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Palestine: An Introduction to History & Issues

Palestinian Heritage | Zionism | 1947 UN Partition Plan |War | Refugees |
1967 Six Day War The Occupied Territories | Settlements | Life Under Occupation |
Inside Israel | Law of Return |The First Intifada |The Peace Process | The Wall |
Gaza Disengagement | Hamas |U.S. Involvement | Palestinian Resistance |


Both Palestinians and Jews have lived for thousands of years in the region once known as Palestine and now known as Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians claim descent from the Kena'anu, or Canaanites, who founded Jerusalem, Jericho and other cities. Jews claim descent from the Khabiru, or Hebrews, who conquered parts of Canaan and established Hebrew kingdoms for some centuries before being dispersed by Persian, Babylonian and Roman armies. While both cultures have changed dramatically over time, and individual Palestinian or Jewish claims of ancient descent may be difficult or impossible to prove, there is no compelling reason to dispute the ancient and continuous presence of both peoples.

Palestinians have not traditionally been Bedouins or nomads, but agricultural, village and city people. Palestinians have sustained and improved the millennia-old dry-climate agriculture native to the land, have nurtured the orchards of ancient olive trees, some of them thousands of years old, and have retained ancient customs and place-names. By the nineteenth century, the people of Palestine had a well-established society and culture that was recognized by other Arabs as uniquely Palestinian. It consisted of respected intellectual and professional classes, political organizations, and the beginnings of modern industry.

For some two thousand years, Palestinian Jews were a small and accepted minority in Palestine. The current conflict is not ancient, but has its roots in the nineteenth century with the birth of the Zionist movement in Europe.

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Zionism began in the late 1800s as a nationalist movement among European Jews who hoped to escape from centuries of persecution, apartheid, pogroms and expulsions from European countries. The Zionist movement advocated forming a Jewish national state in Palestine. By the nineteenth century, however, since Jews had long been only a small minority there, founding a Jewish majority state would by definition require the displacement of the non-Jewish majority population. While Zionism was a national liberation movement and a quest for sanctuary by a persecuted people, it was also founded on European colonial habits of thought. A popular slogan of the Zionist movement -- “a land without a people for a people without a land” -- was openly racist in denying the significance or rights of the indigenous people of Palestine. Neither Palestinian Arabs nor the majority of Palestinian Jews favored the Zionist plan. Zionists caused increased resentment by purchasing Palestinian land from absentee Turkish landlords and pursuing their plan by way of foreign colonial governments.

Furthermore, the Zionist movement encountered an indigenous Palestinian liberation movement already underway, attempting to liberate Palestine from the Ottoman Empire. The collision of these two nationalist movements and the colonial approach of the Zionist movement were primary sources of conflict in the region. 

When the Ottoman Empire fell after World War I, the victorious European powers created artificial boundaries and Palestine became a mandate territory of Britain. At that time, there were about 600,000 Palestinians and 60,000 Jews in the territory, half of the latter figure being Jewish settlers from Europe. Tensions increased when the British foreign minister, Lord Arthur Balfour, announced his government's support for the establishment of "a Jewish national home in Palestine." British officials were simultaneously promising Palestinians a national state, but the number of Jewish settlers in Palestine grew by a factor of ten during the following three decades of British rule. Violence between Palestinians and Jews began during the early period of European Jewish settlement, with attacks on civilians by both sides.

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On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations -- under heavy pressure from the United States Government -- adopted Resolution 181, which recommended dividing Palestine into two nations, one Palestinian and one Jewish. (General Assembly resolutions have the legal status of recommendations. Only the Security Council is empowered to pass legally binding resolutions.)

When UN Resolution 181 was passed, there were 1,237,332 Arabs and 608,225 Jews in Palestine. Though the Jewish people made up only 33 percent of the total population -- and owned only 6.59 percent of the land -- the UN Resolution recommended giving the Jewish state 54 percent of the territory. 

The Palestinian Arabs, having already rejected the UN's right to partition their land, now rejected the Resolution as unjust. They demanded instead the independence that the British and French had promised them after World War One. Zionist leaders were also unsatisfied with partition, though they accepted the Resolution as justification for declaring the Jewish state. 

