ArabIsraeli conflict

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It has been suggested that [[::History of Arab-Israeli Conflict|History of Arab-Israeli Conflict]] be merged into this article or section. (Discuss)
File:Israel and arab states map.png
Israel (in Blue) and the Arab League states (in Green)

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

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



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

War of 1948

The 1948 Arab-Israeli War, known as the Israeli War of Independence or al-Nakba, 1948-1949, began after the British withdrawal and the declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. The Arabs had rejected the November 1947 UN Partition Plan, which proposed the establishment of Arab and Jewish states in Palestine. Jewish and Arab militias had begun campaigns to control territory inside and outside the designated borders. Joint Jordanian, Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese and Iraqi troops invaded Palestine, which Israel, the US, the Soviet Union, and UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie called illegal aggression, while China broadly backed the Arab claims. The Arab states proclaimed their aim of a "United State of Palestine"[1] in place of Israel and an Arab state. They considered the UN Plan to be invalid because it was opposed by Palestine's Arab majority, and claimed that the British withdrawal led to an absence of legal authority, making it necessary for them to protect Arab lives and property.[2] About 2/3 of Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from the territories which came under Jewish control (see Palestinian exodus); practically all of the much smaller number of Jews in the territories captured by the Arabs, for example the Old City of Jerusalem, also fled or were expelled. About 700,000 Arabs (estimates vary from 520,000 to 957,000 [3]) became refugees during the fighting.

The fighting ended with signing of the Rhodes Armistice, which formalized Israeli control of the area allotted to the Jewish state plus much of the area allotted to the Arab state as well.

Aftermath of the 1948 war

Comparison between partition plan and armistice lines

The Palestinians who fled or were expelled from the areas that became Israel were allowed to return to their homes, and took up residence in refugee camps in surrounding countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and the area that was later to be known as the Gaza Strip. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East was established to alleviate their condition.

Over several years after the 1948 war ended, approximately 900,000 [4] Jews fled the Arab countries they were living in, in many cases owing to anti-Jewish sentiment, expulsion (in the case of Egypt), or, in the case of Iraq, legal oppression (see Jewish exodus from Arab lands); of these 900,000, two thirds ended up in refugee camps in Israel, while the remainder migrated to France, the United States and other Western or Latin American countries. Since that time, Israel has maintained that an exchange of population had occurred, and that the Jews fleeing Arab countries constitute refugees equivalent in status to the estimated 750,000 Palestinian refugees forced to live in refugee camp in the Middle Eastern countries. Furthermore, Israel has charged that Palestinian refugees were neglected by most Arab nations, whereas Jewish refugees were integrated into Israeli society, and that this neglect is the true cause of the poverty and misery experienced by the residents of those camps, not their flight or expulsion from Israel as the Palestinians believe.

For the nineteen years from the end of the Mandate until the Six-Day War, Jordan controlled the West Bank and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip. In 1950, Jordan annexed the West Bank, but this annexation was recognized only by the United Kingdom. Both territories were conquered (but not annexed) from Jordan and Egypt by Israel in the Six-Day War. Neither Jordan or Egypt allowed the creation of a Palestinian state in these territories.

War of 1956

The 1956 Suez War was a joint Israeli-British-French operation, in which Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula and British and French forces landed at the port of Suez, ostensibly to separate the warring parties, though the real motivation of Britain and France was to protect the interests of investors in those countries who were affected by Egyptian President Nasser's decision to nationalize the Suez Canal. Israel justified its invasion of Egypt as an attempt to stop attacks (see the Fedayeen) upon Israeli civilians, and to restore Israel shipping rights through the Straits of Tiran, which Egypt claimed was within its territorial waters. The invading forces agreed to withdraw under U.S. and international pressure, and Israel withdrew from the Sinai as well, in return for the installation of U.N. separation forces and guarantees of Israeli freedom of shipment. The canal was left in Egyptian (rather than British and French) hands.

