews immigrating to former Arab lands in Palestine.
It is sometimes argued that Jews were allowed to immigrate only into the
Mandate proper, while Arabs were allowed unlimited immigration into both the
Jordanian part of Palestine, as well as the western quarter. However, since
the Arabs in question were living in the Middle East already, it is
questionable whether the word "immigration" is appropriate. Although there
were some Jews already living in Palestine, the vast majority of incomers
were Eastern Europeans. This vast influx of Europeans threatened, in the
Arabs view, to marginalize the existing population.
In 1923 Britain transferred a part of the Golan Heights to the French
mandate of Syria, in exchange for the Metula region. Arab immigration was
allowed; Jewish immigration was limited by a continually decreasing quota.
During the 1920s, 100,000 Jewish immigrants and 6,000 non-Jewish immigrants
entered Palestine. Initially, the trickle of Jewish immigration emerging in
the 1880s, met little opposition from the local Arabs. However, already by
the late 1800s there was opposition and it was strong by the late 1920s. As
anti-Semitism grew in Europe during the 1930s, Jewish emigration to
Palestine began to markedly increase, causing Arab resentment of the British
government's immigration policies to explode.
There was loud, and sometimes violent opposition from the Palestinian
population at large. In an increasing new trend, land purchased by the
Jewish agencies from absentee landlords led to the eviction of Palestinian
tenants, who would be replaced by Jewish settlers. In addition, the
influential Jewish trade union Histradut demanded that Jewish employers only
hired Jews. As a result, Arabs argued that they were increasingly shut out
of the labor market.
The Olive Tree
When immigrating Jews purchased land from the British both parties ignored
long-established laws and customs that governed Palestinian ownership
rights. These rights often did not extend to the land but to the trees they
planted. The olive tree is particularly important here as it can remain
productive for over a 1000 years and represents a long family history,
lifestyle, and means for making a living. This extended into lands
designated for Arabs as well, often for industrialization and to make use of
increasing amount of Palestinian labor.
The British put severe limitations on the Jewish immigration to Palestine.
Immigration was allowed but it was restricted by a quota. For their own
reasons, both Arabs and Jews disliked this policy. The Palestinians would
frequently riot and commit acts of violence against Jewish communities and
two Jewish groups, the Irgun and the Stern gang carried out several acts of
terrorism against British targets.
The Great Uprising
In 1936 the British proposed a partition between Jewish and Arab areas,
which was rejected by both the Arabs and the Zionist Congress. 
During the years 1936-1939 there was an upsurge in militant Arab nationalism
that later came to be known as the "Great Uprising". The uprising came as
Palestinian Arabs saw they were being marginalized in their own country. In
addition to non-violent strikes and protests, some began resorting to
terrorism that would eventually leave hundreds of Jews dead. The uprising
was put down by the British force, with the concerted forces of the Jewish
self-defence organization, Haganah.
The British placed restrictions on Jewish land purchases in the remaining
land to limit the socio-political damage already done. Jews alleged that
this contradicted the provision of the League of Nations Mandate which said;
"...the Administration of Palestine ... shall encourage, in cooperation
with the Jewish Agency ... close settlement by Jews on the land,
including State lands and waste lands not acquired for public
Jews complained that the British had alloted over twice as much land to
Arabs, relative to Jews; this violated the contract. Arabs held that the
contract was disproportionately in favor of Jewish settlement when the
relative size of the two populations at the time are considered.
World War II and its aftermath
During World War II many influental Palestinan Arabs sided with Hitler both
because of fear for Zionism and because of resentment to the British.
Especially notorious for his Nazi support was Haj Amin Al-Husseini, grand
mufti of Jerusalem.
During the war and after, the British forbade European Jews entry into
Palestine. This was partly a calculated move to maximise support for their
cause in World War II among Arabs. The Jewish support for the anti-semitic
Axis was unlikely and the British seemed to consider it more important to
sacrifice Jewish sentiment in favor of securing Arab support. The
immigration policy was also in response to the fact that security in
Palestine had begun to tie up troops much needed elsewhere.
The Jewish leadership decided to begin an illegal immigration (haa'pala)
using small boats operating in secrecy. About 70,000 Jews were brought to
Palestine in this way between 1946 and 1947, and a similar number were
captured and imprisoned on Cyprus in camps by the British while sailing.
Details of the Holocaust (which resulted in the death of approximately 6
million European Jews by the Nazis) had a major effect on the situation in
Palestine. Arabs contend this was unfair to them: Although the Holocaust was
a great tragedy, the Arabs were not responsible, and so should not be
punished by losing their country. Seeing that the situation was quickly
spiraling out of their control, the British announced their desire to
terminate their mandate and to withdraw by May 1948. This decision threw
Palestine into the middle of civil and ethnic unrest.
