LOCATION: Israel and the Occupied Territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip); Jordan; Lebanon; Syria; worldwide
POPULATION: 4.5 million
RELIGION: Islam; Christianity; Druze
Palestine is the historical name for the region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The land was first inhabited as long ago as 9000 bc on the West Bank of the Jordan. The Hebrews (ancestors of today's Jews) settled in Palestine in 1900 bc and had formed the kingdom of Israel, ruled by King David, by 1000 bc. Palestine was then taken over by a succession of foreign powers, including the Assyrians (722 bc), Babylonians (597–587 bc), Greeks (332–140 bc), and finally Romans (63 bc–7th century ad). Greeks ruled Palestine from 332–140 bc. In 140 bc, Simon Maccabaeus, following an earlier revolt led by Judas Maccabaeus against the Greeks, asserted Jewish theocratic rule over Palestine. From 140 to 63 bc, a Jewish kingdom was in power. The Romans drove the Jews out of Palestine after two revolts, one in ad 70 and the second in ad 135. The Arabs took control of the area during the Islamic expansion of the 7th century ad, and it is from these Arabs that modern-day Palestinians are descended. The Arabic word for Palestine is "Falastine," which reflects the ancestry of the Palestinians, who are believed to be descendants of the "Philistines," who were of Mycenaean origin. In 1516, the Turks invaded, and Palestine became part of the Ottoman Empire for the next 400 years, until the Empire was defeated in World War I (1914–19). During the war period, both the Arabs and the Jews were made promises by the British concerning the future fate of Palestine. In 1915, in the MacMahon-Hussein correspondence, the British pledged support for postwar Arab independence over a region understood by the Arabs to include Palestine. In 1917, in the Balfour Declaration, the British pledged support for a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. These promises ultimately supported the national aspirations of both people to the same land, a situation that resulted in the political impasse that still exists today in Palestine. Palestine was handed over to the British in 1920. The British, as the mandatory power, then controlled the land of Palestine until 1948. Britain relinquished the mandate and withdrew from Palestine on 14 May 1948, following prolonged and sporadic fighting between the Jews and the Arabs and attacks by both groups against the British.
In 1947, the United Nations divided Palestine into two states, one Jewish, and one Arab. When the independent state of Israel was declared on 15 May 1948, the Arab forces of Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Transjordan advanced into Palestine. After the ensuing war, the West Bank came under Jordanian rule, the Gaza Strip came under Egyptian rule, and the remainder of Palestine came under Israeli rule. Many Palestinian Arabs fled during this time, but others stayed and continued to live in now-Israeli territory. In 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed in Jerusalem under
the leadership of Ahmad Shukairy. Yasser Arafat became the head of the PLO in 1969.
In the June 1967 war, Israel captured the West Bank (which had been under Jordanian rule since 1948) and the Gaza Strip (which had been under Egyptian rule since 1948). In 1967, Israel annexed East Jerusalem. The West Bank and Gaza Strip have since been called the Occupied Territories. Most of the residents there are Palestinian Arabs. The Israeli government and the PLO signed the Declaration of Principles (DOP) in September 1993, resolving that Israeli troops would leave the West Bank and Gaza Strip areas. In 1994, limited Palestinian self-rule was established in Jericho and the Gaza Strip. Fighting continues over the question of a fully independent Palestinian homeland.
The term Palestinian used to refer to anyone who lived in the land of Palestine, Arab and Jew included. With the establishment of the modern state of Israel, however, the term Palestinian has narrowed to mean only those Arabs (both Christian and Muslim) and their descendants who lived in Palestine during the time of the British mandate (1920–48). For those Muslim and Christian inhabitants of the land who were incorporated into the Israeli state, many continue to identify themselves as Palestinians while holding Israeli citizenship but are often referred to as the "Israeli Arabs" or "1948 Arabs." Because of the initial exodus of Palestinians following the establishment of the state in 1948 through forced evacuation by Israelis and escape, and through subsequent exiling from their homeland, up to 6 million refugees and their descendents have a legitimate claim for right of return under international law. With more Palestinians outside of historic Palestine than inside it, a large component of the contemporary political identity is a product of various resistance campaigns, migrant estrangement, and attempts at reinstatement.
The Palestinian territories (now comprising the West Bank and Gaza Strip) have been the site of several democratic elections, including that of January 2006, when the Islamic political militia group Hamas won a majority of the parliamentary seats. Since that time, frequent attacks by Israel on Hamas strongholds and infighting between Palestinian factions has been prevalent. Today, there are two Palestinian parties, the Palestinian Authority (Fatah) and Hamas, each in charge of a territory, the former in the West Bank and the latter in the Gaza Strip. Recent Israeli attempts to oust the Hamas government and gain control in the Gaza Strip have escalated to a full siege of the territory, preventing supplies from entering. Various Human Rights groups and intergovernmental agencies have declared it a humanitarian disaster. In January 2008, effectively the "largest open-air prison," became impossible to seal as tens of thousands of Palestinians, starved for food, medicine, fuel, and supplies breached a border crossing with Egypt and the border town of Rafah.
LOCATION AND HOMELAND
There are more than 11 million Palestinians in the world, about half of them in Israel and the Occupied Territories—the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The rest are scattered across the globe, although most live in neighboring Arab countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The United Nations lists 7 million Palestinian refugees. During the war years of 1947–49, 700,000–800,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes. When Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, another 300,000 Palestinians became refugees (and 150,000 who were already refugees were forced to move again).
Refugees live in camps or slums. Refugee camps set up by the UN Relief Workers Agency (UNRWA) originally consisted of simple shacks and unpaved alleys. Today, they are built of concrete, galvanized steel, and aluminum. Most camps are very overcrowded and become more so as time passes, more refugees pour in, and more children are born to the families already there. Some refugee camps in the Gaza Strip have more than 80,000 people living in them.
Many Palestinians continue to live as small subsistence farmers in rural villages. Others have managed to find good jobs and live quite well in the lands to which they have moved. There are also many urban centers in Palestine. The village of Ramallah serves as a commercial center for surrounding villages and is now the main hub of Palestinian economic, cultural, and political life. It houses banking establishments, construction companies, private schools, technical colleges, shops, restaurants, and so on. Ramallah has undergone a construction boom since the DOP was signed, reflecting the hope and conviction that peace would bring stability and prosperity to the West Bank. East Jerusalem is the center of political and intellectual leadership in the West Bank, housing human rights organizations, think-tanks, and the famous "Orient House," owned by the family of political leader Faisal Husseini, where many meetings of political leaders take place. Over the years, some Israelis protested asking that Orient House should be shut down because Palestinian leaders should not convene in East Jerusalem, which is not under Palestinian control. In 2001, Israel forces entered Orient House and confiscated most of its contents, effectively shutting down operations from the house.
Because Jerusalem holds symbolic political and religious importance for both Muslim and Christian Palestinians, discussions of its future fate are often heated. Both Jews and Palestinians insist on controlling East Jerusalem and instituting a capital for each of their states in the Holy City. The Israeli government has pledged to maintain sovereignty over it. Starting in 2002 and 2003, the Israeli government began erecting an extensive concrete and reinforced wall to separate the West Bank from Israel, under the claim of ensuring the security of Israelis from Palestinian attacks. The wall, which covers an extensive area of land, severs Palestinian land and cuts some areas off from water supplies and vital transport routes. In some instances, this wall that the Palestinians refer to as the "Apart-heid Wall" wraps around cities, such as Qalqilya, and effectively prevents their growth. The wall has become a prominent symbol of Palestinian dispossession and Israeli security, a geographic landmark, and a source of much controversy. The wall itself has become a famous canvas for Palestinian, Israeli, and international artists and activists to express their discontent with the partition.
Palestinians speak Arabic. "Hello" in Arabic is marhaba or ahlan, to which one replies, marhabtayn or ahlayn. Other common greetings are As-salam alaykum ("Peace be with you") with the reply of wa 'alaykum as salam ("and to you peace"). Ma'assalama means "goodbye," with the literal translation being "go with peace." "Thank you" is Shukran, and "You're welcome" is 'Afwan. "Yes" is na'am, and "no" is la'a. The numbers one to ten in Arabic are: wahad, ithnayn, thalatha, arba'a, khamsa, sita, sab'a, thamanya, tis'a, and 'ashara.
Common names for boys are: Ahmad, Shukri, Isma'il, and Ibrahim. Muhammad is a very common Muslim name. Hanna is a very common Christian name. 'Isa (Jesus) is used by both Muslims and Christians. Common names for girls are: Samia, Sawsan, Maysoon, Muna, and Fatima. On rare occasions, girls are given politically significant names, such as Al-Quds (Jerusalem).
Palestinians are very religious people, regardless of their faith or denomination. For this reason, much of the local folklore grows out of religious superstitious interpretations. Many believe in jinns, evil spirits who can take on the shapes of natural forms and cause trouble, and take extra measures to safeguard their homes from these. They also use amulets, household decorations and various rituals to deter jinns and people who are perceived as "evil" or envious.
A famous fictional character is Juha. School children read about Juha's exploits in fables that teach some sort of lesson. For example, in one story, Juha buries a treasure in the ground and tries to remember its whereabouts by remembering the clouds that hover over it. Naturally, he loses his treasure because clouds move about and disappear.
A famous true story in which Palestinians take pride is the capturing of Jerusalem by Arab Muslims in the 7th century. In AD 636, a few years after the Prophet Muhammad's death (ad 632), Muslim armies led by Khalid Ibn al-Walid defeated the Byzantine army at the Battle of Uhud in Jordan. Shortly thereafter, Jerusalem was captured in AD 638.
Many Muslim stories cherished by Palestinians are similar to those in the Judeo-Christian tradition. For example, the stories of Noah and the Ark and Adam and Eve are important to Muslim and Christian Palestinians. Noah is known as the Prophet Nuh, Adam's name remains the same, and Eve is known as Hawwa.
Today, Palestinian folklore is tied to feelings of estrangement, exile, and longing for home. Many of the stories from contemporary Palestinian literature and poetry deal directly with losing a homeland, feeling dispossessed, and glorifying resistance to the status quo. Traditional music and dance, Palestinian dabke, are a common way of expressing heritage and are enacted in weddings, festivals, and celebrations in Israel, the Occupied Territories, and the diaspora. The rituals continue in every location in the world where a Palestinian presence is prominent.
Most Palestinians (75%) are Muslim, the majority belonging to the Sunni sect. Islam is the youngest of the world's Abrahamic religions, having begun in the early 7th century ad when the prophet Muhammad received his revelations from Allah, the one true God (according to Islam). Within just a few years of Muhammad's death in ad 632, Islam had spread through the entire Middle East, gaining converts at a dynamic rate.
Born into the Koreish tribe of Mecca (c. ad 570) in the Hijaz (modern-day Saudi Arabia), Muhammad was later driven from the city because of his outspoken denunciation of the pagan idols worshipped there (idols who attracted a lucrative pilgrim trade). The year of Muhammad's flight from Mecca to Medina (ad 622), called the Hijra (or Hegira), is the first year of the Muslim calendar. Eventually Muhammad returned to Mecca as a triumphant religious and political leader, destroyed the idols (saving the Black Stone, an ancient meteorite housed in the Kaaba, or Cube, building, which has become a focal point of Muslim worship), and established Mecca as the spiritual center of Islam. All prayers are said facing Mecca, and each Muslim is expected, and greatly desires, to make a pilgrimage there (called a Haj or Hadj) at least once in his or her lifetime.
Islam is a simple, straightforward faith with clear rules for correct living. It is a total way of life, inseparable from the rest of one's daily concerns. Therefore, religion, politics, faith, and culture are one and the same for Muslims. There is no such thing as the "separation of church and state," or any distinction between private religious values and public cultural norms.
About 17% of Palestinians are Christians whose ancestors have lived in that land since the time Jesus Christ was born, ministered, and died there. There are sites in Palestine, especially in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which are visited by Christian pilgrims from around the world. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the room of the Last Supper, the Via Dolorosa, and the town of Nazareth are all important Christian attractions. Although some of these are located in East Jerusalem, which has been annexed by Israel, supervision of the individual sites is maintained by Palestinians, and Christian Palestinians hold Jerusalem's holy places to be central to their Palestinian national aspirations. Palestine's Christian population is comprised of many different denominations, from various Eastern Orthodox to Catholic and Protestant.
Palestine is also important to Muslims from around the world. It is believed that the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from Jerusalem on a night's journey known as al-Isra' wa al-Mi'raj. On this site, Muslims built the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosques, which also gives Muslims cause to demand Muslim control over East Jerusalem. This site is believed to be the third holiest shrine to Muslims after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
Some 8% of Palestinians are Druze [seeDruze ].
Islam uses a lunar calendar, so Muslim holidays occur on a different date of the Gregorian calendar each year. The major Muslim holidays are 'Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan (a three-day festival); 'Eid al-Adha, a feast at the end of the Hadj (the pilgrimage month to Mecca); the First of Muharram, the Muslim New Year; and the prophet Muhammad's birthday.
'Eid al-Fitr and 'Eid al-Adha are celebrated by visiting close friends and relatives throughout the day. At least one family member, usually the mother, remains home to greet guests, and the rest of the family travels from home to home delivering holiday greetings. Children are usually showered with money from most of the adults they encounter. At every home, pastries called Ka'k al-Id are served. These are made of a flour called smeed, similar to semolina flour, mixed with lots of butter. The dough is shaped into small round forms and stuffed with a mixture of walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar, or with dates. They are baked and then sprinkled with powdered sugar. During the three-day 'Eid celebration, everyone eats lots of ka'k.
The Christian holiday of Easter is also moveable, being calculated on a lunar basis. It always occurs sometime during March or early April. Other Christian holidays are: the Day of the Ascension; the Feast of the Assumption (August 15); and Christmas and Boxing Day (December 25–26). New Year's Day (January 1) is a secular holiday.
In 1977, an International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was declared as a political observance (November 29). Some politically significant events are observed each year by a general strike and demonstrations. Two examples are November 2, in protest over the 1917 Balfour Declaration, and May 15, in protest over the declaration of the state of Israel.
