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Palestine was, in recent history the British Mandate of Palestine, a territory incorporating modern day Jordan (as Trans-Jordan), Israel and the Palestinian Territories (as Palestine), and excluding much of the Golan heights but including a very thin (10 metre) strip of land around the northern and eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee and part of the Jordan River north of Galilee.

In current usage in the western world, it is often used as an shorthand to refer to the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, defined by the 1967 borders. Except when referring to events prior to 1967, all references to Palestine here should be taken to refer to these territories.

Physical Geography[edit]

Israel and Palestine as the situation currently stands. Map shows in the 1967 boundaries and the original 1948 partition boundary
Map of the Gaza Strip showing major population centres and crossing points. Since 2007 all crossing points have been closed except to limited aid shipments. Access by sea is prohibited.

Land and Terrain[edit]

The combined area of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is approx. 6220km2, divided up as follows:

West Bank Land Area: 5640km2[1]
West Bank Water Area: 220km2[1]
West Bank Shoreline: 37km,[2] Dead Sea (landlocked)
Gaza Strip Land Area: 360km2[1]
Gaza Strip Water Area: 0km2[1][3]
Gaza Strip Shoreline: 40km[1] Mediterranean sea.

The two territories are separated by Israel, but also by physical geography in the form of the Negev and Judean deserts, and as such have very different features. Gaza is a mostly flat, sandy coastal plain. The West Bank has a varied geography, ranging from land well below sea level in the east, to mountainous, rocky desert, and well watered, fertile lands in the west.

Climate, Water and Agriculture[edit]

Gaza has a hot desert climate, with an average of 116mm of rain per year, falling almost exclusively in winter. The average daytime maximum in January is 17c, with a night-time low of 7c. August is the warmest month, with average day-time of 33c and night-time low of 21c.[4]. As a result, agriculture in Gaza relies on artificial irrigation for most crops, though some vegetation survive naturally. Gaza sits on an aquifer that supplies most of its water needs.

The climate in the west bank is more varied, from an arid desert climate in the southern and eastern regions, to a more typical Mediterranean climate in the northern and western areas. Rainfall varies from almost non-existent in south-eastern areas, which form a part of the Judean Desert and Dead Sea shoreline, to 590mm for Ramallah and 550mm for Tulkaram, in the north-west. Broadly speaking, the West Bank region becomes wetter and flatter in the north and west, and drier and more rugged in the southern and eastern areas. The West Bank holds large underground aquifers, and is a part of what is known as the "fertile crescent" of the Middle East, which is a major factor in the ongoing conflict. The varying altitude also has the effect of generating micro-climates, including some extremely rare climatic conditions, such as in Ein Gedi on the Dead Sea, an arid hot desert locality with negligible rainfall and low levels of cloud cover, but also reduced UV exposure, due to its altitude well below sea level.

The Gaza Strip was connected north to south, and onto Egypt (south) and Israel (north) by rail, though the system is now completely inoperative and almost totally destroyed.

Historical Summary[edit]

The history of the region is complex, and what follows below is merely a summary of key events.

Pre WW1 Ottoman Province[edit]

Prior to the First World War, the historical area of the British Mandate of Palestine was all under a part of the Ottoman empire, and had been since 1516, with the exception of a few months in 1799, when occupied by Napoleon, and a ten year occupation by the Egyptians between 1831 and 1841. Prior to 1873, virtually the entire area was administered as part of the province of Syria. Following the internal reforms of that year it became split between three of the new smaller administrative units (wilayet). An arc stretching from Tel Aviv (then Jaffa) through Jericho to the Jordan fell under the wilayet of Beirut. Tel Aviv to the northern part of the Negev came under Jerusalem, whilst the southern regions were administered as part of Hejaz.[5]


In 1916 the British and French reached the Sykes Picot Agreement, dividing the Ottoman provinces of the Levant and Mesopotamia between British and French areas of direct control, along with there respective spheres of influence) in the event of a Turkish defeat.[6], whilst Palestine was to be an "international zone" (see map).

In 1917, the British government issues the Balfour Declaration, marking the first concrete action by the Great Powers of the day in creating what would become the Palestinian-Israeli conflict:

"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."[7]

With the victory of the Allied powers in WW1, and the creation of the League of Nations, it was determined that this "international zone" would be governed as a League of Nations mandate, which would be administered by the British [8], and the preamble of the text of the mandate made specific reference to the promises made in the Balfour Declaration, which were spelled out specifically, and in a legally binding international agreement for the first time:

"Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people..."
- The Palestine Mandate: Preamble[8] -

"The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion."
- The Palestine Mandate: Article 2[8] -

There was no consultation of Arab leaders about the mandate, nor of the Balfour declaration. Once it was agreed the mandate was to be administered by Britain, the latter was in effect free to act unilaterally in its dealing with the local population, provided that Allied (especially French) regional interests were not compromised.

The Mandate took affect in 1920. Though Jewish immigration to the area had begun in the late 19th century under the influence of the early Zionist movement, it now increased drastically, and the British supported a system of dual civil administrations by the Palestinians and Jewish newcomers. The Jewish newcomers were mostly, though not entirely, from industrialised societies in Europe and the New World, and the latest business and administrative practices and skills from these societies, and were often relatively well educated. They also often retained links with their former homeland, and thus had access to significant inward investment, managed by a centralised civil government for Jewish affairs, the Jewish Agency, and it's Haganah militia. This meant that a large wealth and organisational gap soon developed between the Palestinian and Jewish populations. Combined with the decision to create a Jewish homeland without consulting the local population, this led to the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939, which left slightly over 5,000 Palestinians dead, and 14,700 wounded.[9]

The Revolt, however, was not only suppressed, but was in itself a detriment to the Palestinian cause. With the Palestinians turning against the British, the latter responded by supporting and co-operating with the Haganah, whose strength in both numbers and effectiveness increased exponentially during the Revolt, effectively preparing it for the 1948 war, which was already seen as all but inevitable most parties.[9]


UN partition plan of 1947

World War II was a contradictory era in Palestine. In 1939 the British adopted the "White Paper" which restricted Jewish immigration into Palestine to 75,000 for the five year period from April 1939, and also restricted sales of land from Palestinians to Jews.[10]. This led directly to the coming of age of the Lohamei Herut Israel (LEHI) terrorist group (aka the Stern Gang) in 1939-1940, which primarily concerned with forcing the British out of Palestine. To this end, the group sought an alliance with Nazi Germany, and, from 1944, with another Zionist militia, Irgun. [11].

As a result of LEHI activity, Axis successes, and with the recent Aran Revolt still in mind, the British deemed that their least-worst option was back up Haganah. As a result Palmach division of Haganah was founded in 1941 with direct British aid.

Meanwhile, Mohd. Amin Al-Husseini, the former Mufti of Jerusalem, whom had been made Grand Mufti of Palestine by the British in the 1920's, in hope of forming a central Palestinian civil authority, had fled to Lebanon in 1937. During the war he too made contact with Nazi Germany, and appeared in Berlin in 1941, where he met personally with Hitler. He remained in Europe, but at some point either near the end, or immediately after the war ended in Europe, travelled to Egypt (being exiled from Palestine) and allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, which hoped to gain influence in the Mandate, to no avail.[12]

The British relied heavily on Haganah to contain the other Zionist militas, particularly Irgun, but by 1946 the British were rapidly loosing their grip on the territory, which was in effect descending into warlordism, despite maintaining what would now be called a "surge" of 100,000 troops, unaffordable to a country whose empire was in collapsing, and whose homeland was a bombed and bankrupted ruin. In 1947, Britain announced it would terminate the Mandate by May 15th, 1948.