"The Partition of Palestine is illegal. It will never be recognized .... Jerusalem was and will for ever be our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever."                                                  --Menachem Begin

"No Zionist can forgo the smallest portion of the Land Of Israel. [A] Jewish state in part [of Palestine] is not an end, but a beginning . . . Establishing a [small] state .... will serve as a very potent lever in our historical effort to redeem the whole country."

                                                          -- David Ben-Gurion
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Civil war between Zionist Jews and Palestinian Arabs broke out immediately after UN Resolution 181 was announced. One of the first major assaults by Zionist/Jewish forces came on December 18, 1947, when Palmach troops (the shock troops of the Zionist underground army) attacked the Palestinian village of Khissas in northern Galilee. Men, women and children were killed and wounded in the night raid.

By May 1948, Zionist forces had already captured substantial portions of Palestine outside the UN-defined Jewish state, and at least 200,000 Palestinians had been driven out of their homes in what was to become Israel.

On May 14, 1948, Great Britain officially declared the end of British Mandate rule in Palestine. That same day, Zionist leaders declared a State of Israel. At the meeting in Tel Aviv were thirty-seven men. One was from Palestine; one from Yemen; thirty-five had been born in Europe.

On May 15, Jordan, Syria and Egypt entered the war. These Arab governments had territorial ambitions of their own -- Jordan had made a secret agreement with the Zionists to divide up historic Palestine between them -- but they were also taking military action to stop the refugee crisis and to prevent the new state of Israel from conquering more land and driving out more Palestinians. 

Israeli legend has it that the Zionist forces were far outnumbered and outgunned. In fact, Zionist forces always had superior numbers of troops, and by summer of 1948 they had greater numbers of weapons and armored vehicles. A US-European arms embargo on both sides maintained this imbalance.

Armistice agreements were signed in January 1949. The new state of Israel had conquered 78% of Palestine, with Jordan taking control of the West Bank and Egypt taking control of Gaza. Historic Palestine disappeared from the map of the world.

The great majority of the actual fighting had taken place outside the territory of the UN-defined Jewish state. Over half the Zionist casualties were from attacks on Palestinian villages, not from defending Jewish settlements.

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By 1949, at least 800,000 Palestinians had been driven out of their homes. 

Israeli historian Benny Morris has documented 369 Palestinian villages that were eradicated. At least 234 of those villages were destroyed by direct Israeli military action. Over 80 of these villages were outside the territory of the UN-defined Jewish state. Israeli towns were founded on many of the sites.

The new state of Israel spread the story that all these Palestinians had left under orders from Arab leaders. They cited "Arab broadcasts" telling people to move away so that Arab armies could "operate without interference." In fact, both US and British intelligence services were monitoring all broadcasts during this period. Examination of those records demonstrates:-- Not a single "Arab broadcast" telling people to leave was recorded. -- Several Arab broadcasts were recorded telling the population to stay put.-- Israeli forces, meanwhile, were using threats, violence, and murder to force many Palestinians to leave their homes.

It is no longer the official line of the Israeli Foreign Office that Arab leaders ordered Palestinians to leave Palestine.

Some of the Palestinian refugees were forced elsewhere in Palestine; most were forced out of the country altogether. The United Nations set up refugee camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and inside the Palestinian areas occupied by Jordan and Egypt. Many thousands of Palestinians have lived in refugee camps ever since.

Many refugees tried to cross the border back into Israel, mostly in the attempt to tend their farmlands or homes. Israel treated these returnees as criminal infiltrators and launched violent reprisals against locations in Jordan, Syria, and Egyptian-controlled Gaza. Several historians, including some Israeli, have concluded that not until 1953, after several years of being violently excluded and attacked by Israel, did Palestinian refugees begin infiltrating Israel with intent to sabotage.

It is sometimes claimed that Israel absorbed Jewish refugees from Arab countries “in exchange" for Palestinian refugees. In fact, however, Palestinians were driven out starting in 1947, whereas the movement of Jewish populations from Arab countries did not begin until after the founding of Israel in 1948, with most of the movement happening in 1949 and later. Israel enthusiastically solicited Jews from Arab countries, even arranging for their transport and promising opportunities that were later not available. Both the inviting of Jews from Arab countries and the expulsion of Palestinians from Palestine served the goal of the Zionist movement, which was to establish a Jewish majority in the new nation of Israel. 

