Arab-Israeli conflict

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Israel and the Arab League states

The Arab-Israeli conflict is a long-running conflict in the Middle East regarding the existence of the state of Israel and its relations with Arab states and with the Palestinian population (see Israeli-Palestinian conflict.) Some uses of the term Middle East conflict refer to this matter, but the region has been host to other disputes and wars not directly involving Israel (see List of conflicts in the Middle East)

Israel's right to exist as a  state and the future of the , , and  are at the center of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and the future of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights are at the center of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Despite the relatively small land area, number of casualties, and total size of populations involved, the conflict has been the focus of worldwide media and diplomatic attention for decades. Some groups fear that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a part of (or precursor to) a wider clash of civilizations between the Western World and the Arab or Muslim world. Animosity emanating from this conflict has caused numerous attacks on supporters (or perceived supporters) of one side by supporters of the other side in many countries around the world. The map shows the nations of the Middle East and Africa that are members of the Arab League, including many that have never been directly involved in the conflict, and Israel. Many people in other countries feel involvement in the conflict, for reasons such as cultural and religious ties with Islam and/or Arabian culture, Christianity, Judaism, or for purely ideological reasons; these include countries such as Iran and the United States.



The Arab-Israeli conflict is a modern phenomenon, which dates back to the end of the 19th century. The conflict became a major international issue after the Ottoman Empire in 1917 lost power in the Middle East, and in various forms it continues to date. The Arab-Israeli conflict has resulted in at least five major wars and a number of "minor conflicts". It has also been the source of two major Palestinian intifadas (uprisings) and is cited by al-Qaida, a largely Arab organisation, as one of the reasons for its conflict with the western world and United States. The wars and intifadas are:

War of 1948

The 1948 Arab-Israeli War, known as the Israeli War of Independence or al-Nakba, 1948-1949, began after the British withdrawal and the declaration of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948. Arabs had formally rejected the United Nations Partition Plan of November 1947, which proposed establishment of an Arab and a Jewish state in Palestine. Jewish and Arab militias had begun a campaign to control territory both inside and beyond the partition-designated borders. Joint Jordanian, Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese and Iraqi troops invaded Palestine, and fought to destroy the nascent Jewish state. About 2/3 of Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled by Israeli forces from the territories which came under Jewish control (see Palestinian Exodus); Arabs also expelled Jews from the territories which came under their control. In addition, many Arab countries' Jewish populations fled due to anti-Jewish sentiment and, in some cases (e.g. Iraq) legal oppression (see Immigration to Israel from Arab lands). About 700,000 Palestinians (estimates vary from 520,000 to 957,000 [1] ( and estimated 600,000 to 900,000 [2] ( Jews became refugees. In a few cases, (e.g. in Morocco) local Arab governments encouraged Jews to stay, and some Jewish leaders (e.g. in Haifa) encouraged Arabs to stay. Jewish refugees were absorbed by Israel; Palestinian refugees were neglected by most Arab nations, which by some were blamed for the poverty and hatred prevailing in some Palestinian camps, while others blamed Israel for their expulsion. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East was established to alleviate their condition. The fighting ended with signing of the Rhodes Armistice, but only two states eventually signed a peace agreement with Israel: Egypt (1978) and Jordan (1994).

War of 1956

The 1956 Suez War began as a joint Israeli-British-French operation, which they justified as an attempt to stop attacks (see the Fedayeen) upon Israeli civilians, to abolish the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran, and to recapture the Suez Canal which Egypt had nationalized. Though the campaign to recapture the canal was successful, the invading forces agreed to withdraw under U.S. pressure, and Israel withdrew from the Sinai as well, in return for the installation of U.N. separation forces and guarantees of Israeli freedom of shipment. The canal was left in Egyptian (rather than British and French) hands.

 (Egypt), backed by other Arab states, throws Israel into the sea. Pre-1967 War cartoon. Al-Farida newspaper, Lebanon
Nasser (Egypt), backed by other Arab states, throws Israel into the sea. Pre-1967 War cartoon. Al-Farida newspaper, Lebanon

War of 1967

The Six-Day War, 1967 began as a strike by Israel, often considered preemptive, against Egypt following the Egyptian closure of the Straits of Tiran (a casus belli, according to a possible interpretation of international law), expulsion of U.N. peacekeepers from the Sinai, stationing some 100,000 Egyptian troops at the peninsula, and a public announcement by Nasser that he intended to destroy Israel [3] ( Surprise Israeli air strikes destroyed the entire Egyptian air force while still on the ground. A subsequent ground invasion into Egyptian territory led to Israel's conquest of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. In spite of Israel's request to Jordan to desist from attacking it, both Jordan and Syria began to shell Israeli targets; Israel responded by capturing the West Bank from Jordan on June 7th, and the Golan Heights from Syria on June 9th.

War of 1968-1970

The War of Attrition was a limited war fought between Egypt and Israel from 1968 to 1970. It was initiated by Egypt as a way to recapture the Sinai from Israel that had occupied it since the Six-Day War. The war ended with a cease-fire signed between the countries in 1970 with frontiers at the same place as when the war started.

War of 1973

The 1973 Yom Kippur War began when Egypt and Syria launched a surprise joint attack in the Sinai and Golan Heights. The Egyptians and Syrians advanced during the first 24–48 hours, after which momentum began to swing in Israel's favor. By the second week of the war, the Syrians had been pushed entirely out of the Golan Heights. In the Sinai to the south, the Israelis had struck at the "hinge" between two invading Egyptian armies, crossed the Suez Canal (where the old cease-fire line had been), and cut off an entire Egyptian army just as a United Nations cease-fire came into effect.

War of 1978

Operation Litani was the official name of Israel's 1978 invasion of Lebanon up to the Litani river. The invasion was a military success, as PLO forces were pushed north of the river. However, international outcry led to the creation of the UNIFIL peacekeeping force and a partial Israeli retreat.