RITES OF PASSAGE
Males of both Christian and Muslim background are circumcised, and the family holds a great feast to celebrate the occasion. Marriages are another important rite of passage. A simple wedding is followed by a huge feast and celebration attended by family and friends, who bring gifts. Childbirth is considered an important function of marriage, in part because the Islamic religion favors having children, but also because Palestinians feel that reproduction is an important nationalist duty.
Education is highly valued, and families compare the grades of their children. The highest achievers are noted in newspapers. It is a great honor to be the highest achiever on both banks of the Jordan River (i.e., in both the West Bank [Palestine] and the East Bank [Jordan]).
After completing high school, many go on to college, and many get married. A Palestinian wedding ceremony consists of a simple exchange of vows, which is taken in the presence of a Muslim clergyman and witnesses representing the two families. This ceremony is called the Katb al-Kitab or Imlak. Following the ceremony, there is a huge celebration and feast attended by families and friends. In some cases, candy is distributed at the reception; in other cases, a dinner is served, which most often features the meal called mansaf. Th is consists of layers of thin bread called shraj, topped with a layer of rice, and then drenched in a sauce made with yogurt and lamb stock. This is served in a large round pan and is covered withenough lamb chunks to feed all the guests.
When a Palestinian dies, there is a three-day mourning period for the family of the deceased. During this time, family and friends pay their condolences and recite passages from the Quran. The closest neighbors serve meals to the bereaved family and their guests for the three-day period. The next observance of the death is at the 40-day point, and once again the Quran is recited and meals are served to guests. Mansaf is often served as part of the meal .
When two Palestinians greet one another, they usually shake hands. It is also common for two women to kiss one another on the cheeks in greeting.
Neighbors have very cordial relations and look out for one another's interests. Palestinians in the West Bank generally live with their parents in the home of their birth until they are married or move abroad in search of work or education. Once an adult settles down and gets married, it is common for the couple to live out their lives in one house or apartment. Th us, because they do not move from home to home, neighbors get to know one another and establish life-long relationships. They celebrate happy occasions together and share in losses, such as deaths, together. Palestinians are known for their hospitality. One cannot visit a Palestinian home without being offered refreshment, at the minimum a soft drink or a cup of coffee or tea with a pastry.
Despite the hospitality and neighborly relations, it is considered impolite to impose on a neighbor by overextending one's visit. Invitations to dinner are often heartily declined so as to avoid imposing on the host, to which the host responds with an equally hearty insistence on the invitation.
Because Palestinian society is very conservative by Western standards, dating as it is understood in the West is not tolerated. If a man and woman are interested in one another, it is customary for the man to first declare his intentions to the woman's family. Dating to socialize or get to know one another is not allowed; the intent must be marriage. If a woman and her family approve of the prospective husband, there is a formal engagement, followed by a getting-to-know-one-another period. The marriage takes place at a time convenient to both parties. Increasingly, it is becoming common for two people to "fall in love" before approaching the woman's family, but the social norm is to "protect" the woman by having the man "screened" by her family before the courting period.
Palestinians live in a variety of conditions, from refugee camps to comfortable, middle-class (or even wealthy) homes in modern towns and cities. Traditional villages have one-story houses made of white stone, with a kitchen, a room for bathing, a liwan(sitting room) for receiving guests, and a few small rooms for sleeping.
Floors are covered with pieces of carpet, linoleum, or tile. Some of the wealthier homes now have wall-to-wall carpet. The houses have interior wooden doors, and exterior doors and window frames are usually made of a strong metal. Houses are often surrounded by small gardens separated from the street by a high wall (called a sur) with a gate. Wealthier families often have two stories, an upstairs for living and entertaining, and a downstairs area (called a makhzan) for storage and utilities. Such homes have indoor plumbing and electricity, whereas other families get their water from local wells and cook on small charcoal stoves. Most urban Palestinians have radios, cassette players, and stoves and ovens for cooking. Most also have refrigerators and televisions sets. Videocassette recorders are frequently brought into the country by Palestinians traveling abroad. To this day, few Palestinian homes in the West Bank and Gaza have computers and regular, reliable internet access. Most Palestinians of different ages rely on cell phones as an indispensible means of communication.
Refugee camps set up by the UN Relief Workers Agency (UNRWA) provide small, cement-block homes with corrugated metal roofs and doors. Some have no running water or electricity. Families cook on a metal grate laid over a tin container filled with charcoal, sleep on thin mats on the floor (which are then rolled up and out of the way during the day), and bathe and wash their clothes in metal drums filled with water from a hose at community faucets.
In most instances, whether in the cities or refugee camps, Palestinian nuclear and extended families live within close quarters and sometimes even under the same roof. It is generally discouraged for a son or daughter to move out of the family house prior to marriage.
The family is the central organizing unit of Palestinian society. Traditional village life used to be regulated by the hamula—a male-dominated extended family system, or clan-based operation. The hamula is disappearing as ancestral clan-controlled lands are taken away or lost, but families are still very important, and extended family members often live near or with each other.
Arranged marriages continue to be the norm in some places, with first cousins or members of the same village being the preferred match. Marriage by individual choice is becoming common in other areas, however, especially as more males and females meet in universities, which are all co-educational. Child-marriage and polygamy still occur, although not in great numbers. Palestinians have one of the highest birth-rates in the world, and approximately 45% of the population is under the age of 14. Children are taught to use good manners and to respect their elders. In fact, the elderly continue to live with the family of their sons or daughters. There are very few nursing homes, and it is rare and a dishonor to send one's elderly parent to a nursing home. Women are expected to fulfill the traditional role of homemaker, doing all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and so on, as well as taking care of the men's and children's needs. Women are beginning to break out of these roles, however; 44% of the students at the five West Bank universities are women. Particularly under Israeli occupation, as more and more men were arrested by the military government for political activities hostile to the state of Israel, women were forced to fill in for men who were detained in prison. Women thus assumed jobs and became heads of households. Having attained prominent social and professional roles, many women now insist on equality of the sexes.
Women are to be highly respected in a family. Brothers must show respect for their sisters and are obligated to look out for the welfare of their sisters even into adulthood. On holidays, brothers are expected to give their sisters gifts, although sisters do not have to reciprocate.
Palestinians of the older generation still wear traditional clothing. Men wear a long loose robe called a jallabiyeh and the common Arab headscarf, or kaffiyeh, held in place with a twisted band called an ogaal. Women wear a long black peasant dress, known as a thob, with an embroidered bodice, and a shawl over the head and shoulders. Women from different towns can be distinguished by the embroidery and style of the thob. The designs are cross-stitched, sometimes by the woman herself, and sometimes by a professional seamstress. The latter can charge hundreds of dollars for each bodice she embroiders, because each one takes days of sewing by hand to prepare. Thobs are made either of linen or velvet. A particularly fancy velvet dress, known as the malaka, is traditionally worn by brides. It is often made of burgundy and green velvet and has silver or gold embroidery.
Most younger Palestinians wear Western-style clothing, with traditional headscarves that cover the hair for young women. Religiosity increased during the years of the Intifada (beginning 1987), and this has been reflected in an increase in religious attire, known as shari'a clothing or jilbab, for young women. This is basically a long jacket-like dress that covers the entire body, with a scarf worn on the head to cover the hair.
Palestinians eat typical Middle Eastern food, such as falafel (deep-fried chickpea balls or patties), hummus (ground chick-peas with garlic, lemon juice, and tahini, a sesame paste), lamb, chicken, rice, nuts, and eggplant. A favorite Palestinian candy is halvah, a sweet nougat made of sesame seeds and honey. For meals, some rural Palestinians sit on mats or cushions around a cloth laid on the floor and scoop up their food with pieces of pita bread, called khubz. They drink lots of strong black Turkish coffee. A recipe for khubz follows.
Khubz (Pita Bread)
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2½ cups warm water
5 to 6 cups whole wheat flour
or 3 cups whole wheat and 2 to 3 cups white flour
or 5 to 6 cups white flour
Dissolve yeast in half a cup of warm water. Cover and let sit until yeast ferments, about 10 minutes. Stir 3 cups of flour, salt, dissolved yeast, and remaining 2 cups of water in a large bread bowl or mixing bowl. Add remaining 2 to 3 cups of flour in small portions, kneading well with the hands after each addition. Keep adding flour until the dough holds together well and stops sticking to your hands.
Knead very well on a lightly floured surface for 8 to 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Wrap the entire bowl, including the bottom, in a blanket or heavy towel, and allow dough to rise until doubled in size, about 2 to 3 hours.
On a lightly floured surface, cut the dough into 8 balls. Cover the balls and let rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°f. While the oven is heating, use a rolling pin to flatten each ball of dough into a circle about ¼ inch thick and 8 to 9 inches in diameter.
Beginning with the first loaf you rolled, set each loaf directly on the oven rack. You can bake two loaves at a time, one on each rack. When the loaves begin to brown, turn them so that they brown evenly on both sides (about 3 minutes per side). (If you find it difficult to drop the dough directly onto the oven shelf, use a pizza pan or a pizza stone to lay the loaf on.)
As each loaf comes out of the oven, wrap it in a clean cloth or towel to keep it soft until the baking process is complete. After the loaves have cooled, store in plastic bags.
Other Palestinian favorites are zucchini and grape leaves, both stuffed with a rice and meat mixture. Because olive trees are plentiful in the hilly terrain, Palestinians also enjoy olive oil, and preserved olives, harvested in the summer, are eaten year round. Almonds, plums, apples, cherries, and lemons are enjoyed in many households fresh off the trees in family gardens. Pork is prohibited in the Muslim religion, as is alcohol. Many Palestinians are Christian, however, so alcoholic beverages are served in some restaurants and sold in some stores, generally in urban centers, such as Ramallah and Jerusalem.
The most traditional Palestinian meals are maqluba, musakhan, and mansaf.Musakhan is a common main dish that originated in the Jenin and Tulkarm area in the northern West Bank. It consists of roasted chicken over bread, topped with pieces of fried sweet onions and pine nuts. Maqluba is a rice and baked eggplant casserole mixed with cooked cauliflower, carrots, and chicken or lamb. Dating back to the 13th century, maqluba is eaten throughout the Levant, it has a particular significance among Palestinians. Mansaf is a traditional meal in the central West Bank and Negev region in the southern West Bank, having its roots from the Bedouin population of ancient Palestine.
Palestinian children attend schools similar to those in the West. Children begin school in kindergarten and attend elementary, preparatory, and high school. There are many types of school systems, due in large part to the history of foreign rule and influence over Palestine. For refugee children, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) runs schools in which children receive a free education and some assistance with educational materials. The majority of Palestinian children attend free public schools. There are also many private schools for those who can afford them. Private schools tend to be predominantly religious. Islamic schools were established by local Muslims, but Christian schools were established by foreigners with the assistance of local Palestinians. The latter include Friends' schools (run by Quakers from the United States), and the Frere and Rosary schools (run by French Catholics). All girls, whether in UNRWA, public, or private schools, wear uniforms. Boys dress as they wish within limits reflecting the social norms. Palestinians have the highest percentage of university graduates in the Arab world. The five Palestinian universities on the West Bank have a combined enrollment of about 5,000 students. These universities are hotbeds of social and political activism and have been closed down from time to time by the Israelis to try to put a stop to the students' revolutionary ideas and actions. Today, the most prominent Palestinian university is Beirzeit University outside of Ramallah. Recent high-caliber campuses have developed throughout the West Bank, including the Arab-American University in Jenin.
The average literacy rate for Palestinians is one of the highest in the region and the Arab world. The overall literacy rate is reported at 93%.
Traditional Palestinian dancing is segregated by sex. Men dance in a semicircle with their arms around each other or holding hands as they perform the dabka. In the dabka, which is performed at all wedding receptions, dancers circle the dance floor following the lead and instructions of a designated leader. Women also perform the dabka at social events, and in professional performances men and women do the dabka together. Dancing is often done to the rhythm of a drum called a derbakah. Other musical instruments are the lute and the shebabah, a reed instrument. Afif Bulos is a popular contemporary Palestinian musician.
Contemporary Palestinian writers include literary critical and intellectual Edward Said, who is Palestinian-American. The famous Palestinian poet and short story writer Ghassan Kanafani. His poetry and stories, like much Palestinian literature, features themes of protest against the Israeli occupation and reminiscences of times predating the occupation. Poet Mahmoud Darwish wrote the protest poem "Investigation" and many other poems that have become iconic in Palestinian life. Rashid Khalidi, a historian, political commentator and professor is a renowned voice on the Palestinian-Israeli situation. Numerous radio and television personalities, many of whom work for Arabic satellite stations Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, as well as Western news agencies. Sabri Jiryis, a radio personality, is the author of The Arabs in Israel, a book about events in 1956 in the Palestinian town of Kafr Qasim. The famous cartoon-ist, Naji Al-Ali, is famous for his character Handala, a small impoverished Palestinian boy, who is omnipresent in his work and acts as the witness to Palestinian suffering. Painter Jammana al-Husseni is also internationally known.
It is difficult for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to find work. Unemployment is a serious problem among the many refugees. When they do find jobs, they are often paid low wages.
Many Palestinians from Gaza and some from the West Bank cross over into Israel for employment. In Israel, they hold low-wage jobs as restaurant waiters, street cleaners, construction workers, and dishwashers. Since the signing of the DOP, the borders between Israel and the Palestinians have often been closed, causing extreme hardship for the Palestinians who once relied on Israel for jobs.
Although many Palestinians hold college degrees, jobs compatible with those degrees are difficult to find. Th is leads to much of the frustration that is ultimately expressed in riots and demonstrations against the Israeli occupation. Under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who died in 1995, discussions were underway to develop an industrial complex along the borders to solve the unemployment problem. Under the consecutive governments of Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, and now Tzipi Livni, the situation has gotten progressively worse for Palestinians seeking work. The construction of the wall throughout the West Bank has made it more difficult for Palestinians to seek and attend work in once-adjacent areas.
In Jordan, Palestinians who were once escapees from the West Bank dominate the private sector, holding 60 to 65% of the jobs in banking, 60 to 75% in retailing, and 75 to 80% in the import-export business.
Although Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have little time or space for organized sports activities, soccer is popular. It is played in schools and during free time in the many fields of the West Bank. There has been little attention given to organized, professional sporting events. An Israeli professional soccer team comprised of both Jews and Palestinians won the Israeli league championship and received much coverage. Fledgling Palestinian athletics and the struggle to succeed under dire circumstances have become topics of several documentary films.
ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION
Informal street-side games of soccer are a popular form of recreation among Palestinians. They also enjoy listening to poetry and music and playing the very popular Middle Eastern version of backgammon. Men smoke the narghila, or water-pipe (like a hookah) at corner cafés and coffeehouses. Only men go to coffeehouses, where they socialize, make business deals, and play cards and backgammon.
Children play hopscotch, jump rope, and marbles on the sidewalks. Families take evening walks, especially during the month of Ramadan after breaking the fast at sundown. There are outdoor parks, called muntazahs, where families order ice cream or a meal and eat outdoors.
Palestinians watch television programs broadcast from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and sometimes Syria. One of the favorite television characters is Ghawar al-Tosheh, a Syrian comedic character who often criticizes government policies in his story-lines. Popular music videos are frequently viewed by Palestinian youth along with Arab and international soccer matches. Today, satellite television is immensely popular throughout the Palestinian territories and is watched for news, entertainment and religious programming. Several Palestinian television and radio stations now broadcast and have gained increasing popularity. On Fridays, the noon prayer is broadcast on television for Muslims.
FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES
Some Palestinians are skilled in the art of calligraphy, and they sketch Quranic verses and expressions in beautiful designs. Calligraphy shows are held at universities and associations, and artwork is sold for profit. Other artists draw pictures of political protest, predominantly against the occupation. One popular pastime is to memorize and recite verses of the Quran. Children begin this process at an early age, and it continues through adulthood. Women can often be seen sitting on their front porches knitting for their families, cross-stitching or embroidering the bodices for their traditional dresses, or cross-stitching items for craft shows, such as wall decors or Quranic verses. In Jerusalem, Ramallah, or Bethlehem, tourists can purchase crafts made of olive wood or ivory, two of the most common materials used by craftsmen. Jewelry boxes, crosses, scenes of the Last Supper, camels, mosques, and other items are handcrafted from olive wood and ivory.
The main social problem for Palestinians is the war with Israel over rights to the Palestinian homeland. Palestinians are a people without a country, living at best as displaced persons and at worst as refugees in crowded camps. The war with Israel has been going on for decades, and younger generations of Palestinians have never known a time when their people were at peace. They grow up with a consciousness shaped by conflict and violence. Although the PLO and the Israeli government signed the Declaration of Principles on September 1993, and limited Palestinian self-rule began to be established in Jericho and the Gaza Strip on 18 May 1994, the agreement is opposed by extremists on both sides, and the peace that existed is very shaky. The Palestinian fight for an independent homeland, the tempo of which increased with the intifada (or "uprising") begun in December 1987, continues. The number of casualties has been enormous, and the problems—physical, social, psychological, and spiritual—caused by the perpetual unrest are too numerous to count. The major grievance of Palestinians is that their political and civil rights are not being upheld by the occupation. They assert that the right to self-determination, which has been affirmed by the United Nations, gives them the right to decide their own system of government and to establish statehood. A 1995 poster distributed by a Palestinian human rights organization refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the caption stating: "The Palestinians are also part of this universe."
The 1994 agreement, which gave Palestinians self-rule, soon crumbled as the Israeli counterparts refused to abide by the accord and discontinue building settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Increasing frustration and anxiety came to a head when the Israeli candidate for prime minister, Ariel Sharon, visited the Old City of Jerusalem's Temple Mount, which is adjacent to the Dome of the Rock (Mosque) in September 2000. Palestinians revolted and protested his visit, clashes ensued, with casualties sustained by both sides. The violence escalated and spread beyond the holy sites and to other areas in the Palestinian territories. Sharon was elected as prime minister in 2001 with the agenda of controlling the Palestinians. The period that followed saw ruthless attacks, arbitrary Palestinian home demolitions, an expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, an increase in targeted killing of Palestinian politicians, and the construction of the wall separating Israeli and Palestinian villages and restricting Palestinian movement. Whilst the first Intifada was called on by Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, it is commonly understood that the second Intifada, known as Al-Aqsa Intifada was spontaneous.
With very large numbers of Palestinian men detained in Israeli prisons, the predicament of Palestinian women is rather complicated. They are often thought of as the symbol of Palestinian resistance and perseverance, as even the nation, Falastin, is often depicted as a woman. The burden of living under occupation is often magnified for Palestinian women, who find themselves as caregivers and breadwinners. The frequency at which they must face the death or lengthy detainment of males in the family and uncertain futures have forced many women to take on enormous responsibilities as spouses, mothers, and the sole source of income.
However, the plight of Palestinian women has not gone unnoticed. Many solidarity groups between women of Israeli and Palestinian background have sprung up in the early 2000s and have become increasingly influential, including some that resist Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, house demolitions, and violations of Palestinian rights.
Palestinian women are now becoming increasingly prominent on both the political and cultural stages. Academic, diplomat, and consummate politician, Hanan Ashrawi, has been a prominent figure of the Palestinian struggle for representation. Also, feminist, activist, and humanitarian, Samiha Khalil (known commonly as Umm Khalil), is among the notable Palestinian women of the late 20th century. A growing number of popular Palestinian women figures, including musicians, artists, and authors such as Ghada Karmi, have been influential in placing their people in the spotlight.
Ganeri, Anita. Why We Left: I Remember Palestine. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1995.
Khalidi, Rashid. The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood, New York: Beacon Press, 2007.
Khalidi, Walid. Before Their Diaspora: A Photographic History Of The Palestinians 1876-1948. Washington, D.C. : Institute for Palestine Studies, 2004
Melrod, George, ed. Insight Guides: Israel. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
Sabbagh, Suha. Palestinian Women of Gaza and the West Bank. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.
Said, Edward W. and Mohr, Jean. After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998
Stannard, Dorothy, ed. Insight Guides: Jordan. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
—reviewed by A. Iskandar
Identification. Palestinians inhabit an area east of the Mediterranean Sea and south of Lebanon. The Jordan River, Lakes Huleh and Tiberias, and the Dead Sea separate Palestine from Jordan. Palestinian territory stretches as far south as the Gulf of ʿAqaba. Palestinians refer to their land as "Filastin," the name of an Aegean population (Philistines) who inhabited coastal Palestine before the Israelites. Christians refer to Palestine as "the Holy Land." Today Palestine is divided among Israel and the Palestine National Authority. Palestinian territory falls into two major geographic zones: the coastal area, and the northern extension of the Great Rift Valley.
Palestine is located between 30° and 33° N and 34° and 36° E. Its total land area is 27,128 square kilometers, divided between Israel and the two towns (Gaza and Jericho) administered by the Palestine National Authority. The total area under direct Palestinian control since 1993 is 135 square kilometers. Palestine lies at the southern tip of the fertile eastern Mediterranean region, and almost half of its total area is arid or semiarid. Only parts of the narrow coastal plain, the Jordan Valley, and the Galilee region in the north receive adequate rainfall. Palestine, on the whole, enjoys typical Mediterranean weather. The Great Rift Valley, or the Jordan Valley, has a semitropical climate. The main city in the Jordan valley, Jericho, is the lowest spot on earth—250 meters below sea level. The arid and semiarid areas to the south enjoy a desertlike dry and hot climate.
Demography. Between 5.8 million and 6 million Palestinians live in Israel, on the West Bank, in the Gaza Strip, and dispersed all over the world. As of 1989, there were 900,000 living in the West Bank, 550,000 to 770,000 in the Gaza Strip, and 800,000 in Israel proper. East Jerusalem, annexed to Israel since 1967, is the home of 155,000 Palestinians. Those living under the Palestine National Authority since 1993 number 775,000 in Gaza and 20,000 in Jericho. There are also 1.7 million Palestinians living in Jordan, 350,000 in Lebanon, 225,000 in Syria, 70,000 in Iraq, 60,000 in Egypt, 25,000 in Libya, and 250,000 in Saudi Arabia. Until the Gulf War, there were 400,000 in Kuwait. There are other, smaller Palestinian communities in the Persian Gulf area, amounting to 113,543 people. It is estimated that 104,856 Palestinians live in the United States and another 140,000 around the globe. The highest ratio people to land is in Gaza, where there are 3,577 people per square kilometer. Many Palestinians live as refugees in camps: 248,000 in the Gaza Strip, 100,000 on the West Bank, 187,000 in Jordan, 143,300 in Lebanon, and 67,000 in Syria. Palestinians speak Arabic, but most are bilingual, their second language depending on their place of residence.
Linguistic Affiliation. Arabic is a member of the Hamito-Semitic Family of languages. Modern Arabic is a South Semitic language. Palestinians speak a distinct dialect of Arabic but write classical Arabic, like the rest of the Arab world.
History and Cultural Relations
The Palestinians are a racial amalgam of the indigenous pre-Israelite population and later groups that settled in Palestine. Even though the Canaanite and Philistine city-states were defeated by the Israelites under King David in 1,000 b.c., their populations were not exterminated. The Muslim Arab conquest of a.d. 638 did not result in a large transfusion of Arabs, but the local inhabitants' culture became increasingly Arabized, and large numbers converted to Islam. The Peninsular Arab conquerors took great interest in Palestine because of the Prophet Mohammed's association with Jerusalem: his nocturnal journey there in a.d. 621 and his ascension to heaven from the spot where the Jewish Temple once stood bestowed a holy status on the city. When Muslims conquered Jerusalem, Caliph Omar came to receive the keys to the city from the Byzantine patriarch, Sophronius, and issued the Pledge of Omar: he vowed to protect the holy sites and freedom of worship of all religious communities. During the Umayyad dynasty (a.d. 661-750), Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān built a magnificent mosque (691-692) over the ruins of Solomon's Temple to commemorate Mohammed's ascension to heaven. Known as the Dome of the Rock, it is the oldest example of early Islamic architecture in the world. The Western Wall (the Wailing Wall), which is the only remaining portion of Solomon's Temple, was consecrated as a Muslim charitable trust in later years on the grounds that Mohammed tethered his steed, al-Buraq, at the wall. In view of its holy status, Jerusalem was never made into an Arab capital. Muslims also permitted the return of Jews to Jerusalem, from which they had been barred since the Roman period. Under the ʿAbbasīd Emperor, Harun al-Rashīd (786-809), the number of hostels for European pilgrims increased. Jerusalem's religious status attracted foreign invaders, including the Christian Crusaders, who took over the city in 1099. Frankish invaders established the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, which lasted until 1187. Disputes between the Arabized eastern Christians, who coexisted peacefully with Muslims, and the European Crusaders cemented a lasting bond between Palestine's two religious communities. During the Latin Kingdom, the Dome of the Rock was converted into a Christian site known as Templum Domini. Jerusalem was liberated by Saladin (Salāh al-Dīn) the Ayyūbid sultan of Egypt and Syria in 1187. Muslim families were restored as the guardians of the holy sites, and Jews were permitted to return in large numbers. The Crusaders repossessed the city from 1229 to 1244. The Egyptian Mamlūk dynasty liberated the city again, but in 1516 Jerusalem and Palestine fell to the Ottoman Turks. Under their rule, Palestine was divided into districts and attached to the province of Syria. In the nineteenth century European Jews began to settle in Ottoman-controlled Palestine. Jewish efforts to purchase the Wailing Wall and large areas of land with the help of foreign consuls were met with stiff resistance. With the financial support of European banking families, Jews fleeing Russian pogroms during the second half of the nineteenth century were able to establish collective farms. There was also significant Arab economic development. Following the Crimean War (1854-1856), Gaza emerged as a major grain-producing area. Cotton production expanded during the 1860s. Palestinians also became successful citrus growers, producing 33 million oranges in 1873. Jewish colonists who settled at Petach Tikva, near Jaffa, were exporting 15 percent of Palestine's total orange crop by 1913. Arab economic activity expanded around Nablus, an area specializing in olive oil and soap production. Jewish purchase of Arab land had a detrimental effect on Palestinian prosperity. Once bought, land became the perpetual property of Jews, and Arab laborers were thrown off. The land problem continued to bedevil Arab-Jewish relations after Britain took over Palestine. British interest in Palestine was the result of the strategic significance of the Suez Canal. During World War I, the British concluded several secret agreements regarding the future of Ottoman-held territories. One of these agreements, the Balfour Declaration, granted Jews the right to establish a national homeland in Palestine. In 1920, when the British acquired control over Palestine as a mandate under the League of Nations, they made the Balfour Declaration official policy, which was at variance with their responsibility under the mandate: to prepare the native population for eventual independence and majority rule. As a result, Palestinian demographics changed drastically. According to the 1922 census, the total population of Palestine was 752,000, of whom 660,000 were Arabs and 84,000 were Jews. The Arab population included 71,000 indigenous Christians who shared most of the sociocultural traits of the Muslim Palestinian population. By the end of World War II, the Palestinian population grew to two million. By 1946, there were 1,269,000 Arabs, as opposed to 608,000 Jews. Around 70,000 of the Jews were unauthorized immigrants who entered Palestine in the immediate postwar period. Throughout the mandate era (1920-1948), Arab despair over Jewish immigration fostered a policy of noncooperation with the mandate government. A proposed constitution offered in 1922 by the high commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, was rejected by both Muslim and Christian Palestinians. The only body that continued to represent the Palestinians was the Supreme Muslim Council, which supervised the Islamic charitable trusts and the court system. The appointed head of this institution, Amin Husseini, was the highest religious authority and emerged as the sole leader of the Palestinian community. He became the head of the Arab Higher Committee, representing both Christians and Muslims, following the 1936 Arab Revolt. The first major outbreak of Arab-Jewish violence was a result of attempts by Revisionist Zionists, led by Vladimir Jabotinsky, to expand Jewish rights over the Wailing Wall. This violence was investigated by British parliamentary commissions, which concluded that unrestricted Zionist immigration and land purchases led to the impoverishment and anger of the Palestinian peasantry. A general Arab strike and uprising in 1936 led the British to convene the Peel Commission, the first such commission to recommend the partitioning of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. The Peel Commission allotted 20 percent of the most fertile land to the Jews, and 80 percent to the Arabs. The Commission also recommended the internationalization of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Both the Higher Arab Committee and Arab governments rejected this plan. By 1942, Zionist lobbying efforts shifted from Britain to the United States. A Zionist conference in 1942, which was held at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City, called openly for the establishment of a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine, and efforts were made to obtain the endorsement of major U.S. political parties and members of Congress. The Nazi Holocaust against European Jews succeeded in winning powerful world leaders, including U.S. president Truman, over to the cause of Israeli statehood. Once the British Government made the decision in 1947 to end its mandate over Palestine, the latter became the responsibility of the United Nations. A special eleven-member committee, known as UNSCOP, was