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A selection of background information on the 100-year long conflict between Arabs and Jews, divided into the following sections: Articles and Essays, The New Uprising, Issues, Leaders, Overviews, and Government Sites.


"Holy War"

This is legendary journalist I.F. Stone's widely discussed article in The New York Review of Books on Israeli-Arab relations. Published 35 years ago -- just two months after the West Bank and Gaza came under Israel's jurisdiction following the June 1967 war -- his essay is forceful, often prescient. Stone writes: "The path to safety and the path to greatness lies in reconciliation. The other route, now that the West Bank and Gaza are under Israeli jurisdiction, leads to two new perils. The Arab populations now in the conquered territories make guerrilla war possible within Israel's own boundaries. And externally, if enmity deepens and tension rises between Israel and the Arab states, both sides will by one means or another obtain nuclear weapons for the next round." (The New York Review of Books, Aug. 3, 1967)

"Israel and the Arabs"

Novelist James Michener, responding to I.F. Stone's August 1967 article in The New York Review of Books (see above), maintains that Stone's essay is "palpably anti-Zionist, probably anti-Israel, and potentially anti-Jewish." Michener takes issue with Stone's critique of Zionism, his assessment of Israel's refugee problem, and his questioning the need to establish the state of Israel. (The New York Review of Books, Sept. 28, 1967)

"Israel Now"

Atlantic Monthly correspondent Robert Kaplan writes of his return to Israel and the economic forces at work in the Middle East. "Israel may fantastically prosper, surrounded by pathetic Palestinian bantustans that are kept quiescent by the police-state tactics of a Jibril Rajoub," writes Kaplan. "But this may only encourage a climate of deep cynicism within Israel itself." (The Atlantic Monthly, January 2000)

Edward Said: Articles, Editorials, Interviews

Edward Said, whose family fled Palestine in 1948 and settled in Cairo, is a preeminent pro-Palestinian voice on the Mideast conflict. A professor of literature at Columbia University in New York, his articles and essays have appeared in publications worldwide. This site includes links to many of his articles from The Nation, Al-Ahram, and elsewhere.

"The Roots of Our Discontent" interviews Michael Oren, historian and author of Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Oren's book challenges some basic assumptions about Israeli and Arab motives in the Six-Day War. For one, says Oren, Israel did not set out to acquire territory in the Six-Day War. Threatened by its neighbors, it mounted preemptive strikes. "It's thought that Israelis were so intoxicated by their victory that they possibly overlooked opportunities for breakthroughs for peace," says Oren. "What I found was a far more nuanced picture." His interview includes a discussion on the war's impact on Israelis and on Arab societies, the current bloody crisis, and Oren's long-term view of how peace will be achieved. (The Atlantic Monthly Online, June 12, 2002)

Interview with historian Avi Shlaim

NPR's Terry Gross talks with Oxford historian Avi Shlaim, one of the new crop of "revisionists" whose historical research is uncovering a more nuanced and complex history of the Mideast conflict. Among the cherished orthodoxies he and his fellow historians have challenged with new research: Israel was not outnumbered and outgunned by Arab forces in the 1948 war; contrary to conventional wisdom, there were significant peace feelers made to Israel by Arab leaders in 1949; Palestinians must share some of the blame for having no homeland, for they rejected the 1947 U.N. partition plan for two states; and, contrary to Israeli views, Israeli actions were the major reason why Palestinians fled the country in 1948. (NPR's Fresh Air With Terry Gross, March 13, 2001)

"The State of Israel"

The Atlantic Monthly's archive of articles "on various aspects of the spiritual-national project that is Israel," with essays by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion; American artist George Biddle on his 1949 visit to the new nation; Ze'ev Schiff and Ehud Ya'ari on three men at the center of the long-sought resolution to the conflict -- Rabin, Arafat, and Syria's president at the time, Hafez al-Assad; and others.