War of 1982

The 1982 Lebanon War began when Israel attacked Lebanon, justified by Israel as an attempt to remove the Fatah militants led by Yasser Arafat from Southern Lebanon (where they had established, during the country's civil war, a semi-independent enclave used to launch terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians). The invasion was widely criticized both in and outside Israel, especially after the Sabra and Shatila massacre and ultimately led to the death of 20,000 Lebanese. Although the attack succeeded in exiling Arafat to Tunisia, Israel became entangled with various local Muslim militias (particularly the Hizballah), which fought to end the Israeli occupation. By 1985 Israel retreated from all but a narrow stretch of Lebanese territory designated by Israel as the Israeli Security Zone. The UN Security Council Resolution 425 confirmed ([4] ( that as of June 16 2000, Israel had completely withdrawn its forces from Lebanon.

Intifada of 1987-1993

The First Intifada, 1987-1993, began as an uprising of Palestinians, particularly the young, against the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The exiled PLO leadership in Tunisia quickly assumed a role, but the uprising also brought a rise in the importance of Islamist Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The Intifada ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords by Israel and the PLO.

Gulf War of 1990-1991

The Gulf War, 1990-1991, began with the Iraqi invasion and annexation of Kuwait but did not initially involve direct military engagement with Israel. An international coalition led by the United States and including Arab forces, was assembled to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. To draw Israel into the confrontation and fracture the multinational coalition, Iraq launched Scud missiles on Israeli cities and on Israel's nuclear military facilities at Dimona. However, under strong pressure from the U.S. which feared direct Israeli involvement would threaten the unity of the coalition, Israel did not retaliate against Iraq and the multinational coalition ousted Iraqi forces from Kuwait. During the war, many Palestinians (and King Hussein of Jordan) allied themselves with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Kuwait and other Gulf Arab monarchies withdrew their support from the Palestinian cause, which was one of the factors leading to the PLO signing the Oslo Accords.

Intifada of 2000

The al-Aqsa Intifada began in late September, 2000, around the time Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon and a large contingent of armed bodyguards visited the Temple Mount/Al-Haram As-Sharif complex in Jerusalem and declared the area eternal Israeli territory. Widespread riots broke out in Old Jerusalem, and Israeli authorities killed several Palestinians in the first hours of the uprising. The killing of Muhammed al-Dura, a 12-year-old boy, was videotaped and broadcast around the world, triggering further rioting. With the death of Yasser Arafat, the Intifada is, possibly, reaching its end.

Reasons for the conflict

The opinions stated here are only some of the many existing in this region; they strive to represent majority viewpoints.

Israeli views

There is no single "Israeli" view; rather, Israelis express many views, which differ widely. Template:Israelis

Israelis describe various reasons for what they perceive as unjustified hostility against Israel. One of the primary reasons cited is anti-Semitism.

Arab hostility

Many if not most Israelis believe that the conflict is largely a result of Arab attempts to destroy Israel, and that only Israeli military power stands between them and annihilation.

They characterize the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the 1967 Six Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War as attempts to destroy Israel. As evidence of this intent, pro-Israeli literature often places a heavy emphasis on statements made by Arab leaders during and preceding the wars. The following quotes are mainstays of pro-Israeli arguments:

  • "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades." (by Abdul Razek Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League, in anticipation of victory over the new Jewish microstate in 1948 by the five invading Arab armies. [5] (, the original quote purportedly comes from the May 16, 1948 The New York Times)
  • "I declare a holy war, my Muslim brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!" (Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, and head of the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee [6] (, the original quote purportedly comes from a 1948 radio broadcast by the Mufti)
  • After the withdrawal of the UNEF, the Voice of the Arabs radiostation proclaimed (May 18, 1967): "As of today, there no longer exists an international emergency force to protect Israel. We shall exercise patience no more. We shall not complain any more to the UN about Israel. The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence."
  • "Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse the aggression, but to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united....I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation." (Syrian Defense Minister Hafez Assad (May 20, 1967) [7] (
  • "The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel." (Gamal Abdel Nasser's speech to Arab Trade Unionists (May 26, 1967) [8] (
  • On May 30, 1967, Nasser proclaimed: "The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of face the challenge, while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world. Today they will know that the Arabs are arranged for battle, the critical hour has arrived. We have reached the stage of serious action and not declarations." (Isi Leibler, The Case For Israel, 1972, p.60.) After Iraq joined the Arab military alliance in June 4, its president Abdur Rahman Aref announced: "The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear - to wipe Israel off the map." (Liebler, p.18)

Islamic law and non-Muslims

Some pro-Israeli opinion cite traditional interpretations of sharia (Islamic law) which requires, among other things, that Muslim territory encompass all land that was ever under Muslim control, as a source for the Arab-Israeli conflict. Since the territory of Israel, prior to being the British Mandate of Palestine, was once part of the Ottoman caliphate, some Islamic clerics believe it is unlawful for any portion of it to remain 'usurped' by non-Muslims. By contrast, pro-Arab opinion points at the pronounced religious tolerance of the caliphates, where Christians and Jews coexisted "harmoniously" with Muslims and were granted limited self-autonomy. Resentment of Israeli Jews, this argument concludes, only emerged as a result from and after the rise of the Zionist enterprise in Palestine.

