To be an effective advocate, you need to know your stuff. CIJA’s Core Issues Guide includes facts, history, and analyses that will help community activists, students, and researchers better understand Israel and the Middle East. For more information, please be sure to check out our extensive Resources page for information on a wide range of subjects related to Canada’s Jewish community, Israel, and the Middle East.
Core Issues: Overview
Contrary to popular misconception, what is frequently referred to as the “1967 border” between Israel, the West Bank and Gaza is not an internationally recognized boundary. Rather, it is the ceasefire line that marked the areas where fighting stopped between Israel, Jordan and Egypt in 1949. There was no internationally recognized border at that time. The 1949 armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan clearly states that this temporary demarcation was agreed to “without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.” While this armistice line – also called the Green Line, as it was drawn with a green pen – is generally accepted as the reference point for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to determine a fixed border, it is also understood that, in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338, there will have to be modifications made to ensure that the definitive borders are secure. Israel is not obligated to withdraw to the precise – and insecure – Green Line.
This term is sometimes used to refer pejoratively to the security barrier erected by Israel to block suicide bombings and other terror-related violence emanating from the West Bank. Following Yasser Arafat’s rejection of Israel’s offer for peace, Palestinian statehood and territorial concessions at Camp David in 2000, Palestinian terrorist groups embarked on a massive campaign of suicide bombings and other attacks that claimed more than 1,000 Israeli lives. To protect its civilian population, Israel was forced to build a security barrier to prevent would-be terrorists from entering Israel and carrying out attacks on residents and visitors – Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. The security barrier has contributed to reducing the occurrence of suicide bombings by more than 90%. Only 5% of the security barrier is a wall; the rest comprises a fence outfitted with electronic sensors. The barrier is built mainly along the 1949 armistice line (Green Line); though, in some areas, it encroaches into the West Bank. Its routing is subject to oversight by the Israeli High Court of Justice, which has issued several redirection orders to protect Palestinian property.
The Palestinians are often mischaracterized as a nation suffering under brutal Israeli occupation, but 100% of Palestinians in Gaza and approximately 96% of Palestinians in the West Bank live under autonomous Palestinian administration. The Oslo II agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinians in 1995 divided the West Bank into three administrative zones – Areas A, B and C – pending a negotiated, comprehensive final status peace agreement. Area A is controlled exclusively by the Palestinian Authority, with zero Israeli military presence, and is home to approximately 55% of the Palestinian population in the West Bank. Area B is under Palestinian civil control, with Israel maintaining responsibility for security, and is home to approximately 41% of the Palestinian population in the West Bank. Area C is the only territory under exclusive Israeli control, home to approximately 5.8% of the Palestinian population in the West Bank. Israel has put forward a number of peace proposals that would result in the complete removal of Israeli administration, military and population from up to 99.8% of the land area claimed by the Palestinians, but has received no response from their Palestinian interlocutors.
BDS is a tactic that is part of the larger strategy to demonize and delegitimize Israel in every sphere of life and collectively punish all Israelis – including those who are staunch proponents of peace – by holding Israel solely responsible for the Arab-Israeli conflict. Peace is not part of BDS, which is not concerned with resolving the conflict or fostering negotiations and reconciliation. Instead, the intent of the BDS tactic is to single out Israel and challenge its legitimacy and right to exist. Many BDS activists oppose the two-state solution and readily admit their desire to non-violently destroy the existing state of Israel.
Violent exchanges between Israel and Palestinian or Lebanese terrorist groups are often mischaracterized as ‘cyclical’. However, these incidents always follow a specific chronology of causation – usually a terrorist attack or kidnapping – to which Israel feels compelled to respond. There can often be an escalation of hostilities between Israel and those groups seeking its destruction, but this should not be confused with a so-called “cycle of violence” for which both sides bear equal causal responsibility.
In 2005, the Government of Israel unilaterally withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the northern West Bank. The complete evacuation of Israeli soldiers and settlers from Gaza was intended as a good-faith gesture to re-establish a pathway to peace. The Palestinians could have used the gesture to create greater momentum and support for peace. Unfortunately, complete Palestinian sovereignty over Gaza resulted instead in increased attacks against Israel, which escalated following Hamas’ violent takeover of the territory in a 2007 coup.
