It's a tiny sliver of land, yet provokes more debate than any other part of the world. If you'd like the facts without having to wade through pages of history, this is the site and the resource for you.
Most intelligent people like verifiable, objective information. Sometimes the emotion surrounding any discussion of Israel makes it hard to know what to believe.
Here, then, are clear and accurate answers on Israel.
WHY DO JEWS CARE SO MUCH ABOUT ISRAEL?
Jews have maintained ties to their historic homeland for more than 3,700 years.
The Jewish people base their claim to the land of Israel on three premises:
1) the Jewish people settled and developed the land,
2) the international community granted political sovereignty in Palestine to the Jewish people,
3) the territory was captured in defensive wars.
Even after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and the beginning of the exile, Jewish life in Israel continued and often flourished.
Large communities were reestablished in Jerusalem and Tiberias by the ninth century. In the eleventh century, Jewish communities grew in Rafah, Gaza, Ashkelon, Jaffa, and Caesarea.
The Crusaders massacred many Jews during the twelfth century, but the community rebounded in the next two centuries as large numbers of rabbis and Jewish pilgrims immigrated to Jerusalem and the Galilee. Prominent rabbis established communities in Safed, Jerusalem, and elsewhere during the following three hundred years.
KEY POINT - The land was originally known as Judea. Then the Romans invaded the region and renamed it 'Palestina' in 63 BC. in a bid to de-Judaize it. The Romans also expelled many Jews in 135 AD.
WHY IS JERUSALEM SO V ITAL?
Jerusalem has been the capital city of the Jews for more than three millennia. There are some 700 references to Jerusalem in the Jewish scriptures. Jews have been a majority in Jerusalem for the last 150 years.
The Jewish population was decimated by the Crusaders in the 12th century AD, but it eventually rebounded. By the 1880s, when the Ottoman Empire ruled the city, Jews once again became the largest religious group in Jerusalem. At that time, there were 9,000 Jews and 7,000 Arabs living in the city.
DID THE JEWS STEAL THEIR COUNTRY FROM PALESTINIAN ARABS?
In the second century CE, after crushing the last Jewish revolt, the Romans first applied the name Palaestina to Judea (the southern portion of what is now called the West Bank) in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel.
Palestine was never an exclusively Arab region, though Arabic gradually became the language of most of the population after the Muslim invasions of the seventh century.
No independent Arab or Palestinian state ever existed in Palestine.
When the distinguished Arab-American historian, Princeton University professor Philip Hitti, testified against partition before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, he said, “There is no such thing as ‘Palestine’ in history, absolutely not.”
Before partition, Palestinian Arabs did not view themselves as having a separate identity. When the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 to choose Palestinian representatives for the Paris Peace Conference, they adopted the following resolution:
"We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic, and geographical bonds.."
Similarly, the King-Crane commission found that Christian and Muslim
Arabs opposed any plan to create a country called “Palestine".
In 1937, a local Arab leader, Auni Bey Abdul Hadi, told the Peel Commission, which ultimately suggested the partition of Palestine:
“There is no such country as Palestine! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.”
The representative of the Arab Higher Committee to the United Nations echoed this view in a statement to the General Assembly in May 1947, which said Palestine was part of the Province of Syria and the Arabs of Palestine did not comprise a separate political entity.
A few years later, Ahmed Shuqeiri, later the chairman of the PLO, told the Security Council: “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.”
Thus the term 'Palestinian' referred to all living there - Jews, Arabs, nomads.
The Palestine Post was a Jewish newspaper.
The Palestine Philharmonic was a Jewish orchestra..
The official flag of the region Palestine was a Jewish Star of David.
Then In 1917 the British Government issued the Balfour Declaration. This called for the 'establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.'
After WW1, the Allies met in San Remo, Italy. This created the basis for the British Mandate of Palestine, giving Israel the legal right, based on international law, to become a sovereign nation under the supervision of Britain.
In 1947, the newly created United Nations, voted to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into two states: one for the Jewish inhabitants of the Mandate, and a second one for the Arab inhabitants. The Jewish residents accepted this resolution.
The Arab residents rejected it - and five neighbouring Arab states launched a war of annihilation against the new Jewish state. The Arab leaders publicly called to the Arabs in Israel to leave ' so we can return when we have pushed all the jews into the sea'.
The Arabs who stayed became Israeli citizens.
This was the 1948 War Of Independence - and nobody expected Israel to survive, let alone win.
DID THE ARABS IN PALESTINE SUFFER BECAUSE OF JEWS?
For centuries, Palestine was a sparsely populated, poorly cultivated, and widely neglected expanse of sandy deserts, and malarial marshes.
In 1880, the American consul in Jerusalem reported the area was continuing its historic decline. “The population and wealth of Palestine has not increased during the last forty years,” he said..