Pro-Israeli views, however, often dismiss this explanation with the argument that Muslim Arab hostility towards Israel is largely derived from the sharia dictation that Jews or Christians are not to be considered equal to Muslims. Pro-Arab commentators view this as running counter to the tradition of tolerance towards "People of the Book" in Islam. They also point towards the long tradition of Palestinian Christians in their resistance to Israel and its policies, including such noted figures as Edward Said, Hanan Ashrawi and George Habash, and the various Palestinian secular movements such as the PLO itself. In turn pro-Israeli proponents refer to a declining Christian Palestinian population (along with those of most Arab Christians) as, at least in part, a product of Muslim hostility towards non-Muslims, in general [[9] (,pubID.1939/pub_detail.asp)]. According to a report published in December 2001 by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies think tank.The Christian Exodus from the Middle East (, in December 1997 The Times noted: "Life in (PA ruled) Bethlehem has become insufferable for many members of the dwindling Christian minorities." The report also states that "Christians in the Palestinian territories have dropped from 15% of the Arab population in 1950 to just 2% today." Dr. Bernard Sabella, a Palestinian Christian professor at Bethlehem University, argues that it is not Islamic fundamentalism by itself that has caused Christians to emigrate, but rather the bad economic and political situation, stating that "negative effects of Israeli occupation have touched all of us and have made us into a traumatized, distressed and hurt people."[10] ( A number of American Protestant denominations hold Israel largely responsible for the shrinking Palestinian Christian population.[11] (

Traditionally, where Jews and Christians and other non-Muslims were under Muslim rule, they were considered dhimmi, or protected people. Historian Benny Morris of Ben-Gurion University writes that the dhimma — the "writ of protection," also called the Pact of Umar after Muhammad's successor, the second caliph Umar 'ib al-Khattab (643-44) — was intended to embody Qur'anic sentiments toward Jews and Christians. The dhimmi communities were traditionally obliged to pay a poll tax known as the jizyah, and another tax called the kharaj (only for one century), which was imposed by the Muslim conquerors on non-believers whose lands became part of the Muslim state. So long as they paid these taxes, writes Morris, the dhimmi were allowed to live on the land under Muslim protection and with limited self-autonomy, though following a later revisions of the Dhimmi status, some Muslim rulers began to dishonour those rules and traditions, at times, expeling these protected communities.

Under the writ, the dhimmi were not allowed to strike a Muslim or carry arms; were allowed to ride asses only, not horses or camels, and then only sidesaddled; were not allowed to build new houses of worship or repair old ones; and for brief periods, under particularly repressive regimes, even had to wear distinctive clothing. The historian Elie Kedourie described the attitude toward the dhimmi as one of "contemptuous tolerance." Muslims "treated the Dhimmi, and especially the Jews, as impure," writes Morris (2001). This opinion is disputed by the Muslim scholar, Muhammad Hamidullah, who writes in the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs that: "If Muslim residents in non-Muslim countries received the same treatment as Dhimmi in the Islamic regime, they would be more than satisfied; they would be grateful."

Citing accounts of a number of massacres by Muslims against Jews between 1033 until the 1940s, Morris write that, despite the dhimmi pact, Muslims rose up against Jewish communities since between they exhibited "[an]underlying attitude, that Jews were infidels and opponents of Islam, and necessarily inferior in the eyes of God, prevailed throughout Muslim lands down the ages (Morris 2001).</blockquote>

The status of the dhimmi, Morris notes, improved marginally with the rise of the Ottoman empire, especially when the Sublime Porte of 1856 declared that all Ottoman subjects were equal, but conditions worsened again when the empire collapsed. Morris gives as an example of the treatment of the dhimmi, the phenomenon of stone-throwing at Jews by Muslim children, which, he says, amounted to a local custom in Yemen and Morocco. The Jewish dhimmi were forbidden, under pain of death, to defend themselves by striking the children. The Syrian delegate to the United Nations, Faris el-Khouri, told the U.N. in 1947 that: "Unless the Palestine problem is settled, we shall have difficulty in protecting and safeguarding the Jews in the Arab world, (New York Times, February 19, 1947).

Scholars such as Hamidullah, respond that this represents an historically distorted understanding and interpertation of the dhimmi status. Moreover, they point that, at the event, it remains strictly limited to the realm of history, since currently no Muslim nation imposes these laws on its non-Muslim citizens (though Saudi Arabia does require all citizens to be Muslim). They also argue that Qur'anic passages regarding relations with non-Muslims are often taken outside of their proper context, and assert that the tolerance of Muslims toward Jews was one of the reasons why Jews fled to Palestine to escape European persecution.

Muslims say that the dhimma, or writ of protection, only applies when Muslims are rulers, and as Muslims have not ruled Jews in Israel during the current conflict, they maintain that any purported connection between the conflict and the history of the dhimmi is impertinent.

Israel and war

Israelis generally claim that, when nations declare war against Israel, Israel by definition is then at war with them. Israelis claim that they have always preferred peace to war: for example, immediately after the Six-Day War, Israel maintains that it offered to return the Golan Heights to Syria and the Sinai Peninsula (including the Gaza Strip) to Egypt in exchange for peace treaties and various concessions, but that Syria and Egypt refused the offer and this offer was very soon withdrawn. Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian President at the time, proposed negotiations towards peace with Israel in the early 1970s but Israel refused the offer, claiming that it held unreasonable preconditions. Later Israel signed the Camp David Accords (1978) with Egypt and subsequently withdrew from all Egyptian territory it occupied.

Israel and the peace process

Israel claims that it demonstrated flexibility and understanding, as it managed to bring about the initiation of the peace process, agreed to painful concessions, and partially implemented them. As opposed to this, most Israelis see the predominant Palestinian views of the peace process that do not recognize Israel's right to exist, and indicate, in their opinion, that the only real long-term Arab goal is the complete destruction of the Jewish state.