When Israel is engaged in armed conflict, critics frequently allege that its use of force is ‘disproportionate,’ but the term is often misused due to a misunderstanding of its meaning. The principle of proportionality is only violated when there is an intention to target military objectives with the knowledge that it would cause civilian harm that is excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage. Unfortunate collateral effects of Israeli military operations are sadly unavoidable since, as a matter of policy, its enemies trap innocent people in the crossfire as human shields. However, consistent with the principle of proportionality, the IDF does not knowingly attack military targets when this would excessively endanger the civilian population, and it takes every step to ensure that only military objectives are targeted.
Since being founded as the capital of the Jewish homeland by King David more than 3,000 years ago, Jerusalem has only ever been divided once, for a mere 18 years (1949-1967) as a result of a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Jordan. At no time in the last 3,000 years has an internationally recognized border divided the city. What is commonly referred to as ‘East Jerusalem’ is simply the portion of the city temporarily controlled by Jordan between 1949 and 1967. This area of the city contains many important Jewish sites, including the City of David, the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives and the Western Wall. After the reunification of the city in 1967, Arab residents of what had been Jordanian-held Jerusalem were offered full Israeli citizenship. Most chose to retain their Jordanian citizenship, but are still accorded rights as “Jerusalem Residents,” including freedoms of speech, religion, press and the right to vote and run for office in municipal elections (they are also able to vote in the Palestinian Authority elections). The final status of Jerusalem is subject to a negotiated agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim part of the city as their capital.
It is historically inaccurate to refer to the creation of the Palestinian refugees in the 1948 war as an act of Israeli (or Jewish) “ethnic cleansing.” Those who use this term are typically attempting to delegitimize Israel by drawing inaccurate parallels to tragic acts of genuine ethnic cleansing such as Saddam Hussein’s treatment of the Kurds, Sudan’s treatment of the people of Darfur, and Miloscevic’s treatment of the Kosavars. All these are instances of deliberate, willful killings and displacements of people based on their ethnicity by brutal, dictatorial regimes – none of which remotely applies in Israel’s case. The displacement of Palestinians in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war was, with minimal exception, the product of a war initiated by the Palestinian leadership and several Arab states to exterminate the nascent State of Israel. Despite this, Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence contained an appeal to its Arab inhabitants to participate fully in the building of the new country “on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions”, the antithesis of a concerted campaign of “ethnic cleansing.” In contrast, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has articulated his intent to establish a Palestinian state that is Judenrein – without a single Jewish resident. Bringing this to fruition would likely necessitate an act of ethnic cleansing, the forcible removal of Jewish residents from a future Palestinian state simply because they are Jews.
The largest and most important faction in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Fatah, which means “conquest” in Arabic, was founded in secret in the late 1950s before becoming public in 1965. In 1968 it took over the PLO, and its leader, Yasser Arafat, became the organization’s chairman. Until officially renouncing terrorism in 1988, Fatah was considered a terrorist organization, responsible for notorious attacks including the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. With the advent of the Second Intifada, Fatah once again began a campaign of terrorism against Israeli civilians, though today the organization represents Israel’s only potentially viable interlocutor for peace.
Issues listed in the Oslo Accords that were to be negotiated after a period of normalization between Israelis and Palestinians. The principal issues are Jerusalem, refugees, settlements and borders. Resolving these issues through a comprehensive final status agreement would require an absolute end to the conflict and all reciprocal claims.
A number of boats carrying activists and agitators, claiming to be on a humanitarian mission, have attempted to breach the arms blockade of Gaza. If this were their true objective, there are established channels that would be significantly more efficient and effective in delivering goods and aid to the people of Gaza. Instead, these ‘freedom flotillas’ are staged media events less focused on building up a Palestinian state than on tearing down Israel. Rather than making a genuine contribution to the wellbeing of Palestinian civil society, these groups are single-mindedly focused on provoking and demonizing the Jewish state.