On November 29th, 1947, the UN decided that with the end of the Mandate, Palestine would be partitioned into separate Jewish and Arab (Palestinian) states. The Arab High Committee (a department of the Arab League charged with handling Palestinian affairs) rejected the solution, and the situation on the ground slid inexorably toward toward civil war.


1948 War[edit]

A multinational Arab volunteer force, also containing a few European, Druze, Circassian and Turkish deserters. The force was known as the Arab Liberation Army, led by a former Lebanese officer of the Ottoman army, Fawzi al-Qawuqji. It was formed in February 1948, following a meeting of key Arab figures in Damascus. The force intervened ostensibly to aid the Palestinians, but primarily served Syrian interests by maintaining a façade of Syrian peace with the British, whilst still being able to militarily influence events within the Mandate, which were more concerned with pre-empting Jordanian intentions to annex much of the Mandate territory following the British withdrawal, as well as diverting Jewish attentions away from the Syrian frontier. In particular, Syria's rather ambitious plan included seizing the northern areas of Mandate (Galilee and Jordan River systems).

As a result of both the conflciting interests of the various powers involved in the formation of the army, and of over-optimistic recruitments targets (10,000 projected deployed fighters, versus a maximum of 6,500 achieved) the ALA was largely ineffectual in it's stated aim of depending Palestinian population centres, and by the time of Israel's declaration of independence on the 14th of May, over 300,000 Palestinians had fled their homes.

At this time, with the British now officially removed from the picture[13], and with most major players having dismissed the UN partition plan as dead in the water , the Arab states and Egypt launched a full scale invasion of Mandate-that-was. However, far from being a monolithic alignment against Israel, the conflict was multi-faceted, with numerous sidds having often competing aims, with the oft uttered cry of defending the Palestinians or of Arab Nationalism being little more than rhetoric, leaving the Palestinian civilians extremely vulnerable.

Israeli concerns were initially modest. Few observers, even Zionists, expected the proto-IDF to do anything more than survive. However, as the Arab and Egyptian forces pursued their own ends, IDF policy switched to taking advantage of the situation to annex outlying Jewish populations centres into Israeli territory, and eventually redraw the partition borders more in their favour. The fact that the Israelis had successfully joined their militias under one strategy and in effect into the IDF played a large part in their effectiveness. These objectives were broadly met, though the new boundaries ultimately proved to be no less prone to attack in the event of a break down in diplomacy.

Jordan, under King Abdullah I had no intention of embroiling itself in a war with Israel over the Jewish assigned part of the partition, and was seeking to form a strong hold over the West Bank, which would be annexed to Jordanian control. This had already been agreed with the Israelis at earlier meetings. Thus, by far the most powerful Arab military force never launched offensive action against Israeli territory, and limited herself to nominal defensive actions in Jerusalem in largely symbolic gestures of solidarity. From a strictly Jordanian point of view the war was a success, with East Jerusalem and the West Bank falling within Jordanian influence.

Egyptian strategy was less clear cut. Egypt was under no threat from the partition plan, and her logistical capabilities were unprepared and inadequate for large scale deployment outside of Egyptian territory. Nonetheless, the sheer size of the Egyptian military meant she deployed by far the largest number of troops (10,000 initially, ultimately over 20,000), and the most sophisticated hardware of all forces. At the end of the war Egyptian forces were left in control of just the Gaza strip, having previously into the Negev and along the Mediterranean coast to the vicinity of Ashdod. The failure of the Egyptian offensive, despite it's overwhelming superiority on paper ultimately led to the collapse of the Muhammed Ali Dynasty and the establishment of the republic.

Iraqi strategy was aimed at seizing Jewish settlements in the west of the territory, though the initial deployment of 3,000 soldiers was little more than a token gesture, and lacked clear strategic direction. Suffering major setbacks, the Iraqis opted to defend Arab population centres in the west.

Syria mainly stayed true to her previous interests, focusing on Galilee, the Golan and Jordan River regions, this time deploying directly in force, with around 15,000 troops but suffered from outdated aircraft leaving ground troops vulnerable. Syrian aims were not met, the armistice lines leaving Syrian control just metres away from the shores of the Sea of Galilee / Lake Tiberias.

Other nations, including Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen committed token forces to the war, but were included within the forces of the major players, and had no immediate strategic interests on the ground.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians themselves had no organised military force of their own besides a youth militia set up by Husayni, with no weapons beyond a handful of assault rifles. Local town and village defence volunteers were hastily formed by the ALA, but no large scale Palestinian force existed, essentially leaving the entire Palestinian territory and populace dependent on their needs dovetailing with the interests of Egypt or the various Arab states. In effect, for Palestine, the war had been lost before it even began.

Atrocities in 1948[edit]

The advances by Israeli forces led to their capturing large numbers of Palestinian areas. In several villages, Israeli militias carried of massacres of civilians, most famously at Deir Yassin and Beit Darras. At the former site, homes were attacked with mortars and grenades, and survivors taken prisoner and paraded through West Jerusalem, and later found dead in a disused quarry outside the city. The village had zero strategic importance, but details of the massacre were intentionally spread to the wider Palestinian population, leading many civilians to flee their land, allowing Israeli forces to advance easily and for the land to be resettled with Israelis or new Jewish migrants, advancing the Israeli policy of establishing "facts on the ground" by displacing the Palestinian population through a mixture of state terrorism, military action, expropriation, or legal/commercial coercion.

At the latter site, the women and children of the village, who the inhabitants had agreed should flee the fighting, were intercepted and massacred by the Israeli militia as they fled.

The site of Deir Yassin was fenced off, and incorporated into the grounds of the Kfar Shaul psychiatric hospital, though the institute does not mention the history of the structures. A few of the villages homes remained outside the complex and were subsequently occupied by Israelis. Beit Darras was razed to the ground, and the area is now an unmarked wasteland.

Fewer atrocities were committed by the Arab and Egyptian forces, possibly due to their capturing far fewer Jewish settlements than the Israelis did Palestinian settlements. The defining event of Arab crimes during the war was the Kfar Etzion massacre, during which the inhabitants of the remote Kfar Etzion. The defenders of the Kibbutz surrendered following the bloody over-running of an old monastery being used as an outpost. The attackers killed many of the surrendered fighters in retribution for the Deir Yassin massacre, which had occurred just under a month earlier.


Separate armistice agreements were signed between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Iraq's settlement was concluded as part of the agreement with Jordan. The Palestinians, having no regular military or overall government of their own were not involved in any way in the armistice negotiations. The Syrian and Egyptian statements on their agreements made it clear that the armistice lines should in no way be interpreted as an agreement regarding territorial claims. The armistice positions agreed became known as the Green Line, which today defines the boundaries of the West Bank and Gaza Strip areas, and are also known as the pre-1967 borders.

The UK, US and France reached the Tripartite Declaration in 1950 in which they agreed to intervene to uphold the armistice agreement and prevent transgressions by any side.

These lines stood until the 1967 war, though Palestinians did not enjoy statehood. They had not had any presence or consultation in the armistice agreements, which had in effect been made over their head by Egypt and the Arab powers. The West Bank and Gaza Strip, the only Mandate areas no longer controlled by Israel, now became areas or Jordanian and Egyptian military rule, respectively.

In 1964, the Arab League held a summit in Cairo, and it was deemed important that the Palestinians have a dedicated umbrella organisation to represent and stand for them. As a result of this, a Palestinian National Council was held in East Jerusalem, and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was created on the June 2nd, 1964. However, due to pressure from Egypt and Jordan, the PLO's initial statement explicitly stated that they did not make any claims to sovereignty over the West Band and Gaza strip, reserving it's claim for Palestinian territory under Israeli control.