Interpretations of Zionism

Most Israelis see Zionism as merely the desire of Jewish people to live as free people in the land of Israel. Zionism does not prohibit Arabs, Druze, Bedouin and other non-Jews from living in Israel as well, although by most interpretations it requires a Jewish majority to be established. People of all races, colors and ethnic backgrounds live in Israel; therefore, they argue, Zionism is not racism, as it does not imply the superiority of Jews over any other nationality or ethnicity, although it does insist on Israel being a "Jewish state". However, during the 1930s, ideas of a 'population exchange' of Palestinian Arabs and Jews between Arab states and Israel, were popular among Zionists, and some, particularly supporters of Moledet, believe in the forced transfer of Arabs from Israel.

Zionists hold that Zionism is not colonialism, since they claim it does not wish to enslave any other peoples or take over any lands other than the one in question, nor to exploit them, but rather is about allowing the Jewish people to have a state in one small area. In response to the objection that the Palestinians were and are exploited by Israelis living on what is claimed to be their land, Israelis reply that the Palestinians were, up until recently, on a path to their independence from Israel; a path from which, as most Israelis now feel, the Palestinians diverted by starting a war against them. This view is regarded as incorrect by most Palestinians as well as by many Arabs and others outside Israel.

Threat to the state

Many Israelis and supporters of Israel, and some Palestinians and supporters of Palestine, take the view that the very existence of the state of Israel is at stake. Most of the other parties to the dispute maintain formally that Israel should be recognised as a state, although some consider that it should be abolished. Israelis regard many of the Arab criticisms against the state of Israel as threats to the state's existence, and say that against the multitude and power of the Arab states, there is only one Jewish state, which, they feel, should behave vigilantly, and assert its power in both a defensive and preemptive manner as deemed necessary.

Return of refugees

Israel accepted close to one million Jewish refugees expelled from Arab lands following the 1948 war, and rejects any perceived moral obligation towards those who complain about Arab refugees. Additionally, when dealing with the question of the right of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to return to Israel, along with millions of their descendants, most Israelis feel that the introduction of a large number of people into the limited geographical resources of the country would create a demographic shock that would bring about the destruction of the State of Israel. They believe furthermore that this destruction is too high a price to pay to find a solution to the Palestinian refugees, and that it could create millions of Jewish refugees, while not necessarily solving the problems of the Palestinians.

Alternative solutions to the refugee problem

Israel states that it is willing to discuss alternative solutions, such as granting a right of return to a limited number of people on a humanitarian basis (such as the unification of families) and compensating the rest, in the framework of a comprehensive peace plan. Such discussions have yet to take place.

Many Israelis believe that such a proposal would be an act of goodwill, as there was also a huge number of Jewish refugees from Arab nations and Arab-controlled areas of Palestine that were expelled from their homes between 1947 and 1967, totaling over 800,000, who were not compensated. The reason that all these Jews and their descendants are not in refugee camps is that the State of Israel absorbed almost 600,000 of them, sometimes giving them the property of Palestinian refugees under the Absentee Property Act by which such property could be confiscated; other nations absorbed the rest. In contrast, Israelis claim that Palestinian Arab refugees were confined by other Arabs in refugee camps for many decades in order to artificially create a refugee crisis as a way to create an army to one day fight against Israel, although in fact Palestinians were nowhere forced to remain in refugee camps. Children born in Jordan to Palestinian parents are given Jordanian nationality, but in Syria, for example, they are not.

Land disputes and violence

Liberal Israelis oppose settlements, believing they are illegal under International law and/or thwart peace efforts. However, most Israelis do not view the building of houses and stores in Israeli settlements as an act of war, and believe that disputes over land do not justify violent resistance or terrorism, but that there should be politically negotiated solutions. This view is rejected by Palestinians and many outside Israel, as Israel's leadership continues to build settlements on Palestinian land, an activity that is roundly condemned by most of the world except Israel and usually the United States.

Concerns regarding violence or civil war

Some Israelis fear the consequences if they decide, or are eventually forced, to depopulate the Israeli settlements. They believe some settlers may resist by force, perhaps even creating a risk of civil war. When Israel withdrew from settlements in the Sinai Peninsula in the early 1980s, moderate clashes between the Israel Defense Forces and settlers occurred. Those settlers amounted to but a tiny fraction of the settler population in the West Bank. A recent survey by Peace Now indicated about two thirds of the settlers would comply with a government order to evacuate.

Treatment of minorities in Israel

Many Israelis believe that minorities in Israel are treated justly. Within Israel's pre-1967 borders, Arab and other minorities are given freedom of religion, culture and political organization. Several Arab political parties have elected parliament members in the Knesset. Arabs are typically not conscripted into the Israeli military (though they are accepted as volunteers), so they will generally never have to fight their peoples. However, this can deny them job opportunities, as some jobs in Israel require previous military service. Israelis claim that Arab countries such as Syria and Yemen do not give full rights and freedoms to Jews, and others, such as Saudi Arabia, do not even allow Jews to be citizens. The United Nations Human Development Reports [12] ( and human rights groups report that many Arab countries don't allow political opposition and other freedoms and lack checks and balances and separation of powers.

Palestinian and other Arab views

There isn't any single "Palestinian view"; rather, there are many different Palestinian views, which differ widely.

Treatment of Jews by Muslims and its consequences

Many Muslims assert that Jews were treated better by Muslims than by other rulers who persecuted them. One pertinent example is the mass expulsion of Jews from Spain after the fall of their last refuge there, the Muslim kingdom of Granada in 1492. This resulted in the migration of Jews (especially those fleeing the Spanish Inquisition) to the Ottoman Empire (, including the present-day region of Israel and surrounding areas. Had the Muslim treatment of Jews been the same as the treatment Jews received in Europe, these Muslims argue, Jews would have left Muslim areas, just as they left Nazi Germany and Russia, instead of migrating in. According to this view, Palestinians may be paying the price ( for their forefathers' failure to see that Jewish migration might one day lead to the creation of an independent Jewish state.

