Israel & Palestine



Join Active Minds as we look at one of the most persistent regional conflicts of our time.  We will review the origins of mid-east tensions dating back to the creation of the state of Israel (and before) and bring the story up to date, including the most recent events.  The role of the rest of the world, including the United States' support for Israel, will be addressed as well as what prospects for peace might look like in the region.

Key Lecture Points

  • The heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies in the question of a land steeped in thousands of years of religious and imperial history.  Supporters of modern Israel’s territorial claims emphasize the long history of Jewish presence in the region.  Supporters of expanded Arab Palestinian claims to territory emphasize the lengthy presence in the region of Arab Muslims.  The end of WWI and with it the fall of Muslim Ottoman Imperial control of Palestine brought the brief but momentous period of British control over what the League of Nations deemed the British Mandate of Palestine.
  • During WWI the British assured European Jews of their support for Jewish settlement in Palestine, but they also assured Arabs of their support for Arab nationalism in the region.  These conflicting promises set the stage for mounting conflict between Jews and Arabs in British Palestine.
  • After WWII and the Holocaust, pressure grew for the international recognition of a Jewish state.  In 1948, after the British relinquished their control over Palestine to the United Nations, the UN partitioned the area into separate Jewish and Arab areas.   Israel immediately declared itself a sovereign state.  Arab States in the region declared war.  Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced, and several wars have been fought involving Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.  The most recent major fighting was between Hamas and Israel in 2014.
  • Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, the US has engaged in an ongoing effort to broker a final status agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians that would establish a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in exchange for an end of attacks on Israel.
  • Today the conflict centers on Israel’s right to exist in peace, recognized by its Arab neighbors.  Conflict also focuses on Irael’s control over and, in places, occupation of Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jerusalem.  Although Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it continues to enforce a naval and air blockade.  Since 1967 Israel has occupied the West Bank and continues to expand Jewish settlements in the area.  Currently Hamas controls Gaza and the Palestinian Authority nominally controls the West Bank.
  • The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a high priority for the Obama Administration.  In 2013 Secretary of State Kerry began an intense push to revive the peace talks but his efforts fell apart in 2014.  To succeed any peace process will have to address:  the borders of the West Bank and the Jewish settlements within it, the Palestinian refugees’ right to return, the guarantee of Israeli security and the status of East Jerusalem.

Exploration Questions

  • Describe the events that created the current political situation in Israel, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
  • What are the obstacles to a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians?

Reflective Questions

  • What is your perception of Israel? Palestine? Is there a clear “good guy” vs. “bad guy”?
  • Do you believe peace can be accomplished in the area?  Why?  Why not?

More to Explore

Books for Further Reading

  • O’Malley, Padraig.  The Two-State Delusion—A Tale of Two Narratives.  Viking, 2015. 512 pages.  The author describes the issues that have repeatedly derailed peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine and outlines why he believes the two state solution is no longer a viable path to peace between Israel and Palestine.
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  • Bregman, Ahron.  Cursed Victory: A History of Israel and the Occupied Territories, 1967 to the Present.  Pegasus Books, 2015. 416 pages.  The author outlines the aftermath of the Six Day War, the occupation of the Palestinian Territories and why he feels the occupation is a stain on Israel’s history.
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  • Dershowitz, Alan M.  Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas.  Rosettabooks, 2014. 233 pages.  The author shows why Israel’s struggle against Hamas is a fight not only to protect its citizens but all democracies and how Israel is a model for all nations threatened by terrorist groups.
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