This 25-mile long strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea was captured from Egypt by Israel in the 1967 War. Since Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in August 2005, not a single Israeli soldier or settler remain in the territory. Gaza is subject to an arms blockade, enforced by Israel and Egypt, to prevent the flow of weapons and materiel to Hamas who, since taking over Gaza in a 2007 coup, have fired thousands of missiles at Israeli population centres.
Arabic acronym for the ‘Islamic Resistance Movement,’ officially designated as a terrorist entity by Canada, the United States and the European Union. An outgrowth of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas has been directly responsible for thousands of terrorist attacks targeting innocent Israeli civilians. The Hamas charter calls for the mass murder of Jews, the obliteration of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state in its stead. In 2007, Hamas seized control of Gaza in a bloody coup, violently forcing those affiliated with their political rival – Fatah – to flee the territory. Hamas rule in Gaza has been characterized by rampant human rights abuses, making life particularly difficult for political opponents, women and Christian religious minorities.
Ideologically inspired and affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hezbollah is one of the most technically capable terrorist groups in the world. Its goals are the ‘liberation’ of Jerusalem, the destruction of Israel, and, ultimately, the establishment of a revolutionary Shia Islamic state in Lebanon, modelled after Iran. Formed in 1982, Hezbollah carried out some of the most infamous terrorist attacks, including the suicide bombings of the United States Marines and French paratroopers barracks in Beirut, the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 and the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Hezbollah is the only Lebanese militia that refused to disarm in 1990, continuing to wage a guerrilla war against Israeli troops stationed in southern Lebanon. Following Israel’s complete withdrawal from Lebanon to the internationally recognized border in 2000, Hezbollah continued to attack Israeli troops and civilian population centres. In 2006, Hezbollah provoked a war with Israel by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers from inside Israel, killing eight others and launching a barrage of 4,228 rockets targeting Israeli population centres.
Though controversial, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank resulting from the 1967 Six-Day-War is, in actuality, 100% legal. According to UN Security Council Resolution 242, Israel is only required to withdraw from occupied territories within the context of a termination of all claims and hostilities against it, recognition of its sovereignty, territorial integrity and “right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” The only legitimate pathway to end the occupation is a comprehensive, negotiated, final status peace agreement.
Refers to a multitude of ways in which both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and, to an even greater extent, Hamas in Gaza indoctrinate their people, especially children, to hate Israel and Jews. This process occurs through official bodies including media, the school system, summer camps and mosques. Israel is typically demonized as being guilty of “ethnic cleansing” and even “genocide;” antisemitic cartoons appear frequently; Palestinian suicide bombers are glorified and public places, including schools, proudly named after them. The situation is worst in Gaza, where Hamas’ Charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. Palestinian children are often dressed in military uniforms toting guns and sometimes even as suicide bombers whom they are taught to honour and emulate as “martyrs.” A generation taught to hate and kill will not be open even to the idea of coexistence, and certainly not peace, with Israel.
Translated literally from Arabic as “shaking off”, the term is most commonly associated with the Palestinian civil uprising that took place in Gaza and the West Bank from December 1987 to September 1993. However, it has also been used to describe events of the Arab Spring, particularly with regard to Tunisia. The so-called “Second Intifada” took place between 2000 and 2005. It was far less an uprising than an orchestrated strategy of violence, notorious for a drastic increase in suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
The “apartheid” slander is a shameful and dishonest tactic used to elicit an emotional and political response against Israel and precludes serious discussion of the real issues facing Palestinians and Israelis alike. While the South African Apartheid was a system of officially institutionalized racial discrimination, Israel, by contrast, guarantees freedom and equal rights for all its citizens. Israeli Arabs, who comprise approximately 25% of the population, vote, organize political parties, serve in the Israeli parliament and sit on Israel’s Supreme Court. They live, study and work with their fellow Jewish citizens, distinguishing themselves in all fields.