The forced ethnic cleansing of two-thirds of the Palestinian population between 1947 and 1949 -- called “al-Nakba” in Arabic, or “the Catastrophe” -- is still a central fact in modern Palestinian consciousness. It will be difficult to resolve the current crisis without acknowledging these historical events and causes.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 194 called for Israel to give Palestinian refugees the choice of returning to their homes or taking financial compensation. The acceptance of Israel into the United Nations was conditional on Israel's compliance with this resolution. Israel has never complied. Since 1949, both the General Assembly and Security Council of the United Nations have passed hundreds of resolutions criticizing Israel. Many of these resolutions have called for the return of Palestinian refugees, and for the end of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli government, while insisting on Resolutions 181 and 194 as legal basis for founding its state, has rejected all other UN resolutions -- including Security Council resolutions which have the power of law -- as non-binding.

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Border skirmishes and instability increased, with neither side refraining from attacks on civilians. In 1956, Israel invaded Egypt in tandem with a French-British attack on the Suez Canal, only to be forced to retreat by US President Eisenhower. Palestinians who had managed to remain inside Israel lived under harsh martial law until 1966. Israel became increasingly militarized and Arab governments continued threatening and violent rhetoric which was not backed up by any serious military capability or plans. The Israeli military created provocations in what was supposed to be a demilitarized zone between Israel and Syria.

In 1967, violent rhetoric on both sides had escalated to the point where both the Arab countries and Israel had reason to fear invasion by the other. Egypt, though participating in diplomatic initiatives from the U.S., also moved troops into defensive position in the Sinai Peninsula. On June 5, Israel launched a surprise attack on Egypt. Israel called the surprise attack a preemptive strike, though Israeli military and government leaders have since admitted that they knew there was no actual military necessity:

"I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent into Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it." --Yitzhak Rabin, Chief of Staff (later Prime Minister)

"In June 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him--Menachem Begin, Israeli Cabinet Minister (later Prime Minister)

Monday June 5 1967

7:00 am        Israel launches a surprise attack on Egypt: Israeli Air Force bombers destroy Egyptian Air Force planes on the ground.

8:15             Israeli ground troops invade Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

8:40             Israel's Defense Ministry tells US government that Egypt attacked first.

9:30             Israeli delegate tells the UN Security Council that Egypt attacked first.

10:00           In retaliation for Israel's attack on Egypt, Jordan and Syria fire artillery shells at Israel.

11:15           Israeli ground forces fire on East Jerusalem, held by Jordan.

Noon           Israeli Air Force bombers attack and destroy Jordanian and Syrian Air Forces on the ground.

3:00 pm        Israeli ground forces invade Jordan's West Bank.

-- Abba Eban, Israeli Foreign Minister, orders his UN ambassador to delay the UN vote on a ceasefire--so that Israeli forces will have time to conquer strategic objectives.

-- Israel assures US that it does not intend to expand its borders as a result of the conflict.

Five days later, Israel had conquered all its territorial objectives.

300,000 more Palestinians had been driven out of Palestine to become refugees. Israel immediately began demolishing Palestinian homes for Israeli settlements. Some Israeli government voices spoke of returning part but not all of the conquered territories, while other major Israeli voices insisted that the conquered territories would remain part of Israel forever. Several months later, a summit of Arab governments issued a statement refusing to negotiate for peace with Israel.

". . . the entire story [about] the danger of extermination [was] invented of whole cloth and exaggerated after the fact to justify the annexation of new Arab territories."
--Mordecai Bentov, Israeli Cabinet Minister

"Message intercepts by the [United States Ship] Liberty made it clear that Israel had never intended to limit its attack to Egypt. Furthermore, we learned that the Israelis were themselves intercepting communications among Arab leaders. The Israelis then retransmitted 'doctored' texts to encourage Jordan and Syria to commit their armies in the erroneous belief that Nasser's army had repelled the Israeli invaders. To destroy this incriminating evidence, Moshe Dayan [Israeli Minister of Defense] ordered his jets and torpedo boats to destroy the Liberty immediately."
--Wilbur Crane Eveland, CIA operative in the Middle East during 1967 

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After the victory of 1967, Israel annexed East Jerusalem to become a part of the State of Israel. The other conquered areas -- the West Bank and the Gaza Strip -- have never been formally annexed and so the 3.5 million Palestinians who remain there are not citizens of any country but have been subjects of a military occupation since 1967.