The Six Day War[edit]

The Six Day War (June 5th - June 10th 1967) developed out of a number of factors. As the Palestinians had no national government or significant forces of their own, they paid only a minor role in contributing to the conflict, and were of no significance at all in the war itself. As in 1948, the "Palestinian cause" continued to be a political tool for Egypt and the Arab nations. The main issues were Israeli moves to draw water from the Jordan river, which triggered a Jordanian-Syrian counter-plan for a system of dams and channels, which the Israelis launched a military attack against, destroying them, causing huge friction between Jordan, Syria and Israel. Israel threatened further action against Syria, using the latter's support for Palestinian groups as a pretext, with Syria in turn leaning on Egypt to pressure Israel. Nasser, facing intense internal pressures as well, responded by blockading the Strait of Tiran, Israel's only outlet to the Red Sea, and thus the Indian Ocean (Israeli ships being banned from the Suez Canal). Prior to this Nasser had also ordered UN observers out of Sinai and Gaza, and had moved his forces into the area to secure Egypt's highly vulnerable "back door", and move which had badly strained the armistice.

The only Palestinian factor were small groups of PLO and independent guerilla fighters, based in the West Bank (under Jordanian control at the time), but whose support came from Syria. These forces launched minor raids into Israel, mostly to harass Israeli army patrols. King Hussein of Jordan had been holding secret talks with the Israelis, stressing that Syria was responsible and that due to internal political considerations his options were limited. With the West Bank under Jordanian control, Jordanians were a minority in their own country, and the situation was tense following the Samu Incident in late 1966,which had led to a major Israeli retaliation raid into the West Bank.

The war, once it came, was brief, and disastrous for the Palestinians. As before, Palestinian civilians were the biggest losers of the conflict, with all Palestinian territories being over-run by Israeli positions. Although Palestine had already lost control of all it's territories (split between Israel, Jordan and Egypt), the latter two had maintained a pretence of supporting the establishment of a new Palestinian nation, and had largely refrained from interfering in Palestinian civil matters or excessively harassing the local populace. With all Palestinian territories under Israeli control, the idea of a Greater Israel was born, and as far as the Palestinians were concerned, the conflict left the battlefield and entered into a struggle of demographics, land ownership, colonisation and de-facto apartheid. Furthermore, the Palestinians of the Gaza strip also lost their border with Egypt, with the Sinai peninsula also being occupied by Israel.

Atrocities of the Six Day War[edit]

The most well known atrocities of the 1967 war did not involve Palestinians, but Egyptians. Mass graves unearthed near El Arish (in the north Sinai coast) brought to light mass executions of Egyptian civilians and POWs by the Israeli military forces (IDF).[14][15]

The other major event of the war which could be considered a war crime was the attack by Israeli navy and air force pilots on the American intelligence ship USS Liberty. The US was technically neutral in the conflict (though was giving covert support to Israel) and the Liberty, although a naval vessel, was effectively defenceless. Both US and Israel later claimed the attack to be a result of mistaken identity, though several US former intelligence and diplomatic staff, as well as some of the ships crew, contest this, and claim the Israeli military targeted the ship deliberately, possibly to prevent the US intercepting raw Israeli communications with her military commanders, fearing the full extent of Israeli plans in regards to Sinai might cause the US to withdraw it's support.[16]

Acts against civilians were, however, minor. The brevity of the conflict and the blitzkrieg tactics left relatively little opportunity for such acts. The Egyptian and Arab armies, meanwhile, fought almost exclusivity on their own or Palestinian territory, and had little interest in the civilians of these areas.

The Occupation[edit]

Shortly after the ceasefire, Isreal administratively seperated East Jerusalem from the newly captured West Bank, and declared a part of Isreal proper, a move that was never internationally recognised. Palestinians here were offered a restricted form of Isreali citizenship, or Permanent Resident status. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (along with Egyptians in Sinai and Syrians in the Golan Heights) were disenfranchised, refused citizenship, and these areas placed under military rule. These moves were condemned, and on the 22nd November 1967 the United Nations Security Council issued resolution 242 demanding that:

1. Affirms that the fulfilment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;
(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;
2. Affirms further the necessity
(a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;
(b) For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;
(c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;

- UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1967)[17]

Beginning of Settlements[edit]

Following the splitting off of East Jerusalem from the West Bank, Israel began an intensive programme of colonisation in the occupied territories, through the establishment of new, heavily subsidised communities in both the Palestinian territories, Sinai and Golan Heights.

The aim of settlement was ostensibly to develop economic resources and "make the desert bloom", but it was always an open secret that the aim was to establish "facts on the ground", that is to alter the local demographics in a region in an attempt to preclude, stall or infeluence the outcome of an eventual settlement between Isreal and the Palestinians. Indeed, the settlements themselves and individual settlers are granted large subsidies and tax breaks by the Israeli government[18]

Settlement occurred in all occupied territories, but the overwhelming majority of activity was centred on East Jerusalem and West Bank. The former, despite having the smallest area (by far) of the occupied territories, and already being densely populated, contained the largest number of settlers right up until 1998.[19]. Settlement in Egyptian and Syrian territories was sporadic and though grand visions were occasionally born (such as the envisaged "city" and "seaport" of Yamit in the Sinai[20]), they were never pursued as aggressively as colonisation of the Palestinian territories.

The settlements led to the total dislocation of the economies of the occupied territories, and to some degree to a forced dependency on Israel and/or the settlements themselves. Despite the highly oppressive nature of the military rule, Israel was quick to issue temporary, renewable work permits to Palestinians, who provided an army of cheap labour, without the rights and protections of Israeli citizens, whom could be used to prop up the settlement economy. Furthermore the settlements provided Israel with access to fertile West Bank land, allowing Israel to undertake the agricultural "miracle" of plundering the west banks aquifers, giving a token truth to the claim of making the desert bloom, as well as the economic viability of the settler ideal.

The PLO and Lebanese Civil War[edit]

The Six Day War greatly reduced outside influence over the PLO. Between 1969 and 1970 the PLO launched a "War of Attrition" against Israel, in effect a series of opportunistic bombings and mortar attacks on settlements and random shootings of settlers, and maintained camps and it's main base of operations within Jordan. The latter points led to the end of these attacks when Jordan, keen to be on better terms with Israel, expelled the PLO, and was forced to decamp to Lebanon, who tolerated it's presence only due to intense pressure from other Arab states.

In 1974, likely aware that it's position in Lebanon was anything but secure, and that the War of Attrition wasn't going anywhere, the PLO leadership, headed by Yasser Arafat, formulated a set of policies that aimed to spell out their vision of a Palestinian state (secular social democracy), and left open the possibility of a diplomatic solution, though it did not preclude armed conflict, nor define any specific boundaries over which negotiations could be held. Nonetheless, the document was a "coming of age" for the PLO, and is recognised as a major step in it's development from an Egyptian-Jordanian-Syrian tool to a Palestinian based organisation. As a result of this document, there developed the hard-line "Rejectionists" who refused to countenance a diplomatic settlement, and thus the possibility of a two state solution, and the moderates.

The beginning of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975 worsened the situation dramatically for the PLO. Shia and Christian militas were harassing the PLO statelet in Southern Lebanon, and Israeli retaliatory raids were terrorising the entire Lebanese population. The PLO responded to militia harassment equally bloodily, escalating the entire conflict. Eventually the PLO managed to turn it's safe haven into a war zone, when an ill-conceived attempted to lay siege to Christian East Beirut failed. In the ensuring retaliation, the powerful Phalange Christian militia and it's allies besieged Palestinian refugee camps, bringing them down one by one through a mixture of starvation, warfare and a series of bloody massacres that gradually expanded into a series of bloody retributions as the primarily PLO/Sunni/Druze vs. Christian/Shia blocks all disintegrated into a confused mass of sectarian killing sprees.