File:Al-Farida, Lebanon pre-1967 war.jpg
Nasser (Egypt), backed by Arab states, kicks Israel into the Gulf of Aqaba. Pre-1967 War cartoon. Al-Jarida newspaper, Lebanon (Oren, 2002)

Between 1956 and 1967

This period saw the rise of Nasserism; the founding of the United Arab Republic in 1958 and its collapse in 1961; disputes between Israel and Syria over water and border areas; continued fedayeen raids, mostly from Syria and Jordan, and Israeli reprisals; and the increasing alignment of the Arab states with the Soviet Union, who became their largest arms supplier.

In the early 1960s, the PLO was established by Arab states. The Article 24 of the Palestine National Charter of 1964 [5] stated: "This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or in the Himmah Area."

War of 1967

The Six-Day War, 1967 began as a strike by Israel, which Israel and its supporters consider preemptive, against Egypt and Syria following the Egyptian closure of the Straits of Tiran (a casus belli, according to a possible interpretation of international law), a build up of troops along the Syrian border, expulsion of U.N. peacekeepers from the Sinai, stationing some 100,000 Egyptian troops at the peninsula, and a public announcement by Nasser that he intended to destroy Israel [6]. (In fact Nasser had said this would be an objective only if Israel "embarks on an aggression against Syria or Egypt"). Surprise Israeli air strikes destroyed the entire Egyptian air force while still on the ground. A subsequent ground invasion into Egyptian territory led to Israel's conquest of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. In spite of Israel's request to Jordan to desist from attacking it, both Jordan and Syria began to shell Israeli targets; Israel responded by capturing the West Bank from Jordan on June 7th, and the Golan Heights from Syria on June 9th.

War of 1968-1970

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

War of 1973

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

War of 1978

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

War of 1982

The 1982 Lebanon War began when Israel attacked Lebanon, justified by Israel as an attempt to remove the Fatah militants led by Yasser Arafat from Southern Lebanon (where they had established, during the country's civil war, a semi-independent enclave used to launch terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians). The invasion was widely criticized both in and outside Israel, especially after the Sabra and Shatila massacre and ultimately led to the death of 20,000 Lebanese. Although the attack succeeded in exiling Arafat to Tunisia, Israel became entangled with various local Muslim militias (particularly Hezbollah), which fought to end the Israeli occupation. By 1985 Israel retreated from all but a narrow stretch of Lebanese territory designated by Israel as the Israeli Security Zone. The UN Security Council Resolution 425 confirmed ([7]) that as of June 16 2000, Israel had completely withdrawn its forces from Lebanon.

Intifada of 1987-1993

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

Gulf War of 1990-1991

The Gulf War, 1990-1991, began with the Iraqi invasion and annexation of Kuwait and did not initially involve direct military engagement with Israel. An international coalition led by the United States which included Arab forces was assembled to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. To draw Israel into the confrontation and fracture the multinational coalition, Iraq launched Scud missiles on Israeli cities and on Israel's nuclear facilities at Dimona. However, under strong pressure from the U.S. which feared direct Israeli involvement would threaten the unity of the coalition, Israel did not retaliate against Iraq and the multinational coalition ousted Iraqi forces from Kuwait. During the war, the Palestinian leadership and king Hussein of Jordan allied themselves with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Kuwait and other Gulf Arab monarchies then expelled more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees ([8]) and withdrew their support from the Palestinian cause, which was one of the factors leading to the PLO signing the Oslo Accords.

Intifada of 2000

The al-Aqsa Intifada began in late September, 2000, around the time Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon and a large contingent of armed bodyguards visited the Temple Mount/Al-Haram As-Sharif complex in Jerusalem and declared the area eternal Israeli territory. Widespread riots and terrorist attacks broke out in Old Jerusalem and many major Israeli cities. The response of Israeli Defense Forces to fight terror in Israel, West Bank and Gaza have been disputed around the world. In the months after the death of Yasser Arafat on November 11, 2004, the Intifada is largely thought to have come to an end. An Israeli Human Rights group B'Tselem estimated[9] the death toll to be around 4000.