Under Occupation, Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip live under Israeli military laws. These laws closely resemble -- and in some cases are exactly the same as -- the apartheid laws which oppressed the Black majority in South Africa until recently.

o They have no right of free speecho Their homes can be entered and searched without warrantso They can be arrested without warrant or chargeo They can be held in jail indefinitely without charge or trialo They are routinely tortured during interrogationo They have no freedom of movement between townso They can be expelled from the country for no reason

The highest authority in the Occupied Territories is the Israeli military governor, not any Palestinian administration. Palestinians under Occupation have no voice in the Israeli government which controls their lives.

(The 2005 withdrawal of Israeli settlers and the redeployment of Israeli troops to the borders of Gaza has altered some of these circumstances for Palestinians in Gaza, but Gaza is still under Israeli occupation. See below.)
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4th Geneva Convention, Article 49:

"The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."

"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."

Beginning in 1967 and accelerating through the present day, the Israeli government has given financial incentives to Israeli Jewish citizens to move to "settlements" in the Occupied Territories. Palestinian farmland and homes are routinely confiscated and demolished to make room for new Israeli-only settlements, along with Israeli-only highways to connect settlements to each other and to Israel proper. Though settlements are illegal under the 4th Geneva Convention, the Israeli government continues to subsidize the building of these settlements, which are placed strategically to divide, scatter, and even abolish areas of Palestinian residence. 

Israeli settlers live under a separate set of laws from their Palestinian neighbors. Since the settlers are citizens of Israel, they possess the civil and human rights that are denied to Palestinians under the Israeli occupation. 

Though Israeli settlers make up less than 15% of the population of the West Bank and Gaza, 80% of the water resources are allotted for Israeli settlers and Israeli Jews inside Israel. Other economic and natural resources are allotted with similar inequality.

There is wide agreement that the settlements are a major obstacle to peace.

Recent polls indicate that the majority of Israelis would like the settlements to be removed from the Occupied Territories. One recent poll even indicated that a majority of the settlers themselves would move out of the Occupied Territories if given the financial means. Less than 20% of the Israeli settlers polled said they would resist by force if removed. 

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By suppressing Palestinian industry inside the Occupied Territories, Israel keeps Palestinians as a cheap labor force for Israeli industry. Over the past decades, Israel has tried to become less dependent on Palestinian labor by exploiting immigrant labor from Thailand, Romania, the Philippines and other countries.

With unemployment in the Occupied Territories as high as 80%, many Palestinians live in abject poverty just outside the walls of prosperous government-supported Israeli settlements.

Since 1993, Israel has regularly implemented massive border closures. The Israeli government closes the borders of the Territories to all Palestinians. This not only means that people cannot go to the cities for work, but also that Palestinians are deprived of access to hospitals, social services, and cultural and religious centers in Jerusalem. Palestinians with illnesses are routinely turned away at the hundreds of Israeli checkpoints that strangle Palestinian freedom of movement throughout the West Bank.

Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories are not allowed to vote in Israeli elections. They are, however, forced to pay taxes to the Israeli government. Though they pay taxes to the Israeli government, they do not receive equal government services. Taxes collected in the Occupied Territories are primarily spent inside Israel, not in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

During the first Intifada, 1987-1993, many Palestinians refused to pay taxes to Israel as a form of nonviolent resistance to the Occupation.

"Why do we not pay our taxes? First, the military authority does not represent us, and we did not invite them to come on our land. Second, the collected taxes are used to increase the harsh measures against our people. Must we pay for the bullets that kill our children?"-- from a statement by residents of Beit Sahour, a West Bank town

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Palestinians living inside Israel proper, although they are citizens, are also subjected to many human rights violations. They lived under martial law from 1948 until 1966. Today their communities receive poorer municipal services than comparable Jewish cities. Their access to jobs, loans, or business permits is extremely limited. Palestinians students have not been allowed to study or celebrate their own history or culture -- though this situation is improving somewhat with the revision of textbooks starting in 1998. Palestinian Bedouins, the indigenous people of the Negev desert, have been forced into shanty-towns, where crime, poverty and drug abuse are rampant.


Israel's Law of Return allows Jews anywhere in the world to receive immediate Israeli citizenship with all its privileges, simply by setting foot on Israeli soil. Meanwhile, millions of Palestinians outside Israel are not allowed to return to their homes; Palestinians inside Israel are treated as second-class citizens; Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have no vote and are citizens of no country.


