This section of our site should help readers become acquainted with the most urgent current issues being discussed in the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Many of these subjects build upon information found in our Background section. And there are numerous cross-references with our links to articles in the sections Perspectives, Statements, and elsewhere.
Following is a brief overview of issues that must be dealt with for a just peace to be established for both Palestinians and Israelis. You will find more details about these issues by using the navigation menu to the right.
The Occupation of Palestinian Land:
Today, the necessity of ending the Occupation is considered by many to be the overarching issue of the Mid East conflict. Since the war in 1967, called The Six-Day War, Israel has held land that was acquired during that war, land which far exceeds the boundaries for the nation of Israel that were granted by the United Nations in 1947. According to all standards of international law and the United Nations, this continued occupation of Palestinian land is illegal.
The builiding and expansion of Israeli settlements and the building of the Separation Wall are a large part of the occupation, these enormous issues are addressed separately below.
Following are several specific issues of concern in the occupation:
- Illegal expropriation of Palestinian land for settlements, "Israeli-only" roads,
the Separation Wall etc.
- division of the West Bank into partitions that cannot form a viable Palestinian state
- Severe restriction of movement for Palestinians within and beyond their villages
- Policies that have crippled the Palestinian economy and reduced the Palestinians to
- Daily instances of unwarranted verbal and physical abuse, sometimes extreme violence,
by the Israeli military
- Illegal and long-term detention of Palestinians without charges or with unsubstantiated
charges, and without trial, including detention of children
- Denial of access to medical treatment and medical supplies
- Denial of critical resources such as water and electricity
In addition to keeping Palestinian land under Israeli military control, the Palestinians are losing their land through the illegal transfer of Israelis to permanent homes in settlements in the Occupied Territory. In 2010, the combined number of settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is approximately half a million.
This settlement program has been described by numerous Israeli leaders and others as an ongoing campaign to create "facts on the ground" that will prevent the return of the territory promised by the United Nations to the Palestinian people for their homeland. The creation of the settlements plus the security zones created around them cut off Palestinian areas from one another and prevent the possibility of a Palestinian homeland in the West Bank that has a contiguous (connected) territory.
Besides the illegality of the existence of the settlements, additional and serious problems include: resources such as fresh water that are taken in large quantity for the settlements and denied to their Palestinian neighbors, and agricultural land destroyed or made permanently inaccessible, thereby denying many Palestinians of their primary livelihood.
The Separation Wall (aka The Security Barrier, The Security Fence, etc):
The Israeli government has been building a tall barrier, that they say is needed for their security, not along the "green line" of internationally recognized Israeli borders, but instead along a route that includes the lands Israel has taken for illegal settlements and security zones within the West Bank, the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This wall further prevents the possibility of connection between the remaining Palestinian lands and communities. The wall greatly restricts movement for Palestinians within and between their lands, separates families, and devastates their economy. In many cases, additional Palestinian land has been taken for the construction of the Wall, cutting through villages and making agricultural lands inaccessible.
In 1947, when the United Nations first created the partition plan for the land known as Palestine, a plan that allowed for the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people and for Palestinians, the neighboring Arab nations and the Arab population of Palestine did not accept the United Nations' right to allocate that land. When Israel declared its statehood in 1948, neighboring nations immediately declared war on Israel, and that war was followed by several more in decades to come. This has created for generations of Israelis a fear-filled environment and the reality of continual danger, a sense of further victimization following upon the horrors of the Holocaust, and a belief in the need for extreme measures to be used to ensure their nation's survival.
Although and Egypt and Jordan have entered into peace agreements with Israel, andsince the year 2000, the Palestinian Authority and neighboring Arab governments have accepted Israel's permanent existence as a condition to achieving peace, the awareness of continued hostility in the region and the rejection of Israel's legitimate existence by some has not allowed Israelis to feel secure in their homeland and has perpetuated the perception that attack may be imminent at any time.
Since 2007, Hamas has become the party in control of the Palestinian government solely in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by the US and Israel, and Hamas has not as yet acknowledged the legitimate existence of the state of Israel. For several years they have fired munitions known as Qassam rockets into nearby Israeli territory, resulting in a continual state of tension for the Israeli towns near Gaza.
The most pressing security concerns for Israel in recent years have been:
• The attacks on civilians within Israel by suicide bombers
• From Gaza, the firing of Qassam rockets and the abduction of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit
Israel also has security issues on its northern border with Lebanon, where Hezbollah maintains military operations in southern Lebanon.
Today the people of Gaza are living under cruel and inhumane conditions, and are governed by a political party that Israel and the United States consider a terrorist organization. The Palestinians of Gaza are most immediately and urgently in need of help and most likely to believe that the world has abandoned them. The economic and health crisis must be addressed immediately, and the political standoff between Hamas and Israel will require sustained advocacy from many quarters to be overcome.
Refugees and Return
One of the most difficult issues in this decades long conflict is the question of the now millions of refugees and their children and grandchildren who cling to the hope of someday returning to their homeland in Palestine.One third of the world's refugees are Palestinian. There are an estimated 7 million Palestinian refugees worldwide, which means that more than two thirds of the whole Palestinian population are refugees. (www.badil.org) How could that many refugees return to their land in Israel? How many would choose to, if given the opportunity? What other compensation could they be offered?
Although the charge of anti-semitism has been used too often in recent years as an attack on those who strongly oppose the policies of Israel and the continuation of the Occupation, the reason this charge has such power to damage is simply that anti-semitism has been a real and continual source of oppression and injustice against Jews for centuries. The worst manifestation of that bigotry was the Nazis' determination to eliminate the Jews of Europe, in the horror we know as The Holocaust. That event and all that preceded it has influenced greatly the determination of the worldwide Jewish community to establish a home where their people can live in freedom and safety.
Israel's Image and Responses to Criticism and Advocacy:
Israel and her supporters engage in extensive public relations work, which has been enhanced and expanded in 2009-10, to explain and defend the Occupation, the siege on Gaza, and other government actions and policies that come under severe criticism within Israel, in Europe, and in the United States.
Much defense of Israel's policies is carried out by supporters in the United States, including powerfully coordinated attacks on critics of Israel. There are innumerable instances of Jewish critics of Israel labeled "self-hating Jews" and non-Jewish critics accused of being "anti-Semitic." Because the real threat of anti-Semitism is an ongoing problem in the US and Europe, these latter charges in particular are serious allegations and are an effective means of stifling important and valid criticism of Israel's actions.
Another crucial facet of Israel's image control is the lack of information reaching Israeli citizens about the real conditions of daily life in the West Bank, the actions of the Israeli military, and the humanitarian catastrophe that exists in Gaza today.