Reasons for the conflict

The Arab-Israeli conflict is the result of numerous factors. Reasons cited for the conflict therefore vary from participant to participant and observer to observer. A powerful example of this divide can be found in opinion surveys of Palestinians and Israelis. In a March, 2005 poll 63% of the Israelis blamed the failure of the Oslo Peace Process on Palestinian violence, but only 5% of the Palestinians agreed. 54% of Palestinians put the blame on Israeli policies, but only 20% of the Israelis agreed.[10] It is therefore difficult to develop a single, objective reason for the conflict, so this article will present some of the arguments made by each side.

Israeli views

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

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

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

Arab hostility

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

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

  • "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades." (by Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League, in anticipation of victory over the new Jewish state in 1948 by the five invading Arab armies. This quote is described by Isi Leibler (1972) and mentioned in letters to the New York Times in Oct 15, 1951, and Aug 28, 1958.
  • After the withdrawal of the UNEF, the Voice of the Arabs radiostation proclaimed (May 18, 1967): "As of today, there no longer exists an international emergency force to protect Israel. We shall exercise patience no more. We shall not complain any more to the UN about Israel. The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence."
  • "Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse the aggression, but to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united....I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation." (Syrian Defense Minister Hafez Assad (May 20, 1967) [12])
  • "If Israel embarks on an aggression against Syria or Egypt...The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel." (Gamal Abdel Nasser's speech to Arab Trade Unionists (May 26, 1967) [13])
  • On May 30, 1967, Nasser proclaimed: "The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of face the challenge, while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world. Today they will know that the Arabs are arranged for battle, the critical hour has arrived. We have reached the stage of serious action and not declarations." (Isi Leibler, The Case For Israel, 1972, p.60.) After Iraq joined the Arab military alliance in June 4, its president Abdur Rahman Aref announced: "The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear - to wipe Israel off the map." (Liebler, p.18)
Israel is forced to fight in self-defense

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

Israel has no partner for peace

Template:Israelis Israel claims that it has demonstrated flexibility and understanding by bringing about the initiation of the peace process, agreeing to painful concessions, and partially implementing them. As opposed to this, many Israelis consider that the predominant Palestinian views of the peace process do not recognize Israel's right to exist, and believe that the only real long-term Arab goal is the complete destruction of the Jewish state. Critics of Israel argue that Israel have deliberately avoided meaningful negotiations.

Non-recognition of Israel's right to exist or existence

Many Israelis and supporters of Israel, and some Palestinians and supporters of Palestine, take the view that the very existence of the state of Israel is at stake. Most of the other parties to the dispute maintain formally that Israel should be recognised as a state, although some consider that it should be abolished. Some opponents of Israel do not even acknowledge its existence, refusing any contact with or mention of it, and instead describing it as "The Zionist Entity". Israelis regard many of the Arab criticisms against the state of Israel as threats to the state's existence, and say that against the multitude and power of the Arab states, there is only one Jewish state, which, they feel, should behave vigilantly, and assert its power in both a defensive and preemptive manner as deemed necessary.

Issues of democracy and fairness

Israelis often point to their democratic system and claim that Jews were treated unfairly by Arab countries, while Arabs are treated well in Israel.

Islamic treatment of Non-Muslims

Some pro-Israeli opinions cite traditional interpretations of sharia (Islamic law) which require that Muslim territory encompass all land that was ever under Muslim control, as a source for the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israel treatment of minorities

Many Israelis believe that minorities in Israel are treated justly. Within the pre-1967 armistice lines, Arab and other minorities are given freedom of religion, culture and political organization. Several Arab political parties have elected parliament members in the Knesset. Arabs are typically not conscripted into the Israeli military (though they are accepted as volunteers), so they will generally never have to fight their peoples. However, this can deny them job opportunities, as some jobs in Israel require previous military service. Israelis claim that Arab countries such as Syria and Yemen do not give full rights and freedoms to Jews, and others (such as Saudi Arabia) do not even allow Jews to be citizens. The United Nations Human Development Reports [14] and human rights groups report that many Arab countries don't allow political opposition and other freedoms and lack checks and balances and separation of powers.