Antisemitism has existed and has been constantly manifest on a global scale for thousands of years. To suggest that Israel, Israeli policies or Israeli actions are somehow responsible for Antisemitism downplays its perniciousness and whitewashes this tragic historical record. Long before the establishment of the modern State of Israel, Jews were subject to persecution, libel, discrimination and expulsion throughout the world – including in Arab and Muslim countries.
Israel has not exercised effective control over Gaza since the complete withdrawal of its citizens and soldiers from the territory in 2005. In fact, Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahar has publicly declared that Gaza is no longer occupied territory. Following their violent takeover of Gaza in 2006, Hamas has been the sole governing authority – operating its own police, courts and jails, schools, media and social services. The Hamas administration regulates businesses, banks, property, borders and taxes, and can be described as a fully functioning and independent civil government backed by paramilitary forces. Nonetheless, some still mistakenly insist on referring to Gaza as territory occupied by Israel, refusing to empower Gazans to take responsibility for self-rule and for ensuring that basic rights and freedoms are protected within their jurisdiction.
Israel was founded in 1948 as a Jewish and democratic state – the expression of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. This represented the reconstitution of Jewish sovereignty in their ancestral homeland. Unfortunately, in an attempt to portray it as a racist or “apartheid” state, Israel’s Jewish identity is often willfully misrepresented. While the state is decidedly Jewish (its national holidays follow the Jewish calendar, its flag features a Jewish symbol, etc. – as Christmas is a national holiday in England whose flag features a cross), the rights of its minority populations are guaranteed in both law and practice. Israel’s declaration of independence announced the creation of a Jewish state characterized by development for all its inhabitants; based on justice and peace; ensuring complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; guaranteeing freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; safeguarding the holy places of all. This founding document also featured an appeal to the Arab inhabitants of the nascent state to “preserve peace and participate in the up-building of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.” Israel is simultaneously a Jewish state and a state for all its citizens.
The ancient capital of the Kingdom of Israel established by King David 3,000 years ago and capital of the modern State of Israel. While Jerusalem has great religious significance to all three monotheistic faiths, holy to Christians (Church of the Holy Sepulchre) and to Muslims (Al-Aqsa Mosque, ranking in importance after Mecca and Medina), only for the Jewish people has the city been both their spiritual and political centre. Jerusalem was never the capital under Arab or Muslim rule. Since the destruction of the Jewish Temple by the Romans in 70 C.E., Jews have maintained an unbroken presence in the city and pray at the Temple’s remnant, the Western Wall which, along with the Temple Mount, comprises the holiest site in Judaism.
Is the official Israeli term, based on biblical geography demarcating the historic heartland of the Jewish people in the land of Israel, roughly corresponding to the territory usually referred to as the “West Bank.” In the last quarter-century, these geographic references have acquired political meaning, used particularly by those believing that these territories are part of Israel and should remain so. However, despite these political connotations, Judea and Samaria are legitimate geographical terms of reference for general use.
Many influential policy and media circles have a deeply held belief in the linkage of Israel-Palestinian, or, more broadly, Israel-Arab, peace to solving all the problems in the Middle East. This formula accordingly places the onus for peace on Israel, assuming that Israel’s failure to make peace with the Palestinians or the wider Arab world is the root cause of regional disorder, violence, terrorism, disaffection with the West, etc. This orientation has been proved false by the unfolding of the “Arab Spring,” where revolts against oppressive regimes from Libya to Yemen were completely unrelated to Israel and its regional conflicts. Resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict is an important objective, but it has no bearing on the “Arab Spring” or on the deepening discord between Sunni and Shia Muslims throughout the region. Those regimes and radical Islamic movements, such as Iran, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas who are most prone to invoking Israel as the root cause of regional discord, are the very forces opposing a two-state resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, given their fundamental opposition to Israel’s very existence. Accordingly, there is nothing Israel could do short of ceasing to exist that could placate them and bring the region into the sort of balance they envision.