"An Uprising at a Crossroads"

The authors explain how the current uprising, which began in September 2000, has exposed the weaknesses in Yasser Arafat's leadership and the Palestinian Authority. "The Palestinian Authority is clearly at a crossroads, caught between its inability to wrest concrete political gains from the intifada and unrelenting economic, diplomatic and military pressure to 'end' the uprising. This has led to a situation where the PA's continued existence is now up for debate." (Middle East Report, Summer 2001)

"Palestinians Divided"

Khalil Shikaki, professor of political science at Bir Zeit University, argues that the current uprising was sparked not only by Ariel Sharon's provocative visit to the Temple Mount, but also by an internal tug-of-war between the "young guard" and the "old guard" of the Palestinian leadership. "Arafat's group [the old guard] seeks a negotiated settlement that would not only end the occupation but also allow the established leaders to remain in power in Palestine for years to come," writes Shakiki. "By contrast, the young guard does not consider negotiations a necessary part of the equation; a unilateral Israeli withdrawal or separation would suit it just as well." (Foreign Affairs, January/February 2002)

"A Gaza Diary"

Chris Hedges, Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, writes of the current uprising and its effect on life in a Gaza refugee camp, where residents navigate through Israeli checkpoints and the threat of violence looms. The enmity between the two sides is writ large. "War's cost is exacting," Hedges writes. "It destroys families. It leaves behind a wasteland, irreconcilable grief. It is a disease, and in the night air I smell its contagion." (Harper's, October 2001)

"No Exit"

Writer Amos Elon's essay in The New York Review of Books in May 2002 offers a sweeping overview of the current conflict, from Arafat's call for a "a thousand shahids" -- suicide bombers -- to Sharon's intransigence and provocations. "The quality of leadership on both sides is now at an all-time low," writes Elon. "Eighteen months ago, prominent Palestinians were still critical of Arafat for his handling of the peace process, for his incompetent civil administration, and for the corruption among his ministers. All such criticism has disappeared as a result of his apotheosis as Sharon's prisoner. Nor is there in Israel any serious political opposition to Sharon." (New York Review of Books, May 2002)

"The Isle of Polyphemus"

Wole Soyinka, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, visited Israel and Palestine in March 2002. "My skin crawls whenever I hear the expression 'martyrdom' used as an equivalent of murder by suicide, especially mass murder," writes Soyinka. "And on the other side of terror, the state variety, to listen to a family give a graphic account of tanks crashing through their walls at night, ... crushing innocents in their sleep, it is equally impossible to remain viscerally disengaged or fail to be morally assaulted. These had been homes to these innocents for generations. Now they are breeding grounds for a new species of biped -- the dehumanized." (The Nation, April 29, 2002)

"Beyond Tribalism"

Historian Tom Segev, author of One Palestine, Complete, discusses the current conflict, the historical myths, Arafat's role, and prospects for peace. "The Zionist leadership was right when they said [that] we need to be strong and convince the Arabs that we are here forever. ... The question is, of course, what makes us strong? Some people believe that we will be stronger if we pull back from the occupied territories and I definitely think so. I don't regard them as a source of strength, I regard them as a source of trouble." (, Dec. 8, 2001)


"The Four Sticking Points"

A brief summary of the chief obstacles to achieving peace: borders, refugees, Jerusalem, and what Time reporter Johanna McGeary calls "the new reality" -- the deeper than ever hatred that now poisons each side. (Time, April 14, 2002)


"Report on Israeli Settlement in the Occupied Territories"

The Foundation for Middle East Peace's bimonthly publication provides updates on developments in Israeli settlements. Highly critical of Israeli positions, each issue of the report includes a detailed timeline along with additional features. In its May-June 2002 issue, the authors say: "Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is reasserting Israel's control over the entire West Bank, sweeping aside the Oslo arrangements, and imposing a radically different map on the territories."