organized to make recommendations to the General Assembly regarding the future of Palestine. These recommendations were made in the form of majority (8 votes) and minority (3 votes) reports. The majority report, which was adopted by the General Assembly on 29 November 1947, stipulated that Palestine be partitioned into a Jewish state and an Arab state, with Jerusalem and Bethlehem brought under a UN regime as a corpus separatum. Both the United States and the Soviet Union voted for General Assembly Resolution 181, the majority plan. Palestinians were outraged over the decision by an outside agency to give away half of their land without consulting them. Arab states in the United Nations did not oppose the Vatican-sponsored resolution on Jerusalem. During the following year, a U.S. State Department report by George F. Kennan predicted that the partition resolution could not be enforced without war. Clashes between Jewish armed forces and Palestinian and other Arab armies quickly followed. Jewish forces moved not only to consolidate their UN lands but to acquire additional areas in the Galilee and Negev areas. The UN partition plan granted one-third of the population—namely, the Jewish community—one-half of the total land area of Palestine. The Jewish community at the time owned 20 percent of all cultivable areas, amounting to 6 percent of the total land area of Palestine. At the end of this conflict, the Egyptian army remained in control of the Gaza Strip and the Jordanian Arab Legion maintained control over eastern Palestine and eastern Jerusalem. The Arab states signed separate armistice agreements with newly founded Israel. Soon thereafter, Trans-jordan changed its name to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, naming the area east of the Jordan River the "East Bank" and the area west of the river the "West Bank." The 1947—1948 Arab-Jewish War produced one of the Middle East's major refugee problems. Palestinians who fled their homes or were driven out by Jewish forces numbered between 500,000 and 750,000 people. Some placed the percentage of Palestinians who became refugees at 80 percent of the total Arab population. Between 125,000 and 150,000 of the Palestinian peasantry retained their homes but lost their agricultural lands. The state of Israel continuously rejected UN resolutions calling for the return of the refugees or providing them with financial compensation. The only Arab country that granted citizenship rights to the Palestinians was Jordan. The rest of the Arab countries declined to extend citizenship rights for fear of jeopardizing the refugees1 right of return. The League of Arab States created a seat for Palestine, which was occupied by the Gaza-based government of All Palestine until 1957. The Gaza government was a rump Palestinian authority that was directed by Amin Husseini's deputy, Ahmad Hilmi Abd al-Baqi; it existed under the watchful eye of the Egyptian military governor. By 1964, a new Palestinian authority—the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Ahmad Shuqairy—was created at the behest of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. Conflicts with the Egyptians forced Shuqairy's resignation in 1968. Another PLO emerged during that year and was soon headed by Yasser Arafat, the leader of Fatah, a militant underground organization. The new PLO rejected the need to rely on Arab governments and promoted the principle of the armed struggle. After a brief stay in Jordan, armed conflict with the Jordanian army drove the PLO to Lebanon, where it established itself inside Palestinian refugee camps. The launching of attacks against Israel from Lebanon's southern borders eventually resulted in a massive retaliation by the Israeli Defense Forces in 1982. The PLO was forced to evacuate its militias out of Lebanon under U.S. protection and relocate to Tunisia. The Israeli invasion of Beirut during the latter days of that war resulted in a Lebanese-led massacre of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatilla camps. The PLO's rehabilitation by the world community was a slow process, which began in 1974. During that year, the Arab summit meeting at Rabat, Morocco, recognized the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. Also in 1974, the United Nations confirmed this designation by granting the PLO observer status. The United Nations also recognized the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, a gesture of enormous symbolic significance because it was the United Nations that divided the Palestinian homeland in the first place. The outbreak of the intifada (uprising) in 1987, in the West Bank and Gaza, provided the PLO with another opportunity to integrate itself with the international community. The PLO declared itself a state and sought recognition by the Uniited States. This was granted upon the PLO's unilateral recognition of Israel and of Security Council Resolution 242. Following the Gulf War in 1991, the PLO agreed to participate in a U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference. During these talks, a secret channel to the Israelis was opened with the mediation of the Norwegian government. In 1993 Israel and the PLO signed a "declaration of principles" that provided a framework for settling all issues pertaining to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and granted the newly created Palestine National Authority autonomous rule over Gaza and Jericho. Negotiations over the future of the rest of the West Bank, as well as that of Jerusalem, were to follow.
Until the establishment of Israel in 1948, the Palestinian coastline was dotted with Arab villages. The Galilee area in the north was also heavily settled. The Bedouin (nomadic) population was concentrated in the Negev Desert area. After the division of Palestine into Israel and the West Bank, the coastal area became heavily Jewish. The Jordan Valley was less settled than the Mediterranean coast. After Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israeli settlements were built on Palestinian lands, using up to 50 percent of these territories. Around 125,000 Israeli settlers began to live within the Arab area. Under international law, these settlements are considered illegal and may be dismantled as the price of a lasting peace settlement. There are also ancient cities in Palestine: Jerusalem (built by the Jebusites), Jericho (the oldest city in the world), Bethlehem, Beershiba, Gaza, and Nablus (ancient Samaria). Most of these urban centers have an old city surrounded by walls and modern suburbs in the nearby hills. Typical village dwellings are built of local building material, stone in the hills and mud and straw in the villages. Jerusalem's old city and ancient walls are built exclusively of Jerusalem limestone. Wood, which has always been in short supply, is rarely used.
Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Until the creation of Israel and the dispersal of the Palestinians, 60 percent of the population was engaged in agricultural activities and food processing. Village crafts included the rich and ancient tradition of embroidery. Mother-of-pearl and olive-wood artifacts were common in the cities. After 1948, Palestinians who became refugees subsisted on daily rations supplied by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Skilled and educated refugees became professional and white-collar workers in the Persian Gulf oil countries.
Industrial Arts. Along with food processing and tourist-related arts and crafts, Palestinians were engaged in oil refining, a British-run industry, in Haifa. After 1948, Palestinians lost access to this industry and turned to phosphate mining in the Dead Sea area. There was also a thriving glass industry in Hebron.
Trade. Before 1948, Palestinians exported citrus fruits to Egypt and other parts of the Middle East. Fruits, vegetables, hand soap, and olive oil were the mainstay of trade with Arab markets after the West Bank was taken over by Jordan. Since 1967, this area has become a captive market for Israeli goods.
Division of Labor. Palestinian village women and Bedouin women always participated in agricultural work. In towns and cities, women have been increasingly integrated in gender-specific occupations such as teaching, nursing, and clerical positions. Palestinian women are also employed as teachers in the Persian Gulf area. Since 1967, many West Bank women have been proletarianized and work as migratory laborers within Israel proper, employed in food processing and the garment industry. Women have also become heads of households as a result of the imprisonment or exiling of Palestinian men.
Land Tenure. Until the British period, there were three types of landholding: public lands (miri ), privately owned land (mulk ), and state and private lands cultivated by peasants as communal lands (musha ). The cultivation of land by the peasants of an entire village was abolished by the British in the 1940s in order to facilitate the purchase and sale of land held by individuals. Jewish efforts to buy land were facilitated by the existence of absentee landlords in the Galilee region, such as the Lebanese Sursuq family. After 1967, public lands previously considered the property of the Ottoman, British, and Jordanian governments were transferred to Israeli settlers.
Kin Groups and Descent. The basic unit in society is the family, with the village unit quite often being an extended family. Political upheaval over a long period of time strengthened the traditional family structure. Kin groups, as exemplified by the family or the clan (hamula ), survived despite increased mobility and urbanization. Entire families and clans from the same village relocated together to the same refugee camps after 1948. Descent, as in all Muslim societies, is traced patrilineally.
Kinship Terminology. Palestinians follow the Sudanese kinship terminology commonly found in patrilineal societies such as those in North Africa. Kinship terms referring to the mother's side of the family are distinguished from those referring to the father's side of the family.
Marriage. Palestinians are, generally speaking, monogamous, although polygyny is sanctioned by Islam. Marriages are normally determined by families, but, increasingly, individual choice is accepted. Statistics for the 1931 census indicate that early marriages were rare. The average age of marriage within the Muslim community was 20 years for women and 25 for men. Until around the mid-twentieth century, the preferred match, in both the Christian and Muslim communities, was between first cousins.
Domestic Unit. Postmarital residence is patrilocal. A woman returns to her natal unit only in the event of divorce or widowhood. The authority of the male head of the family is exercised over matters of marital, educational, and occupational choice despite frequent geographic separation of members of the nuclear family. Grandparents and unmarried aunts and uncles frequently share the domestic unit. Women rarely establish independent places of residence.
Inheritance. Muslim law regulates division of the estate and does not ignore female members of the family. Land is divided equally among surviving males, but females inherit half of the male's share because they are not expected to support the family. Among the indigenous Christian population, inheritance customs are not regulated by church law and often mirror Muslim customs.
Socialization. Children are socialized by various generations within the household, commonly along gender lines. The socialization of Palestinian children encourages a commitment to education and to family solidarity.
Palestinians inhabiting the West Bank are under Israeli rule, but in Gaza and Jericho they live under the Palestine National Authority. In Jordan, where they constitute 60 to 70 percent of the population, they are full citizens. In other Arab countries, Palestinians are resident aliens, carrying temporary UN travel document. Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem are still Jordanian nationals. In Gaza they are stateless, and within Israel they are citizens of the Jewish state.
Social Organization. Before 1948, Palestinians were divided along class lines determined by private wealth. In the Christian community, class differentiation accorded more to educational level than to wealth. The Muslim and Christian communities were always allied in the national struggle. The Palestinian diaspora after 1948 had a great leveling impact. The massive loss of land weakened the landowning class. Education is highly valued as a movable form of wealth and the determinant of status. Today there is a large professional class that prospered as a result of employment in the Persian Gulf countries.
Political Organization. In the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians have been living under Israeli military rule since 1967. Those living in Arab Jerusalem, annexed to Israel in 1967, are allowed to participate in municipal elections but are barred from national elections. Because Jerusalem's Arabs are Jordanian citizens, they do not enjoy Israeli civil liberties. The Israelis permitted one round of municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 1976, but since then most town councils have been headed by Israeli military officers. The Islamic religious institutions of Jerusalem and the West Bank, which are linked to Jordan, are still under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Muslim Council. Within Israel proper, Palestinians are full citizens, but they suffer from frequent land confiscations and exclusion from military service and from higher political office. The PLO, on the other hand, functions as a nonterritorial state, with a parliament in exile, an executive committee, and militia units.
Social Control. Social control is exercised by the family, females being subjected to greater restrictions than males. In some refugee camps, social control was dictated by the PLO, which attempted to influence the patterns of female education and female morality.
Conflict. Palestinians suffer from harsh military rule in the West Bank and from constant police surveillance in Arab countries. Clashes with the Israeli military and with Israeli settlers are frequent. The mythology of the popular uprising of 1987, the intifada, still exercises a powerful influence on the popular imagination.
Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. Muslims make up two-thirds of the population. The majority are Sunni, but there is also a small Druze community. Christians are almost one-third of the population. The largest denomination is Greek Orthodox, followed by the Greek Melkite Catholic, the Roman Catholic, the Episcopal, and the Lutheran. Muslim-Christian harmony was always the norm. The rise of militant Islamic groups like Hamas is a new phenomenon among people who have a powerful ecumenical tradition.
Religious Practitioners. Palestinian Muslims view themselves as guardians of the Muslim holy sites, especially the Dome of the Rock, considered the third holiest in Islam. Christian Palestinians maintain a similar view of their role as guardians of the holiest places of Christendom, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity.
Arts. Palestinian arts center around village group dances, such as dabka. Village music is performed on traditional instruments such as the flute (nay ), drums (tabla ), and the lute (oud). Since the rise of the PLO, Palestinian music and song have for the most part reflected patriotic themes. Art flourished after 1948, with several artists depicting the Palestinian refugee experience. The PLO has fostered political poster art and holds exhibits in many parts of the world.
Medicine. Modern medical facilities are badly lacking in the West Bank and Gaza. Most medical institutions are supported by Arab donations from outside and private donations from within the country.
Death and Afterlife. Funerals are conducted by the family and the entire neighborhood. Long periods of mourning are observed by the Muslim and Christian communities. Cerneteries are public lands. Both communities believe strongly in an afterlife. Muslims, who believe Jerusalem will be the site of the Day of Judgment, consider burial there to be greatly desirable.
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GHADA HASHEM TALHAMI
a people who consider themselves descendants of the canaanites, and other peoples who have settled in palestine since ancient times.
The name Palestinian applies in contemporary times to Muslim and Christian Arabs who inhabited Palestine as a consolidated community until the creation of Israel in May 1948, an event that shattered the community and dispersed about 726,000 Palestinians throughout the Middle East, primarily to Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.
In 2004 the total number of Palestinians was estimated at 8.9 million. Approximately 88 percent are Muslims, and the other 12 percent are Christians. Until the initiation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the summer of 1994, the largest concentration of Palestinians lived under Israeli occupation. In 2004 approximately 2.1 million lived in the West Bank, 200,000 in East Jerusalem, and 1.33 million in the Gaza Strip. Approximately 1.3 million lived in pre-1967 Israel as Palestinian citizens of the Jewish state. Other Palestinians lived in other Arab countries, especially Jordan, which had approximately 3 million.
Late Ottoman Period
The politics and culture of the Palestinians from the latter part of the nineteenth century until after the signing of the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on 13 September 1993 can be divided into five stages. In the first stage, from 1876 to 1917, the Palestinians shared a common cultural heritage shaped primarily by the values of the Arab and Muslim empires that had ruled the country with few interruptions from 638 c.e. to 1917. Palestinian society in this stage consisted of three major classes: peasants (fallahin), commercial bourgeoisie, and urban notables or patricians. The patricians were the ruling class, and their influence ran deep in the countryside and in Palestinian cities and towns.