Those who perpetrate terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians are often referred to as “martyrs” within Palestinian society. This glorifies the murders they perpetrate and elevates their status in society to encourage others to follow their example. Palestinian “martyrdom” culture is diametrically at odds with the value Israel places on human life, which has been repeatedly demonstrated by the extensive measures undertaken by the IDF to avoid civilian casualties in armed combat and the willingness to do whatever is necessary – including the release of thousands of convicted terrorists – to save or rescue a single Israeli life.
Despite the characterization of Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction as “moderate” forces, they are directly responsible for incitement to hatred on a massive scale. Official Palestinian news outlets, summer camps, schoolbooks, religious preaching, music videos and television programs continue to promote hatred of Jews, rejection of Israel’s existence and glorification of terrorism. The historical connection of the Jewish people to Israel and Jerusalem is denied extensively, especially in statements by PA leaders. Public squares, streets and stadiums are continually named after terrorist “martyrs,” promoting the killing of innocent Israeli civilians as heroic deeds. No matter what deal might be reached on paper, as long as this culture of hate continues to fester, real peace cannot be achieved.
Although there is absolutely no moral equivalence between the use of violence by terrorist groups such as Hamas – which wilfully target innocent civilians – and the use of force by the Israel Defence Forces – which takes every precaution to avoid collateral damage, “moral equivalence” is often applied when describing violent interactions between Israel and terrorist groups seeking its destruction. Israeli and Palestinian civilian casualties are equally tragic but, for groups like Hamas, dead civilians are an operational success, whereas, for Israel, they are a disastrous operational failure.
The One-State Solution promotes the creation of a single, bi-national state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. This is a thinly veiled proposal for the destruction of Israel, betraying a fundamental rejection of the legitimacy of its existence. Implementation of this plan would mean the dismantling of the State of Israel and, in its stead, the creation of a new country where the Jewish population would be a minority. This “solution,” therefore, supports only the Palestinian right to self-determination, negating that right for Jews and contravening numerous UN resolutions, bilateral agreements, and public opinion, which support a solution resulting in two-states for two peoples, where Jews and Palestinians respectively can exercise their national rights to self-determination.
The term “Palestine” was first introduced in the second century A.D., when the Romans crushed the Jewish revolt, exiled the Jewish population (132 CE) and changed the name of Judea (the southern portion of what is now commonly known as the West Bank) to “Palestina” in an attempt to erase the Jewish connection with the Land of Israel. After World War I, Britain and France were awarded temporary “mandates” from the League of Nations to administer areas captured from the Ottoman Empire. The name Palestine was revived at this point, with the British being awarded the “Mandate for Palestine”, which they administered from July 24, 1922, to May 15, 1948. However, at no time prior to 1948 was the term ever associated with the regional Arabs or Bedouin tribes who currently self-identify as Palestinians.
An umbrella organization housing a coalition of groups dominated by Fatah, including groups like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – a listed terrorist entity in Canada responsible for airplane hijackings, suicide bombings, car bombings, mortar strikes and the 2001 murder of Israel’s Tourism Minister. The PLO was formed in 1964 by the first Arab summit conference as the embodiment of the notion of a Palestinian entity. It was originally controlled by the Arab states but, following the 1967 war, the PLO was taken over by genuine Palestinian nationalist groups and became autonomous. An agreement signed September 13, 1993, between Israel and the PLO affirmed mutual recognition and legitimacy. The PLO agreed to end the intifada and terrorist attacks and to amend its charter calling for the destruction of Israel. Israel agreed to recognize the PLO as the representative organization of the Palestinians and granted the PLO civil autonomy over much of Gaza and the West Bank.
This term has been used so frequently with respect to Palestinian refugees that it is naturally assumed to be valid: that they have a legally enshrined “right” to return to present-day Israel. However, there is no such right in international law (please see entry on UNGA Resolution 194), especially not when Palestinians were displaced in a war to destroy Israel initiated against Israel by their own leadership and Arab countries in 1948. Moreover, the mass migration of millions of Palestinians from across the Middle East to Israel is fundamentally at odds with a two state-solution. Such an eventuality would result in the demographic destruction of Israel as a Jewish state, rendering the objective of two states for two peoples impossible. The promotion of a Palestinian “right of return” to Israel is a disingenuous bargaining tactic that endangers negotiation, reconciliation and peace.