The First Intifada ("shaking off") began in December 1987 after a military vehicle ran into and killed four Palestinians in Gaza. Organized through networks of neighborhood committees and unions, the nonviolent uprising spread throughout the Occupied Territories, challenging the Israeli military occupation with tax revolts, general strikes, boycotts, and protests. The uprising continued until 1993.

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Some people hoped that the Oslo Peace Accords, negotiated in September 1993, would bring justice to Palestine and Israel. Unfortunately, this interim peace plan only created "autonomous zones," scattered areas of limited Palestinian authority still under Israeli military, political and economic control. The Oslo Accords created a Palestinian National Authority (PNA) with no real power over Palestinian affairs, mandated to protect Israelis from Palestinians but with no authority to protect Palestinians from Israeli settler or military violence.

Under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli government immediately violated the agreement by accelerating its confiscation of Palestinian land for Israeli settlements. During the following eight years, Israeli settler population doubled. 

In February 1994, a US-born Israeli Jew walked into a mosque in Hebron with an automatic rifle and sprayed bullets into the backs of Palestinians who were praying. Twenty-nine Palestinians were killed. Forty days later, after the traditional Muslim mourning period, the first suicide bombing took place targeting Israeli civilians.

The Camp David talks of summer 2000 were represented as containing generous new offers by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. In fact, Barak proposed nothing more than somewhat larger noncontiguous islands of land, surrounded and subdivided by Israeli settlements and settler highways. Only tiny locations in East Jerusalem were offered for Palestinian control. A token offer of return was made for a few thousand Palestinian refugees. Barak's offers were intended as the final status agreement, but contained neither independence nor self-determination for Palestinians. Meanwhile, during Barak's administration, Israeli settlement building accelerated. 

On September 29, 2000, after a deliberately inflammatory visit to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon, Israeli troops fired into a crowd of unarmed Palestinian protestors, killing four and wounding many more. A few days later, thirteen Palestinians were killed inside Israel when Israeli troops opened fire on another crowd of unarmed demonstrators.

Palestinians were already frustrated and angry at what they perceived as the lack of Israeli good-faith negotiations toward a just peace, and these killings ignited a Second Intifada, or Uprising. This uprising has been largely nonviolent, though some Palestinian factions have also initiated armed resistance, in some cases against civilian targets. Israeli military violence against Palestinian civilians has escalated sharply, particularly since the March 2002 Israeli attacks on Palestinian cities. Palestinian National Authority offices and police headquarters were destroyed, ending the PNA's already limited ability to administer its enclaves as provided under the Oslo Accords. Thousands of homes were damaged or demolished, electricity and water were cut, and access to medical care was severely limited. Several years later, Israeli military vehicles continue to patrol Palestinian cities, restricting the movement of Palestinians by imposing curfews and checkpoints, demolishing homes, and carrying out assassinations and random killings.

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In the spring of 2002, the Israeli military began constructing a physical barrier to separate the West Bank from Israel proper. However, most of this barrier, often called the Annexation Wall, is not being built on the pre-1967 Border, called the Green Line, between Israel and the West Bank. The barrier is being constructed well inside the West Bank, fencing Palestinians away from major water sources and large tracts of their farmland, dividing villages, separating people from hospitals and schools, leaving over 200,000 Palestinians on the Israeli side of the Wall but still without the rights of Israeli citizens. The International Court of Justice ruled in June 2004 that the Wall as currently planned and constructed is illegal and must be dismantled.


In 2005, the Israeli government moved approximately 8000 Israeli settlers out of Gaza and redeployed Israeli military forces to the border. Israel also took down four tiny settlements in the West Bank. The government of Israel tried to present this as an end to Israeli occupation in Gaza. However:

o Israel still controls Gaza's airspace, sea shore, borders and border crossings, including Gaza's border with Egypt. 

o Israeli soldiers still can and do enter Gaza at any time and for any reason. Over 400 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers in the second half of 2006 in Gaza alone.

o Israel still controls Gaza's electricity and water, with the ability to shut them off at any time.

o Israel still has veto power over any legislation passed by the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.

As defined by the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Nuremberg Tribunal of 1948, this amount of “effective control” still constitutes occupation. 

