Israeli Politics – In the Land of Israel

If one thing can be made clear from the book In the Land of Israel, it is that the people of Israel are divided on issues of politics, with opinions, support and political affiliations all over the board, depending on the person, the area, past experiences and hope for the future.  What was surprising to me, given the circumstances was the fact that the Palestinians interviewed who are living in Israel are divided as well.  Opinions, loyalties and beliefs are all over the place in this work, and seeing the differences in opinion from a single region of the world was refreshing and incredibly enlightening when it comes to the Arab Israeli conflict over the same piece of land.  In Jerusalem’s Geulah quarter, for example, Zionism is dead, and viewed as a disaster by the Orthodox.[1]  Contrary to the dawning of a new age with the establishment of statehood, in this neighborhood, Statehood has simply reestablished a return to the past, and not in a positive way.[2]  This view supports a compromise with the Palestinian Arabs and a return to peace apart from the continual state of conflict that independence and statehood brought with it.[3]

In the settlement of Bet Shemesh, by contrast, young men view the Arab outrage over their displacement with disgust, as well as the Labor party.[4]  The Arabs are given jobs, education and development throughout the settlements and the only reason they are unhappy with their conditions is because someone told them that they should expect better.[5]  Without that external influence, they would be content and obedient to the laws of the State of Israel.[6]  In addition to that, they argue that there are dozens of Arab countries in the Middle East and world-wide – what could be so wrong about the Jews wanting a homeland of their own in the land of Israel, and why would the Arabs want to take that away from the minority Jewish people?[7]  These sentiments are also articulated by Menachem in Tekoa – going still further that if as many Arabs are eliminated as possible, the rest of them might recognize how well they had it and be content with what they’ve been given.[8]  For Menachem in Tekoa, stopping the fighting in the 6 days war was an error in judgement, and Israel should have pressed on in order to achieve total victory and to settle the conflict once and for all.[9]

The voices reflected in this book may not be reflective of all of Israeli society as the author himself notes in the beginning of the work, but there is a clear cross-section of both Jewish and Arabic residents.  It’s clear that the country is divided over the peace process, potential compromises and their views on their Arab neighbors.  The fact that neither side can agree on a direction moving forward makes negotiations with their neighbors and the potential for a fair and lasting peace far more difficult.

[1] Amos Oz, In the Land of Israel (Orlando: Harcourt Inc, 1983), 13.

[2] Oz, In the Land of Israel, 19.

[3] Oz, In the Land of Israel, 19.

[4] Oz, In the Land of Israel, 41.

[5] Oz, In the Land of Israel, 42.

[6] Oz, In the Land of Israel, 42.

[7] Oz, In the Land of Israel, 43.

[8] Oz, In the Land of Israel, 59.

[9] Oz, In the Land of Israel, 60.


Hamas’ Leaflet #1 – January 1988

When an Israeli vehicle crashed in Gaza, killing four Palestinians, Arab resistance to the Israeli occupation reached new heights.[1]  There was an explosion of violence, anger and hatred, which set Israel at odds with Hamas –the Islamic Resistance Movement (Harakat al-muqawwamah al-Islamiyyah).[2]  Hamas was committed to armed conflict in order to reclaim Israel in the name of Islam.[3]  Born from forty years of anger, persecution, repression and removal from their native lands, Hamas’ Leaflet Number 1 is the epitome of the tension, indignation and hatred shared by Palestinian refugees.  By invoking Islam rather than the secular rights advocated by its rival the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Hamas sought to unite the Muslim world against the Zionists, who they viewed as foreign conquerors who needed to be removed from the land of Palestine by force.

There is no question that parts of Leaflet Number One are emphatically anti-Jewish.[4]  This document is a desperate expression of decade’s worth of pent up anger over injustices that have not been acknowledged or resolved by the neighboring Arab States or the international community at large.  In this context, while the language is inexcusable, it becomes more understandable – especially in light of the fact that this insulting verbiage is not one-sided.  On theological grounds, the Quran mandates that Muslims respect both Jews and Christians, and for many centuries all three religions lived in relative peace throughout the Middle East.[5]  Leaflet number one and the Hamas Charter also published in 1988 do have strong anti-Jewish sentiments, but later documents express regret and some of the original language, and clarify the position that Hamas is anti-Zionism, not against the Jewish religion or Jewish people as a whole.[6]  For Hamas, the creation of the State of Israel was illegal, and was done with the approval of both Europe and the United States, effectively establishing a foreign power in the Palestinian homeland, and forcibly removing hundreds of native Palestinians from their homes, their land, and their property.[7]  Although the leadership of Hamas has since tried to distance itself from its original inflammatory language in both Leaflet Number 1 and its original charter, it cannot possibly distance itself from the reality that on the ground in the territories, Zionists, Jew and Israeli are all used interchangeably.[8]

