An Introduction to History & Issues
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
THE UN PARTITION PLAN
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.)
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
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
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."
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
1949, at least 800,000 Palestinians had been driven out of their
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.
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.
is no longer the official line of the Israeli Foreign Office that Arab
leaders ordered Palestinians to leave Palestine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
THE SIX-DAY WAR AND BEGINNING OF OCCUPATION
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.
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
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)
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)
June 5 1967
am Israel launches a surprise attack on Egypt: Israeli Air Force
bombers destroy Egyptian Air Force planes on the ground.
Israeli ground troops invade Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Israel's Defense Ministry tells US government that Egypt attacked
Israeli delegate tells the UN Security Council that Egypt attacked
In retaliation for Israel's attack on Egypt, Jordan and Syria fire
artillery shells at Israel.
Israeli ground forces fire on East Jerusalem, held by Jordan.
Israeli Air Force bombers attack and destroy Jordanian and Syrian
Air Forces on the ground.
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.
days later, Israel had conquered all its territorial objectives.
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."
Bentov, Israeli Cabinet Minister
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
Geneva Convention, Article 49:
Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian
population into the territory it occupies."
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
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
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
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.
is wide agreement that the settlements are a major obstacle to peace.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
the first Intifada, 1987-1993, many Palestinians refused to pay taxes to
Israel as a form of nonviolent resistance to the Occupation.
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
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.
LAW OF RETURN
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
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.
PEACE PROCESS, SETTLEMENTS, RESISTANCE AND OPPRESSION
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
...back to top
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.
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.
Israel still controls Gaza's airspace, sea shore, borders and border
crossings, including Gaza's border with Egypt.
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.
Israel still controls Gaza's electricity and water, with the ability to
shut them off at any time.
Israel still has veto power over any legislation passed by the
Palestinian Authority in Gaza.
defined by the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Nuremberg Tribunal of
1948, this amount of “effective control” still constitutes
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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”.
RESISTANCE: STEADFASTNESS, UPRISINGS, NONVIOLENCE, VIOLENCE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.