In 1976, at the height of the conflict, Arafat, perhaps aware that the growing chaos would invite a full scale invasion by Israel to crush the PLO, expressed support a recent UN proposal spelling out a two state solution along the 1967 boundaries (i.e. the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip). Both the Rejectionists within the PLO and the United States rejected the proposal, the latter ultimately vetoing it, effectively ending the plan. At the same time, Syria renounced support for the PLO and it's allies, switched it's support to the Phalange and allied Christian militas, and launched a direct intervention into the conflict. The main reason was to pre-empt an Isreali push northward, threatening Syria proper, but this prooved immensley damaging to the PLO, whose forces and civilians suffered a further massacre of 2,000 at Zaatar camp in East Beirut.

The Riyadh Accords of October 1976 effecivly empowered Syria to restore law and order to central and northern Lebanon and forced the PLO to evacuate to the southern regions, the border running through Beirut (West to PLO/Druze/Muslim (now including Shia), East to the Syrian/Christian de-facto alliance), with most Palestinian refugees settling likewise. The situation was now quasi-stable, and Arafat felt confident enough about the security of position in the south to turn PLO attention back carrying out guerilla attacks against northern Isreal in 1977. This escalaed tensions until Isreal used a daring PLO raid into the north on 11th March 1978 as a pretext for intervening in Lebanon in Operation Litani. The invention led to a lightening war, with Isreal seizing most Lebanese territory south of the Litani river between the 14th and 21st of March, 1978, and leaving between 1,000 and 2,000 Palestinan and Lebanese dead, and pushing the PLO back north of the Litani, and into the territory of other factions. The UN passed resolutions 425 and 426 on March 19th, demanding Israel cease military operations and withdraw from all Lebanese territory[21]. A UN force was established to oversee the withdrawal and restore law and order, and oversee the return of Lebanese government authority over the area.[21]. However, with the PLO and it's now once again "sharing" terretory with it previous rivals, the PLO returned it's southern zone. In 1982, the US noted at this point that Israel was seeking a reason for war, and a UN report noted that most violations of terretory were by Israeli forces (2748 by Israel compared to 652 by the PLO), including Israeli airstrikes in Leanese terretory, and "The presence of IDF personnel and equipment inside the enclave remained at a high level." [22]. Within a month of the above report being submitted, Israel launched a full scale invasion, trigering a civil war that would last until the end of 1990, and involved a full scale Isreali seige of Beirut, combined with massive aerial bombardment between June and August 1982.

The effects of the 1982 seige on Arafat's cetre of operations in West Beirut were devestating. Perhaps as many as 8,000 PLO guerillas were killed, and when a truce was finally reached, both Israel and the PLO had to withdraw their forces. Most of the PLOs milita capacity simpl evaporated, whils the headquarters of the organisation were evacuated to Tunis. The PLO largely ceased to have any meaningful militia presence, and was in effect blocked from any effective involvement in Palestinian affairs, though Arafat continued to act a figurehead for Palestine on the international stage, the 1982-1991 period was the PLOs lowest ebb, and it's lack of active involvement in the intifada left a political vacuum filled by newer groups, often founded with either tacit or direct but covert support of Israel, in keeping with the traditional "divide and rule" tactic. Such groups included Hamas (founded 1987) and Islamic Jihad, founded in the seventies in Egypt, but only moving into Palestinian territory from 1981 onwards. In 1985 the Israeli air force bombed the PLO headquarters on the northern outskirts of Tunis. The Israeli government claimed 60 PLO members were killed, but true number of either PLO or civilian casualties has never been released, though the Tunisian government estimated 100 to 120 civilian dead and unaccounted for. The attack was taken by President Habib Bourgiba of Tunisia (one of the United States oldest allies, with over 200 years of close relations) as a personal betrayal by the United States and nearly led to Tunisia severing ties, after summoning the US ambassador to express his "profound regret and great astonishment" at Regans initial enthusiastic endorsement of Isreali acts[23]. Due to this, the US said Israeli actions could "could not be condoned",[24][23] but made no moves to block free transfers of military goods to Israel.

The First Intifada[edit]

The image of a boy throwing a pebble at an Israeli tank became the defining image of both the Intifada, and the wider Israel-Palestine conflict.
Victims of the 1st Intifada. The bars on the far right record the number of Palestinians killed within the Occupied Territories by Israeli security forces.

The First Intifada lasted from 1987-1993, when the Oslo peace accords came into force. The PLO had limited involvement with this general low-level resistance, being located in Tunis for much of its duration. The intifada was not, as if often portrayed, a guerilla war. Though it had a nominal command structure, the vast majority of the actions consisted of protests, riots, and civil disobedience campaigns, often localised. What direct violation action existed from the Palestinian side was primarily local gangs of youths (sometimes nominally acting in the name of an organisation), usually armed with only crude, basic weapons. One such weapon, the sling-shot, become the defining symbol of the intifada used in propaganda posters within Palestine. Internationally, the Palestinian boy slinging a pebble at an Israeli tank became the defining image not only of the intifada, but the whole Israel-Palestine conflict.

Victims of the first Intifada[25]
Population Group Adults Killed Minors Killed[26]
Palestinians killed by Israeli armed forces in the OT 1070 237
Palestinians killed by Israeli civilians in the OT 54 13
Israeli armed forces personnel killed by Palestinians in the OT 43 n/a
Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians in the OT 47 3
Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Israel 17 0
Palestinians killed by Israeli civilians in Israel 21 0
Israeli armed forces personnel killed by Palestinians in Israel 17 n/a
Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians in Israel 53 2

Key events in the intifada included the tax protest of Beit Sahour, a major development in Palestinian non-violent civil disobedience,[27] which persisted throughout a military siege of town. Another major event in the intifada was the poorly kept "secret" list of Palestinian collaborators maintained by Shin Bet, which found it's way into the public domain, causing an orgy of violence against real and imagined "collaborators".

By 1990 the Intifada became more diffused and rudderless, although it "officially" lated until the Oslo accords were signed in September 1993, and some individual cases of note did occur toward the end of the intifada, including the first modern suicide bombing by Palestinians, in the spring of 1993.

The Oslo Accords[edit]

The Oslo Accords (officially titled "Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements"), signed on September 13th, 1993, were the first treaties signed directly between the Palestinians (represented by the PLO) and the Israeli government. A key step towards Palestinian self determination and regional peace at the time, the accords led to an Israeli military withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, with the exception of the Philadelphi Corridor, and the (now abandoned) settlements (south to north) of Gush Katif, Netzarim and Nisanit/Elei Sinai/Dugit. The city of Jericho and it's immediate surronds also saw a withdrawal of forces.

The Palestinian Authority was formed, with the texts spelling out it's political and administrative structure, along with detailing the formation of co-operative relations between Israel and the Palestinians in key areas, and bodies for co-ordinating and maintaining this co-operation. The acords also mandated that within the areas handed over to PA autonomy, that Palestinians would have authority oncerning education and culture, health, social welfare, and taxation, as well as, hypothetically, safe travel between the two areas, and touristic development, though the continued Isreali control of international travel made this last element more aspirational than real

One of the key aspects of the agreement was for the establishment of a Palestinian police force, giving the PA control over internal security in the areas ceded to it.

The Oslo Accords were followed up by Oslo II, sometimes known as the Taba Agreement (not to be confused with the Taba Summit of 2001), and officialy called the "Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip". These were signed on September 1995 (in two ceremonies on different days). Although not as memorable or as groundbreaking as the Oslo Accords, Oslo II/Taba was actually a far more ambitious and far reaching agreement, and specifically replaced the former. It provides a much more detailed structure for the PA, established the A, B and C classification for administration of West Bank and Gaza areas, and dramatically expanded the Safe Passage agreements for travel between Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt and Jordan. ost significantly, Oslo II/Taba passed control of most Palestinian cities and towns over to the PA as "A" area status, including Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and, more problematically, carved up Hebron, which is the West Bank's largest city, with over 160,000 Palestinians, and a tiny settlement of 500 Jews located in the very centre of the city.