From Hamas’ inception, it defined itself as a military organization, yet proclaimed explicitly its willingness to resort to terrorism, originally found in this document.  When speaking of Palestinian Arabs that had been killed by Israeli forces, Leaflet No. 1 states that “every drop of blood shall become a Molotov cocktail, a time bomb, and a roadside charge that will rip out the intestines of the Jews.  Only then will their sense return.”[9]  Also explicit in this published document is the dichotomy of only two possible outcomes.  Arabs face either martyrdom in the resistance or victory.[10]  Hamas does not differentiate between civilian and military targets, and the more they take the offensive against Israel, the more Israel retaliates, leading to an endless cycle of violence and bloodshed that does not seem to have contemporary conclusion.  It is little wonder, then, that Israel views Hamas – like the PLO – as a terrorist organization that needs to be exterminated for the sake of its security.[11]  Conversely, Israel is hardly free from the blood of innocents, commonly retaliating against Arab communities regardless of fault.[12]

As an organization rooted in Islamic ideology, theology and society, Hamas challenges the effectiveness of the secular-leaning PLO, and aims to unite Muslims worldwide under its banner of resistance against what they view as tyranny and injustice.[13]  They are, by all counts, a terrorist organization that allows for the targeting of civilians.  Their aim is to liberate Palestine from the State of Israel and set up an Islamic State throughout Palestine as the heart of the Muslim world.[14]  While their methods fall outside the realm of typically accepted behavior, Hamas’ motives and purpose are understandable.  With decade’s worth of inaction, refusal on the part of Israel and the sluggish movement of the Arab States to act, Hamas’ Leaflet Number One is an expression of rage over injustice – an injustice that can only be solved through force in the name of Islam.








Abu-Amr, Ziad.  “Hamas: A Historical and Political Background.”  Journal of Palestinian Studies 20, no. 4 (Summer 1993): 155-69.


Hamas.  “Leaflet No. 1.” Written January 1988.  Accessed April 4, 2017.


Hroub, Khaled.  “Hamas, Israel and Judaism.”  In Hamas: A Beginner’s Guide, 34-44.  London: Pluto Press, 2010.


Hroub, Khaled.  “Hamas’ History.”  In Hamas: A Beginner’s Guide, 1-14.  London: Pluto Press, 2010.


Smith, Charles D.  Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.

[1] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017), 399.

[2] Hamas, “Leaflet No. 1,” Trinity College, January 1988, accessed April 4, 2017,

[3] Hamas, “Leaflet No. 1.”

[4] Hamas, “Leaflet No. 1.”

[5] Khaled Hroub, “Hamas, Israel and Judaism,“ in Hamas: A Beginner’s Guide (London: Pluto Press, 2010), 34.

[6] Hroub, “Hamas, Israel and Judaism,” 35.

[7] Hroub, “Hamas, Israel and Judaism,” 35.

[8] Hroub, “Hamas, Israel and Judaism,” 37.

[9] Hamas, “Leaflet No. 1.”

[10] Hamas, “Leaflet No. 1.”

[11] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 407.

[12] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” 407.

[13] Ziad Abu-Amr, “Hamas: A Historical and Political Background,” Journal of Palestine Studies 22, no. 4 (Summer, 1993): 12.

[14] Hamas, “Leaflet No. 1.”