Jewish-Muslim relations in Middle East affected by creation of Israel

Supporters of this viewpoint regard these historic good relations in the Middle East as having been shattered by the creation of Israel. They cite the example of Mizrahi Jews, who had long been living in large measure peacefully among Arabs and Muslims, but who left after the establishment of the state of Israel for a variety of reasons (depending on the country), including Muslim hostility because of the new state. Some point out as well that during the times of the Spanish Inquisition, Muslim countries were prominent in accepting Jewish refugees.

Opponents of this viewpoint, including some Mizrahi Jews themselves, see this as one-sided at best. They point to the persecutions of the Jews of North Africa in the 12th century under the Almohades, the slaughter of thousands of Jews in Fez in 1465 (after the Jewish deputy vizier Harun (Aaron), who had imposed heavy taxes on the population on behalf of the vizier, was accused of treating a Muslim woman "offensively"), [13] ( and to similar massacres in Libya, Algiers, and Marrakesh in the 18th and 19th centuries (Morris, 2001). They also point to waves of synagogue destructions and forced conversions throughout the Arab world from the 11th to 19th centuries, and to the fact that, by the 19th century, most Jews of North Africa were forced to live in mellahs or ghettos, and were subject to a number of restrictions and humiliations.

Choice of war

As the refugees' exile continued, some Palestinian groups chose war, considering it as a necessary way to regain what they saw as their rights over the land they came from. The failure of these efforts to improve the Palestinians' condition fuelled increased hostility.

Treatment of Muslim and Christian population

Palestinians feel that the Jewish state of Israel was established under conditions that were deeply unfair to them. Some Palestinians do not oppose a Jewish state as such, but all Palestinians feel that it should not have been established at their expense. They argue that after World War II - and, indeed, after World War I - the world allowed a state for Jewish people in Palestine to be established without much concern for the existing indigenous Arab population. According to this view, Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes by Jewish militias before and during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war (see Palestinian exodus.) Those who remained in Israel face various forms of discrimination, such as housing and employment discrimination. Many job opportunities in Israel are open only to those with previous military service, typically non-haredi Jews, Druze, Circassians and Bedouins. Those who do not serve in the IDF (typically Israeli Arabs and haredi-Jews) are denied those opportunities.

Some Palestinian Christians are of the opinion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has led to the diminishment of their population[14] ([15] ( Others, like Abe Ata are of the opinion that American Christians have "turned their backs" on them by supporting Israel [16] ( Some Palestinian Christians have said that Israel does not give them permission to visit holy places in Jerusalem.[17] (

The return of refugees

Palestinians have made reference to the statement made by Folke Bernadotte, the UN mediator, concerning the right of return of refugees: "It would be an offense against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes, while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine" (UN Doc Al 648, 1948).

The supporters of Israel argue that the return of Palestinian refugees and millions of their descendents would mean the end of Jewish self-determination and assert the historical necessity for Jews to have a safe haven. See also Jewish refugees.

Restrictions on Palestinians

Restrictions on Palestinian movements were introduced to increase levels of security within Israel and have been of variable severity over time. The international community often views these as punishments of the masses because of the actions of a few. This perception of unjust persecution provides a continuing rationale for hostility toward Israel.

Bulldozing of houses and destruction of infrastructure within Palestinian residential areas in the name of Israeli security add to the perceived poor conditions and lack of opportunities for the Palestinians. This is a frequently-used point of indignation used against Israel by Palestinian sympathizers.

Approach of the U.S.

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Caricature illustrating the US as biased towards Israel, a view predominant in (but not limited to) the Arab world. The lifeguard (the US) admonishes the struggling boy (the Palestinians) in the jaws of the shark (Israel) to leave the shark alone.

Palestinians cite many reasons for the perceived lack of support of their cause in the United States, despite the perception that it is more broadly supported in Europe. One such reason is postulated to be ethnic bigotry in the U.S.; while stereotyping of many other groups is no longer rampant, some Palestinians believe that Muslims and Arabs, in particular, continue to be vilified and victimized by crude attacks. Some Palestinians also cite what they describe as strong influence by Zionist organizations on elected officials in the U.S. political system (see AIPAC as one such example). It has also been argued that the U.S. continues to support Israel in order to have a strong foot hold in the region for their own national interests, politically and economically. Many also cite the political nature of the Cold War that aligned the U.S. with Israel against the USSR and its allies in the region.

Israel and international law

See also International law and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Palestinians claim they have International law on their side. For example, they cite UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which calls for refugees wishing to live in peace with their neighbors to be allowed to return to their homes, or to receive compensation if they don't wish to return. They also cite UN Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for Israel to withdraw from territories occupied during the Six-Day War, the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids an occupying power from confiscating occupied land and transferring its own population to that territory, and UN Security Council Resolution 446, which declared that the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal.

However, supporters of the Israeli position maintain that General Assembly resolutions are merely recommendations under International law, and in any event doubt that the refugees wish to "live in peace with their neighbors". Some observers, in particular Israelis, have expressed doubts as to whether the return of refugees is compatible with the continued existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish state, and the establishment of a "just and lasting peace" in the region. Others, in particular Palestinians, believe such a peace is possible only if refugees are either allowed to return or fairly compensated.

SC 242, the Land for peace formula, was adopted on November 22, 1967 in the aftermath of the Six-Day War and the Khartoum Resolution, and called for withdrawal from occupied territories in return for "termination of all claims or states of belligerency" and mutual "acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence" by Israel and the other states in the area, and recognized the right of "every state in the area" (in particular, Israel) to live "free from threats or acts of force" within "secure and recognized boundaries". The three-line Resolution 338. [18] ( ( October 22, 1973) called for the cease-fire in 1973 Yom Kippur War and for implementation of SC 242.