Division of Palestine by United Nations
The United Nations, the successor to the League of Nations, attempted to
solve the dispute between Jews and Palestinians. The UN appointed a
committee, UNSCOP, and considered two main proposals. The first called for
the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states in Palestine, with
Jerusalem to be placed under international administration. The second called
for the creation of a single federal state containing both Jewish and Arab
constituent states. Seven out of ten UNSCOP delegates voted in favour of the
The 1947 partition plan was rejected by most Palestinians, and by the
surrounding Arab nations but was accepted by most Jews, and by the Jewish
leadership in Palestine. Several prominent Jewish leaders, however declined
the proposal. Menachem Begin, Irgun's leader and later Prime Minister of
Israel, declared: "The partition of the homeland is illegal. It will never
be recognized. The signature by institutions and individuals of the
partition agreement is invalid. It will not bind the Jewish people.
Jerusalem was and will for ever be our capital. The Land of Israel will be
restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And for ever."
Begin's views were rejected by the majority of Jews, both then, and now.
Some Palestinian Arabs claimed that Israel's public and internal acceptance
of the UN proposal was orchestrated propaganda for the ears of powerful
Western nations, and was part of a coup to take over all of the British
Mandate of Palestine.
End of British Rule
On the date of British withdrawal, 15 May 1948, the Jewish provisional
government declared the formation of the State of Israel. The newly created
provisional government said that it would grant full civil rights to all
peoples within its borders, whether Arab, Jew, Bedouin or Druze.
"We appeal ... to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to
preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the
basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its
provisional and permanent institutions."
Palestinians did not accept this at face value and claimed that despite the
assurances of equal rights for all, the State of Israel would be complicit
in discriminating in numerous ways in favor of Jews. They point to the
Israeli Right of return, which gives automatic citizenship to Jewish
immigrants as a preferential treatment to Jews. Such a policy, they claimed,
was indicative of a Jewish theocracy, not a democracy. Palestinians
considered a statement by one of the Zionist leaders, Chaim Weizmann, to be
a more accurate a statement of the intention of the founders of Israel:
"(Our intention is to) finally establish such a society in Palestine that
Palestine shall be as Jewish as England is English, or America is American."
Wars between Arab nations and Israel
A separate entry exists with more details on other aspects of the
Arab-Israeli conflict. This entry describes a number of topics, including
the 1956 Suez War, the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War and the Lebanon War.
Arab nations such as Egypt established the Fedayeen group, which sent armed
Arabs across the border to kill Israeli civilians on farms and kibutzim or
ambushing buses of civilians on open roads. The fedayeen were lead by Ahmed
Shukeiri until 1967. With Egypt's defeat during the Six Day War, the
Fedayeen were replaced by a new group sponsored by Egypt called the
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) called Al Fatah and headed by the
young Yassir Arafat. Other groups were the Popular Front for the Liberation
of Palestine (PFLP) of Dr.George Habash backed by Syria, and the Palestine
Liberation Front (PLF), all these groups viewed themselves as national
liberation movements fighting colonialism and imperialism and accordinly
received vast amounts of munitions, training, and help with tactics and
strategy from those countries dominated by Communism devoted to the cause of
national liberation of occupied people. Israel, in turn, received major
support from the capitalist nations such as the USA, Great Britain, France
and West Germany.
The Arab and Jewish refugee situation
Over 650,000 Palestinian Arabs became refugees as a result of the conflict.
Over 800,000 Jews were forced to leave their homes in the surrounding Arab
countries as a result of the conflict. Palestinian refugees were virtually
imprisoned in refugee camps in a number of Arab nations; to this day most
have never been allowed to become full citizens of any Arab nation (with
Jordan as a partial exception). Jewish refugees from any nation were
embraced by the Israeli government, and allowed to become citizens. As a
result, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs today still live as
refugees in unsuitable conditions. Many Arabs under Israeli rule in the West
Bank and Gaza also live in refugee camps; there have been many proposals to
change the situation, but the peace process has not yet developed to the
point where a peaceful solution is at hand. Israel, in direct violation of
UN Resolution 194 which stated "Refugees wishing to return to their homes
should be able to do so", often shot( 5,000 'infiltrators' were shot between
1949 and 1956) or exiled returning Palestinian refugees.
The Peace Process
In 1991 a breakthrough occurred when President George H. Bush called a
conference in Madrid Spain dubbed the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991.
When it broke down, it was replaced by a clandestine series of meetings
between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators hosted by Norway. These meetings
produced the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinians and Israel signed
by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin with
USA President Bill Clinton on the White House lawn. Rabin, Arafat, and
Isreali Foreign Minister Shimon Peres were awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace
Prize for their efforts.
Camp David 2000 Summit between Palestinians and Israel
In 2000, United States President Bill Clinton convened a peace summit beween
PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak, but these
talks failed to produce peace. Soon after the collapse of this stage of the
"Peace Process", the 2000 al-Aqsa Intifada began, with Palestinian militants
going on the offensive against Israel, and the Israel Defence Force
re-occupying the West Bank and closing off the Gaza Strip continuing into
"Road Map" for Peace
In July 2002, the "quartet" of the United States, the European Union, the
United Nations, and Russia outlined the principles of a "road map" for
peace, including an independent Palestinian state. The plan calls for
independent actions by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, with disputed
issues put off until a rapport can be established. In the first step, the
Palestinian authority must prevent terrorist acts committed by any
Palestinian group and Israel must dismantle settlements established after
The road map was released in April 2003 after the appointment of Mahmoud
Abbas (Abu Mazen) as the first-ever Palestinian Authority Prime Minister.