Differing Objectives

After the first Gulf crisis, Secretary of State James Baker renewed his efforts to solve the Arab-Israeli dispute in 1991.[1]  The framework for settlements between Israel and their neighboring Arab Nation states had previously gained traction with Israeli assistance to Lebanon, as well as talks between Anwar al-Sadad of Egypt and Menachen Begin of Israel at Camp David in 1978, but had been stalled due to lingering disagreements, semantic disputes and continued violence in the region.[2]  Arab States including Syria desired negotiations with Israel overseen by both the United States and the Soviet Union, specifically for the return of the Golen Heights.[3]  PLO representatives were not allowed to attend the meetings, but Palestinian individuals abroad and from the territories were allowed to attend as part of the Jordanian delegation.[4]  At the Madrid Conference between the years of 1991 and 1993, Israel met with delegates from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan (including Palestinians).[5]  As terrorism, retaliation and increasing violence continued on the West Bank and the Gaza strip especially, groups like the Islamic Jihad and Hamas formed under the outrage of the Intifada.[6]  These groups maintained the position that peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors was not possible, only armed resistance could free Palestine, where – instead of the secular democratic state advocated by the PLO – an Islamic state could be established in Israel’s place.[7]  The insistence of an Islamic holy war to destroy Israel and to begin an Islamic state advocated by Hamas put them at odds with Arab Nation states who still desired to negotiate peace agreements that acknowledged and recognized the existence of the State of Israel, and put them at odds with the PLO, which had almost moved to obscurity.[8]

[1] Charles D. Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017), 417.

[2] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 352.

[3] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 417.

[4] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 418.

[5] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 419.

[6] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 403.

[7] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 405.

[8] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 410.

Political Institutions and the 1967 War

A lot of politics both regionally and international were taking place behind the scenes and out in the open, which led to the war of 1967.  Primarily, the Israeli government considered itself surrounded by hostile forces, and was bound and determined to defend itself against any perceived threats to her sovereignty and her independence.[1]  Backing Israel and competing in global cold-war politics was the United States, seeking to give Israel weapons and military defenses to help arm her against the surrounding threats and antagonistic political climate.[2]  The USSR, conversely, supported key Arab states, namely Egypt, providing defensive weapons systems in preparation for an armed conflict that would escalate into a potential global war.[3]

Undermining all efforts for a possible peace agreement, the political and ideological organization Al-Fatah and their military arm Al-Asifa were actively trying to spark the war that almost everybody else was trying to avoid.[4]  Their incursions into Israeli held territory under their mission of liberating Palestine and returning it to the Palestinian Arabs and creating a secular democratic state was backed by Syria.[5]  Al-Fatah aimed primarily to inflict terror on the Israeli populace and its government, deliberately targeting civilians and aiming in the open to draw the region into armed conflict.[6]  All of these key players factored in to the outbreak of violence in 1967.  Israel was determined to defend herself against any potential threats, and wanted to desperately assert her military superiority over her Arab neighbors, seeking above anything else to prove that she was capable of defending herself and should be acknowledged as an independent nation that had the right to exist.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, Al-Fatah and the PLO wanted to reclaim their homeland from Israel, who they viewed as colonial occupiers.  Their primary goal was to free Palestine from Zionist radicalism and return to the land that they considered home.  Backing Israel in her determination was the United States.  Backing the Arab nations like Egypt, the USSR was providing weapons and support, bringing cold war politics to the conflict in the Middle East.  It was a hotbed of violent potential that sparked into the six day war of 1967, which humiliated Egypt, left more Palestinian Arabs homeless and removed from their homes and towns and left Israel with more land than they had when the dust settled from the war in 1948.

[1] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict 9th Edition, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017), 273.

[2] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 276.

[3] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 277.

[4] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 278.

[5] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 278.

[6] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 279.

Palestine Post WWII

Once WWII had ended and was followed quickly by the war of 1948 which granted independence to the Jews and the formation of the State of Israel, the Arab-Israeli conflict truly began in earnest.  In the war of 1948, Israel had dominated its Arab neighbors and reclaimed much of the territory that the Jews believed was theirs through divine mandate.  This led to understandable and reasonable objections from the surrounding Arab nations, and even more understandable conflicts between the Jews and their former Palestinian Arab neighbors.  Many Arabs living in Palestine prior to the war of 1948 had fled their homes when war broke out, reasonably so.  Many others were removed by force.  Once the dust had settled, however, Palestinian Arabs believed they had the right to return to their homes and villages – a right that the Jewish State of Israel flat out denied.[1]  The Jewish leaders of Israel framed their rejection of that right in terms of national security – despite the official designation of Israeli citizens, all Palestinian Arabs were considered to be potential subversives by the State.[2]  The State of Israel retained the right to move remaining Arabs off of their land by force, despite their lawfulness, and entire villages were moved or destroyed by the military.[3]  Israel believed that these now-refugees should be embraced and welcomed into the surrounding Arab countries, but although they received sympathy from Arabic neighbors, they were also viewed with suspicion and most of them were denied citizenship in their new countries of residence.[4]  This, rightfully, created contention between the Jews and their Arab neighbors, both of whom believed they had a right to the land that they had once called home.