Palestinian statehood is inextricably tied to the peace process and the achievement of a comprehensive two-state final status peace agreement representing an end to the conflict and all reciprocal claims. Any unilateral attempts to achieve Palestinian statehood outside this framework are contrary to UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements. These unilateral initiatives are a recipe for continuing conflict and set back the cause of peace. What’s more, Palestinian officials, including President Mahmoud Abbas, have noted that the ultimate objective of these initiatives is to gain access to UN bodies and exploit them to further isolate Israel internationally.
The disputed territories occupied by Israel following the 1967 Six-Day-War were never under Palestinian sovereignty. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the land was administered by the British, with the West Bank and Gaza ultimately occupied by Jordan and Egypt respectively following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Until such time as a negotiated two-state resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is reached, final sovereignty over these territories remains indeterminate.
One of the key factors in peace-building is the unification of Palestinian society, which has been fractured since Hamas’ 2007 seizure of Gaza in a bloody coup. However, for Palestinian unity to be a force for peace, it must be based on moderation, not radicalization. Reconciliation between the rival Hamas and Fatah factions must be based on acceptance by Hamas of the Quartet’s conditions: that Hamas renounce violence, accept Israel’s right to exist, and abide by previous agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians. Palestinian reconciliation resulting from Fatah adopting a more extremist approach would perilously set back the cause of peace.
Terrorism and other violence directed against Israelis has become virtually synonymous with the term “resistance.” Hamas, the name of a listed terrorist entity in Canada, the US and the EU, is an acronym for the “Islamic Resistance Movement.” This term is often used to sanitize the willful targeting of innocent Israeli civilians with both violence and other measures such as boycott, divestment and sanctions.
The Arab-Israeli conflict resulted in the displacement of two similarly sized refugee populations – one Palestinian and one Jewish. While most of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries were quickly absorbed into Israel, where today they and their descendants comprise a majority of the country’s Jewish population, the Palestinian refugees have been intentionally held in a state of limbo and exploited as a bargaining chip in negotiations and as a demographic weapon to wield against Israel. The Palestinian refugees constitute the only refugee population in the world whose status passes from one generation to the next and the only refugee population with their own, separate UN agency. To achieve a just solution to the refugee issue as part of a comprehensive two-state final status accord, the plight and dislocation of both refugee populations that have resulted from the conflict must be addressed. The claims of Jewish refugees must be given equal treatment, as a refugee is a refugee regardless of nationality, ethnicity or religion.
Jewish communities located in the West Bank are commonly referred to as “settlements” and are often mischaracterized as a “major obstacle to peace and to a two-state solution.” However, Israel has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness and capability to withdraw from territory and uproot settlements for the cause of peace. In 1982, Israel dismantled its settlements in Sinai within the context of a comprehensive peace agreement with Egypt and, in 2005, Israel completely withdrew its settlements from Gaza in the hopes of stimulating a similar accord with the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership has agreed to the principle of land swaps for those settlements Israel will retain as part of a final status agreement. The combination of withdrawal and land swaps is a clear formula for resolving the settlement issue, demonstrating that settlements are not, in fact, the principal obstacle to a two-state peace.
Israel and Egypt have enforced an arms blockade of Gaza in an effort to prevent Hamas – an internationally banned terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction – from expanding and improving its weapons arsenal. According to the UN’s Palmer Commission report, the blockade of Gaza – requiring the interception and inspection of all goods entering the territory – is entirely legitimate. There are established land crossings through which massive volumes of humanitarian aid and other essential goods are transferred to Gaza on a daily basis, and through which thousands of Gazans enter Israel for urgent medical treatment every year. If and when Hamas ends its war against Israel, recognizes Israel’s right to exist and commits to abide by existing peace agreements and engage in good-faith negotiations, the arms blockade of Gaza will no longer be necessary for Israel’s security and it will be lifted.