Both the U.S. and Israel called for the new Prime Minister position, as both
refused to work with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Peace and reconciliation
Despite the long history of conflict between Israelis and Arabs, there are
many people working on peaceful solutions that respect the rights of peoples
on all sides. This section discusses the many successful projects that work
to create a peaceful and productive co-existence between Israelis and Arabs.
Neve Shalom Humanitarian Aid Project
The Israeli Jewish-Arab Village of Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salam provides a
remarkable model of coexistence. They organize humanitarian projects,
including providing medical assistance for Palestinians in need of help.
Hamidrasha Jewish-Arab Beit Midrash
Hamidrasha, a center for study and fellowship, works to address alienation,
estrangement, and mutual ignorance between Jews and Arabs. Hamidrasha is
establishing an inter-cultural Beit Midrash (Hebrew, "House of study"),
which will serve as a basis for mutual personal and communal encounters, and
for the study of cultural narratives and modern texts of both peoples.
Jewish, Muslim and Christian men and women will engage in a true
inter-cultural learning experience, with the goal of making a significant
contribution to the ongoing dialogue between Jews and Arabs, and
strengthening their reciprocal ties.
Ir Shalem co-existence program
In many ways the city of Jerusalem has been at the center of the conflict.
The Israeli political movement Peace Now in 1994 has created an initiative
called Ir Shalem, the goal of which is to build a peaceful equitable and
inspiring future for this city, with Jewish and Arab citizens working
together to find solutions based on equity and justice. This program brings
together volunteer architects, planners, lawyers and other professionals to
analyze problems, and offer solutions. Among other efforst, Ir Shalem is
developing the first-ever planning model for East Jerusalem that will
equitably meet the needs of the Palestinian community.
Seeds of Peace
Seeds of Peace was founded in 1993 by John Wallach after the first terrorist
attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. He created the Seeds of
Peace International Camp in Otisfield, Maine, USA, and brought togther
several dozen Israelis, Palestinian and Egyptian teens. The goal of his
organization was to create a new generation of leadership in the
middle-east, one in which both Arabs and Israelies would no longer accept
outdated and harmful sterotypes about each other; this would occur by
bringing together people to literally put a human face on those who were
previously perceived as an enemy. Since that time Arab children from
Morocco, Jordan and Tunisia have joined. Seeds of Peace camps now operate
programs in the Middle East as well. Seeds of Peace has also branched out
into bringing teenagers together to help solve the Balkans conflict, the
Greek and Turkish dispute over Cyprus, and the Indian-Pakistani dispute.
Seeds of Peace
Givat Haviva's Jewish-Arab Center for Peace
Givat Haviva is an education, research and documentation center, founded in
1949 by Ha'Kibbutz Ha'Arzi Federation; it is located in the northern Sharon
Valley of Israel. According to its website "The mission of Givat Haviva
today is to cope with the major issues that are on the agenda of Israeli
society, and to foster educational initiatives, research and community work
in the fields of peace, democracy, coexistence, tolerance and social
Givat Haviva sponsors the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace. "Established in
1963, the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace is one of the oldest and most
prominent institutions in its field. The common bond of the dozens of
projects conducted in the Center is the struggle for better relations
between Arabs and Jews, better understanding of the essence of democracy and
citizens' rights in Israel, and building bridges with our Arab neighbors."
Jewish-Arab Center for Peace
Givat Haviva peace projects
OneVoice, a project of the Peaceworks Foundation
According to their website "OneVoice is a global undertaking to: Amplify the
voice of moderates; Empower Palestinians and Israelis at the grass-roots
level to seize back the agenda away from violent extremists; Achieve
broad-based consensus on core issues, configuring a roadmap for conflict
resolutions. OneVoice...was developed by over two hundred Palestinian,
Israeli and international community leaders...dedicated to strengthen the
voice of reason."
This group rejects what they see as left-wing appeasement of Palestinian
terrorism by leftist groups; they reach out to moderate liberal and centrist
Israelies who want to advance the peace process; they reach out to
Palestinian moderates who reject terrorism and suicide-bombings; they work
to cultivate a moderate political leadership on both sides of the
Arab-Israeli conflict, and are trying to pressure both the Israeli
government and Palestinian Authority into reaching a just peace.
One Voice: Silent No Longer
One Voice FAQ
The Abraham Fund
According to their website, The Abraham Fund Initiatives is a not-for-profit
organization dedicated to promoting coexistence between the Jewish and Arab
citizens of Israel. Through advocacy and awareness campaigns, and by
sponsoring coexistence projects, The Abraham Fund Initiatives fosters
increased dialogue, tolerance and understanding between Arabs and Jews....