The second post-WWII source of conflict over Palestine was Israel’s new position of extreme aggression – even provocation – of their neighboring Arab countries, much to the chagrin of European powers like Britain and the United States.  Known as Ben-Gurionist Activism, the Jews believed mandate Britain was obligated to help them establish their rights and independence.[5]  When that failed to happen, Ben-Gurion believed that they had to be confronted both diplomatically and militarily to ensure the establishment and maintenance of Jewish rights.[6]  This activism also assumed that the only discourse the Palestinian Arabs would understand would be military strength.[7]  Any hint of resistance or hostility had to be met and challenged head-on to demonstrate to the Arab states (and to the rest of the world at large) that Israel would not tolerate anything that threatened either its security or its sovereignty.[8]

[1] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict 9th Edition, (New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2017): 222.

[2] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 222.

[3] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 222.

[4] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 223.

[5] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 226.

[6] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 226

[7] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 226.

[8] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 226.

The Peel Commission Report of 1937 and the Palestine Partition Proposition

From the beginning of the British mandate in Palestine following WWI, tensions between the growing Jewish population in Palestine and the indigenous Palestinian Arabs in the region had continued to grow.  The Arabs of Palestine distrusted the British mandate officials, in large part due to their perceived favoritism towards the Zionist claims for a Jewish national home which was sparked by the Balfour Declaration of 1922.[1]  In the aftermath of the Arab revolt of 1936, the Peel Commission was formed to understand and investigate the underlying motives behind Arab resistance to both the Jews and the British Mandate.[2]  The conclusions of the Peel Commission Report and the idea of a partition of two independent states was a last-ditch effort by mandate Britain to attempt a lasting peace between the Jewish and Arab communities, although it was doomed to fail even before its findings were published.

The Peel Commission of 1937 was tasked with two important objectives – to get to the bottom of the causes of tension between the Arab and Jewish communities in Palestine and to make recommendations of how that tension could be equitably resolved.[3]  At the outset of the published report, the commission acknowledged the seriousness of their charge, indicating that “no other problem of our time is rooted so deeply in the past,” referencing the historical claim to Palestine shared by Jews and Arabs alike.[4]  The commission also admitted that promises made to both sides in the duration of WWI which led to the mandate of Palestine had given both Arabs and Jews of Palestine expectations that had not been fulfilled satisfactorily.[5]  Neither community had any interest in working together to create or maintain a single state in the region, nor were both willing to reconcile and work together for the formation of a national identity.[6]  Given that, the ultimate recommendation of the Peel report was a revolutionary one that would pave the way for all future reconciliation attempts in Palestine going forward.[7]

In the interest of peace, the commission recommended a partition plan for Palestine, which created two separate and independent states: one for the Arabs and one for the Jews.  Although seemingly equitable from a current viewpoint, the partition becomes less-so when viewed through the lens of Arab sentiments contemporary with the report, the division of land given the demographics or the time and the way that the land was to be divided.[8]  In addition, the Peel Commission recommendation did not allow for the creation of a third separate state for Palestinian Arabs – rather the division would make the Arab section of the partition a part of Jordan, since historically the region had been encompassed by the Southern Syrian Empire.[9]  This would mean that the Arabs living in Palestine would forgo their growing national identity and become absorbed by the Jordan Emirate.[10]  For the Arab community in Palestine, this compromise was untenable.  While other Arab populations in the Middle East were gaining autonomy and independence from colonial interference, those in Palestine viewed the potential of Jewish State as a takeover of their homeland by a foreign (and often hostile) people.[11]

While ultimately rejected as impractical, the Peel Commission Report viewed their recommendations as the only available method to creating lasting peace in a region torn apart by dueling national identities by two distinctly different cultures that could not – or would not – see eye to eye.  There would be no compromise possible amidst the growing tensions of a region where both communities had a valid and historical claim to the same homeland, especially in light of perceived Western interference in Middle Eastern affairs.  Where Palestinian Arabs rightly viewed themselves as capable of independence and self-governance based on a long-standing presence in the region dating back to the 7th century.  On the other hand, Jews had a historical claim to the land that they believed was given to them by God himself, a claim that even many Muslims acknowledged openly.[12]  The unfortunate truth was that both communities shared claim to the same territory, and neither were willing to accept a lesser portion of that claim than they believed they deserved – namely all of Palestine.  Anything short of the entire land of Palestine would be unacceptable to Arabs and Jews alike, making the Peel Commission recommendations doomed to fail almost before they could be published.    Although the commission report ended on a hopeful note, stating that “if it offers neither party all it wants, it offers each what it wants most, namely freedom and security,” and it was most likely the only possible solution for peace, it fell short of the goal and was rejected by both sides.[13]  Instead of easing inherent tensions between the two opposing sides, the idea of partition sparked new ones, which put Jews, Arabs and British mandate powers simultaneously at risk for growing violence in the region going forward.





