Arab-Israeli conflict

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They [Americans] have allowed unremitting violence between Israel and the Palestinians with hardly an effort to stop that through U.S. leadership. And now, it’s almost too late. ~ Wesley Clark

The Arab–Israeli conflict is an ongoing intercommunal phenomenon involving political tension, military conflicts, and other disputes between various Arab countries and Israel, which escalated during the 20th century, but had mostly faded out by the early 21st century. The roots of the Arab–Israeli conflict have been attributed to the support by Arab League member countries for the Palestinians, a fellow League member, in the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict; this in turn has been attributed to the simultaneous rise of Zionism and Arab nationalism towards the end of the 19th century, though the two national movements had not clashed until the 1920s.

Part of the Palestine–Israel conflict arose from the conflicting claims by these movements to the land that formed the British Mandatory Palestine, which was regarded by the Jewish people as their ancestral homeland, while at the same time it was regarded by the Pan-Arab movement as historically and currently belonging to the Arab Palestinians, and in the Pan-Islamic context, as Muslim lands.



Organized alphabetically by author.

  • We are not asking for the moon.
    • Yasser Arafat, Palestinian leader, as quoted in the Observer (London, 7 February 1982).
  • Whoever thinks of stopping the uprising before it achieves its goals, I will give him ten bullets in the chest.
    • Yasser Arafat, Palestinian leader, as quoted in the Daily Telegraph (London, 19 January 1989), on the Intifada.
  • We must share this land as one state or two states or five states. Otherwise, we will share this same piece of land as the graveyards of our kids.
    • Bassam Aramin, quoted in The New York Times, 8th November 2023
  • That Clausewitz lives, and will live, is equally shown in such cases as the former Yugoslavia, where Nato has simply frozen a war which will certainly break out again if and when the intervention forces leave; or Israel–Palestine, where the political relations between Jew and Arab reflect the military outcome of past wars, where the conflict of interest is essentially irreconcilable, and where therefore policy and violence will continue to go hand in hand. What may therefore be safely predicted is that over the next 170 years the world will continue to be an arena of complex rivalries and direct collisions of interest rather than a "world order" or a "world community", and that human groups engaged in such rivalries will from time to time resort to force as an instrument of their politics. What weapons will be then available, and what tactics will consequently be employed, only a fool would pretend to guess. It will be remarked that so far I have not mentioned the United Nations Organisation, that expensive figment of liberal wishful thinking. I have done so now.
  • My generation, dear Ron, swore on the Altar of God that whoever proclaims the intent of destroying the Jewish state or the Jewish people, or both, seals his fate.
  • It is … undeniable that no settlement can be just and complete if recognition is not accorded to the right of the Arab refugee to return to the home from which he has been dislodged by the hazards and strategy of the armed conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. The majority of these refugees have come from territory which … was to be included in the Jewish State. The exodus of Palestinian Arabs resulted from panic created by fighting in their communities, by rumours concerning real or alleged acts of terrorism, or expulsion. It would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine, and, indeed, at least offer the threat of permanent replacement of the Arab refugees who have been rooted in the land for centuries.
  • We came to a region that was inhabited by Arabs, and we set up a Jewish state. In many places, we purchased the land from Arabs and set up Jewish villages where there had once been Arab villages. You don't even know the names [of the previous Arab villages] and I don't blame you, because those geography books aren't around anymore. Not only the books, the villages aren't around...
    • Moshe Dayan Address at Technion University (19 March 1969) A transcription of the speech appeared in Ha'aretz (4 April 1969).
  • A man lives in an upper floor of a house that catches fire. In desperation the man jumps out of the window and lands on a passer-by down below, who is grievously injured and becomes an invalid. Between the two, there erupts a deadly conflict. Who is right?
  • We, the people of Palestine, stand before you in the fullness of our pain, our pride, and our anticipation for we long harbored a yearning for peace and a dream of justice and freedom. For too long, the Palestinian people have gone unheeded, silenced and denied, our identity negated by political expedience, our right for struggle against injustice maligned, and our present existence subsumed by the past tragedy of another people
    • Haidar Abd El-Shafi, head of the Palestinian Delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference, Opening Remarks (Madrid, 30 October 1991) [2]