Jimmy Carter: "For Israel, Land or Peace"

In this Washington Post op-ed, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter writes that Israel's persistence in building settlements in occupied territories is undermining diplomatic efforts. "It seems almost inevitable that the United States will initiate new peace efforts, but it is unlikely that real progress can be made on any of these issues as long as Israel insists on its settlement policy, illegal under international laws that are supported by the United States and all other nations," writes Carter. (Washington Post, Nov. 26, 2000)

"The Thorny Question of Israeli Settlements"

On Point host Tom Ashbrook calls Israeli settlements the "elephant in the living room" that nobody really wants to talk about. He discusses the issue with Philip Wilcox, a former U.S. ambassador and president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, and Charlie Bernhaut, spokesperson for Americans for a Safe Israel. (On Point Radio, April 29, 2002)

"Inside Israel's Settlements"

A glimpse inside Israeli settlements, from Newsweek photographer David Blumenfeld and reporter Dan Ephron. "Thousands of housing units are under construction and 40 new outposts have been established in the year since the election of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In spite of the dangers and widespread criticism that the settlements are obstacles to peace, the controversial neighborhoods are continuing to attract new residents." (Newsweek, May 18, 2002)


"The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem"

Journalist Daniel Pipes argues that Jerusalem holds little religious significance for Muslims; instead, its import to Palestinians is largely political. "Where does Jerusalem fit in Islam and Muslim history? It is not the place to which they pray, is not once mentioned by name in prayers, and it is connected to no mundane events in Muhammad's life. The city never served as capital of a sovereign Muslim state, and it never became a cultural or scholarly center. ... Politics, not religious sensibility, has fueled the Muslim attachment to Jerusalem for nearly fourteen centuries." (Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2001)

"The Deadlocked City"

Writer Amos Elon reviews Bernard Wasserstein's Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City, providing an overview of the divisions between the Jews and the Palestinians over Jerusalem. "A rational solution to the problems posed by two irreconcilable nationalisms in Jerusalem would have been to internationalize the entire city," writes Elon. "This, in fact, was recommended by the original UN partition resolution of 1947. Israel accepted it; all the Arab countries did not. ... By now, generations of Palestinians and Israelis have been forcefully and dogmatically instructed by their political and religious leaders that the Old City is exclusively theirs." (New York Review of Books, Oct. 18, 2001)


"Visions for Peace"

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a global news service on issues affecting Jews, offers this special section on five Jewish leaders -- Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, former prime ministers Benjamin Netanyahu, Shimon Peres, and Ehud Barak, and Labor Party leader Benjamin Ben-Eliezer -- and their visions for peace.

»Yasser Arafat

"Profiles in Conflict: Yasser Arafat"

"He has been the most prodigious purveyor of his own myth, claiming to be Jerusalem-born despite a public record that places his birth in Cairo 72 years ago," says The Connection host Dick Gordon. "And today, the man whose wearied visage has come to represent the faces of an embittered Palestinian people is tired. ... Arafat is, despite the courage and the intentions and the history, a diminished leader." Gordon discusses Arafat, his legacy and the myths, with Serge Schmemann of The New York Times and Marc Gopin, professor of international diplomacy at Tufts University. (NPR's The Connection, Oct. 31, 2001)

"Think Again, Yasir Arafat"

Former U.S. Ambassador Dennis Ross, now the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says that understanding Yasser Arafat's motives is crucial to fostering a lasting peace agreement. Ross, who was the chief U.S. negotiator in the Clinton administration, questions whether Arafat truly wants peace with Israel and describes what the Clinton administration offered the Palestinians -- and what Arafat rebuffed -- in December 2000. "[Arafat] does not appear ready to acknowledge the opportunity that existed with Clinton's plan, nor does he seem willing to confront the myths of the Palestinian movement," writes Ross. (Foreign Policy, July/August 2002)

"Arafat's Last Stand?"

The Atlantic Monthly pulled three articles about the Palestinian leader from its archives: In "All You Need is Love," writer Bruce Hoffman describes how Arafat had to resort to unorthodox practices to put a terrorist group out of commission; Ehud Ya'ari argues in "Runaway Revolution" that the first intifada was not conducted by Arafat, rather he, too, was surprised by the spontaneous eruption of frustrations among his people; and in "Lions in Winter," written in January 1993 in a rare moment of tranquility, writers Ehud Ya'ari and Ze'ev Schiff reflect optimistically on the possibilities for peace, noting, however, that Arafat's bargaining position was the most tenuous.