Neither of the treaties attempted to settle the "Final Status" issues such as a right of return for Palestinian reguees, the status of East Jerusalem etc., though they were identified and a series of steps towards resolving was laid out.

Confidence in the measures however waned, particularly in Israel, where there had been expectation of a drastic turn towards peace. Low level violence continued, whilst Israel continued to expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, arguing that it was not prohibited under the Accords from doing so. Sporadic terrorist attacks continued in retaliation, but the West Bank economy developed, and the opening of Gaza International Airport in 1998, the Gaza power station in 1999, the opening of new Palestinian universities, utilities and institutions of state, and the commitment to a deep water port in the accords all contributed to a feeling that progress was being made and that peace was achievable.

However, problems has been brewing for a while. In 1996, in the run up to the Israeli election, a series of attacks by Hamas (bitterly opposed to the PLO's "cave in" to Israel in to Oslo Accords) in Israel undermined the dovish position of Shimon Peres. Likud hardliner Binyamin Netanyahu defeated incumbent Labour prime minister Shimon Peres by by a hairs bredth, with less than 1% of votes cast, but catching over 90% of the Ultra-Orthodox vote. Netanyahu continued to expand settlements, and frsutrate travel within the West Bank and generally take a "tough line" on issues relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


In July 2000, the United States hosted a summit at Camp David that aimed to resolve the "Final Status" issues, essentially the status of East Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, borders, and Israeli "security issues", namely a complete prohibition on a Palestinian state to field any military force, the right of IDF forces to enter Palestine, the establishement of IDF "Early Warning Stations" in Palestinian territory, and Israeli control of Palestinian airspace.

The talks essentially collapsed, primarily over the issue of Isreali security demands and the status of East Jerusalem. An optimistic "band-aid" statement was released, but the Palestinian negotiating team left with the feeling that there were in a "no-win" situation. What happened next is controversial, and both Israelis and Palestinians accuse the other side of deliberately attempting to inflame the situation.

Pro Palestinian commentators point to the events at the end of September 2000. Ariel Sharon, a few months prior to his becoming Prime Minister, pledged to visit Temple Mount, in East Jerusalem, the site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque (two buildings within Temple Mount complex that are often confused) along with Western Wall, with over a thousand Israeli soldiers. Isolated events had already left tensions high, and this act, widely seen across the Islamic world as being a deliberate high profile provocation acted as the trigger. The first mass protests occured the same day, and the subsequent uprising came to referred to by Palestinians as the Al-Aqsa Intifada in reference the the trigger event.

Pro Israeli commentators often claim that Arafat, upon hearing the bad news from the negotiators, planned to incite a second intifada, [28] though the motivations for doing so are unclear. Such a scenario would have brought no clear benefit to Arafat or the PLO, though if true it would not have been the first time Arafat seriously misjudged the political situation.

Current Situation[edit]

Politics and Conflict[edit]


Human Rights[edit]

Since the rise to power of the Israeli hard right, a process begun following the first government of Benjamin Netanyahu, but whose policies crystallised under Ariel Sharon, most the agreements reached to grant autonomy to the Palestinian territories and end the military regime have been ignored, and many indicators have deteriorated drastically.

Rights to Life, Liberty and Security of Person[edit]

Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
-Universal Declaration of Human Rights[29]

The right to liberty is frequently denied to Palestinians through arbitrary detention. This most commonly occurs at checkpoints, and is implemented by the state security apparatus (primarily in these cases the IDF or the Border Police). Under Israeli law, Palestinians risk arrest under an "Illegal Combatants" law (since 2002), as well as Administrative Detention. Under the latter, an individual can be held indefinitely, subject to a renewal of the administrative order every six months. No charges need be brought, no trial is necessary, and the "accused" nor any legal defence has the right to see any evidence or be informed of any charges against him. Whilst both Israelis and Palestinians may both be incarcerated under Administrative Detention, it is used almost solely against Palestinians, it's use in the Occupied Territories expedited by the "Administrative Detention Order" a part of the legal mechanism of the military regime in the West Bank.[30]

B'Tselem and other NGOs working in the Occupied Territories have recorded numerous occasions when Palestinians have been denied the right to personal security. This includes numerous cases of Palestinian civilians being attacked by IDF/Border Police forces directly,[31] as well as acts of settler violence against Palestinians in the presence of IDF forces whom are charged with provision of security in most of the West Bank.[32][33][34] In such cases IDF forces has often refused to intervene despite it being their duty under both Israeli and International law to do so.

Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment/Punishment[edit]

Article 5
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights[29]

Up until 1999, torture was widely used on Palestinian detainees in Israeli Prison Service (IPS) and IDF facilities during interrogation by agents of the Israel Security Agency (ISA), and was an open secret. This was is in addition to general brutality and abusive handling during routine patrol and policing functions, including arrest. However, following a ruling by the Israeli High Court in September 1999, the use of " torture" was only permissible in so-called "ticking bomb" situations. Despite this, approximately 38% of Palestinian detainees reported having been subjected to torture whilst under interrogation, whilst 67% (over two thirds) reported some form of brutality or abuse during arrest and transfer.[35]

Table 1: Ill Treatment of Palestinian Detainees During Arrest and Transfer[35]
Type of Abuse Occurrence
Beating[36] 49%
Painful binding 33%
Curses and humiliation 34%
Denial of basic needs 23%
At least one of the above 67%
Table 2: Ill Treatment During Interrogation[35]
Type of Abuse Occurrence
Isolation from outside world^ 68%
Solitary confinement / sensory deprivation (for all/most of time detained) 88%
Sleep disruption[37] 34%
Insufficient / sub-standard food[37] 23%
Prolonged binding in Shabah position 96%
Naked body searches[37] 29%
Insults and humiliation 73%
Threats 64%
Time in the "informers wing"[38] 82%
Table 3: "Special" Interrogation Methods of Palestinian Detainees [35]
Type of Abuse Occurrence
Sleep deprivation 21%
Beating[39] 23%
Tightening of handcuffs 7%
Sudden pulling 8%
Sharp twisting of the head 11%
Crouching in the "frog" position 4%
Bending of the spine 7%
At least one of the above 38%
At least two of the above 18%
Three or more of the above 12%

It should be noted that these statistics deal only with abuses involved in arrest, prisoner transfer, and interrogation. It does not cover more generalised police harassment and "casual" brutality that does not lead to an individual being detained. Such cases mostly go unreported and undocumented but are known to be widespread to the degree that it is considered "routine" by both sides.[35] Furthermore, a significant amount of abuse, particularly humiliating and degrading treatment occurs at checkpoints. This includes leaving people (including the sick, young, elderly and pregnant women) to wait for up to 5 hours, usually in conditions of extreme heat and overcrowding, as well as being one of the main locations where Palestinians are detained.

