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Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. This conflict is one element of the larger Arab-Israeli conflict.

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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, Gaza 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, during World War I, Britain's 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 Palestinian. 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.

Some hold that Jordan is a Palestinian homeland. See Palestinian homeland.

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the Israeli settlements, from Palestinian view seen as one of the largest obstacles for peace, weren't beginning to be withdrawn.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.

Please note that these issues are controversial. If you plan on making changes, first consult the Discuss this page section to see which issues are under debate.


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, Gaza, 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.

Jewish Immigration

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[?]. [1] (http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/qpal/dpr/DPR_pp_1.htm/)

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 purposes."

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.

Israeli terrorism and Palestinian terrorism

Opposing the British policy to disallow new emigrants from Europe, even until after the war was over, an underground group, the Irgun, in 1946 blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem after issuing several warnings, the headquarters of the British administration, killing 91 people, almost all military personal, and injuring hundreds more. This was condemned by the Jewish leadership. The Irgun also bombed the British embassy in Rome. (Add summary of Palestinian terrorism here, with links to relevant articles.)

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, the 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 first option.

The 1947 partition plan was rejected by most Palestinians but was accepted by most Jews, including the Jewish Agency, which would become the new Jewish government. Several prominent Jews, 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.

Following the establishment of Israel, Menachem Begin criticised David Ben-Gurion for not conquering all of Palestine and driving out all Palestinians. "We won the war but lost the peace" was a common slogan among Jewish media at the time. Today the Palestinian Authority publishes many books and pamplets "proving" that the Zionists desire to take over all of the West Bank and Gaza, by establishing a network of settlements that increasingly encroach on the Palestinians.

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. They then 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.

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 suicide bombers blowing themselves up in the midst of Israeli civilian crowds, and the Israel Defence Force re-occupying the West Bank and closing off Gaza continuing into 2003.

"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 April 2001.

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.

Ir Shalem (http://www.peacenow.org/programs/irshalem)

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 (http://www.seedsofpeace.org/)

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 solidarity."

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 (http://www.inter.net.il/~givat_h/givat/arabcent.htm)

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 (http://www.silentnolonger.net/)

One Voice FAQ (http://www.silentnolonger.com/wwd_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....

The Abraham Fund (http://www.abrahamfund.org/)

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