In 1897 the Basel program of the first Zionist Congress strongly affected the Palestinians. The program fixed the Zionist goal: "To create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine, secured by public law." This ushered in the first phase of a protracted struggle between indigenous Palestinians and Jewish immigrants. Opposition to Zionism was the focus of Palestinian political activities, as well as of Palestinian historiography and other forms of writing.
The second stage, from 1917 to 1948, was inaugurated with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. By the autumn of 1918 Palestine, Transjordan, and Iraq were under British control. This development made Palestine increasingly vulnerable to Zionist colonization—first, by isolating the country from its wider Arab environment and second, by giving the British a free hand in implementing the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917, in which the British promised to support a Jewish National Home in Palestine. With the Balfour Declaration, the stage was set for a long struggle between the Palestinians and the Zionist immigrants. The Palestinians, who constituted approximately 90 percent of Palestine's population by the end of World War I, saw in the Zionists a potential threat to their national existence.
In strategic terms, the Palestinian-Zionist struggle was over the status quo. The Palestinians wanted to preserve the status quo, through political and diplomatic efforts between 1917 and 1936 and through armed rebellion during the Palestine Arab Revolt of 1936 to 1939. In contrast, the Zionists sought to change the status quo through mass immigration and land acquisition. The Jewish population in Palestine rose from 9.7 percent in 1919 to 35.1 percent in 1946, and Jewish-owned land increased from 2.04 percent of the total area of Palestine in 1919 to 7 percent in 1946. Meanwhile, British policy in the military sphere was aimed at disarming the Palestinians and arming the Jews. Thus, by 1947 the overall power equation was decisively in favor of the Zionists.
Palestinian society was also affected by three other factors: Zionist settlement activity, British colonial policies, and the expansion of Palestine's economy. While dominant members of urban notable families continued to control the politics of the country, other social forces were at play. The expansion of trade and the growth of coastal cities and towns enhanced the position of the middle class. Artisans and craftsmen, as well as people engaged in the finance, construction, and service sectors, also benefited from the expansion of trade. However, the peasants, who constituted almost two-thirds of Palestinian society, did not benefit from these economic developments. Their condition worsened in great part because of Zionist settlement and the lack of capital. Although Jewish agricultural settlers had adequate land, the indigenous Palestinian peasantry lacked the space necessary for its growing population. The October 1930 report of Sir John Hope-Simpson acknowledged this problem, noting that there was not room for a substantial number of Jewish settlers on the land.
The depressed state of the peasantry, together with other developments, had produced rebellion within Palestinian society by the mid-1930s. The most notable development was the escalating rate of Jewish immigration. The influx of Jewish immigrants had two major consequences: It produced panic and desperation among the Palestinians, reinforcing their fears of Jewish domination in the future; and it radicalized the Palestinians and convinced them that the British were unwilling or incapable of following an evenhanded policy. Against this background, a revolt erupted in May 1936 and continued unabated until the summer of 1939, with only a short lull between November 1936 and January 1937 while the Peel Commission toured Palestine to ascertain the causes of the revolt.
With the publication of the Peel Commission Report in July 1937, the rebellion exploded again in opposition to the commission's recommendation calling for a tripartite partition: a Jewish state; a Palestinian state to be incorporated by Transjordan; and a British mandate over other areas. There was a Palestinian consensus against partition because the proposed Jewish state would cover about 33 percent of the total area of the country at a time when Jewish ownership of land was roughly 5.6 percent, and because a large portion of Palestinian villages, and a high percentage of Palestinians, would fall inside the Jewish state. The British responded to the Palestinian revolt with the full force of their military power. In terms of the cost in human lives, the revolt was a national calamity for the Palestinians: More than 3,075 were killed, 110 hanged, and 6,000 jailed in 1939 alone. At the same time, the British organized, trained, and armed special Jewish forces, creating in the process a Jewish military infrastructure that gave a decisive edge to the Jewish forces ten years later during the Arab–Israel War of 1948.
When the British realized that partition was not practicable, as indicated by the Woodhead Commission report of November 1938, they convened the unsuccessful London Conference in February and March 1939 to resolve the issue of the future status of Palestine. To break the deadlock, Malcolm MacDonald, colonial secretary of state, issued a white paper on 17 May 1939. Although the white paper fell short of meeting long-standing Palestinian demands, it introduced a number of important modifications concerning immigration and the application of the Balfour Declaration.
British implementation of the white paper proved difficult, partly because of Palestinian and Zionist opposition and partly because of the burdens of World War II. In these circumstances, by the 1940s the British were unable to handle the effects of the Balfour Declaration. The military and political structures of a Jewish national home were already in place in Palestine, in great part because of Britain's generosity. In almost every respect these structures were superior to those of the Palestinians.
Against this background, the United Nations (UN) divided Palestine into Jewish and Arab states in November 1947. The Palestinians rejected partition primarily because the UN proposed to give the Jews 55 percent of Palestine when Jewish ownership in November 1947 did not exceed 7 percent of the country's land. By contrast, the Jews found it in their interest to accept partition. Thus, the door for armed conflict in Palestine was wide open. A civil war between Jews and Palestinians followed the partition resolution. After the British left Palestine in May 1948, war, interspersed with cease-fires, continued until July 1949.
Units of armies and volunteers from neighboring Arab countries came to the aid of the Palestinians, who were losing the civil war and fleeing in large numbers. However, the Arab intervention was to no avail. The Jewish immigrant population was militarily superior to all the Arab soldiers combined. The Jews were also superior in terms of leadership, organization, and institutional links to the Western powers. In the end, the Zionists prevailed. Israel seized 77 percent of Palestine; about 726,000 Palestinians became refugees, many of them forcefully expelled by the Jewish forces while others fled out of fear. The Palestinians call this event al-Nakba, or the catastrophe.
The politics of the national struggle left a deep imprint on the intellectual life of the Palestinians, as is clearly illustrated in Palestinian historiography, art, and literature. There were literary and artistic works written in the romantic tradition, such as those by Khalil Baydas, Khalil al-Sakakini, and Muhammad Isʿaf al-Nashashibi, that focus on the social responsibility of men of letters and the relationship between culture and civilization. Other works, written in the realist tradition, reflect the philosophies of Ibn Khaldoun, Hegel, Marx, and Darwin.
From al-Nakba to the 1967 War
The third stage, which lasted from 1948 to 1967, was characterized by formal armistice agreements between a number of Arab states—Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan—and Israel; the disarray among Arab states unsuccessfully attempting to achieve Arab unity; the impact of Cold War politics on the Middle East; the eclipsing of Palestinian nationalism by Arab nationalism; and Israel's refusal to accept any responsibility for what had befallen the Palestinians in 1948. Uprooted, dispersed, and with no state of their own, diaspora Palestinians (60% of the Palestinian population in 1948) came under the guardianship of the host Arab countries in which they lived. Another 30 percent lived in the West Bank and Gaza, and the remaining 10 percent lived in Israel. As a whole, the lives of Palestinians during this stage were marked by national dispersion, occupation, job insecurity, uncertain residency, discrimination, and political repression.
The post-1948 situation had serious consequences. First, it made the Palestinians totally dependent on the Arab states. Second, geographical dispersal made it difficult for the Palestinians to work together within one organizational framework. Thus, some Palestinians identified with the Arab National Movement, others with the Arab Baʿth Party or the Muslim Brotherhood; others acquired senior positions in the bureaucracies of Arab governments, particularly the Jordanian government, or formed independent Palestinian movements that advocated armed struggle against Israel. Life in the diaspora radicalized certain Palestinian groups that embarked on armed struggle against Israel in the mid-1960s in the hope of triggering an Arab–Israel war.
Against a background of inter-Arab rivalries and escalating Arab–Israel tensions, the Arab League created the PLO in 1964. The PLO's leadership was entrusted to Ahmad Shuqayri, a diaspora Palestinian of upper-class origin. In theory, the PLO was to work for the liberation of Palestine, but in practice it provided cover for Arab inaction toward Israel. The PLO charter of 1964 called for the total liberation of Palestine. Arab unity, rather than armed struggle or revolution, was posited as the instrument of liberation. Palestinian authors such as Abd alLatif Tibawi, Fadwa Tuqan, and Fawaz Turki gave expression to this goal. Many of them romanticized this goal by infusing it with the sentiment of the Palestinian concept of return. History books, novels, and collections of poems and pictures of Palestine poured forth during this period to express the pain of exile and the overpowering desire to return.
Literary and political themes were expressed by poets such as Mahmud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim, and Tawfiq Zayyad and literary critics such as Salim Jubran, Ihsan Abbas, and Afif Salim. Palestinian and Islamic historiography was produced by Arif alArif, Muhammad Izzat Darwaza, and Akram Zuʿaytir. Stories of great Arab travelers were written by Iskandar al-Khuri al-Baytjali and Nicola Ziyada.
Reemergence of the Palestinian National Movement
The fourth stage of contemporary Palestinian history, from 1967 to the present, began with the Israeli conquest of the West Bank and Gaza in June 1967, a development that resulted in the displacement of more than 300,000 Palestinian refugees who fled the West Bank and the Golan area. Approximately 120,000 of these people were second-time refugees who had lived in refugee camps under Jordanian or Syrian jurisdiction. The Arab–Israel War of 1967 also resulted in the placement of the West Bank and Gaza under the jurisdiction of the Israeli military government. During its occupation of these territories, Israel undertook settlement and other activities that had a devastating impact on the Palestinians, including the formal annexation of East Jerusalem and the doubling of its surface area; the settlement of more than 120,000 Israelis in the Palestinian sector of the city; the confiscation of more than 55 percent of the West Bank and more than 40 percent of the Gaza Strip; and the deportation of some Palestinians from both areas.
Soon after the 1967 war, the Palestinians arose as an independent political force. They asserted the primacy of Palestinian nationalism and expressed themselves in the idiom of revolution and armed struggle. The PLO charter, revised in 1968 to give expression to this new trend, called for the liberation of all of Palestine, emphasizing that armed struggle was the only way. Aware at the time that the problem of Israeli Jews must be addressed, the PLO articulated the idea of a secular democratic state anchored on nonsectarian principles of coexistence among the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim citizens of a liberated Palestine. In terms of political organizing, the Palestinians used Jordan as their early base of operations against Israel. In an attempt to attract international attention, radical Palestinian groups resorted to acts of violence, including the hijacking of civilian airliners and the murder of members of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich in September 1972.
The unprecedented coincidence between the radicalization of the Palestinians and the emergence of pragmatism and a preference for a diplomatic settlement with Israel on the part of key Arab states led to tensions between revolutionary Palestinians and the new Arab political order. The Jordanian Civil War (1970–1971) epitomized the incongruence between the romanticism of revolutionary Palestinians and the pragmatism of the leaders of Arab states. The Palestinian guerrillas were defeated in Jordan, but they moved to Lebanon, where they reemerged as a strong political force in a country deeply divided by sectarian as well as socioeconomic differences. Their presence in Lebanon served as a catalyst for the civil war that was triggered in April 1975. After the Arab–Israel War of October 1973, a new Palestinian consensus emerged with respect to a diplomatic settlement with Israel. This consensus was reflected in the PLO's political programs of June 1974 and March 1977. Both programs implicitly called for peace with Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
Momentous events affected the Palestinians between 1982 and 1990. In June 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon. Thousands of Palestinians were killed, maimed, or taken prisoner by the Israeli invading force. After nearly three months of fighting, the PLO evacuated Lebanon under the protection of a multinational force and set up its new headquarters in Tunisia. While the PLO, led by Yasir Arafat, was trying to recover from the devastating impact of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the situation of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza continued to deteriorate under the impact of massive Jewish settlements and the policies of the Likud government, which took power in Israel in 1977. The Palestinian response to this situation was the Intifada (uprising), which erupted in December 1987. The Intifada put the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians in the limelight after several years of neglect by Arab governments whose energies were focused on the Iran-Iraq War.
The Struggle for a State
The intifada also catapulted the priorities of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians to the top of the PLO agenda. Before that, the PLO catered primarily to the preferences of diaspora Palestinians. This led to the further crystallization of the pragmatic trend that had begun to emerge in the previous phase. The intifada forced the PLO to move definitively toward the peaceful pursuit of a state in the West Bank and Gaza, where the overriding priority of the Palestinians living in those territories was to end Israeli occupation. This was the crux of the PLO's political program of November 1988, when the Palestine National Council accepted the UN land for peace Resolution 242 and recognized the State of Israel. Politically and intellectually, this phase witnessed the greater salience of religious activism with the emergence of the Islamic Jihad in 1986 and the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) in January 1988.
Despite their political difficulties, the Palestinians participated in the Arab national debate over cultural and sociopolitical issues. Hisham Sharabi wrote on Arab intellectuals and their interaction with Western culture. Using anthropological and sociological concepts, he also analyzed patterns of authority in contemporary Arab society. Edward Said, a scholar-critic, wrote on Western literature and authored books and articles on the Palestine question and other Middle Eastern topics. Walid Khalidi wrote on the Palestinians in Palestine before their diaspora. Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinians' national poet, wrote poems about the Palestine struggle and criticized PLO and Arab leaders. Palestinian women such as Fadwa Tuqan, Sahar Khalifa, and Salma al-Khadra al-Jayyusi used poetry and other genres to express the cause of women's rights in the Arab world. Other women, including Hanan Ashrawi, participated in politics and wrote on social and cultural topics.
Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait in August 1990 set in motion a chain of political developments that led to the mutual recognition of Israel and the PLO and the signing of the historic Declaration of Principles in September 1993 by PLO chairman Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. The PLO's support for Saddam Hussein was to a significant degree responsible for the shattering of the Palestinian community in Kuwait, which totaled approximately 350,000 people working as teachers, civil servants, and industrialists. However, the tragic results of the Gulf Crisis provided a propitious occasion for resolving the cause of the Palestinians. The launching of the Madrid peace process in 1991 opened the way for the Israel-PLO accord of September 1993. This accord was followed by other agreements to implement Palestinian self-rule, including the Taba Accords of September 1995. The Oslo Accord (1993) resulted in the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and major West Bank towns and the establishment of the Palestinian Legislative Council. With the Palestinians exercising control over some areas of the West Bank and Gaza, the realization of Palestinian self-determination seemed possible.