The Report of the Palestine Royal Commission quotes an account of the Maritime Plain in 1913: The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts . . . no orange groves, orchards or vineyards were to be seen until one reached [the Jewish village of] Yabna [Yavne . . . Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen . . . The ploughs used were of wood . . . The yields were very poor . . . The sanitary conditions in the village were horrible. Schools did not exist . . . The western part, towards the sea, was almost a desert . . .
Even a leading Arab nationalist believed the return of the Jews to their homeland would help resuscitate the country.
According to Sherif Hussein, the guardian of the Islamic Holy Places in Arabia: '
The resources of the country are still virgin soil and will be developed by the Jewish immigrants.'
BUT WEREN'T THE JEWS REPRESENTING BRITISH COLONIAL INTERESTS?
AS British historian Paul Johnson noted, Zionists were hardly tools of imperialists given the powers’ general opposition to their cause.
“Everywhere in the West, the foreign offices, defense ministries and big business were against the Zionists.”
Emir Faisal saw the Zionist movement as a companion to the Arab nationalist movement, fighting against imperialism, as he explained in a letter to Harvard law professor and future Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter on March 3, 1919, one day after Chaim Weizmann presented the Zionist case to the Paris conference.
Faisal wrote: The Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement . . . We will wish the Jews a hearty welcome home . . . We are working together for a reformed and revised Near East and our two movements complete one another. The Jewish movement is nationalist and not imperialist. And there is room in Syria for us both. Indeed, I think that neither can be a real success without the other.
In the 1940s, the Jewish underground movements waged an anticolonial war against the British. The Arabs, meanwhile, were concerned primarily with fighting
WHAT ABOUT THE WEST BANK AND GAZA? HOW DID THEY END UP AS PART OF ISRAEL?
KEY POINT - in 1948 Egypt captured the Gaza Strip, and Jordan captured Judea and Samaria, renaming the areas as the 'West Bank'.
Egypt and Jordan controlled these areas until 1967. During those years, no country in the Ara world called for the creation of a Palestinian State.
In 1967, after again being attacked by her Arab neighbours, Israel captured these areas. International law stated that Israel administer these areas until permanent boarders are set within the framework of a lasting peace agreement.
Israel's possession of these areas was legal - they were included in the land approved for a Jewish state by the British Mandate, San Remo and the League of Nations agreements.
KEY POINT - in 1947 the UN Partition Plan did set aside areas in the West Bank and Gaza for Arab sovereignty, but the Arab nations REJECTED this plan.
WHY IS ISRAEL ACCUSED OF OCCUPYING THESE AREAS?
Israel's ownership of these areas is not an 'occupation' because they were never the possession of an Arab nation and are therefore legally defined as 'disputed territories'.
And in 2005, Israel totally left Gaza - even having to exhume dead bodies because the Palestinian Arabs refused to have even dead Jews there.
After Israel left, the terrorist group Hamas won the election and ever since, Gaza has been used as a base for terrorist attacks on Israel.
WHY AFTER SO MANY YEARS HAS ISRAEL NOT MANAGED TO MAKE PEACE WITH THE PALESTINIAN ARABS?
Instead of accepting this offer, Arafat walked away from the table and launched the Second Intifada - a campaign of terrorism that claimed more than 4,000 lives.
In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made an even more generous offer to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. It included all of the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and land equivalent to 100 percent of the West Bank. Instead of making a counter offer, President Abbas again walked away from the negotiating table.
In March 2014, when President Abbas met with President Obama, he refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and to give up the Palestinians "right of return," as well as refused to commit to an "end of conflict."
History proves that Palestinian leaders do not want an independent state.
The culture of incitement in Palestinian schools, mosques, and media poisons the well for peace in future generations. Palestinian leaders fill their textbooks, summer camps, television programs, mosques, and official media outlets with incitement.
DIDN'T THE CREATION OF ISRAEL LEAD TO MILLIONS OF PALESTINIAN REFUGEES?
The Palestinian refugees were created by the War of Annihilation that Arab countries launched against the new State of Israel in 1947.
In 1947, the UN voted to partition the area then known as the Mandate of Palestine into two nations: one Jewish and one Arab.
The Jewish community accepted this plan. The Arab world rejected it - and five Arab countries launched a war to destroy the newborn State of Israel.
This war - Israel's War of Independence - is what created the Palestinian refugees.
It is estimated that between 550,000-700,000 Palestinian Arabs were displaced from their homes during Israel's War of Independence. The vast majority of these people left voluntarily, or at the urging of invading Arab armies.
More than two-thirds of these refugees settled in the original area of the British Mandate for Palestine (Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza).