Supporters of the Israeli position note the English language version of SC 242 deliberately did not state all territories captured during the war, as the framers recognized some territorial adjustments were likely. The French language version of the text did include the definite article. Some, but not Israel itself, consider that Israel complied with this sense of the resolution when it returned the Sinai to Egypt in 1982. Arabs reject this rationale, and point towards world opinion which they say supports their interpretation that it requires full withdrawal. Another requirement of UNSC Resolution 242, a "just settlement of the refugee problem" does not specifically mention either the Palestinian refugees or the Jewish refugees. Israel continues to refuse to consider large-scale resettlement of Palestinian refugees and points to the continued refusal of the Arab nations to compensate Israeli Jews of Arab origin, many of whom were driven out of their home countries after facing the expropriation of their property.

Ambiguity as to the proper interpretation of SC 242 is highlighted by the seemingly contradictory statements of Lord Caradon, then the United Kingdom ambassador to the United Nations who is widely acknowledged as the primary author of SC 242:

"We didn't say there should be a withdrawal to the '67 line; we did not put the 'the' in, we did not say all the territories, deliberately.. We all knew - that the boundaries of '67 were not drawn as permanent frontiers, they were a cease-fire line of a couple of decades earlier... We did not say that the '67 boundaries must be forever." MacNeil/Lehrer Report - March 30, 1978
"It was from occupied territories that the Resolution called for withdrawal. The test was which territories were occupied. That was a test not possibly subject to any doubt as a matter of fact...East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan and Sinai were occupied in the 1967 conflict. I[t] was on withdrawal from occupied territories that the Resolution insisted." In: Caradon, [Lord] Hugh, et al. U.N. Security Council Resolution 242: A Case Study in Diplomatic Ambiguity. Washington, D.C., Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, 1981.

Finally, Israel's supporters argue that the Fourth Geneva Convention does not technically apply to the territories, since they have no "High Contracting Party", and claim that the Convention in any event only applied to forcible transfers of populations into or out of captured territories. However, a conference of High Contracting Parties in 2001 stated that the Convention did apply in the territories.

Jewish settlements in West Bank and Gaza

Palestinians point out that Israel accelerated the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip throughout the Oslo peace process. These settlements are off limits to Palestinians and other Arabs, while any Jewish citizen of Israel can at any time choose to settle there. In 2000, at Camp David, the Palestinians were offered a nominally independent state composed of discontiguous parts of most of Gaza and the West Bank, with Israeli control over its airspace, borders and trade. Led by Arafat, the Palestinians rejected this offer, claiming that this state would be a "Bantustan" (a state divided in many pieces) without sovereignty. President Clinton and the Israelis asked the Palestinians to offer a counter-proposal, but Arafat declined and returned to the West Bank. Later, further negotiations did take place, but they were terminated by the Israeli side. In his book The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace, Dennis Ross, the American negotiator, asserts that the idea the Palestinian state would be a "Bantustan" was a myth, and provides maps showing an offer that included contiguous territory. [19] (, [20] (, [21] (, [22] (

Reception of Saudi peace plan

In 2002, Saudi Arabia offered a peace plan in the New York Times and at a summit meeting of the Arab League in Beirut, which was based on UN Security Council Resolution 242 and Resolution 338 but went much further, essentially calling for full withdrawal in return for fully normalized relations with the whole Arab world. This proposal received the unanimous backing of the Arab League for the first time. Israeli officially welcomed it[23] (, but in practice ignored it thereafter and it fell by the wayside.

State based on obsolete claims

Most Arabs deny that historical grounds can justify the existence of a Jewish nation today, holding that the fact that Jews dominated the area 1,800 years ago gives them no valid claim over it after 1,800 years in which almost all Jews lived elsewhere, and does not justify evicting the Palestinians from their homeland. Some contrast the case with that of other ethnic groups which fled their homelands two millennia ago or less (such as the Celtic Bretons from Britain, the Roma or "Gypsies" from India, or the Kalmyks from Mongolia) noting that such groups do not typically attempt to reclaim their former homelands, and arguing that their doing so would rightly be rejected as unfair to the present inhabitants. Advocates of this position do not necessarily reject the current existence of Israel, but do reject attempts to justify its founding and expansion as "return".

Their opponents argue that the continued Jewish presence in the area throughout the past three millennia, and the deep religious ties maintained by Judaism with the Land of Israel, give Jews a continuing and valid claim to it which cannot reasonably be compared with other cases; they also emphasize that the destruction of a Jewish state and demographic changes there were due to foreign conquests. They also point out that since antiquity, Jewish beliefs were frequently branded as "obsolete" (see Against Apion, Supersessionism). It may also be noted that historical grounds are not the only reasons given for the establishment of a Jewish state.

State based on ethnicity

Some groups, including some Arabs, call Zionism, and hence any Zionist state, racist insofar as they claim it privileges Jews over non-Jews (see Zionism and racism) - for example, the 2001 U.N. World Conference on Racism's NGO Forum called Israel a "racist apartheid state", and Bashar al-Assad called it a "racist society"[24] ( - and see this as one among many reasons to fight it. Critics of this position argue that Israel is not racist, or is more just in this respect than a Palestinian state would be, or that critics in Arab states are. They also argue that the practices which those groups consider to privilege Jews over non-Jews are either imaginary, non-legislated, or, when existing (such as the Law of Return), are both legal under international law, and what some ethnic-based states grant to members of their ethnicity.[25] (

Effects of Jewish immigration

Some Arabs maintain that there is nothing wrong with Jewish immigration into Palestine, in itself, any more than there is with Jewish immigration into any other part of the world. But in their view the Zionist immigrants arriving in Palestine from the late 1800s on did so with the intention of taking it over and establishing a Jewish majority state, in some cases by force; they consider this to be an unacceptable effort to colonize Palestinians' land, made possible not by Palestinian self-determination, or even consent, but by British (and to a lesser extent Turkish) fiat. This process led to what they regard as an expulsion by Zionists of the majority of the indigenous Palestinian population in 1948, and continues today with Israel's ongoing expansion of settlements. Palestinians also decry what they see as the inherent inequity of long-standing Israeli laws on immigration where, according to Israel's Law of Return, a Jew born in, say Stockholm, may immigrate to Israel and gain automatic citizenship and elect to live anywhere he chooses, including East Jerusalem, whereas a Palestinian born and raised in Jerusalem and forced to leave as a refugee of war may not return to his home.