This is the internationally accepted objective of Israel-Palestinian peace-building: the creation of two states for two peoples, the Jewish State of Israel and the State of Palestine, living side-by side in peace and security. The vision of creating Jewish and Arab states west of the Jordan River was first enunciated in the Partition of Palestine resolution – UNGA 181 – in November 1947. The Jews accepted 181 and declared their state on May 14th 1948, but the Palestinians and other Arab countries violently rejected it. Only in 1988 did the Palestinians come to accept the two-state idea, although they called it an historic injustice and continue to refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has maintained this orientation, saying that he favours a two-state solution but refusing to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state – the national homeland of the Jewish people. This falls far short of the foundation for peace espoused in UNGA 181: that a two-state solution requires two states for two peoples – a national homeland for the Palestinian people and a national homeland for the Jewish people.
UNRWA was founded in 1949 as an emergency assistance organization to provide education, health and relief services to the Palestinian refugee population. It continues to address the basic needs of Palestinian refugee populations throughout the Middle East. Its headquarters are in Gaza. Unlike the UN High Commission for Refugees, which is tasked with caring for and settling the world’s refugee populations, UNRWA has perpetuated Palestinian refugee status for more than 60 years, prolonging and institutionalizing Palestinian dependency. Despite the essential services provided by UNRWA to this vulnerable population, there have been significant problems with members of Hamas, a listed terrorist entity in Canada, the US and the EU, being employed by the agency. Additionally, UNRWA school textbooks have included hateful anti-Israel lessons and themes that undermine progress to peace.
These resolutions set out the path to peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours. UNSC Resolution 242 in fact has formed the basis of all peace-making efforts since the Six-Day War in 1967 and Resolution 242 was legally bound by Resolution 338 following the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The resolutions enshrine the “land for peace” formula: Israel is required to yield territory (acquired in a war of self-defense in 1967) but only in the context of guarantees of peace and security from Arab countries and – since the Oslo process – the Palestinians. The extent of Israeli withdrawal and the details of peace (including recognition of Israel, the establishment of safe and secure borders and the end of conflict agreement) can only be determined through direct negotiations, not by unilateral actions.
Resolution adopted on November 29, 1947, that endorsed the partition of Palestine. This partition plan called for the creation of two states for two peoples – a Jewish state and an Arab state – in what had been the British Mandate. The Resolution also created Jerusalem as a corpus separatum, an international city, whose ultimate status was to be determined through referendum of its inhabitants. Canada was involved in proposing this two-state formula, and voted in favour of the resolution at the General Assembly.
This non-binding resolution, adopted December 11, 1948, called upon the Arab states and Israel to resolve all outstanding issues through negotiations. It also said that refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours “should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date,” that compensation should be paid for property of those choosing not to return, and that a Conciliation Commission should facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of refugees. The operative words are “permitted” and “practicable.” Like any sovereign state, Israel has the sole authority to determine its immigration policy. The Arab states unanimously rejected the resolution, but subsequently argued it recognized a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees. Israel disputes this interpretation and has consistently said the refugee issue, including Jews who fled Arab countries, should be negotiated as part of an overall peace agreement.
The West Bank is territory west of the Jordan River that Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War. Long known as Judea and Samaria, this 2263-square-mile territory is home to a Palestinian population of more than one million, as well as about 340,000 Jewish residents.
The goal of Zionism is the political and spiritual renewal of the Jewish people in its ancestral homeland. Zion is an ancient Hebrew designation for Jerusalem but, even in biblical times (e.g., Psalm 137.1-6), it had begun to symbolize the national homeland of the Jewish people. In this latter sense it served as a focus for Jewish national-religious hopes of renewal over the centuries. Ancient hopes and attachments to Zion have, since antiquity, given rise to Zionist longings and movements, culminating in the modern national liberation movement of that name. Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, reconstituting sovereignty in their ancestral homeland. Through Zionism, Jews are able, under the protection of their state, to flourish socially, politically and spiritually. Rejection of Zionism is a rejection of the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination, a right upheld for all other peoples.