Historian Benny Morris wrote that most of the Arab refugees, "fled their homes because of the flail of war (and in the expectation that they would shortly return to their homes on the backs of victorious Arab invaders)."
Only a very small fraction of Palestinians were expelled by Israeli troops, who acted in response to immediate military considerations. There was no official Israeli policy of expulsion.
Historian Benny Morris writes, "The refugee problem was born of war, not by design. It was largely a byproduct of Jewish and Arab fears and of the protracted, bitter fighting that characterized the first Israeli-Arab war.
Even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas publicly admitted that the Arabs in his hometown of Safed were not expelled by Israeil troops, but "emigrated" on their own.
KEY POINT: The Arab world has perpetuated the Palestinian refugee problem.
Among all Arab countries, only Jordan has offered Palestinians the rights of citizenship.
Many others have passed discriminatory laws, preventing Palestinians from buying land and from entering certain professions, like law and medicine.
In 1959, the Arab League adopted Resolution 1457, which stated: "The Arab countries will not grant citizenship to applicants of Palestinian origin in order to prevent their assimilation into the host countries."
The UN and international organizations have perpetuated the Palestinian refugee problem.
Palestinian Arabs are the only population in the world that the UN refuses to resettle.
Instead, it passes their refugee status on to children and grandchildren. As a result, the original Palestinian refugee population of a few hundred thousand has grown to more than five million today.
In contrast, Israel absorbed all Jewish refugees forced to flee their homes in Arab countries. An estimated 850,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries in the years following the establishment of a Jewish state.
Israel fully integrated these refugees into its society, at the time that the Arab World exploited and oppressed the Palestinian refugees.
WHY DOES ISRAEL HAVE CHECKPOINTS AND A SECURITY WALL?
Just like any other nation, Israel's government has a duty to protect its citizens against terrorism, which has claimed the lives of more than 1,200 Israelis since 2000.
The security fence was a necessary response to the appalling suicide bombings of the Second Intifada. It has reduced the number of Palestinian terror attacks in Israel by 90 percent, saving thousands of Israeli and Palestinian lives.
The route of the fence was designed to minimize disruption to Palestinian life.
Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have been able to petition Israel's Supreme Court to contest the location of the fence. In many instances, the court has sided with these groups - and Israel has moved the location of the fence as a result.
Checkpoints in the West Bank are necessary security measures that have dramatically reduced terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
For years, Palestinian terror groups used ambulances, taxis, and commercial trucks to smuggle suicide bombers into Israeli cities.
Checkpoints allow Israeli forces to filter out these terrorists before they can strike
Checkpoints allow commercial and humanitarian goods, doctors and ambulances, and medical crews to move freely. The more than 50,000 Palestinians with jobs in Israel pass through checkpoints on a daily basis.
As violence in the West Bank has decreased in recent years, Israel has reduced the number of checkpoints from 40 to 12.
ISN'T IT TRUE THAT ISRAEL HAS BEEN AN EXPANSIONIST STATE SINCE 1948?
Israel’s boundaries were determined by the United Nations when it adopted the partition resolution in 1947.
In a series of defensive wars, Israel captured additional territory.
Israel has withdrawn from more than 90 percent of the area it won in these wars and has repeatedly offered to give up additional lands it now controls in exchange for peace and security.
As part of the 1974 disengagement agreement, Israel returned territories captured in the 1967 and 1973 wars to Syria.
Under the terms of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, Israel withdrew from the Sinai peninsula for the third time.
It had already withdrawn from large parts of the desert area it captured in its War of Independence.
After capturing the entire Sinai in the 1956 Suez conflict, Israel relinquished the peninsula to Egypt a year later.
In September 1983, Israel withdrew from large areas of Lebanon to positions south of the Awali River.
In 1985, all troops were withdrawn with the exception of a small force holding a narrow “security zone” just north of the Israeli border. In 2000, Israel evacuated completely from Lebanon.
After signing the Oslo agreements with the Palestinians, and a treaty with Jordan, Israel agreed to withdraw from most of the territory in the West Bank captured from Jordan in 1967.
A small area was returned to Jordan, and more than 40 percent was ceded to the Palestinian Authority. The agreement with the Palestinians also involved Israel’s withdrawal in 1994 from most of the Gaza Strip, which had been captured from Egypt in 1973.
In 2000, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak offered to withdraw from 97 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip in a final settlement.
In addition, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his successors offered to withdraw from virtually all of the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria.
These offers were rejected. In August 2005, all Israeli troops and civilians were evacuated from the Gaza Strip and the territory was turned over to the control of the Palestinian Authority. In addition, four communities in Northern Samaria that covered an area larger than the entire Gaza Strip were evacuated as part of the disengagement plan. As a result, Israel has now withdraw