The detractors of this argument regard the existence of a Jewish minority in the Land of Israel throughout the past two millennia, and the importance of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel in Judaism, as giving Jews a right to go there that trumps Palestinians' objections. They also claim international approval for their immigration, noting that both the League of Nations's 1922 Palestine Mandate and the 1947 UN Partition Plan supported the establishment of a Jewish National Homeland in the region, and view the Arab leadership's former rejection of any partition as an attempt to deny the Jews their right of self-determination. They claim that a national homeland for Jews would have protected them from persecution. Mainstream Zionists have argued that the land could support a greater population density without major population displacement.

Palestinians as victims of extremism

Some Palestinians believe that their cause may be damaged by extremists within their own ranks; an issue that is mirrored in the Israeli camp. Some view the conflict as essentially extremist vs. moderate, as opposed to Israeli vs. Palestinian. Pro-Israel advocates often assert that two sets of views exist from the same speaker, with a tolerant view usually expressed in English, and an anti-peace view usually expressed in Arabic, with pro-Arab advocates making similar charges about Israeli speakers. Most if not all Palestinian spokespeople declare that they wish Israel had never come into being, regarding its creation as a historic injustice. However, some accept its existence today and call merely for a state of their own. Still others envisage a one-state solution in all of historic Palestine. Within this one-state view, there are both secular and Islamist visions for the future. The secular view holds that a just and lasting peace is most likely if there exists a fully democratic government for all citizens, where legal status and civil rights are not based on ethnic and religious identity. The Islamist view aspires to an Islamic government in Palestine. In both views, Jews currently living in Israel might be allowed to remain there unmolested as free and equal citizens of a future state of Palestine (in the secular Arab view) or as dhimmis along with Druze and Christians, in the Islamist Arab view. Some Jews view it as extremely unlikely that they would be allowed to live unmolested in any sort of one-state Palestine.

Today, many Palestinians think that an equitable arrangement for all involved parties requires dialogue with Israelis and the international community. The PLO has officially accepted the right of Israel to exist within the borders prevailing prior to the Six-Day War. However, some PLO representatives, including Yasser Arafat, have also declared at times that they saw these statements as politically necessary steps. Some observers interpret this to mean that they view the two-state solution as a stepping stone to a more integrated long-term solution. Others, particularly some Israelis, claim that these statements betray a hidden agenda and worldview where the peace process with Israel is only a temporary measure in support of the ultimate Palestinian goal, which is the destruction of the state of Israel, and presumably the eviction of its Jewish citizens. They point to the fact that the PLO never updated its formal statement of policy, the Palestinian National Covenant to reflect their recognition of the State of Israel and that it still calls for the destruction of Israel; however the U.S. Embassy in Israel is on record confirming that "On April 24, 1996, the Palestinian National Council (PNC) amended the charter by canceling the articles inconsistent with its commitments to Israel" [26] ( Still, belief in an existential threat from the PLO causes alarm among much of the Israeli public.

Attacks on Israeli army

Many Palestinians distinguish between violent resistance against Israel military occupation, and violent acts against Israeli civilians. They hold that the former is legitimate resistance under the laws of war, while the latter comprise illegitimate acts of terrorism. However, opinion polls consistently shows these Palestinians to be in the minority. Other Palestinian voices reject violence altogether and look to exclusively non-violent resistance as a solution. Palestinians making the case for purely non-violent resistance, or for armed resistance against only military targets but not Israeli civilians, invoke both practical arguments that such tactics are counterproductive, as well as moral and legal arguments against the use of violence, especially against civilians. Most Palestinians claim that Israel's occupation engenders routine violence against Palestinian civilians that is institutionalized and carried out on a much larger scale than anything Israelis experience. They often question what they see as the media's one-sided use of the word "terror" in cases where Palestinians are perpetrators and Israelis are victims, while ignoring what they view as state terrorism carried out by Israel against the Palestinian population.

Some Palestinian and Arab leaders believe that Palestinians are justified in using violence against any Israeli, seeing all Israelis as illegal occupants, and arguing that Israel's universal conscription renders almost all Israelis potential combatants. They see these illegal occupants as the source of tens of thousands of deaths, and million of refugees. Some claim that trusting the international community to help them to get their rights back is useless, suggesting that, in recent history, as long as Palestinians were peaceful no state made any serious efforts to solve their problem. In their opinion, only when other countries see Palestinian problems as causing problems to themselves do they help Palestine.

They also argue that the civilian deaths caused by their operations are dwarfed by those dismissed as "collateral damage" caused by the full scale military campaigns done by various world powers. Some see the innocent deaths caused by such operations as regrettable, but as only option to solve the problems of millions of Palestinians. Furthermore, they point to the use of violence against non-combatants by most other independence struggles, including, they say, the American War of Independence.

Despite having underlying grievances in common, the relationships between the PLO and Hamas and other Palestinian factions is rife with philosophical and tactical differences, as well as frequent power struggles, all of which tend to work to Israel's advantage and weaken Palestinians' ability to influence the outcome of the conflict.

