Contrary to the popular myth that “Arabs and Jews have fought for two thousand years,” the conflict in Israel/Palestine is a phenomenon of modern history. It is traceable to the rise of the Zionist movement in Europe in the late 1800’s and exacerbated by the actions of European powers during and immediately following World War I.
Both peoples who have made a claim to the land of Palestine and Israel believe fervently in their own versions of the history of this conflict, which are informed by their personal experiences. It would be difficult for any author to claim complete objectivity or perfectly reliable sources of information in reporting the history of the region over the last century.
Rather than present one history as definitive, we provide several helpful resources to begin learning the history of Israel/Palestine.
• “Israel & Palestine: A very short introduction” is the animated video from Jewish Voice for Peace which gives a quick look at the conflict for those new to the subject (6.5 minutes): click the graphic to watch it.
• On the web page with the above video, JVP also has some very succinct answers for a few
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS, including:
What is the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians about?
What is the Nakba?
How are Palestinians treated in Israel’s democracy?
What is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement?
• A short history from the Middle East Research & Information Project (MERIP) covers the history and issues well – it has about 12 pages of text plus photos and maps to make 16 pp total.
• A Timeline of the Israel-Palestine Conflict – this is a timeline from Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) with some additions.
• “Understanding the Palestinian-Israel Conflict: A Primer” provides information in small bites, with specific answers to many of the most commonly asked questions. This easy-to-read resource is a good way to build understanding of the basic issues surrounding the conflict. This edition is from 2006; an updated edition was published in 2015.
• This longer history from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (web page) has been supplemented with a couple of other sources by United Methodists’ Holy Land Task Force and has more background information.
• “The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict” (Word doc, 37 pp) is an excellent longer history provided by Jews for Justice in the Middle East. They ask many questions that arise in studying the history of the Palestine-Israel conflict, and answer each question with brief, enlightening excerpts from books by Israeli, Palestinian, and British historians, among others.
• The Nakba: 65 Years of Dispossession and Apartheid (Web page) is a valuable resource from the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) that deals with the history of Zionism and Israel’s creation, the catastrophe (“nakba” in Arabic) that ensued for the Palestinians, and some key issues of international law and human rights that arose at that time and in the following decades.
• FAQ on the Nakba: The Nakba and Palestinian Refugees Today (Web page) is a shorter resource, also from IMEU, covering some of the basics about the Nakba and the Palestinians refugees, including some very interesting quoted statements from Israeli leaders.
• Facing the Nakba from Jewish Voice for Peace is a 7-session curriculum that offers an opportunity to learn about what happened before and during 1948, to look at the ongoing effects of the Nakba, and to understand why and how that story is elided in U.S. conversations. Find also an in-depth guide for facilitators and recommended tracks: in synagogues or on college campuses, among organizers or high school students.