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

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

Refugee issues

Jewish refugees

Most of the Jewish population in Arab countries fled from their homes since the establishment of Israel in 1948 or were thrown out of the land, and nearly two-thirds have been absorbed by Israel. These Jews lost most of their property and continue to claim compensation. Although there have been invitations from Arab states, virtually none have shown interest in returning to their former homes, as they have integrated in their new homes or fear persecution in Arab states.

Many believe the Jewish exodus from Arab lands to Israel and the Arab exodus from the land of Israel to the surrounding territory constitues a legitimate form of population exchange.

Palestinian refugees

Israel does not recognise a Palestinian right of return. Property belonging to former Arab residents in Israel is confiscated under the Absentee Property Act. Israel has stated that it is willing to allow a limited number of Arabs to immigrate on a humanitarian basis (such as the unification of families) and limited compensation for others in the framework of a comprehensive peace plan. Such discussions have yet to take place.

Jewish Israelis fear that if Palestinians were allowed to return to Israel, the Jews would become a minority and Israel would no longer be a Jewish state. Many believe that if surrounding Arab states integrate the Palestinian refugees hostilities could be diffused, and that the harsh treatment of refugees in Arab states is done deliberately by those states in order to keep the conflict alive.


Israelis of the political right, particular in the governing Likud party, strongly support settlements in the West Bank. The platform of the Likud party states that "settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel." [15]

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

Internal Israeli concerns

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

Palestinian and other Arab views

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

Illegitimacy or illegality of Israel

A state based on outdated claims

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

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

A state based on racism

Some groups, including some Arabs, call Zionism, and hence any Zionist state, racist insofar as they claim it privileges Jews over non-Jews (see Zionism and racism) - for example, the 2001 U.N. World Conference on Racism's NGO Forum called Israel a "racist apartheid state", and Bashar al-Assad called it a "racist society"[16] - and see this as one among many reasons to fight it. Critics of this position argue that Israel is not racist, or is more just in this respect than a Palestinian state would be, or that critics in Arab states are. They also argue that the practices which those groups consider to privilege Jews over non-Jews are either non-legislated, or, when existing (such as the Law of Return), are both legal under international law, and what some ethnic-based states grant to members of their ethnicity. Many Arab-Israeli's complain of discrimination and being treated as second class citizens.[17]

Israel and international law
See also International law and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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

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

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

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

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

Issues of democracy and fairness

Historically positive treatment of Jews

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

The creation of Israel as a cause of conflict

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

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

Jewish immigration as a cause of conflict

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

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

Israeli treatment of minorities

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

Some Palestinian Christians are of the opinion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has led to the diminishment of their population[20][21]. Others, like Abe Ata are of the opinion that American Christians have "turned their backs" on them by supporting Israel [22]. Some Palestinian Christians have alleged that Israel does not give them permission to visit holy places in Jerusalem.[23]

Legitimacy of war against Israel

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

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

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

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

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

Treatment of Palestinians

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

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

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

Israel's Family Reunification Law allows Interior Minister to grant permanent resident status to West Bank Palestinians who have family members in Israel. In his comment to the Knesset Interior Affairs committee on July 19, 2005, Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin stated that "11% of those involved in terror attacks are Palestinians who entered Israel via the Family Reunification Law." [24] [25]