Bartal, Shaul.  “The Peel Commission Report of 1937 and the Origins of the Partition Concept.”  Jewish Political Studies Review 28, no. 1/2 (Spring 2017): 51-70.


Gill, Natasha.  “The Original ‘No’: Why the Arabs Rejected Zionism, and Why it Matters.”  Middle East Policy Council. Accessed March 10, 2018


Jewish Virtual Library.  “British Palestinian Mandate: Text of the Peel Commission Report.”  July 1937.  Accessed March 18, 2018.


Smith, Charles D.  Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict 9th Edition.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.

[1] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict 9th Edition, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017), 129.

[2] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 134.

[3] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937 and the Origins of the Partition Concept,” Jewish Political Studies Review 28, no. 1/2 (Spring 2017): 52.

[4] “British Palestinian Mandate: Text of the Peel Commission Report,” July 1937, Jewish Virtual Library, accessed March 18, 2018,

[5] “British Palestinian Mandate Text of the Peel Commission Report.”

[6] “Palestinian Mandate: Text of the Peel Commission Report.”

[7] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937,” 57.

[8] Natasha Gill, “The Original ‘No’: Why the Arabs Rejected Zionism, and Why it Matters,” Middle East Policy Council, accessed March 10, 2018,

[9] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937,” 57.

[10] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937,” 57.

[11] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937,” 58.

[12] Charles D. Smith, “Palestine and the Arab Israeli Conflict,” 134.

[13] “Palestinian Mandate: The Text of the Peel Commission Report.”

Modern Zionism

The textbook defines Zionism as “a nationalist ideology that advocates the creation of a secure Jewish homeland in Palestine for the worldwide community of Jews in fulfillment of their historical and religious associations with the region.”[1]  While this definition is definitive and highlights the ideals that encompass modern Zionism, the definition that resonated more completely with me was the one found in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel from May 14, 1948.  This direct quote states that “(Israel) was the birthplace of the Jewish people.  Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped…After being forcibly exiled from their land, (the people) never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.  By virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”[2]  Nationalist Zionism was born in a turbulent period of Persecution and was viewed in light of the historic persecution of Jews throughout Europe, and was a secular more than a religious ideology related to nationalism and the right to an independent Jewish state.  Although Zionism was not solely linked to Palestine, as WWI came to a close, more and more prominent European Zionists pushed for an Independent Jewish state within the borders of their religious and historic homeland.

It’s simple to see why this posed a problem that related to Arabs which were comprised of both Muslims and Jews, not only in Palestine but in the surrounding countries as well.    Although the Jews ruled and controlled Palestine from 850-725 BCE (and then again from 140-63 BCE), they lost control of Palestine through captivity to the Babylonians and then were subjugated to Roman and Byzantine rule until 638.[3]  From 638 onward to the collapse of the Ottoman empire at the end of WWI, Arabs (primarily Muslims) had controlled Palestine, with brief periods of Crusader rule over parts of it.  Establishing an independent nation state in Palestine for the Jews would mean the displacement or necessary inequality of the Arabs who had called Palestine home for thousands of years.  Although Zionism took many different forms, the Labor Party’s idea of Zionism meant the labor to be completed in Palestine in Jewish communities should be completed solely by Jewish workers, which would result in the construction “of a Jewish state where Arabs had no political rights and were excluded from Jewish economy.”[4]  Since the aim for Jewish immigration were wealthy or, at the very least, middle class European Jewry, the influx of cash into Jewish settlements was pronounced at a time when the Arab economy was struggling.  To be excluded from the benefits of Jewish immigration economically and to be excluded from governmental decision making policies that would affect the entire pre-existing Arab population clearly caused tension with Palestinians both Muslim and Christian alike.



[1] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 9th Edition, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017): 563.

[2] “Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel,” May 14, 1948, quoted in Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 9th edition, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017): 215-216.

[3] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 598.

[4] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 115.