Background  
History, Maps, Glossary
  
    The first law of history is to dread uttering a falsehood;
the next is not to fear
stating the truth; lastly, the historian's writings
should be open to no suspicion
of partiality or animosity.    Pope Leo XIII 

________________________
BACKGROUND

In this section, we have drawn from a wide variety of sources to provide the reader with enough information to understand the issues in the region today and to begin to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve a just peace. 

Inevitably, the contentious issues in this conflict are founded on different views of the history of the conflict. Rather than present one history as definitive, we have provided several versions of modern history in the region. 


Several historical accounts and explanations:


- "Understanding the Palestinian-Israel Conflict: A Primer" gives you information in small bites, with specific answers to many of the most commonly asked questions.
    This easy-to-read resource is a good way to build your understanding of the basic issues surrounding the conflict.


- A shorter history is from the Middle East Research & Information Project (MERIP), which equals about eleven pages of reading and covers the history and issues well.

- A longer history comes from the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA); we have supplemented it with a couple of other sources, and it has more background information.

The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict  Download this Word doc »
An excellent longer history, provided by Jews for Justice. They ask many questions that arise in studying the history of the Palestine-Israel conflict, and answer each question with brief, enlightening excerpts from books by Israeli, Palestinian, and British historians, among others.  About 38 pages and so worth the read!
Download this Word doc »


Suggestion: when you are done reading one or more of these historical accounts of the conflict, read "Truth against Truth" or "Counter-Rhetoric" in the section below.

The resources below provide a different way to become acquainted with the background of the conflict, while presenting what peace and justice advocates today have learned from that history:


- "Truth against Truth" comes from Gush Shalom ("peace bloc"), an Israeli peace organization. It addresses common myths and misunderstandings about the conflict, especially the failure by Israelis and Palestinians to understand each other's underlying stories - their own truths - and how those personal truths affect everything in their relationship with one another. 
    A fascinating read and an overview of the conflict that reaches almost to the present day.


- Israeli-Palestinian Conflict 101 is a very brief overview of some commonly asked questions with answers, from the US organization, Jewish Voice for Peace.


- Counter-Rhetoric: Challenging “conventional wisdom” & reframing the conflict
is presented in a format similar to questions and answers: familiar claims and beliefs about the conflict are followed by some simple, valuable, well-researched answers. 
    This resource includes much of the conflict's history as well as crucial moral issues, matters of international law, and more. 
    An excellent exposé of the flawed narrative about this conflict that most Americans have heard for decades, with alternative answers to troubling questions.


Other resources in this section:

- Introduction to the Israeli Occupation: a resource from UMHLTF introducing the history and current reality of the Israeli occupation, as well as the Kairos Palestine call to action for Christians worldwide. (Updated: April 2015) download in color »
download in black and white »


•  A history of Palestinian Resistance, titled "Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?"
    Highly recommended; an eye-opening account of the largely non-violent resistance employed by Palestinians over the last 130 years.

•  A history of Zionism, its leaders and goals

•  Two good Timelines of this region and conflict, one from Churches from Middle East Peace (CMEP), the other from the website of the United Methodist Church's General Board of Global Ministries

•  A Map Collection which should help you interpret the information throughout our site and which vividly illustrate modern historical developments in the region

• A Glossary of terms and names, a very useful reference tool as you are reading about the region, its people, and the ongoing conflict.  
Titled "Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Lexicon," from the website of Americans for Middle East Understanding, it is worth reading straight through for the valuable information it provides.

•  Descriptions of major Political Parties in Israel and Palestine


Thoughts on learning about a difficult subject

Both peoples who have made a claim to the land of Palestine and Israel believe fervently in their own versions of the history of this conflict, which are informed by their personal experiences. Therefore it is difficult for anyone to claim complete objectivity, or perfectly reliable sources of information, in reporting the conflicting narratives and complicated history of the Middle East over the last century.

In addition to the personal passions that so many bring to this subject, any account of this region's history inevitably will be influenced to some degree by that historian's views on such questions as:
- what constitutes justice,
- the right to ownership of land,
- what defines a civilized people,
- the importance of the Bible and its history,
- the authority of ancient claims vs contemporary experience and values,
- the use of violence for political ends whether in a formal military engagement or a popular uprising, and
- the ethics of attacking civilians vs. combatants.

Additional issues that may affect the reader's judgment of any historical material:
- the credibility of specific sources of information,
- the reliability of statistics and agreement (or lack thereof) on their interpretation, and
- positive or negative associations with labels that are used.

A good example of the issues cited above would be
an article we have included by noted author Norman Finkelstein. Often controversial and always thought-provoking, in this article Finkelstein addresses the perceived problems in revisionist history and seeks to dispel what he identifies as myths and misinformation frequently presented as facts about the founding of Israel in 1948.