  • The most important departure from determinism during the Cold War had to do, obviously, with hot wars. Prior to 1945, great powers fought great wars so frequently that they seemed to be permanent features of the international landscape: Lenin even relied on them to provide the mechanism by which capitalism would self-destruct. After 1945, however, wars were limited to those between superpowers and smaller powers, as in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, or to wars among smaller powers like the four Israel and its Arab neighbors fought between 1948 and 1973, or the three India-Pakistan wars of 1947-48, 1965, and 1971, or the long, bloody, and indecisive struggle that consumed Iran and Iraq throughout the 1980s.
  • While skepticism, critique, and simple questions have only multiplied in the wake of outrageous Zionist atrocity propaganda, one thing appears certain: that the Holocaust—which some believe has been used dishonestly as a “warning” to prevent so-called genocide for years—was now being evoked as a justification to conduct actual genocide on a race of people trapped within the Gaza Strip.
  • Palestinians and Israelis were connected by a fatalistic dialectic towards an apocalyptic conclusion. One might argue this dialectic enveloped a land, mythical and actual, spiritual yet earth-bound, ancient yet very much poised towards unfolding actualities. This land conjures images of return and redemptive possibilities. Palestine and Israel are two strands intertwined in our collective imagination. They are linguistically exclusive and yet reference a singular place.
    • [R.F. Georgy] quoted from Absolution: A Palestinian Israeli Love Story. May 26, 2014
  • Peace is not a discrete event; rather it is a renewable proposition, filled with affirmations designed to mitigate against the collective distrust of two people who knew little beyond hatred, suspicion, blame and counter blame, intellectual gamesmanship, fear, paranoia, historical necessity, retribution, and a host of other deeply engrained emotional projections that are constantly lurking beneath the surface.
    • [R.F. Georgy] quoted from Absolution: A Palestinian Israeli Love Story. May 26, 2014.
  • The Israeli government has never responded to [a two-state solution] -- it's not even rejected it, it's refused to engage. And I think the main reason is because they have the U.S. as a guarantor. Whatever they do, they'll have a superpower backing [...] and because they have this backing, they don't need to compromise with their neighbors or engage with their neighbors substantially.
  • We should fully understand our religion. Fighting is a part of our religion and our Shari'a. Those who love God and his Prophet and this religion cannot deny that. Whoever denies even a minor tenet of our religion commits the gravest sin in Islam. Those who sympathize with the infidels-such as the PLO in Palestine or the so-called Palestinian Authority--have been trying for tens of years to get back some of their rights. They laid down arms and abandoned what is called violence and tried peaceful bargaining. What did the Jews give them? They did not give them even 1% of their rights.
  • We use history to understand ourselves, and we ought to use it to understand others. If we find out that an acquaintance has suffered a catastrophe, that knowledge helps us to avoid causing him or her pain. (If we find that they have enjoyed great good luck, that may affect how we treat them in another way!) We can never assume that we are all the same, and that is as true in business and politics as it is in personal relations. How can we understand the often passionate feelings of French nationalists in Quebec if we do not know something about the past that has shaped and continues to shape them? Or the mixture of resentment and pride that formerly poor provinces such as Alberta and Newfoundland feel toward central Canada now that they have struck oil? In international affairs, how can we understand the deep hostility between Palestinians and Israelis without knowing something of their tragic conflicts?
  • We have always said that in our war with the Arabs we had a secret weapon — no alternative.
A man lives in an upper floor of a house that catches fire. In desperation the man jumps out of the window and lands on a passer-by down below, who is grievously injured and becomes an invalid. Between the two, there erupts a deadly conflict. Who is right?
~ Isaac Deutscher
  • Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.
    • Golda Meir, Statement to the National Press Club in Washington, D. C. in 1957, as quoted in A Land of Our Own : An Oral Autobiography (1973) edited by Marie Syrkin, p. 242
  • The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.
    • Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister. Speech at the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) at the end of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. (August 14 2006). [3]
  • [When asked about Peace negotiations] I'll be honest with you. A) This is just really hard. Even for a guy like George Mitchell, who helped bring about the peace in Northern Ireland. This is as intractable a problem as you get. B) Both sides — the Israelis and the Palestinians — have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions or the divisions within their societies, were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation. And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that. From [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas' perspective, he's got Hamas looking over his shoulder and, I think, an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process. And on the Israeli front — although the Israelis, I think, after a lot of time showed a willingness to make some modifications in their policies, they still found it very hard to move with any bold gestures. And so what we're going to have to do — I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn't produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted, and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high. Moving forward, though, we are going to continue to work with both parties to recognize what I think is ultimately their deep-seated interest in a two-state solution in which Israel is secure and the Palestinians have sovereignty and can start focusing on developing their economy and improving the lives of their children and grandchildren.