Equality Before the Law[edit]

Article 7
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights[29]

Palestinians do not have equal status as Israeli citizens under Israeli law, be it as the inhabitants of the Occupied Territories in relation to Israeli citizens living in settlements, or as the relatively few Israeli Arab citizens of Israel proper. Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have no framework for becoming citizens of the occupying power, and are thus entirely disenfranchised. They cannot vote, and have no voice in the military "civil administration" that Israel imposed on the West Bank with it's own, far more restrictive and authoritarian legal structures, effectively restricting the abilities of Palestinians to access to legal channels.[40] Furthermore, the denial of citizenship of Palestinian refugees is a direct violation of Article 1 of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.[41]

Palestinian refugees are refused the right to return to their homes and land holdings in Israel, whilst the Israeli government grants automatic right of immigration to Israel to anyone of the Jewish faith, regardless of whether or not they have any family history in Israel/Palestine. <red name=apartheid/> The right of Palestinian refugees to retain their home and land, as laid out in Article 13 of the 1951 Convention[41] is also violated by the the State of Israel's "Absentee laws", which allows land "abandoned" by it's owner (such as a refugee) to be taken over by the state, a legal mechanism used almost exclusively to obtain Palestinian lands. [40] Palestinians, however, even Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, do not ave equal rights to purchase or lease land in Israel owned by the state (which owns approx. 19,500km2[42] of the 22,070km2 under Israeli civil administration[1]). Due to the incorporation into Israeli law of the by-laws of previously charitable Zionist organisations such the Jewish National Fund and World Zionist Organisation, approximately 93% of land within the 1967 boarders cannot be purchased/lifetime leased from the state by non-Jews, a situation that overwhelmingly prejudices the rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel as equal citizens before the law.[40]

Right to Tribunal for Wrongs Suffered, Arbitrary Detention, and a Fair Trial[edit]

Article 8
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights<ref=udhr/>

Palestinian rights to seek recourse through a tribunal or the courts for violations of their rights by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza are regularly frustrated, be it violations of the personal rights and freedoms (torture, wrongful detention, or general harassment) or property crimes (home demolitions, expropriation of land, destruction of crops etc.)[40][35]. The situation is brought about through frustration rather than overt denial of access to such services for Palestinians. Appeals must often be lodged at offices in Israel proper, which is often unreachable (or reachable only with extreme difficulty and lengthy administrative processes) to most Palestinians, and the overwhelming majority of cases that are brought are dismissed.[35].

Arbitrary detention and exile is a common issue in facing Palestinians, with detention at checkpoints being a commonly cited fear of Palestinian civilians when travelling within the West Bank. Whilst the majority of cases of Palestinian civilians being detained arbitrarily are carried out by Israeli security forces at checkpoints or during periodic raids into Palestinian population centres, and whose aspects are already indirectly covered elsewhere, since the division of Palestinian government into Hamas and Fatah factions, arbitrary arrest of Palestinian civilians by Palestinian groups has become increasingly serious.[43]. Following the winding down of inter-Palestinian violence following the split, arbitary arrest has increased as street violence has decreased. Periods of detention are generally short (usually a few days, rarely more than a few weeks) but include almost total disregard for Palestinian law including filing of charges, judicial review, and use of excessive force in capture and transporation, and torture during detention. Most detainess were arrested with no charges being filed, underscoring the arbitary nature of the detentions[43].

Arbitary exile has been a device used increasingly by Isreali security forces since the Hamas/Fatah split, using Gaza as an unofficial "prison camp" for people detained in the West Bank with the correct residency permits, and is in vilation of both UDHR Article 9, as an arbitary and inconsistently implemented punishment, and also in violation of the 1994 Oslo Accords, under which Israel undertook to treat the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a single terretorial and political unit. [44]

Freedom of Movement[edit]

UNOHCA map showing the wall, checkpoints and closed roads and areas, and other features restricting movements of Palestinians. This illustrates how the wall operates as part of a wider system, and the ghettoisation of Palestinian population centres. Map dated 2006
Map showing distribution of wells in the West Bank. Note concentration of agricultural wells in Qalqilya and Tel Karam areas, now annexed to the Israeli side of the wall. Farmland east of Jericho has restricted access through a "virtual wall" of internal passports/permits. Mekorot wells (red) are those drilled and operated by the Israeli state water company

Article 13
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights[29]

Freedom of movement is essentially non-existent anywhere in the Palestinian territories. In the Gaza strip exists in a state of perpetual lockdown, with residents of the strip being prohibited from either existing or entering, nor of entering within 300m of the barriers marking the boarders. Israeli military units on the boarder with Israel have orders to open fire on anyone approaching this "no man's land".

Movement both within and two and from the West Bank is heavily restricted by the "separation fence" (see: #West Bank Wall), which is integrated into a larger network of "prohibited" roads, barrier, trenches, permanent border crossings and permanent internal checkpoints on main roads and junctions linking Palestinian settlements, as well as "flying checkpoints" established, removed or moved without notice.[45]

West Bank Wall[edit]

The wall (offically: Geder Hahafrada - "security fence") near Qalqilya. The wall encircles the town. Access to the rest of the West bank is through a single gate controlled by the IDF, whose opening and closing is determined by the district military commander. The local populace has no say, nor any meaningful recourse to a higher authority.

Movement within the West Bank is severely restricted by a network of 8 metre hall solid concrete walls, 6 metre high fences, electric fences, trip wires and trenches, collectively termed the "separation fence" within Israel, and the "Berlin Wall" or "Apartheid Wall" in Palestine. The claimed purpose of the wall was (and is) to prevent terrorist attacks inside Israel proper, whilst Palestinians and almost all peace activists and NGOs regard it as a political tool to establish "facts on the ground" by blocking Palestinian access to large areas of land, allowing the land to be annexed by the Israeli state.[46]

Although the wall first came to international attention in 2002, construction started in 1994 at the time of the Oslo accords, though only a few kilometres were constructed by the time of the Second Intifada. The early section of the wall were built in the north of the West Bank, and followed the green line. At the time the wall was opposed by the hard right, who were staunch advocates of the "Greater Israel" ideology, and saw any planned wall as a statement of final borders. Following the rise of Sharon, the settlers were given a much grater role in determining the route of the wall and became some of it's strongest supporters. Although minor changes were made the route following a High Court ruling, the current alignment leaves approx 20% of the route following the green line, with the rest diverging anything up to 20km into Palestinian territory. At no point does the wall divert into Israeli territory. The term "wall" or "fence" are both somewhat simplistic terms. The wall can best be described as a networked system of walls, checkpoints, roads, military outposts and military zones that collectively control movement and of people and resources around the West Bank and well as to and from the outside world. The end result is the annexation of the most productive and valuable agricultural land and water resources to Israel, linking existing settlement structures to the Israel proper, and the concentration of Palestinian population centres into archipelagos of land of little worth, and geographically discontinuous in nature.

As a result, the wall annexes to Israel 25% of Palestinian land. However this 25% contains 80% of all Palestinian fertile land, and 65% of it's water resources,[47] as can clearly be seen when cross referencing a map of the wall with a map of agricultural boreholes and wells on the West Bank. Land lying between the "Israeli" side of the barrier and the green line has been declared a "seam zone". Approximately 400,000 Palestinians found themselves within the zone, unable to enter Israel, yet also also sealed off from the "Palestinian" side of the barrier.[47].

When construction of the wall sped up in the early 2000's, it was planned to "seal the enclave" with an eastern wall, sealing of the Jordan Valley "Area C", and encircling Jericho. However, following an Israeli High Court decision against the government, the plan was quietly modified to that of a "virtual wall" through an extremely harsh system of internal passports and permits broadly comparable to that of the "Seam Zone" in the west. This has led to the area, already mostly expropriated as "state land", to e de-facto annexed to Israel,[48] ensuing that, combined with the philadelphi corridor, the Palestinian bantustans have no borders with foreign countries.