Yet, Palestinian hope for self-determination was dashed by a number of setbacks. One of the architects of Oslo, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated in 1995. The foundation for peace that he and Arafat built was undermined by the policies of a new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, an opponent of the Oslo process, who refused to implement troop withdrawal and continued settlement activity, especially at Har Homa/Jamal Abu Ghunaym in East Jerusalem. By the time the more pragmatic Ehud Barak took over the premiership in Israel, most Palestinians had lost hope in the Oslo peace process. During the decade of the negotiations of the 1990s, confiscation of Palestinian land continued and the number of Jewish settlers doubled in the area in which the Palestinians hoped to establish a state. In addition, their economic conditions worsened. They were humiliated at checkpoints and their lives were disrupted by curfews and blockades. Finally, when the Camp David summit meeting in July 2000 failed, and Ariel Sharon provocatively visited al-Haram al-Sharif with 1,000 Israeli armed police on 28 September 2000, on the following day they initiated a second intifada, or uprising, that many considered to be their war of liberation.
Instead, it proved to be a costly rebellion. Palestinian militants attacked military and civilian Israeli targets. The violence helped to bring to power a hard-line Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. Sharon, an enemy of Oslo, destroyed a large part of the PA's security system, administrative offices, and economic infrastructure. He placed Arafat under house arrest, assassinated Palestinian militants, and continued his confiscation of Palestinian lands for Jewish settlements. As a result of the suicide bombings by Palestinian radicals against Israeli civilians (which Arafat tolerated despite his promises in 1988 and 1993 to fight terrorism) international support for the Palestinian struggle for a state diminished, especially after 11 September 2001, when the United States and its allies declared war on "international terrorism." By early 2004 some 3,000 Palestinians, including about 500 children, and about 900 Israelis had lost their lives. More than half of those killed on both sides were civilians.
There were unexpected benefits arising from the al-Aqsa Intifada. Some reforms, such as financial accountability, were welcomed by the Palestinian public when they were instituted in the PA areas. The office of prime minister was established in 2003 in an effort to share power outside of President Arafat's narrow circle. The United States announced in a diplomatic initiative, Road Map, tosupport the creation of a democratic, sovereign state of Palestine within three years. Despite the violence and destruction, both the Palestinian and Israeli publics continued to support a two-state solution, and they seemed closer to resolving the final status issues than ever before. In early 2004 Palestinian realization of a state of Palestine was awaiting the right circumstances and leadership to make it happen.
see also aqsa intifada, al; arab–israel war (1948); arab–israel war (1967); arab–israel war (1973); arafat, yasir; arif, arif al-; balfour declaration (1917); darwaza, muhammad izzat; darwish, mahmud; gaza (city); hamas; haram al-sharif; intifada (1987–1991); islamic jihad; israel: overview; jordanian civil war (1970–1971); khalidi, walid; lebanese civil war (1958); london (roundtable) conference (1939); madrid conference (1991); nakba, al(1948–1949); oslo accord (1993); palestine; palestine arab revolt (1936–1939); palestine liberation organization (plo); peel commission report (1937); sakakini, khalil al-; shuqayri, ahmad; taba negotiations (1995, 2001); tuqan, fadwa; turki, fawaz; united nations conciliation commission for palestine (unccp); united nations relief and works agency for palestine refugees in the near east (unrwa); united nations special committee on palestine, 1947 (unscop); west bank; white papers on palestine; woodhead commission (1938); zionism.
Hurewitz, J. C. The Struggle for Palestine. New York: Schocken Books, 1976.
Khalidi, Rashid. Palestinian Identity. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998
Khalidi, Walid. Before Their Diaspora: A Photographic History of the Palestinians, 1876–1948. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1984.
Kimmerling, Baruch, and Migdal, Joel S. The Palestinian People: A History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.
Lesch, Ann M. "Closed Borders, Divided Lives: Palestinian Writings." Universities Field Staff International Reports, Asia, no. 28 (1985).
Maʾoz, Moshe. Palestinian Leadership in the West Bank. London: Frank Cass, 1984.
Mattar, Philip. The Mufti of Jerusalem: Al-Hajj Amin al-Husayni and the Palestine National Movement. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.
Miller, Aaron David. The PLO: The Politics of Survival. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1983.
Muslih, Muhammad. The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.
Muslih, Muhammad. Toward Coexistence: An Analysis of the Resolutions of the Palestine National Council. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1990.
Said, Edward. The Question of Palestine. New York, 1979.
Schiff, Zeʾev, and Yaʾari, Ehud. Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising—Israel's Third Front. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.
Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab–Israeli Conflict, 4th edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's Press, 2004.
Tessler, Mark. A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.
updated by philip mattar
POPULATION: 4.5 million
1 • INTRODUCTION
Palestine is the historical name for the region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The land was first inhabited as long ago as 9000 bc. The Hebrews (ancestors of today's Jews) settled in Palestine in 1900 bc and had formed the kingdom of Israel, ruled by King David, by 1000 bc. Palestine was then taken over by a series of foreign powers. The Arabs took control of the area during the Islamic expansion of the seventh century ad. It is from these Arabs that modern-day Palestinians are descended.
Palestine was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire from ad 1516 until the empire was defeated in World War I (1914–18). During the war period, both Arabs and Jews were made promises by the British concerning the future fate of Palestine. The British controlled Palestine from 1920 to 1948. In 1947, the United Nations (UN) divided Palestine into two states, one Jewish, and the other Arab. When the independent state of Israel was declared on May 15, 1948, the Arab forces of Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Transjordan advanced into Palestine. After the ensuing war in 1949, the West Bank came under Jordanian rule, the Gaza Strip came under Egyptian rule, and the remainder of Palestine came under Israeli rule. Many, but not all, Palestinian Arabs fled abroad during this time. In 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed in Jerusalem. Yasser Arafat became the head of the PLO in 1969.
In a June 1967 war, Israel captured the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Also in that year, Israel annexed East Jerusalem. The West Bank and Gaza Strip have since been called the Occupied Territories. Most of the residents there are Palestinian Arabs. December 1987 marked the beginning of the Intifada—an ongoing popular uprising of Palestinians against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Israeli government and the PLO signed the Declaration of Principles (DOP) in September 1993, resolving that Israeli troops would leave the West Bank and Gaza Strip areas. In 1994, limited Palestinian self-rule was established in Jericho and the Gaza Strip. Fighting continues over the question of a fully independent Palestinian homeland.
2 • LOCATION
There are more than 4.5 million Palestinians in the world. About 2 million of them live in Israel and the Occupied Territories—the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Most of the rest live in neighboring Arab countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The UN lists 2 million Palestinian refugees. During the war years of 1947–49, between 700,000 and 800,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes. When Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, another 300,000 Palestinians became refugees (and 150,000 who were already refugees were forced to move again).
3 • LANGUAGE
Palestinians speak Arabic. "Hello" in Arabic is marhaba or ahlan, to which one replies, marhabtayn or ahlayn. Other common greetings are As-salam alaykum (Peace be with you), with the reply of wa 'alaykum as salam (and to you peace). Ma'assalama means "goodbye," with the literal translation being "go with peace." "Thank you" is Shukran, and "You're welcome" is 'Afwan. "Yes" is na'am, and "no" is la'a. The numbers one to ten in Arabic are: wahad, ithnayn, thalatha, arba'a, khamsa, sita, sab'a, thamanya, tis'a, and 'ashara.
Common names for boys are Ahmad, Shukri, Ismàil, and Ibrahim. Muhammad is a very common Muslim name. Hanna is a very common Christian name. Ìsa (Jesus) is used by both Muslims and Christians. Common names for girls are Samia, Sawsan, Maysoon, Muna, and Fatima. On rare occasions girls are given politically significant names such as Al-Quds (Jerusalem).
4 • FOLKLORE
Palestinians believe in jinns— evil spirits who can take on the shapes of natural forms and cause trouble.
A famous fictional character is Juha. School children read about Juha's exploits in fables that teach lessons. For example, in one story Juha buries a treasure in the ground and tries to remember its whereabouts by remembering the clouds that hover over it. Naturally, he loses his treasure because clouds move about and disappear.
Many Muslim stories cherished by Palestinians are similar to those in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The stories of Noah and the Ark and Adam and Eve are important to both Muslim and Christian Palestinians. Palestinians take pride in the true story of the capture of Jerusalem by Arab Muslims in the seventh century.
5 • RELIGION
Most Palestinians—75 percent—are Muslim (followers of Islam), the majority belonging to the Sunni sect. In the seventh century ad, the prophet Muhammad received his revelations from Allah, the one true God (according to Islam). Within just a few years of Muhammad's death in ad 632, Islam had spread through the entire Middle East, gaining converts at a rapid rate.
Mecca is the spiritual center of Islam. All prayers are said facing Mecca. Each Muslim is expected, and greatly desires, to make a pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime.
About 17 percent of Palestinians are Christian, and some 8 percent are Druze. Both Christians and Muslims have holy sites in Palestine that are visited by pilgrims from around the world.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
Islam uses a lunar calendar, so Muslim holidays occur on a different date of the Gregorian (Western) calendar each year. The major Muslim holidays are 'Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan (a three-day festival); 'Eid al-Adha, a feast at the end of the hajj (the pilgrimage month to Mecca); the First of Muharram, the Muslim New Year; and the prophet Muhammad's birthday.
The two major holidays, 'Eid al-Fitr and 'Eid al-Adha, are celebrated by visiting close friends and relatives throughout the day. At least one family member, usually the mother, remains home to greet guests, and the rest of the family travels from home to home, delivering holiday greetings. Children are usually showered with money from most of the adults they encounter. At every home, pastries called Kàk al-Id are served. These are made of flour and butter and are stuffed with either walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar, or with dates. After baking, they are sprinkled with powdered sugar. During the three-day 'Eid celebration, everyone eats lots of kàk.
The Christian holiday of Easter is also moveable, being calculated on a lunar basis. It always occurs sometime during March or early April. Other Christian holidays are: the Day of the Ascension (May 15); the Feast of the Assumption (August 15); and Christmas and Boxing Day (December 25 and 26). New Year's Day (January 1) is a secular (nonreligious) holiday, not a Christian holiday, and many Muslims also celebrate this day.
In 1977, an International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (November 29) was declared as a political observance. Some politically significant events are observed each year by a general strike and demonstrations. Two examples are November 2, in protest over the 1917 Balfour Declaration (in which the British government promoted the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine); and May 15, in protest over the declaration of the state of Israel.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
Male children are circumcised and the family holds a great feast to celebrate the occasion. Marriage is another important rite of passage. A simple wedding is followed by a huge feast and celebration attended by family and friends who bring gifts. Childbirth is considered an important function of marriage. The Islamic religion favors having children, and, in addition, Palestinians feel that reproduction is an important nationalist (patriotic) duty.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
When two Palestinians greet one another they usually shake hands. It is also common for two women to kiss one another on the cheeks in greeting.
Palestinians are known for their hospitality. Neighbors have very friendly relations and look out for one another's interests. Because Palestinians tend to stay in one house or apartment for their entire lives, neighbors establish lifelong relationships.
Palestinian society is very conservative by Western standards. Dating, as it is understood in the West, is not tolerated. If a man and woman are interested in one another, it is customary for the man to first declare his intentions to the woman's family. Dating to socialize or get to know one another is not allowed; the intent must be marriage. However, it is becoming more common for a couple to court before approaching the woman's family.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
Palestinians live in a variety of conditions—from refugee camps to comfortable, middle-class (or even wealthy) homes in modern towns and cities. Traditional villages have one-story houses made of white stone, with a kitchen, a room for bathing, a liwan (sitting room) for receiving guests, and a few small rooms for sleeping. Houses are often surrounded by small gardens separated from the street by a high wall (called a sur ) with a gate. Wealthier families have indoor plumbing and electricity. Other families get their water from local wells and cook on small charcoal stoves.
Refugee camps set up by the UN Relief Workers Agency provide small, cement-block huts with corrugated metal roofs and doors. Some do not have running water or electricity.
10 • FAMILY LIFE
The family is the central unit of Palestinian society. Traditional village life used to be regulated by the hamula —a male-dominated extended family system, or clan-based operation. The hamula is disappearing as ancestral clan-controlled lands are taken away or lost. Nevertheless, families continue to be very important.
Arranged marriages are still the norm in some places. Marriage by individual choice is becoming common in other areas, however. This is the case especially as more males and females meet in universities, which are all coeducational. Child-marriage and polygamy (multiple spouses) still occur, although not in great numbers.
Palestinians have one of the highest birth rates in the world. Children are taught to use good manners and to respect their elders. Women are expected to fulfill the traditional role of homemaker. They are beginning to break out of these roles, however. Under Israeli occupation, many men were arrested by the military government for political activities hostile to the state of Israel. Women were forced to fill in for men held in prison. Women thus assumed jobs and became heads of households. Having attained prominent social and professional roles, many women now insist on equality of the sexes.
11 • CLOTHING
Palestinians of the older generation still wear traditional clothing. Men wear a long loose robe called a jallabiyeh and the common Arab headscarf, or kaffiyeh, held in place with a twisted band called an ogaal. Women wear a long black peasant dress (known as a thob ) with an embroidered bodice, and a shawl over the head and shoulders.
Most younger Palestinians wear Western-style clothing, with traditional head-scarves covering the hair for young women. Religiosity has increased during the years of the Intifada (or "uprising"), beginning in 1987. This has been reflected in an increase in religious attire, known as sharì a clothing or jilbab, for young women. This is a long jacketlike dress that covers the entire body. A scarf is worn on the head to cover the hair.
12 • FOOD
Palestinians eat typical Middle Eastern food, such as falafel (deep-fried chickpea balls or patties), hummus (ground chickpeas with garlic, lemon juice), tahini (a sesame paste), lamb, chicken, rice, nuts, and eggplant. A favorite Palestinian candy is halvah, a sweet nougat made of sesame seeds and honey. For eating meals, some rural Palestinians sit on mats or cushions around a cloth laid on the floor and scoop up their food with pieces of pita bread, called khubz. They drink lots of strong black Turkish coffee. A recipe for khubz follows.