  • Personally I hope the Jews do not force us into this war because it will be a war of elimination and it will be a serious massacre which history will record similarly to the Mongol massacre or the wars of the Crusades.
  • Whatever the outcome, the Arabs will stick to their offer of equal citizenship for Jews in Arab Palestine and let them be as Jewish as they like. In areas where they predominate they will have complete autonomy.
    • Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League, Palestine Post, 21 May 1948, p. 3.
  • We, the soldiers who have returned from battles stained with blood; we who have seen our relatives and friends killed before our eyes; we who have attended their funerals and cannot look in the eyes of their parents; we who have come from a land where parents bury their children; we who have fought against you, the Palestinians-we say to you today, in a loud and a clear voice: enough of blood and tears. Enough.
  • Not only [are] our states . . . making peace with each other,. . . you and I, your Majesty, are making peace here, our own peace, the peace of soldiers and the peace of friends.
    • Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Prime Minister. The New York Times, (July 27 1994), after signing a peace declaration with Jordan's King Hussein.
  • Like, set aside motives and intentions and just look at technology -- technology alone. Israel has one of the most powerful militaries in the world. They can crush Gaza like that. Not to mention, one of the most advanced defense systems in the world! You shoot a rocket at them, it's probably not going to do anything because of this defense system. Right? They've got a giant Mutombo in the sky, just knocking them down. And I know! I know that this is contentious, and I know that people are gonna hate me for this, but I just wanna ask an honest question here: If you are in a fight where the other person cannot beat you, how hard should you retaliate when they try to hurt you?
  • We refuse to allow ourselves or our communities to be held hostage to a ruinous conflict thousands of miles away that we may never be able to fully resolve or fix. But we can have an impact about how we treat each other here.
  • We cannot here analyze the entire contradictory and tragic history of the events of the last twenty years, in the course of which the Arabs and Israel, along with historically justified actions, carried out reprehensible deeds, often brought about by the actions of external forces. Thus, in 1948, Israel waged a defensive war. But in 1956, the actions of Israel appeared reprehensible. The preventive six-day war in the face of threats of destruction by merciless, numerically vastly superior forces of the Arab coalition could have been justifiable. But the cruelty to refugees and prisoners of war and the striving to settle territorial questions by military means must be condemned.
  • Should there be maniacs who raise the idea, they will encounter an iron fist which will leave no trace of such attempts.
    • Yitzhak Shamir, Israeli politician, prime minister, as quoted in the The Times (London, 11 August 1988), on advocates of Palestinian self-government.
  • Had ten minutes conversation with Henry Morgenthau about Jewish ship in Palistine. Told him I would talk to Gen[eral] Marshall about it. He'd no business, whatever to call me. The Jews have no sense of proportion nor do they have any judgement on world affairs. Henry brought a thousand Jews to New York on a supposedly temporary basis and they stayed. When the country went backward — and Republican in the election of 1946, this incident loomed large on the DP [Displaced Person] program. The Jews, I find are very, very selfish. They care not how many Estonians, Latvians, Finns, Poles, Yugoslavs or Greeks get murdered or mistreated as DP as long as the Jews get special treatment. Yet when they have power, physical, financial or political neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the under dog. Put an underdog on top and it makes no difference whether his name is Russian, Jewish, Negro, Management, Labor, Mormon, Baptist he goes haywire. I've found very, very few who remember their past condition when prosperity comes. Look at the Congress[ional] attitude on DP — and they all come from DPs.
  • It was a psychological turning point in the history of the Middle East. The speed and decisiveness of the Israeli victory in the Six Day War humiliated many Muslims who had believed until then that God favored their cause. They had lost not only their armies and their territories but also faith in their leaders, in their countries, and in themselves. The profound appeal of Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt and elsewhere was born in the shocking debacle. A newly strident voice was heard in the mosques; the voice said that they had been defeated by a force far larger than the tiny country of Israel. God had turned against the Muslims. The only way back to Him was to return to the pure religion The voice answered despair with a simple formulation: Islam is the solution.
    • Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (2006), p 45
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