The removal of settlements and soldiers from Gaza was a positive step, but Israel's plan for continuing control has reduced Gaza to little more than a large open-air prison under constant siege. Furthermore the Israeli government continues to authorize and build new Israeli settlement homes in the West Bank. In the year before those 8000 settlers were removed from Gaza, the West Bank settler population grew by over 20,000.

Dov Weisglass, Ariel Sharon's chief advisor, stated publicly that “the significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process . . . . Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda." 

Palestinians have continued to resist the occupation of Gaza and the continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank. Some of the Palestinian resistance has used arms, mainly small and not-very-effective mortars and rockets. The Israeli military has continued to invade Gaza, has continued to assassinate Palestinians without arrest or trial, and has instituted an ongoing campaign of shelling Palestinian civilian areas. 

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In the Palestinian election of 2006, a majority of seats in the Palestinian authority were given to Hamas, a political militant organization whose charter calls for an Islamic religious state in all of historic Palestine. In the early days of Hamas, the government of Israel had nurtured and enabled the organization, hoping to create internal conflict and reduce the effectiveness of secular Palestinian resistance movements such as the Palestine Liberation Organization and Fatah. Hamas' rise to power in the Palestinian Authority has nonetheless created grave concerns in Israel. 

However, Hamas had already been moderating its platform. For years Hamas officials have stated that Hamas would negotiate a two-state peaceful solution if Israel will end the occupation and withdraw fully to pre-1967 borders. The militant wing of Hamas declared a unilateral cease-fire early in 2005, which lasted well into 2006, despite continued Israeli assassinations and murders of Palestinian civilians. A Jerusalem Post poll taken immediately after the election revealed that a vast majority of Palestinians, including those that voted for Hamas, still favor a two-state solution to the conflict, with a secular democratic state for Palestinians.

Spokespeople for the Hamas party have stated that they will recognize the right of Israel to exist when Israel recognizes the right of a Palestinian state to exist. 

The government of Israel, with US government support, has refused to negotiate with the new Palestinian Authority. The governments of Israel, the US, and some European countries have initiated an embargo of funding and supplies to the Occupied Territories, which has accelerated an already-mounting crisis of hunger and lack of medical supplies.

The government of Israel is meanwhile pursuing a unilateral policy which would make the Annexation Wall into the permanent western border between Israel and a Palestinian “entity”, while also annexing the Jordan Valley as a “security zone” on the east side of the West Bank. The plan would remove some 60,000 Israeli settlers from scattered outposts in the West Bank, while consolidating and annexing the rest of the Israeli settlements with their 370,000 Israeli settlers. This would leave Palestinians imprisoned on something less than 40% of the West Bank, divided into two or more non-contiguous reservations.


The US government has consistently supported Israel and Israeli policy, giving several billions dollars of aid each year to Israel in the form of direct aid, weapons shipments, loan guarantees, and weapons contracts. The US government has repeatedly vetoed UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, and pressures other countries to refrain from reprimanding Israel for its policies or actions. In spite of this apparent bias, the United States continues to present itself as the only "honest broker" for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

The US recently proposed a vague and contradictory "Road Map to Peace". This proposal, though calling for a Palestinian state and the dismantling of some Israeli settlements, fails effectively to address Palestinian human rights, Israeli violence, the imbalance of power, the right of refugee return, and other key issues that must be resolved for a just peace. The Israeli government of Israel refused to accept the plan, then demanded a long list of revisions, including removing the phrase “Palestinian state” and replacing it with “Palestinian entity”.

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Palestinians have resisted occupation in many ways. For many years, they practiced sumud, meaning a steadfast refusal to leave their land, even when the oppression was most difficult.

After many years of sumud and hoping that the international community and the Palestinian leadership in exile might right the injustices of occupation and dispossession, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories took matters into their own hands. The first Uprising, or Intifada, 1987-1993, was predominantly nonviolent, with the exception of some stone throwing. Palestinian nonviolent resistance included: boycotts, strikes, tax resistance, demonstrations, home education, women's organizations, and “victory gardens”. The first Intifada brought the first positive world attention to the Palestinian plight, and ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords, as many Palestinians hoped that their own nation-state was about to begin.

In September 2000, frustration at the lack of Israeli good faith negotiations towards a just peace led Palestinians to protest nonviolently in the streets. The Israeli government responded with disproportionate and lethal force, often shooting demonstrators fatally in the head and attacking villages with American-made helicopters and rockets. The escalating violence of this “Second Intifada” or Uprising claimed thousands of Palestinian lives and injured many more. Thousands of Palestinians were rounded up as prisoners without charges.