- 2 teaspoons dry yeast
- 2½ cups warm water
- 5 to 6 cups whole wheat flour
- or 3 cups whole wheat and 2 to 3 cups white flour
- or 5 to 6 cups white flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
Dissolve yeast in half a cup of warm water. Cover and let sit until yeast ferments, about 10 minutes. Stir 3 cups of flour, salt, dissolved yeast, and remaining 2 cups of water in a large bread bowl or mixing bowl. Add remaining 2 to 3 cups of flour in small portions, kneading well with the hands after each addition. Keep adding flour until the dough holds together well and stops sticking to your hands. Knead very well on a lightly floured surface for 8 to 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Wrap the entire bowl, including the bottom, in a blanket or heavy towel, and allow dough to rise until doubled in size, about 2 to 3 hours.
On a lightly floured surface, cut the dough into 8 balls. Cover the balls and let rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F. While the oven is heating, use a rolling pin to flatten each ball of dough into a circle about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) thick and 8 to 9 inches (20 to 25 centimeters) in diameter.
Beginning with the first loaf you rolled, set each loaf directly on the oven rack. You can bake two loaves at a time, one on each rack. When the loaves begin to brown, turn them so that they brown evenly on both sides (about 3 minutes per side). (If you find it difficult to drop the dough directly onto the oven shelf, use a pizza pan or a pizza stone to put the loaf on.)
As each loaf comes out of the oven, wrap it in a clean cloth or towel to keep it soft until the baking process is complete. After the loaves have cooled, store in plastic bags.
Other Palestinian favorites are zucchini and grape leaves, both stuffed with a rice-and-meat mixture. Palestinians also enjoy olive oil and preserved olives, which are harvested in the summer and are eaten year-round. Almonds, plums, apples, cherries, and lemons are enjoyed in many households fresh off the trees in family gardens. Pork is prohibited in the Muslim religion, as is alcohol. Many Palestinians are Christian, however, so alcoholic beverages are served in some restaurants and sold in some stores, generally in urban centers.
13 • EDUCATION
Education is highly valued, and families compare the grades of their children. The highest achievers are noted in newspapers. Palestinian children attend schools similar to those in the West. Children begin school in kindergarten and attend elementary, preparatory, and high school. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) runs schools for refugee children. The majority of Palestinian children attend free public schools. All girls, whether in UNRWA, public, or private schools, wear uniforms. Boys dress as they wish within limits reflecting the social norms. Palestinians have the highest percentage of university graduates in the Arab world.
The average literacy (ability to read and write) rate for Palestinians is 70 percent.
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
Traditional Palestinian dancing is separated by sex. Men dance in a semicircle with their arms around each other or holding hands as they perform the dabka. Dancers circle the dance floor following the instructions of a designated leader. Women also perform the dabka, and in professional performances men and women do dance the dabka together.
Contemporary Palestinian writers include historian and essayist Edward Said, a Palestinian-American. A famous Palestinian poet and short-story writer is Ghassan Kanafani. His poetry and stories, like much Palestinian literature, feature themes of protest against the Israeli occupation and memories of times predating the occupation. Other famous Palestinians include the poet Mahmoud Darwish; Sabri Jiryis, a radio personality and writer; and the painter Jammana al-Husseni.
15 • EMPLOYMENT
It is difficult for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to find work. Unemployment is a serious problem among the many refugees. When they do find jobs, they are often paid low wages. Many Palestinians from Gaza, and some from the West Bank, cross over into Israel for employment. In Israel, they hold low-wage jobs as restaurant waiters, street cleaners, construction workers, and dishwashers. Since the signing of the DOP (September 1993), the borders between Israel and the Palestinians have often been closed. This causes extreme hardship for the Palestinians who once relied on Israel for jobs.
Under Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995, discussions were underway to develop an industrial complex along the borders to solve the unemployment problem. Under the new government led by Benjamin Netanyahu (1996), it is not yet clear if this goal will be pursued.
16 • SPORTS
Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have little time or space for organized sports activities. However, soccer is popular and is played in schools and during free time in the many fields of the West Bank. There has been little attention given to organized, professional sporting events.
17 • RECREATION
Informal, streetside games of soccer are popular among Palestinians. They also enjoy listening to poetry and music, and playing the very popular Middle Eastern version of backgammon. Men smoke the narghila, or water-pipe (like a hookah ) at corner cafés and coffeehouses. Only men go to coffeehouses, where they socialize, make business deals, and play cards and back-gammon.
Children play hopscotch, jump rope, and play marbles on the sidewalks.
Palestinians watch television programs broadcast from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and sometimes Syria. One of the favorite television characters is Ghawar al-Tosheh, a Syrian comedic character who often criticizes government policies in his storylines. On Fridays, the noon prayer is broadcast on television for Muslims.
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
Some Palestinians are skilled in the art of calligraphy (decorative lettering). They sketch verses from the Koran (the sacred text of Islam) in beautiful designs. Other artists draw pictures of political protest, mostly against the occupation. One popular pastime is to memorize and recite verses of the Koran. Children begin this practice at an early age, and it continues through adulthood. Women often sit on their front porches knitting for their families, or cross-stitching or embroidering the bodices for their traditional dresses. They also cross-stitch items for craft shows, such as wall decorations or Koranic verses. Other crafts include making jewelry boxes, crosses, scenes of the Last Supper, camels, mosques, and other items made of olive wood or ivory.
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
The main social problem for Palestinians is the decades-long war with Israel over rights to the Palestinian homeland. Palestinians are people without a country. At best they live as displaced persons, and at worst as refugees in crowded camps. Younger generations of Palestinians have never known a time when their people were at peace. They grow up with a consciousness shaped by conflict and violence. The PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) and the Israeli government signed the Declaration of Principles in 1993, and limited Palestinian self-rule began in 1994. However, the agreement is opposed by extremists on both sides, and the peace that exists is very shaky. The Palestinian fight for an independent homeland, whose tempo increased with the Intifada begun in December 1987, continues. The casualties are enormous, and the problems—physical, social, psychological, and spiritual—caused by the continual unrest are too numerous to count.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY
Ganeri, Anita. Why We Left: I Remember Palestine. Austin, Tex.: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1995.
Melrod, George, ed. Insight Guides: Israel. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
Stannard, Dorothy, ed. Insight Guides: Jordan. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
ArabNet. Palestine. [Online] Available http://www.arab.net/palestine/palestine_contents.html, 1998.
Embassy of Israel, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available http://www.israelemb.org/, 1998.
World Travel Guide. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/il/gen.html, 1998.
Excerpt from "Israel/Occupied Territories"
Written by Amnesty International
Provided on Amnesty International's Human Rights Concerns Web site http://www.amnestyusa.org/countries/israel_and_occupied_territories/document.do?id=ar&yr=2005
Asmall piece of land located along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea is the center of a long-standing conflict between Arabs and Jews. Rooted in thousands of years of history, the controversy focuses on which group can rightfully claim the territory as its homeland.
Depending on which people had control of the land at a particular time, it has been called various names such as Palestine, Israel, and Judea. At the start of the twenty-first century, the land was known as Israel and was controlled by the Jewish people. Israel also gained control of nearby territories following its 1967 war with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The control was regarded by many as unlawful occupation by the Israelis.
"Palestinians had to obtain special permits from the Israeli army to move … within the West Bank and were barred from … roads which were freely used by Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories."
Israel and its occupied territories are, in total, about the size of the state of Maryland, or 10,000 square miles. The occupied territories included the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Golan Heights. Gaza Strip is located on Israel's southwestern coast. West Bank is located to the west of the Jordan River, hence its identification as the West Bank. The West Bank territory is located within east-central Israel and includes the Old City of Jerusalem, sometimes called East Jerusalem. Golan Heights is territory in the far northeastern corner of Israel adjacent to the Syrian border. Between 1948 when the state of Israel was established and the 1967 Six Day War when Israel gained the territories, Gaza was administered by Egypt, the West Bank was united with Jordan, and the Golan Heights was administered by Syria.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch
Both Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) are organizations dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights of people around the world. Supporting the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights written in 1948, both groups focus on preventing and halting physical and mental abuse, call for freedom of expression, and an end to prejudice and discrimination.
Established in the mid-twentieth century, AI had over 1.8 million members representing over 150 countries and territories by the beginning of the twenty-first century. AI is independent of any government or economic interest, and promotes no political agenda or religion. Its sole concern is protection of the rights of the world's people. To this end, it publishes a widely distributed annual report on the condition of human rights in countries of the world.
Human Rights Watch, based in the United States but with offices worldwide, investigates human rights abuses wherever they occur and then publishes their findings in widely read reports. Several watch groups united in 1988 to form the present-day organization. HRW, a nongovernmental organization, challenges governments and leaders to end human rights abuses and adhere to the Universal Declaration. HRW reports on their Web site (http://www.hrw.org) that they "have exposed abuses by government and rebels; by Hutu and Tutsi [in Rwanda]; by Serb, Croat, Bosniak Muslim, and Kosovar Albanian [in the former Yugoslavia]; by Israelis and Palestinians; by Christians and Muslims in the islands of Indonesia and sands of the Sudan." HRW also reports on human rights abuses carried out by the United States both within and outside the country.
Extremely complex, the Arab-Israeli conflict is based in religion and the desire to have a secure homeland. Arabs who live in Israel and its territories are called Palestinian Arabs. Palestinian Arabs are followers of Islam, therefore they are Muslims. Those called Israelis are Jews. Because Palestinian Arabs and Israelis feel that they are entitled to a nation on the same land, each group demonstrates its hatred and distrust for the other. Their attitudes are expressions of prejudice so deeply held that Palestinian Arabs and Israelis often participate in horrific acts of violence against each other. Between September 2000, the beginning of an intifada (uprising against each other) and a ceasefire called in 2005, Human Rights Watch, an international organization dedicated to protecting people's rights, reported Israel had killed three thousand Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza, including at least six hundred children. Palestinian fighters had killed more than nine hundred Israelis. Most killed on both sides were civilians. The following is an excerpt from the 2005 annual report on Israel's occupied territories by Amnesty International, another international human rights organization.
Things to remember while reading excerpts from "Israel/Occupied Territories":
- During the first half of the twentieth century, the land so violently contested in the early twenty-first century was known as Palestine and inhabited largely by Arabs. As a result of the Holocaust (mass killing of European Jews and others by the Nazis) carried out during World War II (1939–45) when Nazi Germany murdered six million European Jews, the United Nations (UN—an international organization created to resolve international disputes) passed Resolution 187 in 1947. Resolution 187 divided Palestine into two new states, one for a secure Jewish homeland and one for Arabs.
- The Jewish people declared an independent state of Israel in 1948, igniting a war against its Arab neighbors. Defeating the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq by 1949, Israel established its borders, displacing approximately seven hundred thousand Palestinian Arabs from their home. Israel has been in conflict with the Arab world ever since.
- While the Arab-Israeli conflict is a struggle over a small piece of land with few natural resources, it has ignited hatred of Israel throughout the Middle East and countries where Islam is the predominant religion. The struggle between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis has at times caused the world's most powerful nations to choose sides against each other, threatening a global conflict.
Excerpt from "Israel/Occupied Territories"
Amnesty International (AI) 2005 Annual Report: Israel/Occupied Territories.
Killings and attacks by the Israeli army
The Israeli army killed around 700 Palestinians, including some 150 children, in the Occupied Territories, most of them unlawfully. Many were killed in deliberate as well as reckless shooting, shelling and bombardment of densely populated residential areas or as a result of excessive use of force. Some 120 Palestinians were killed in extrajudicial executions, including more than 30 bystanders, of whom four were children. Others were killed in armed clashes with Israeli soldiers. Thousands of others were injured.
- Four Palestinian schoolgirls were shot dead by the Israeli army in their classrooms or walking to school in the Gaza Strip in September and October. Raghda Adnan al-Assar and Ghadeer Jaber Mukhaymar, aged 10 and nine, were shot dead by Israeli soldiers while sitting at their desks in UN schools in Khan Yunis refugee camp. Eight-year-old Rania Iyad Aram was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as she was walking to school. On 5 October Israeli soldiers shot dead 13-year-old Iman al-Hams near her school in Rafah….
- Ten-year-old Walid Naji Abu Qamar, 11-year-old Mubarak Salim al-Hashash, 13-year-old MahmoudTariq Mansour and five others were killed on 19 May in Rafah in the Gaza Strip when the Israeli army opened fire with tank shells and a helicopter-launched missile on a non-violent demonstration. Dozens of other unarmed demonstrators were also wounded in the attack.
Israeli soldiers continued to use Palestinians as "human shields" during military operations, forcing them to carry out tasks that endangered their lives, despite an injunction by the Israeli High Court banning the practice. A petition against the use of "human shields" submitted by Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations to the Supreme Court in May 2002 was still pending at the end of 2004.
- In April, Israeli soldiers used 13-year-old Muhammed Badwan as a "human shield" during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Biddu. The soldiers placed the boy on the hood of their jeep and tied him to the front windscreen to discourage Palestinian demonstrators from throwing stones in their direction.
Killings and attacks by Palestinian armed groups
Sixty-seven Israeli civilians, including eight children, were killed by Palestinian armed groups in Israel and in the Occupied Territories. Forty-seven of the victims were killed in suicide bombings, the others were killed in shooting or mortar attacks. Most of the attacks were claimed by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Fatah, and by the armed wing of Hamas. Forty-two Israeli soldiers were also killed by Palestinian armed groups, most of them in the Occupied Territories.
- Chana Anya Bunders, Natalia Gamril, Dana Itach, Rose Bona and Anat Darom and six other Israelis were killed on 29 January when a Palestinian man blew himself up on a bus in Jerusalem. More than 50 other people were wounded in the attack. The suicide bombing was claimed by both the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the armed wing of Hamas.
- Tali Hatuel, who was eight months pregnant, and her four young daughters, Hila, Hadar, Roni and Meirav, aged between two and 11, were shot dead in the Gaza Strip while travelling by car near the Gush Katif settlement block where they lived. They were shot at close range by Palestinian gunmen who had opened fire on their car and caused it to careen off the road….
Attacks by Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories
Israeli settlers stepped up attacks against Palestinians and their property throughout the West Bank and also increased attacks on international human rights activists. They destroyed and damaged trees owned by Palestinians and frequently prevented Palestinian farmers from harvesting their crops.