Economy and Poverty[edit]

Unemployment and per capita GNI 1995-2008 for the the West Bank and Gaza Strip combined. Note collapse in GNI and spike in unemployment between 2000-2002

The Palestinian economy does not fit well into the common defintions and frameworks of national or regional economies. It's performance is not determined by either the global economic cycle nor the price of a paticular economy, but primarily by the intensity of checkpoint/gate closures at any given time, as dictated by Isreali policy. This can clearly be seen when plotting unemployment and per capita GNI trends. The former spikes and the latter dives when checkpoints and border closures are intensified, as can be seen in the period of the 2000 - 2002, when the IDF essentially re-invaded the West Bank and imposed a strict roadblock and checkpoint regime, whilst construction the West Bank wall accelerated drastically as a responce to the 2nd Intifada. Furthermore, since the beinning of the blockade of goods to and from the Gaza Strip, the economy of the strip and the West Bank have, in effect, split into two seperate cases, again a violation of the Oslo Accords regarding terretorial integrity. The West Bank is economically considerably more developed than that of Gaza, and for all intents and purposes, the economy of the latter is presently at a standstill, with aid dependency at 80% and unemployment at 44%.[49]

The West Bank economy is primarily agricultural, and the good soil fertility and abundant water resources of the terretory are one of the primarily factors driving continued occupation of the land. Only in the Galilee (Lake Tiberias) region does Israel "proper" have land as naturally productive. The most economically inportant crop is the olive, which is mostly exported as high grade olive oil, though lmited exports of green and black (ripened) olive fruit also takes place. Olive agriculture employs approximately 65% of Palestinians.[50]

Date, citrus, wheat, maize and vegetable production is also alsocarried out, though only date and citrus fruits are potential in generating signifcant export revenues.

Farms tend to be small, often no more than 10-15 acres, and are generally family concerns, with low levels of investment and mechanisation. There is signifcant dis-incentive for farmers to invest signifcantly in their land, either in expanding the land held or in investment in upgraded irrigation systems or other equipment due to frequent and unpredictable exporpiation of land for military or settlement use by israel, or in access being prevented by the wall, roadlocks or "permit" requirements. Furthermore, at present the "breadbasket" of Palestine, the agricultural lands of Tell Karam and Qalqilya, along with the Jericho oasis and wider Jordan Valley area have all been de-facto annexed by Israel, the former two lying west of the wall, and the latter beyond a "virtual" wall, being located in an "Area C" zone and reuiring a series of permits and internal passports to acess, which are overwhelmingly denied to Palestinians. Palestinian produce has extremely limited access to international markets, due to Isreali control of all potential export routes. This leads to almost 50% of the olive harvest spoling before finding a buyer.[50]

Nonetheless, the dormant potential in West Bank agriculture as a driving force for a soverign Palestinian economy is significant, and in the event of a Palestinian state being realised will be key to any future prosperity, provided that the terretorial integrity of the West Bank is reinstated.

The only other activity of signifcant size is the public sector. This includes the Palestinian Authority civil service, security services (largely inoperational, but retaining a signifciant number of salaried employees) and authroity run utilities and agencies, including the PalTel telecoms provider, which accounts for almost one third of PA revenue. Other industries include the high tech sector, such as internet provision, telecoms and publishing, which are less affected by travel restrictions.

Unemployment and general poverty are both chronic long term issues and both largely under Israeli control through the mechanism of border closures and road blocks. Since stepping up construction of the wall in 2000, and the stepping up of roadblocks, unemployment has remained over 20% at all times, and mostly over 25%,[51] with unemplyoment amongst young men (15-24s) over one third every year. During the same period, per capita GNI fell from a "high" of $1,730 per capita in 1999 (one year before the closures were stepped up) to $1,030 in 2002,[51] a drop of 40% in two years (figures in 2009 US$'s). By contast, in 2009 Israel had a GDP per capita of $28,400 and unemployment rate of 7.4%[1]


Since 1994, Education in Palestine has been the responsibility of the Ministry of Education of the PA, as laid out in the Oslo Accords. However, due to the current situation, in effect it is divided between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, whilst UNWRA provides primary/elementary level educational services in the refugee camps. The education infrastructure and the ministry itself was developed with assistance from UNESCO through the International Institute for Educational Planning.[52]

The educational structure is loosely based on the British system, and includes 10 years of mandatory education from 5 to 16 years of age, followed by an optical two years (ages 16-18) of optional education which can be in either the "Academic" or "Vocational" areas. The vocational option is normally studied at a Community College (or sometimes a specialist Teaching or Technical college depending on local facilities and subject studied). Successful passing of the exams allows progression to Higher Education.[53]

The official education system is mostly secular in nature,[53] though since the Fatah/Hamas split, the education systems in both the West Bank and Gaza have adopted curricula more in keeping with the ideology of the respective ruling parties.

Throughout Palestine, education is confounded by a lack of resources and funding, especially for special educational needs, for which there is a huge demand. An extremely high proportion of Palestinian school age children suffer from anxiety, depression and concentration issues, amongst other psychological issues, caused by exposure to extreme violence, uncertainty and instability in daily life. The school environment exacerbates this, as due to checkpoints and settlements, many children are forced to travel alone (Palestinians over age 12 and under 50 are subjected to more restricted movement, so it is often impossible for children to accompanied) through military checkpoints or past settlement blocks to schools. Under Israeli law Palestinian children can still be detained and searched by military personnel. School children are also often victims of attack by Israeli settlers, particularly in Hebron, where settlers shooting at Palestinian children, and burning down Palestinian schools during class-time is a recurring theme.[54]. The effects of such traumas, and the lack of trained education specialists to work with affected school children affects academic performance throughout their academic career.[54]

Higher education in Palestine again falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. HE institutions in Palestine include both public and private institutions,[54] and include full universities, "University Colleges" (آليات جامعية), similar to HE colleges and former polytechnics in British derived education systems, which are differentiated from "Community Colleges" (آليات مجتمع) which are for further education only.[55]. Higher education facilities include 11 traditional universities, of which 8 offer postgraduate programmes, and 4 offer postgraduate teacher training. In addition there is 1 open university (Al-Quds Open University) which offers undergraduate programmes and teacher training. In addition there are 12 University Colleges offering undergraduate programmes, including the specialist Palestinian College of Nursing.[55].

Whilst in theory higher education in Palestine is well developed, the restrictions on movement and association mean that students education is seriously compromised. Unlike most Western countries, it is common for Palestinian students to live in the family home and commute to a nearby university. Due to this, the West Bank "security" wall, roadblocks and checkpoints mean many students miss lectures, or are cut off from their campus entirely.[54]. Those who do risk tackling the checkpoints or roadblocks are subject to arbitrary detention, torture or execution. Though such action are highly arbitrary, those active in student activities and societies are particularly targeted.

Over the last 5 years, 415 of the 5,000 students at Birzeit at any one time, have been arrested; in 2009 twenty three students were sentenced simply for belonging to a student society. Extra charges are often levelled at students for being “in a position of leadership”.

Israeli authorities targeted and arrested successive Student Council Presidents at Birzeit University so often that students decided there was little point in electing anyone to the position – it merely made them a sitting target. One student, Arafat Dawood, spent 3 years in detention, but was never charged with any crime. Two months after his release he was re-arrested.
- Hilary Aked[54]


Transport and Communications[edit]

Transport and communications infrastructure in both the West Bank and Gaza are far below the standard of Israel, and also of neighbouring states. This is due to several factors, including unbalanced government investment in Israel verses the Occupied Territories, the breaking up of communication/transport networks to separate settler and Palestinian activities, damage due to Israeli military activity (both as a result deliberate attack or as "collateral damage"), and internal Palestinian issues, including divided leadership and corruption since the Oslo Accords.

There are no functioning airports in either the West Bank or Gaza. Two modern civilian airports were operational in recent times. Yasser Arafat International Airport, near Rafah, served the Gaza Strip, and opened in 1998. It was built with funds donated by Japan, the EU, and Morocco as part of the peace process, and was hailed as a key symbolic and practical step on the road to Palestinian statehood. The airport was destroyed by IDF air force bombing of the control tower, and bulldozing of the runway in December 2001.[56][57].

