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21 JUL 2024

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The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Questions & Answers

Get caught up to speed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Quickly get the context needed to have a working understanding of the history of the Mideast’s longest-running conflict by understanding its key terms, concepts, and main focal points.

Is Israel an apartheid state?

Apartheid is defined by a formal policy of discrimination based on race. According to the Council of Foreign Relations, over 20% of Israel’s population are Arab citizens who have full legal rights. Israel's Arab population, however, suffers from high levels of poverty

From a political perspective, Arabs have been members of the Israeli Knesset since the first assembly in 1949. In 2021, the Ra’am party became the first Arab party to help form the majority coalition in the Knesset. Additionally, Arab-Israelis have served on its supreme court

Israel has come under scrutiny for the building of its security wall in the West Bank. Critics have claimed it was built to effectuate apartheid. However, studies indicate that the barrier wall has been successful in reducing the attacks against Israeli civilians. Although West Bank Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and accordingly, have no intrinsic legal right to enter Israel without a work permit, as of 2023, 150,000 Palestinians work in Israel.  

As such, Israel is not an apartheid state.

Is Anti-zionism antisemitism?


While, being antisemitic and being against the concept of Zionism cannot be technically equated, a long-standing history of the two being strongly interconnected exists. The equation between the two concepts goes as far back as the 1960’s when according to a US State Department report Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was quoted as saying, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism!” .


The notion of the two being interrelated comes also from the premise that “Zionism” means the right of the Jewish people to a homeland. Being “against'' Zionism is therefore a statement that contradicts this and is therefore often seen in an antisemetic light.A former Labor member of the House of Lords, Michael Levy was quoted as saying, “There can be criticism of the state of Israel, but anti-Semitism - using the word 'Zionist' as another form of anti-Semitism - frankly can no longer be tolerated.” 

Another State Department document references antisemitism within the confines of the UN including resolutions that have “endorsed the Zionism is racism trope”. The document also points out that Israel is often the subject of “disproportionate and one-sided attention from United Nations intergovernmental bodies relative to other actors and situations of global concern.” This too creates a strong connection in a formal way between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

Are Jews indigenous to Israel?

The earliest mention of the Jewish people or “Israelites” outside of the Bible is the Merneptah Stele which mentions what is interpreted as the word “Israel.” Many historians assert that the history of the Jews in Israel goes as far back as the 2nd millennium (BCE). Other archeological finds, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls (discovered in the 1940s-1950s in what is now known as the “West Bank”) place the Jewish people in Israel somewhere between the 3rd century BCE and the 1st century CE. 

The currently earliest known Hebrew text artifact discovered in Israel is said to date back to 1200 BCE. Other evidence and references to Jewish life in Israel include the Jerusalem Talmud which was written circa 400 CE in Israel’s Galilee and the construction of the platform of the Jewish second temple by former Roman leader Herod in 19 BCE - roughly 600 years before the founding of Islam.

Sources point to the continual presence of Jews in Israel even after their dispersion by the Roman Empire. during the early Ottoman era, for example,  an estimated 1200 Jews were living in Jerusalem with the number increasing to more than 6,000 by the year 1824.  

With the ebb and flow of Jews in Israel until the establishment of the State of Israel in its modern incarnation, many Jewish scholars are apt to point to the call of return in full to Israel within Jewish prayer liturgy.

Who controls Gaza?

With its victory over the Arab armies in what is known as the Six-Day War, Israel took control over the Gaza Strip, a narrow stretch of land located on the eastern Mediterranean coastline.  

In 1968 Israel established settlements in Gaza, returning there for the first time since 1945. These settlements became known for their innovation in agricultural technology

As part of an effort to improve relations with the Palestinian Authority, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon constructed a plan for Israel to leave the Gaza Strip in what has become known as “The Disengagement.” In 2005, Israel officially left the Gaza Strip and forcibly removed the remaining Israeli settlers from northern Gaza. 

Following a 2006 Palestinian Authority election, Hamas was democratically elected to control Gaza. It assumed power in June 2007. Since coming to power in Gaza, Hamas has deprioritized the needs of its own citizens to divert resources to attack Israel

Is Palestine a country?

There has never been a nation that has existed with the name Palestine. The term “Palestine '' derives from the ancient Philistines. The source of the term as applying to the land of Israel is attributed to the Roman occupation of Israel in the year 132. After quelling the revolt led by the Jewish rebel Bar Kokhba, the Romans named the region of Judea (now the West Bank) as Syrua Palaestina.

The term Palestine was adopted by the League of Nations in 1920 and was used until the creation of the modern State of Israel in 1948. In 1926 the British decided that the terms Palestine and Eretz Yisroel (Hebrew for Land of Israel) both be used in all official capacities. Since the 1980s, the PLO and now Palestinian Authority have pushed for the creation of a State of Palestine. To date, Palestine has still not been recognized as a member state of the United Nations.

Is Gaza part of Israel?

No, Gaza is not part of Israel. 

Gaza is a strip of land that is located on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It shares a border with both Egypt and Israel. As part of the original partition plan to split British-held Palestine, Gaza was slated to be Palestinian territory. It was so until 1967’s Six-Day War. As part of Israel’s victory over the invading Arab armies, Gaza was reclaimed by Israel along with the West Bank, Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula. 

Israel’s control over Gaza led to the establishment of Jewish communities in the territory that became known as Gush Katif. In 2005, Israel withdrew, taking its 8,000 Jews out of Gaza. 

Since 2005 Gaza has been a territory under Palestinian control.

What is the Green Line?

The Green Line commonly refers to the border that separates the territory Israel had control over since its War of Independence in 1948 from the areas it gained control over as a result of the 1967 Six-Day War. 

The area to the east of the Green Line is what would be referred to as the West Bank. 

Historically speaking, the Green Line is synonymous with the Armistice Line established in 1949 at the conclusion of Israel’s War of Independence. The 1949 Armistice Agreements, signed by Israel and the surrounding Arab nations, delineated the borders that would be part of Israel proper from areas that would remain under Arab control. 

Following the Six-Day War, Israel gained military control over the Jordanian-occupied West Bank. As Israeli control has been contentious,  the demarcation of the area has stayed in strong focus. What was once the Armistice Line separating Israel and Arab territory has become a political reference as much as a geographical one. Now, the “Green Line" serves as a reference to areas Israel controlled since its inception in contrast to areas it controlled after 1967. In this, the Green Line is synonymous with the term “1967 borders”, which is often part of the political discourse surrounding the Mideast Crisis.

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