On 27 September, an Israeli settler shot dead Sayel Jabara, a Palestinian taxi driver, as he was driving his passengers between Nablus and Salem. The settler claimed that he shot Sayel Jabara because he thought that he might attack him, even though Sayel Jabara was not armed. The settler was released on bail less than 24 hours after the killing.
In September and October Israeli settlers, wearing hoods and armed with stones, wooden clubs and metal chains, assaulted two US citizens, members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), and AI delegates as they escorted Palestinian primary school children to school near Tuwani village in the Hebron area. CPT members Kim Lamberty sustained a broken arm and knee as well as bruising, and her colleague Chris Brown sustained a punctured lung and multiple bruises. The attackers came from the Israeli settlement of Havat Máon and returned there after the attacks. Israeli settlers from Havat Máon continued to attack Palestinian children on their way to school with impunity.
Most members of the Israeli army and security forces continued to enjoy impunity. Investigations, prosecutions and convictions for human rights violations were rare. In the overwhelming majority of the thousands of cases of unlawful killings and other grave human rights violations committed by Israeli soldiers in the previous four years, no investigations were known to have been carried out.
Israeli settlers also enjoyed impunity for attacks on Palestinians and their property and international human rights workers. The Israeli army and police consistently failed to take steps to stop and prevent such attacks and routinely increased restrictions on the local Palestinian population in response to attacks by Israeli settlers.
Destruction of Palestinian property in the Occupied Territories
The Israeli army carried out large-scale destruction of Palestinian houses and property in the Occupied Territories, far exceeding the destruction of previous years. It demolished several hundred homes, mostly in the Gaza Strip, making thousands of Palestinians homeless, and destroyed large areas of agricultural land, roads and water, electricity and communications infrastructure. Such destruction was often a form of collective punishment on the local population in retaliation for attacks by Palestinian armed groups. The army usually gave no warning of the impending destruction and inhabitants were forced to flee their homes without being able to salvage their possessions. UN agencies and humanitarian organizations were unable to respond to the needs of tens of thousands of Palestinians whose homes had been destroyed by the Israeli army over the previous four years.
- In May the Israeli army destroyed some 300 homes and damaged some 270 other buildings in Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, making nearly 4,000 people homeless in the space of a few days. Several people were trapped in their homes when Israeli army bulldozers began to tear down the houses and had to drill holes in the back walls to escape. Thousands of other residents also fled their homes, fearing imminent destruction. UN schools had to be used as temporary shelters for the homeless. The mass destruction came in the wake of an attack by Palestinian gunmen in which five Israeli soldiers were killed….
Collective punishment, closures and violations of economic and social rights
The Israeli army continued to impose stringent restrictions on the movements of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Military checkpoints and blockades around Palestinian towns and villages hindered or prevented access to work, education and medical facilities and other crucial services. Restrictions on the movement of Palestinians remained the key cause of high rates of unemployment and poverty. More than half of the Palestinian population lived below the poverty line, with increasing numbers suffering from malnutrition and other health problems.
Palestinians had to obtain special permits from the Israeli army to move between towns and villages within the West Bank and were barred from main roads and many secondary roads which were freely used by Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories. Movement restrictions for Palestinians were routinely increased in reprisal for attacks by Palestinian armed groups and during Jewish holidays. Further restrictions were also imposed on the movement of international human rights and humanitarian workers throughout the Occupied Territories.
The Israeli army routinely used excessive and unwarranted force to enforce blockades and movement restrictions. Soldiers frequently fired recklessly towards unarmed Palestinians, ill-treated, humiliated and arbitrarily detained Palestinian men, women and children, and confiscated or damaged vehicles. Sick people needing to reach medical facilities were often delayed or denied passage at checkpoints.
Continued construction by Israel of a fence/wall through the West Bank left an increasing number of Palestinians cut off from health, education and other essential services in nearby towns and villages and from their farm land—a main source of subsistence for Palestinians in this region. Large areas of Palestinian land were encircled by the fence/wall and Palestinians living or owning land in these areas had to obtain special permits from the Israeli army to move in and out of their homes and land….
Detainees and releases
Thousands of Palestinians were detained by the Israeli army. Most were released without charge. More than 3,000 were charged with security offences. Trials before military courts often did not meet international standards of fairness, and allegations of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees were not adequately investigated. Some 1,500 Palestinians were detained administratively without charge or trial during the year….
Violence against women
The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women visited the Occupied Territories in June to gather information on the impact of the occupation and conflict on women. She concluded that the conflict had disproportionately affected Palestinian women in the Occupied Territories, in both the public and private spheres of life. In addition to the women killed or injured by Israeli forces, Palestinian women were particularly negatively affected by the demolition of their homes and restrictions on movement, which hampered their access to health services and education, and by the sharp increase in poverty. The dramatic increase in violence as a result of the conflict also led to an increase in domestic and societal violence, while at the same time there were increased demands on women as carers [caretakers] and providers.
In August the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called for the revocation of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, passed the previous year and extended for six months in July. The law institutionalized racial discrimination. It barred Israeli Arab citizens married to Palestinians from the Occupied Territories from living with their spouses in Israel, and forced families to either live apart or leave the country altogether.
AI delegations visited Israel and the Occupied Territories in May, September and October.
What happened next …
Following the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (1929–2004) in November 2004, Mahamoud Abbas was elected Palestinian president and participated in talks with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon (1928–) in 2005. By late 2005, in an unprecedented and encouraging move, Sharon ordered eight thousand Israeli settlers to move out of the Gaza Strip and four small communities in the West Bank near Jenin. On January 4, 2006, Sharon suffered a massive stroke and fell into a prolonged coma. Ehud Olmert served as acting prime minister in his place.
Also in January 2006, Palestinian parliamentary elections were held. Palestinian Arabs elected members of the Hamas Party to a majority of the parliamentary seats. Hamas, considered a terrorist group by many countries, still retained the view that justice and peace could be established in the Middle East only by destroying the state of Israel. The chance for peace seemed greatly reduced unless Hamas moderated its stance and recognized Israel's right to exist.
In late 2006 Hamas had not altered its position against Israel. Countries that had previously sent money to the Palestinian government to support the Palestinian Arabs had halted payment until Hamas moderated its position. The economy of the area was greatly suffering.
Did you know …
- Referring to the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Golan Heights as "occupied territories" is highly controversial. Palestinian Arabs refer to these territories as unlawfully occupied by Israelis. They characterize Israel as a foreign occupier. Israel on the other hand views the territories as land taken in self-defense during the 1967 war. Israelis believe they have the right to settle the territories.
- Much of the world's oil reserves are found within the borders of Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and the Muslim country of Iran (Iranians are Persian, not Arab, but support the Arab cause because they share the Muslim religion.) These countries support the Palestinian Arab cause. Since many Western countries such as the United States, Great Britain, and France depend on Middle East oil for their energy needs, they are forced to give attention to difficulties faced by the Palestinian Arabs even though they overwhelmingly support Israel's claim of a right to a secure existence.
- Israeli officials frequently place restrictions on movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, such as road closures and setting up checkpoints. These restrictions impede Palestinian Arabs access to employment, healthcare, education, and other services. Restrictions contribute to severe poverty, unemployment, and hunger among Palestinian Arabs.
Consider the following …
- A conclusion as to whether Arabs or Israelis have a stronger set of claims to the area known as Israel depends in part on one's own view of the area's history going back several thousand years. Divide into groups, review historic claims, and debate this most complex topic.
- The two basic peace initiatives at the start of the twenty-first century were the Geneva Accord of November 2003 written by representatives of Palestinian Arabs and Israelis and the Road Map to Peace of 2002 initiated by the United States. Research each and comment how each is faring.
- In April 2002, Israel began construction of a security barrier, a high wall, to keep Palestinian Arabs intent on causing harm to Israelis from crossing into Israel from the West Bank. Do you think this will provide more security to Israelis? How might this affect Palestinian Arabs who must cross the area for jobs or school?
For More Information
Cattan, Henry. The Palestine Question. New York: Croom Helm, 1988.
Lesch, Ann M. and Dan Tschirgi. Origins and Development of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.
"Israel/Occupied Territories." Amnesty International's Human Rights Concerns. http://www.amnestyusa.org/countries/israel_and_occupied_territories/document.do?id=ar&yr=2005 (accessed on December 12, 2006).
Extrajudicial: Not approved by courts.
Injunction: Court order.
Petition: Written request signed by a number of people.
Bail: Payment guaranteeing the person will show up when requested.
With impunity: Without punishment.
Infrastructure: Public developments such as roads, airports, and bridges.
Reprisal: Retaliation against an enemy.
Disproportionately: Unjustly severe.
Historically, the term “Palestinian” has been associated with the inhabitants of the south of ancient Syria west of the Jordan River between Lebanon and Sinai. The name “Palestinian” is related to the “Philistines,” an Indo-European group that invaded the southern coast of ancient Syria from the sea in the fourteenth century BCE. The Palestinians, however, are descendants of the Canaanites, a Semitic group that migrated from the Arabian Peninsula between 3000 and 2500 BCE and settled the coastal areas of Palestine. The Arabic language and Islamic religion spread among the Palestinians with the Arab migrations from the Arabian Peninsula between 630 and 650 CE. Throughout four hundred years of Muslim Ottoman rule, Palestinians maintained an Arab identity and included Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Palestinian population was composed of a Muslim Sunni majority and minority populations of Christians (10 percent) and Jews (less than 5 percent).
After World War I (1914–1918), the Palestinians were provisionally recognized as independent under a British mandate that was supposed to provide advice and maintain their status quo until self-rule. The British, however, began to resettle European Jews in Palestine as a way of supporting the Zionist solution to the Jewish question created by the anti-Semitism of Europe. The increase in the European Jewish population from 4.8 percent in 1882 to 28 percent in 1936 created economic hardships for the indigenous population because the lands purchased were in the arable, coastal, and urban centers of Palestine. Moreover, the uneven economic policies of the British that favored the Jewish sector increased Palestinian unemployment, rural outmigrations, landlessness, and thus a cheap labor force. Palestinian discontent culminated in a general strike and protests between 1936 and 1939, which were brutally suppressed by the British army and the Jewish militia.
Palestinian lives have been shaped since mid-twentieth century by two main events, their repercussions, and the attempted solutions: Al Nakba (Arabic for “the catastrophe”) of 1948, which marked Palestinian dispossession and exile coinciding with the establishment of the Israeli state; and Al Naksa (Arabic for “the tragedy”) of 1967, which marked the beginning of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. Al Nakba caused the exodus of 750,000 Palestinians from the land on which the state of Israel was established into the nearby Arab countries of Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; and Al Naksa created an additional 350,000 refugees who fled to Jordan, of whom 15,000 were allowed to return. The indigenous Palestinian population that remained on the land under Israeli control was put under military rule until 1966 and was later incorporated into Israeli society as a minority with citizenship but not equality.
After 1948 Palestinian society emerged divided between the West Bank, a kidney-shaped area of approximately 2,270 square miles whose population doubled with the arrival of refugees, and the Gaza Strip, a tiny strip of land of approximately 140 square miles absorbing a refugee population that outnumbered its inhabitants. Between 1948 and 1967, the Palestinians in the West Bank, annexed then by Jordan, could get Jordanian passports listing their citizenship as Jordanian, while the Palestinians in Gaza, under Egyptian rule, were given Egyptian travel documents listing their nationality as undetermined.
The Palestinians in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were united after 1967 through their status as occupied subjects sharing a history under Israeli occupation while struggling against its oppressive conditions. The contention included a guerrilla resistance in the first couple of years of occupation in the refugee camps of Gaza. It was suppressed when the camps were subjected to martial law. Sporadic protests took place in the 1970s and 1980s, a mass uprising took place in 1987, and a second uprising began in 2000.
Under occupation, all aspects of Palestinian life were subject to the Israeli military authorities’ approval, from economic activity to the right of movement, and monitored through a hierarchically ordered color-coded identity card system—to be carried at all times—differentiating Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem (blue), the West Bank (orange), and the Gaza Strip (red). The Palestinians of East Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel after the 1967 war while remaining integral to the West Bank, were assigned the status of residents, situating them hierarchically above occupied subjects but lower than citizens. Nonetheless, the mid-1990s uncovered their shaky status when the Israeli government demanded that East Jerusalemites prove that the center of their activities continued to revolve around the city if they wanted to keep their residency rights. The residency status of close to two thousand East Jerusalemites was revoked.
The Palestinian economy, underdeveloped on the eve of the 1967 war, deteriorated under the Israeli occupation policies of control of mobility of Palestinian labor and commodities and confiscation of land for building and expanding Israeli Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. By 1993, a survey of living conditions found that Palestinian households in the territories are mostly dependent on wage labor. Moreover, Palestinians preferred to work in Israel because of higher wages even as they are paid less than the average wages of the Jewish workers. Under a general exit system in 1967, Palestinians could cross the border to work as day laborers but were not allowed to stay after sunset. Thus, Palestinian chances for making a living in the territories largely have depended on Israeli border policies since 1967.
Peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis to end the occupation started in 1993 yet coincided with Israel closing its border and imposing a permit policy restricting Palestinian movement with repercussions for Palestinian livelihood. Although the peace process brought a Palestinian National Authority to Gaza and Jericho and redeployed the Israeli military from main Palestinian towns, it did not end Israeli control. Israel retained 59 percent of the West Bank lands and 20 percent of the Gaza Strip, and maintained security control over most of the West Bank. In the years following the arrival of the Palestinian Authority to the territories in 1994, Palestinians faced more mobility restrictions—between Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, within the West Bank. Additionally, the construction of a wall between the West Bank and Israel has had significant consequences for Palestinian social life.
SEE ALSO Arab League, The; Arab-Israeli War of 1967; Intifada, The; Islam, Shia and Sunni; Muslims; Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); Palestinian Authority; Palestinian Diaspora; Peace Process; Suicide Bombers
Farsoun, Samih, and Christina E. Zacharia. 1997. Palestine and the Palestinians. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Heiberg, Marianne, and Geir Ovensen, eds. 1993. Palestinian Society in Gaza, West Bank, and Arab Jerusalem: A Survey of Living Conditions. Oslo, Norway: FAFO.
McDowall, David. 1998. The Palestinians: The Road to Nationhood. London: Minority Rights Group International.
Roy, Sara. 2001. The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of DeDevelopment, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestinian Studies.