Refugee issues

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

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

Jewish settlements in West Bank and Gaza

Palestinians point out that Israel accelerated the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip throughout the Oslo peace process. These settlements are off limits to Palestinians and other Arabs, while any Jewish citizen of Israel can at any time choose to settle there. In 2000, at Camp David, the Palestinians were offered a nominally independent state composed of discontiguous parts of most of Gaza and the West Bank, with Israeli control over its airspace, borders and trade. Led by Arafat, the Palestinians rejected this offer, claiming that this state would be a "Bantustan" (a state divided in many pieces) without sovereignty. President Clinton and the Israelis asked the Palestinians to offer a counter-proposal, but Arafat declined and returned to the West Bank. Later, further negotiations did take place, but they were terminated by the Israeli side. In his book The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace, Dennis Ross, the American negotiator, asserts that the idea the Palestinian state would be a "Bantustan" was a myth, and provides maps showing an offer that included contiguous territory. [26], [27], [28], [29]

Arab willingness to make peace

In 2002, Saudi Arabia offered a peace plan in the New York Times and at a summit meeting of the Arab League in Beirut. The plan is based on, but goes beyond UN Security Council Resolution 242 and Resolution 338. It essentially calls for full withdrawal, solution of the refugee problem, and a Palestinian state with capital in East Jerusalem in return for fully normalized relations with the whole Arab world. This proposal received the unanimous backing of the Arab League for the first time.

In response, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres welcomed it and said: "... the details of every peace plan must be discussed directly between Israel and the Palestinians, and to make this possible, the Palestinian Authority must put an end to terror, the horrifying expression of which we witnessed just last night in Netanya." [30]

In November 2005, the Bush administration has acknowledged that Saudi Arabia has renewed funding to Hamas and other Palestinian insurgency groups. [31]

Palestinians as victims of extremism

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

Today, many Palestinians think that an equitable arrangement for all involved parties requires dialogue with Israelis and the international community. The PLO has officially accepted the right of Israel to exist within the pre-1967 armistice lines. However, some PLO representatives, including Yasser Arafat, have also declared at times that they saw these statements as politically necessary steps. Some observers interpret this to mean that they view the two-state solution as a stepping stone to a more integrated long-term solution. Others, particularly some Israelis, claim that these statements betray a hidden agenda and worldview where the peace process with Israel is only a temporary measure in support of the ultimate Palestinian goal, which is the destruction of the state of Israel, and presumably the eviction of its Jewish citizens. They point to the fact that the PLO never updated its formal statement of policy, the Palestinian National Covenant to reflect their recognition of the State of Israel and that it still calls for the destruction of Israel; however the U.S. Embassy in Israel is on record confirming that "On April 24, 1996, the Palestinian National Council (PNC) amended the charter by canceling the articles inconsistent with its commitments to Israel" [32]. Still, belief in an existential threat from the PLO causes alarm among much of the Israeli public.

Mutual Claims

Biased text books

Many Palestinian school textbooks, including those distributed and sponsored by the Palestinian Authority since 1994, have historically minimized or ignored Jewish history of the land prior to the 20th century. Similar statements are made in the Palestinian media. Palestinians claim the newer batch of the textbooks, released in 2000, rectify any omissions. Palestinians also claim that Israeli textbooks and school curriculum fully ignore Palestinian history and propagate myths about the founding of Israel such as claims that Palestine was virtually uninhabited prior to the arrival of Zionist immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Palestinians further claim that Israeli textbooks and media neglect and minimize the Arab Palestinian past and, according to Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), stereotype Arabs negatively[33]; however the Israelis counter that Israeli history program does include medieval Islamic history including topics such as the Arab Caliphate, as well as some history of both Arab and Jewish elements of Palestine. CMIP regularly issues reports on the contents of Arab and Israeli school textbooks.