During the 1980's, the Israeli government developed a military airfield at Atarot, between Ramallah and Jerusalem that it had captured in the 1967 war. As part of a broader strategy to consolidate it's hold over the greater Jerusalem area the government invested heavily to turn it into an international grade civilian airport for Israeli use, despite the existence of the nearby Ben Gurion airport, to the west of Jerusalem, being better connected to the city. The airport was never passed to Palestinian Authority control, as had originally been negotiated, and it's location proved unsustainable from both commercial and security points of view. During the second intifada the airport became a prime target, with Palestinian youths realising that the airport could be brought to a standstill by slinging stones onto the single runway. The airport closed in 2001 and was passed back to the IDF as (land) army base to keep a lid on the situation. The airport was subsequently used as a bargaining chip by the Isrealis, but the construction of the West Bank wall largely put an end to this practice, with the wall cutting the site off from Palestinian areas, without any meaningful consultation having taken place.[58][59][60]

Both the Gaza Strip and West Bank once possessed railway infrastructure, dating from both the Ottoman and British Mandate periods. The Gaza Strip was particularly well served, the entirety of the territory being served by the Palestine Railways mainline linking into the Egyptian network at Rafah, and running length of the strip and northward along the Mediterranean coast, reaching Acre in the north, with links to the Jordanian, Lebanese and Syrian networks. The area that is now the West Bank was served via mainline to Jerusalem, and secondary lines linking Nablus, Sebastia (sometimes shown as Massudieh on railway maps of the time) and Tulkaram east to west, and Sebasita to Jenin and Afula (now in Israel proper) north to south. Telkaram and Afula provided links to the Palestine Railway and Hejaz Railway systems.

All railways in the Occupied Territories have been either heavily damaged or completely destroyed, and there are no operational services whatsoever for either passengers or freight. Most of the damage was suffered during the 1948 war. The Israeli government has invested heavily in the former Palestine Railways and Hejaz Railway infrastructure in Israel proper, with capital investments between 2003 and 2011 estimated at $6.5 billion. No funds have been allocated to rail infrastructure in the Occupied Territories since 1967, and there has been no effort to protect former rail alignments. A rail head reportedly existed at the Erez crossing to Gaza (the truncated southern terminus of the Palestine Railways mainline) for agricultural exports from the settlements until the 1970s. The line is now cut back to a freight only junction serving industrial facilities south of Ashkelon.[61]

Proposed alignments for new Tel Aviv - Jerusalem line. Route A1 was selected

In 2010 the Israeli government announced plans for a mostly new rail alignment in the West Bank linking the major Israeli settlements to Israel proper.[62] whilst construction of a new direct line from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem adopted an alignment crossing 6km of the Occupied Territories,[63] despite at least two other alignments being possible, and a third requiring only minor changes to keep within the 1967 boundaries (see image).[64]


External Links[edit]


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  20. Sinai Settlers Worry About Their Future, The Hour, Norwalk, CT, USA - 26/JAN/1978, p.20 Google News Archive
  21. 21.0 21.1 UNIFIL Background, United Nations Website
  22. 1982 Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, United Nations (Doc. ID: S/15194)
  23. 23.0 23.1 Middle East Israel's 1,500-Mile Raid, Time Magazine, 14/OCT/1985 - Electronic Version
  24. Ben Ali Visit Marks Third Stage in 200-Year-Old US-Tunisian Special Relationship, Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs, March 1990 pp.7 - [Ben Ali Visit Marks Third Stage in 200-Year-Old US-Tunisian Special Relationship Electronic Version]
  25. Fatalities in the first Intifada, B'Tselem
  26. Palestinian under 17, Israeli under 18 years old.
  27. Anthony Lewis, Abroad at Home - It can happen here, New York Times, 29/OCT/1989 - Electronic Version
  28. Jewish Virtual Library: Myths & Facts - The Palestinian Uprisings
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 Text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Electronic Version
  30. Administrative Detention, B'Tselem
  31. [ Testimony: Border Police break arm of Halimeh a-Shawamreh, near the Separation Barrier, Deir al-‘Asal al-Foqa], B'Tselem, Mar. 2009
  32. Testimony: Settlers attack houses in 'Asira al-Qibliya, B'Tselem, Sep. 2008
  33. Testimony: Wafa Subuh,17, is shot in the hand while watching television as settlers attack the village of ‘Asira al-Qibliya, B'Tselem, Sep. 2008
  34. Testimony: Soldiers watch while settlers tie a Palestinian to a pole and beat him], B'Tselem, Jul. 2008
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 35.3 35.4 35.5 35.6 Lein, Y et. al. (2007), Absolute Prohibition: The Torture and Ill Treatment of Palestinian Detainees, B'Tselem and Hamoked - - MS Word Version
  36. Only including occurrences of beating beyond reasonable force necessary to hold a suspect resisting arrest or threatening others
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Many respondents to survey had trouble identifying this abuse. It is suspected actual occurrence may be significantly higher
  38. Not an abuse in and of itself. However effectiveness this method dependent on the detainee suffering mental disorientation induced by other abuses
  39. As a method of interrogation, separate to that used in arrest/transfer
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 40.3 Davis, U (1990), Israel: An Apartheid State (2nd Ed.), Zed Books, London
  41. 41.0 41.1 Text of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees - PDF Version
  42. General Information, ILA Website
  43. 43.0 43.1 Violations of the Human Rights of Palestinians by Palestinians, B'Tselem
  44. Sanders, E (2010), Palestinians decry forced deportations to Gaza by Israel, Los Angeles Times, 4/JUN/2010 - Electronic Version
  45. Checkpoints, Physical Obstructions, and Forbidden Roads, B'Tselem
  46. Under Israeli law, agricultural lend that is left idle for three years can be claimed by the state
  47. 47.0 47.1 The Wall: No Separation, no security, just a land grab - Gush Shalom - PDF Version
  48. Israel has de facto annexed the Jordan Valley - B'Tselem, 13/FEB/2006
  49. UN: 80% Aid Depndency in Gaza, Today, BBC Radio 4, 5/JUN/2010
  50. 50.0 50.1 Palestinian Olive Farmers, War on Want
  51. 51.0 51.1 World Bank Database
  52. Developing Education in Palestine: A Continuing Challenge, UNESCO
  53. 53.0 53.1 The Educational System in Palestine, Ministry of Education (website in Arabic only)
  54. 54.0 54.1 54.2 54.3 54.4 Education Under Occupation, London Student, 26/APR/2010 - - Electronic Version
  55. 55.0 55.1 Annual Statistics of Palestinian Higher Education Institutions 2007-2008, Ministry of Education -PDF Version (Arabic/English)
  56. Gaza Airport: History
  57. Johnston, A (2005),Years of Delays at Gaza Airport, BBC News, 15th April 2005
  58. Houk, M (2008), Atarot and the Fate of the Jerusalem Airport, Jerusalem Quarterly, Vol. 35 p.64-75 (PDF)
  59. Blumenkrantz, Z (2001), Jerusalem's Atarot Airport handed over to the IDF, Ha'aretz, 27 July 2001
  60. Derfner, L (2001), An Intifada Casualty Named Atarot, Jewish Journal 22/03/2001
  61. Google Maps aerial photograph for relevant location
  62. West Bank train line plan draws Palestinian ire, Jerusalem Post, Nov 26, 2010
  63. [,1518,730090,00.html Shortcut Through the West Bank: German Rail Under Fire for Controversial Israeli Project] Der Spiegel, Nov 19, 2010
  64. WP article discussing planning options, original sources now offline