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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
• 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.
• Two good Timelinesof 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.
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
- what constitutes justice,
- the right to ownership of land,
defines a civilized people,
- the importance of the Bible and its
- 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
- the ethics of attacking civilians vs. combatants.
Additional issues that may affect the reader's judgment of any historical
- the credibility of specific sources of information,
reliability of statistics and agreement (or lack thereof) on their
- 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.