The role of the superpowers

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

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

Peace and reconciliation

Despite the long history of conflict between Israelis and Arabs, there are many people working on peaceful solutions that respect the rights of peoples on all sides. See projects working for peace among Israelis and Palestinians. *Currently active List of Middle East peace proposals include:


  • "The greatest security for Israel is to create new Egypts." President Ronald Reagan. Quoted in: Observer (London, 27 Feb. 1983).
  • "My generation, dear Ron, swore on the Altar of God that whoever proclaims the intent of destroying the Jewish state or the Jewish people, or both, seals his fate." — Menachem Begin, Israeli politician, prime minister. Letter to Reagan. Quoted in: Observer (London, 2 Jan. 1983).
  • "We have always said that in our war with the Arabs we had a secret weapon-no alternative." — Golda Meir, Israeli politician, prime minister. Life (New York, 3 Oct. 1969).
  • "Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us" — Golda Meir, 1957
  • "We, the people of Palestine, stand before you in the fullness of our pain, our pride, and our anticipation for we long harbored a yearning for peace and a dream of justice and freedom. For too long, the Palestinian people have gone unheeded, silenced and denied, our identity negated by political expedience, our right for struggle against injustice maligned, and our present existence subsumed by the past tragedy of another people" Haidar Abd El-Shafi, head of the Palestinian Delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference, Opening Remarks (Madrid, 30 October 1991)[34]
  • "Our image has undergone change from David fighting Goliath to being Goliath." — Yitzhak Shamir, Israeli politician, prime minister. Quoted in: Daily Telegraph (London, 25 Jan. 1989).
  • "Palestine is the cement that holds the Arab world together, or it is the explosive that blows it apart." — Yasser Arafat, Palestinian leader. Quoted in: Time (New York, 11 Nov. 1974).
  • "We are not asking for the moon." — Yasser Arafat, Palestinian leader. Quoted in: Observer (London, 7 Feb. 1982).
  • "Should there be maniacs who raise the idea, they will encounter an iron fist which will leave no trace of such attempts." — Yitzhak Shamir, Israeli politician, prime minister. Quoted in: Times (London, 11 Aug. 1988), on advocates of Palestinian self-government.
  • "Whoever thinks of stopping the uprising before it achieves its goals, I will give him ten bullets in the chest." — Yasser Arafat, Palestinian leader. Quoted in: Daily Telegraph (London, 19 Jan. 1989), on the Intifada.
  • "We, the soldiers who have returned from battles stained with blood; we who have seen our relatives and friends killed before our eyes; we who have attended their funerals and cannot look in the eyes of their parents; we who have come from a land where parents bury their children; we who have fought against you, the Palestinians-we say to you today, in a loud and a clear voice: enough of blood and tears. Enough." — Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli prime minister. Speech at the White House, September 13, 1993, after signing the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles.
  • "Not only [are] our states . . . making peace with each other,. . . you and I, your Majesty, are making peace here, our own peace, the peace of soldiers and the peace of friends." — Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Prime Minister. New York Times, (July 27, 1994), after signing a peace declaration with Jordan's King Hussein.

See also

See also


  • Cramer, Richard Ben How Israel Lost: The Four Questions, Simon and Schuster, May, 2004, hardcover, 288 pages, ISBN 0743250281
  • Gold, Dore, Tower Of Babble: How The United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos, Random House (November, 2004), hardcover, 304 pages, ISBN 1400054753
  • Hamidullah, M. (1986), "Relations of Muslims with non-Muslims," Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, vol. 7, no. 1, January 1986
  • Khouri, Fred (1985). The Arab-Israeli Dilemma (3rd edition), Syracuse University Press. ISBN 0815623402.
  • Morris, B. (2001), Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001, 1st ed. 1999; 2nd ed. Vintage Books, 2001, ISBN 0679744754

External links

General Sources

Government and Official Sources

Regional Media



Think Tanks and Strategic Analysis

Peace Proposals

See main article: List of Middle East peace proposals

Views of the Conflict: Pro-Israeli

Views of the Conflict: Pro-Arab

Historical Sources


fr:Conflit israélo-arabe he:הסכסוך הישראלי ערבי it:Conflitto Arabo-Israeliano nl:Arabisch-Israëlisch conflict ja:中東戦争 pl:Konflikt izraelsko-palestyński sk:Arabsko-izraelský konflikt