»Ariel Sharon

"Profiles in Conflict: Ariel Sharon"

Says The Connection host Dick Gordon: "Ariel Sharon is a man divided. With one eye on the Palestinians and the other on his fragile coalition government, Sharon's scattered attentions have fueled his critics' claim that this right-wing hawk is incapable of real progress toward peace in the Middle East. But to supporters, Sharon is a single-minded man determined to see Israel strong and secure." Guests include Marc Gopin, visiting associate professor of international diplomacy at Tufts University, and Tom Rose, publisher of The Jerusalem Post. (NPR's The Connection, Nov. 1, 2001)

"Turning Political Defeat Into Victory"

"By freeing himself of the fetters of cold political calculation, by appearing as a leader who really doesn't care at this late date in his storied political career whether or not he is Likud's candidate the next time around, Sharon has never enjoyed such widespread support -- both inside the Likud and out." (Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2002)

"The Last of the Patriarchs"

"It is no surprise that Sharon's first year as prime minister has been characterized by indecisiveness and constant zigzagging between right and left. Urged in one direction by his gut instincts but shackled by politics, even this master tactician seems unable to work out a grand strategy. ... In place of vision, Sharon has offered increasing doses of tough language and military blows against the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leader, Yasir Arafat." (Foreign Affairs, May/June 2002)


BBC News: Israel and the Palestinians

An in-depth presentation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with a timeline, a collection of interviews with Israelis and Palestinians who weather the conflict day-to-day, and this illustration and explanation of Jerusalem's holy sites. In addition, BBC has posted this collection of maps tracing the disputed borders throughout the history of the conflict.

Online NewsHour: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

From PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, this site includes a summary of the key players and the peace efforts, along with NewsHour's latest stories, with video excerpts. In "Images in Conflict," for instance, Terence Smith reports on the divergent media coverage of the conflict from the Palestinian and Israeli quarters.

Washington Post: War and Peace in the Mideast

A compendium of The Washington Post's coverage of the conflict, with links to commentaries, the latest articles, and related sites. The site also includes a link (in the upper right corner) to "One Land, Two Peoples," an interactive guide to the conflict from ancient times to the present.

The Guardian: Israel and the Intifada

This weblog from The Guardian contains a roundup of current stories and opinion pieces on the fighting in the Middle East, from newspapers and magazines around the world. You can also find a compilation of The Guardian's own reports on the conflict, including its 1948 news story on the proclamation of Israel. Mideast -- Land of Conflict

This site from provides snapshot profiles of the key players and issues (including both Israeli and Palestinian points of view), along with several photo galleries and a video archive of interviews with Sharon and Arafat and other prominent policymakers and negotiators.

Al-Ahram Weekly: Commemorating 50 Years of Arab Dispossession

A collection of articles from Al-Ahram Weekly, an English-language paper from Egypt. In introducing the collection of articles, the editors write: "Israel cannot be allowed to write the history of the past fifty years unchallenged. It is in this conviction that Al-Ahram Weekly presents the ... series of articles designed to document the history and nature of Arab-Israeli struggle, as well as that of Palestinian dispossession and exile."

Maintained by a professor at Bir Zeit University and a former adviser to Israel's prime minister, this site provides both Israeli and Palestinian positions on key issues in the conflict. Essayists and policymakers have discussed the Temple Mount, the Saudi peace proposal, and Israeli settlements, among other issues.


PLO Negotiation Affairs Department

Explains the Palestinian positions on interim and permanent-status issues, includes various speeches and statements, as well as a "who's who" of the Palestinian negotiators.

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Provides this overview of the peace process and explains Israel's positions on key issues. In "A Centenary of Zionism," the MFA provides historical background on the movement to establish the Jewish state and profiles the key Zionists.

U.S. State Department Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

An overview of developments in the peace process during the Clinton administration, from the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. It includes official statements and press releases, country backgrounders, official photos, a timeline covering events from the 1978 Camp David accords to President Clinton's Camp David summit with Barak and Arafat in July 2000, and pages dedicated to the Wye River and Camp David summits.

Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N.

An extensive archive of documents related to Palestine, with background on the Palestinian National Authority and the PLO, including the text of its charter. The site also has a history of the conflict, as well as a detailed chronology of the U.N.'s involvement.

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