Israeli tactics

Arab publications and others have compared Zionism to German Nazism and other historical examples of oppression and ethnic cleansing. Many Arabs, and others, believe Israel practises a form of "apartheid" against the Palestinian people, as bad as, or worse than, that practised by South Africa, and that Zionism is a form of "colonialism" and has been carried out through extensive "ethnic cleansing". Pro-Israel advocates reply that these claims are non-factual and the comparisons are specious, or with assertions that such claims are hypocritical, since Arabs have created twenty-two Arab states, in some of which the remaining Jews are discriminated against. Palestinians hold that the existence of other Arab nations is irrelevant; they want to have the land they owned back, rather than being forced to throw themselves on others' charity in foreign countries. Probably 50%-60% of Jordanian population is ethnically Palestinian (former refugees and their descendants; estimates vary widely) but the country is ruled by the Hashemite Bedouin family. In the 1970s, the PLO attempted to launch a coup against the Jordanian monarchy, which led to death of some 20,000 Palestinians and the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan.

The USSR traditionally used Arabs as a proxy in the Cold War against the West (and the West's proxy in the Middle East, Israel). Some of today's anti-Zionist rhetoric still reflects the position of Soviet Zionology.

Neglect of history in school books

Many Palestinian school textbooks, including those distributed and sponsored by the Palestinian Authority since 1994, have historically minimized or ignored Jewish history of the land prior to the 20th century. Similar statements are made in the Palestinian media. Palestinians claim the newer batch of the textbooks, released in 2000, rectify any omissions. Palestinians also claim that Israeli textbooks and school curriculum fully ignore Palestinian history and propagate myths about the founding of Israel such as claims that Palestine was virtually uninhabited prior to the arrival of Zionist immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Palestinians further claim that Israeli textbooks and media neglect and minimize the Arab Palestinian past and, according to CMIP, stereotype Arabs negatively[27] (; however the Israelis counter that Israeli history program does include medieval Islamic history including topics such as the Arab Caliphate, as well as some history of both Arab and Jewish elements of Palestine. The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP) regularly issues reports on the contents of Arab and Israeli school textbooks (

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. See projects working for peace among Israelis and Palestinians.


  • "The greatest security for Israel is to create new Egypts." President Ronald Reagan. Quoted in: Observer (London, 27 Feb. 1983).
  • "My generation, dear Ron, swore on the Altar of God that whoever proclaims the intent of destroying the Jewish state or the Jewish people, or both, seals his fate." — Menachem Begin, Israeli politician, prime minister. Letter to Reagan. Quoted in: Observer (London, 2 Jan. 1983).
  • "We have always said that in our war with the Arabs we had a secret weapon-no alternative." — Golda Meir, Israeli politician, prime minister. Life (New York, 3 Oct. 1969).
  • "Our image has undergone change from David fighting Goliath to being Goliath." — Yitzhak Shamir, Israeli politician, prime minister. Quoted in: Daily Telegraph (London, 25 Jan. 1989).
  • "Palestine is the cement that holds the Arab world together, or it is the explosive that blows it apart." — Yasser Arafat, Palestinian leader. Quoted in: Time (New York, 11 Nov. 1974).
  • "We are not asking for the moon." — Yasser Arafat, Palestinian leader. Quoted in: Observer (London, 7 Feb. 1982).
  • "Should there be maniacs who raise the idea, they will encounter an iron fist which will leave no trace of such attempts." — Yitzhak Shamir, Israeli politician, prime minister. Quoted in: Times (London, 11 Aug. 1988), on advocates of Palestinian self-government.
  • "Whoever thinks of stopping the uprising before it achieves its goals, I will give him ten bullets in the chest." — Yasser Arafat, Palestinian leader. Quoted in: Daily Telegraph (London, 19 Jan. 1989), on the Intifada.
  • "We, the soldiers who have returned from battles stained with blood; we who have seen our relatives and friends killed before our eyes; we who have attended their funerals and cannot look in the eyes of their parents; we who have come from a land where parents bury their children; we who have fought against you, the Palestinians-we say to you today, in a loud and a clear voice: enough of blood and tears. Enough." — Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli prime minister. Speech at the White House, September 13, 1993, after signing the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles.
  • "Not only [are] our states . . . making peace with each other,. . . you and I, your Majesty, are making peace here, our own peace, the peace of soldiers and the peace of friends." — Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Prime Minister. New York Times, (July 27, 1994), after signing a peace declaration with Jordan's King Hussein.

See also

Related articles


  • Hamidullah, M. (1986), "Relations of Muslims with non-Muslims," Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, vol. 7, no. 1, January 1986
  • Morris, B. (2001), Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001, 1st ed. 1999; 2nd ed. Vintage Books, 2001, ISBN 0679744754
  • Richard Ben Cramer, How Israel Lost: The Four Questions, Simon and Schuster, May, 2004, hardcover, 288 pages, ISBN 0743250281
  • Dore Gold, Tower Of Babble: How The United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos, Random House (November, 2004), hardcover, 304 pages, ISBN 1400054753

External links

General Sources

Government and Official Sources

Regional Media


  • Yedioth Aharonoth ( Israel's largest newspaper, centrist (English) (Hebrew) (
  • Ha'Aretz ( Israeli newspaper, liberal (English)
  • Jerusalem Post (, Israel's oldest English newspaper, conservative (English)


  • Lebanon Daily Star (, largest English-circulation newspaper in the Arab world (English)
  • Al Jazeera (, pan-Arab news station (English)
  • Al Ahram (, Egypt's largest newspaper (English)
  • Palestine Chronicle (, weekly electronic paper (English)

Think Tanks and Strategic Analysis

Peace Proposals

See main article: List of Middle East peace proposals

Views of the Conflict: Pro-Israel

Views of the Conflict: Pro-Arab

Historical Sources


nl:Isralisch-Arabische oorlogen ja:中東戦争 pl:Konflikt izraelsko-palestyński sk:Arabsko-izraelsk konflikt


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