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The nonviolent, Palestinian-led International Solidarity Movement to End the Occupation (ISM) began in 2001 to call for internationals to join Palestinians in nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the tradition of Palestinian nonviolent resistance, thousands of internationals from all over the world have stood with Palestinians while dismantling roadblocks, harvesting olives, walking through curfews to school, riding on Jewish-only roads, and protecting homes from demolition. 

It was during such an action that American college student Rachel Corrie, 23, from Olympia Washington, was crushed by a Caterpillar bulldozer, driven by an Israeli soldier with full knowledge that Rachel was in front of him. The official Israeli inquiry, without talking to any nonmilitary eyewitnesses, found the death to have been accidental. Since Rachel's death in March 2003, several other ISMers have been shot by Israeli soldiers, and ISM offices have been ransacked. Israeli officials routinely deny entry into Israel to anyone suspected of working for the human rights of Palestinians. 

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Israeli state violence during its occupation of Palestinian land has been responsible for the great majority of deaths and injuries in the conflict. Much of this violence has been directed at unarmed civilians and is hence called “terrorism”, commonly defined as “violence against civilians for a political purpose.” Israeli state terrorism occurred, for example, when an Apache helicopter dropped a one-ton bomb on an apartment building in Gaza City in 2002, killing 15 people including women and children. Terrorism in all its forms has been condemned by the international community via the United Nations. 

The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem reported in October 2001 that "the IDF continues to employ a policy of 'an easy trigger-finger' and demonstrates a disregard for human life," and in March 2002 that "In every city and refugee camp that they have entered, IDF soldiers have repeated the same pattern: indiscriminate firing and the killing of innocent civilians, intentional harm to water, electricity and telephone infrastructure, taking over civilian houses, extensive damage to civilian property, shooting at ambulances and prevention of medical care to the injured." (

Israeli state terrorism has extended beyond its army and police actions to protecting the violence perpetrated by settlers. Israeli settlers, though civilians, are allowed to carry weapons in the Occupied Territories. Settlers confiscate homes, attack Palestinians and beat or shoot them, build roadblocks, and shoot cars and water drums. All of these actions are done while the Israeli army stands by.

Terrorism against Palestinian civilians was part of the Zionist movement even before the state of Israel was founded. Zionist forces committed terrorist attacks on the King David Hotel in 1946, killing 91 people, and on the town of Deir Yassin, killing over 100 people. These were not isolated incidents. Terrorism was a systematic form of struggle used by several major Zionist factions to create the state of Israel. After the state was formed, both individual and state terrorist attacks on Palestinians continued, as when Dr. Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli settler, killed 29 Palestinians at prayer in February 1994.

International law also forbids occupying powers from launching armed reprisals against the occupied population. While the right of self-defense is universally supported, Israel’s military also violently maintains an illegal occupation, consistently attacks civilians, and participates in acts intended to destroy the means of living for Palestinians.

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Palestinians resisting ethnic cleansing and occupation have employed armed struggle as well as nonviolence. While the Geneva Conventions and other international laws support the right to resist military occupation and dictatorship “by any means at hand” including armed struggle. International law also demands that combatants limit their attacks to other combatants and take all measures to avoid attacking civilians. Some Palestinians believe that that attacks on Israeli civilians are justified as forms of resistance. Other Palestinians are driven to support these attacks because of despair, lack of other means of resistance, and the constantly mounting numbers of Palestinian non-combatant men, women and children being killed by Israeli military and settlers. Other Palestinian attacks are aimed at Israeli soldiers, in what international law considers “legitimate” armed struggle. 

The PLO mounted attacks both at soldiers and civilians after its inception in 1964, though formally renouncing armed struggle in 1993. The first Palestinian to kill himself and Israelis with a bomb strapped to his body did so shortly after the Israeli terrorist attack committed by the Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein in 1994. In retaliation for massive Israeli assaults, some Palestinians have resisted the occupation by shooting at unarmed civilians inside Israel. 

A vast majority of Palestinians have never resorted to legitimate or illegitimate violence to resist the occupation, but continue to use steadfastness and nonviolence to struggle against Israel’s military occupation and ongoing attempts to dispossess the Palestinian people.

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