Brief history and background of Israeli/Palestine conflict

Justice and Peace for the People of Palestine and Israel:

What We Must Do


A very brief history

It is a common misconception that the struggle in Israel/Palestine has gone on for thousands of years and thus will never be resolved.  Actually, problems only began in the late 19th Century, when in response to anti-Semitism in Europe, Jewish Zionists began to migrate from Europe to Palestine, with the long term goal of creating a Jewish state in Palestine.


At that time, over 90 percent of the inhabitants of Palestine were Palestinian. Over the following decades, Zionists continued to settle on Palestinian land.  In 1948, the UN partitioned Palestine into two sections, of which 55 percent went to Israel. The Palestinians viewed this deal as fundamentally unfair, because they were given less than half the land even though they formed the majority of inhabitants, and because 450,000 Palestinians lived in the section given to Israel, a Jewish State. They therefore rejected the UN deal, and the Israel Arab War followed.


By the end of the war, the better-armed Zionist forces controlled around 80 percent of Palestine. 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homeland, and to this day they and their descendants have not been allowed to return. After the 1967 War, Israel controlled all of Palestine, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, lands known as the Israeli Occupied Territories. Today, the majority of Palestinians live under military occupation.


Zionism and Judaism

We believe it is important to recognize the difference between Zionism and Judaism. Zionism is a political ideology that supports a Jewish state in Palestine. Judaism is a religion that promotes compassion, love, and the rule of law. It is important not to conflate the two. This resolution focuses on problems with the way Zionism is being practiced today.


Current situation

International Law recognizes the right of Palestinians and Israelis to have their own independent state. However, Israel has been occupying Palestinian lands since 1967, making a Palestinian state impossible. This military occupation is full of human rights abuses and humiliations for the Palestinians. Military checkpoints make it extremely difficult, sometimes impossible, for Palestinians to go to work, school, or even visit their families.


In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Israeli Government protects illegal Jewish settlements, which steal valuable land and resources. Palestinians, on the other hand, are often prohibited from even building their own houses, many of which are destroyed every year by the Israeli military. Palestinians have almost no legal rights in the Occupied Territories and it is common for people to spend months or years in jail without a trial.


In Gaza, the Palestinians live in desperate circumstances under a blockade in what has been called the largest open-air prison in the world. They have to endure massive and vicious military attacks from Israel resulting in high civilian casualties, as in the cases of Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014.


Our responsibility as US citizens

Although Israel is a wealthy, modernized, nuclear-armed state, the U.S. government gives over 3 billion dollars to Israel in military aid every year. This aid dwarfs the amount given to any other country in the world.  In addition, the US seat on the UN Security Council is used to block any censure of illegal Israeli actions.  Thus our government is enabling the oppression of the Palestinians through its blind and uncritical support of the state of Israel.


It is therefore our responsibility as Americans to stand up for Palestinians and help them resist these grave human rights abuses.  We can urge our elected representatives in Congress to halt military aid to Israel.  Meanwhile, personal and institutional purchasing choices can have an effect.  We can join the international movement to boycott companies which profit from the military occupation of Palestine.


The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has destabilized the entire region and is a major obstacle to peace in the world.  An end to the Israeli military occupation will remove a source of conflict, as well as reduce antagonism toward the US.  We can play a large part in bringing human rights to all citizens in Israel and Palestine, and help provide a path to peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and the world at large.



Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War (KNOW) – Israel/Palestine Working Group