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For cities in the US named Palestine, see: Places in the US named Palestine
For varying definitions, see Definitions of Palestine
The neutrality of this article is disputed.

Palestine (Tiberian Hebrew פלשת Pəléšeṯ / Pəlāšeṯ, Latin Syria Palćstina, Standard Hebrew פלשתינה Palestina, ארץ־ישראל Éreẓ-Yisraʾel, Arabic فلسطين Filasṭīn, Standard Hebrew (of modern Arabic political term) פלסטין Filastin), is a region in the Middle East extending inland from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Its political status is hotly disputed.

Table of contents
1 Boundaries and Political Divisions
2 History of Palestine
3 Political and military control
4 The Name
5 Status of territories occupied in the Six-Day War
6 Modern terminology
7 Refugees
8 Related Articles
9 External links

Boundaries and Political Divisions

Palestine is the area bordered by Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and the Mediterranean Sea. For the historical boundaries, including the relationship between Jordan and Palestine, see History of Palestine.

History of Palestine

Main article: History of Palestine

Political and military control

In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, many citizens are under administration of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The United Nations and the Government of Ariel Sharon describe the Israeli-controlled portions of these territories to be "under Israeli occupation" (see "occupied Palestinian territories"). A large portion of the international community considers "Israeli settlements" in the West Bank to be a in violation of international law, particularly given the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 446 in March 1979, declaring them illegal. They are not considered illegal by the Israeli government.

The Name

Egyptian writings refer to the region as R-t-n-u (for convenience pronounced Rechenu). Several names for the region are found in the Bible: (Eretz) Yisrael "(land of) Israel", Eretz Ha-Ivrim "land of the Hebrews", "land flowing with milk and honey", "land that [God] swore to your fathers to assign to you", "Holy Land", and "land of the LORD". The portion of the land lying west of the Jordan was also called "land of Canaan" during the period in which it fell under the control of Egyptian vassals traditionally descended from Canaan the son of Ham. After the division of the Jewish kingdom into two the southern part was called "land of Judah" and the northern part was called "land of Israel".

The name "Palestine" comes from the Philistine people, who are first recorded by the ancient Egyptians as P-r/l-s-t (conventionally Peleset), one of the Sea Peoples who invaded Egypt in Ramesses III's reign. "Palestine" (Hebrew פלשת Pəléšeth, P(e)léshet) is used in the Bible to denote the coastal region inhabited by the Philistines, whose five principal cities were Gaza, Ashdod, Ekron, Gath, and Ashkelon. Usage of the term, usually in the form "Syria Palestina", to denote the inland areas as well was common among Greek writers as early as Herodotus. Josephus, however, apparently intended by the name only the land of the Phillistines. The Philistines (meaning "invaders" in Hebrew) were subjugated by David; however, by Amos' time they had regained their independence. They are no longer mentioned by Assyrian times. As noted above, the Romans changed the region's name from "Syria Judea" to "Syria Palestina" in the Second century.

Filastin (فلسطين), originally an Arabic transcription of the Greek term Palaistina, was the name of one of the districts of Syria in the Fatimid and Abbasid Caliphates of the 7th to 11th centuries, was briefly the heart of the Crusader States and then part of the Mamluk empire. After the Ottoman conquest, the name disappeared as the official name of an administrative district but remained in popular and semi-official use. Many examples of its usage in the 16th and 17th centuries have survived. During the 19th century, the "Ottoman Government employed the term Arz-i Filistin (the 'Land of Philistines') in official correspondence, meaning for all intents and purposes the area to the west of the River Jordan which became 'Palestine' under the British in 1922" (Mandel, page xx). However, the translation he gives is incorrect: Arz-i Filistin (أرض فلسطين) translates as "Land of Palestine." Amongst the educated Arab public, Filastin was a common concept, referring either to the whole of Palestine or to the Jerusalem sanjaq alone.

In European usage up to World War I, the name "Palestine" was used informally for a region that extended in the north-south direction typically from Raphia (south-east of Gaza) to the Litani River (now in Lebanon). The western boundary was the sea, and the eastern boundary was the poorly-defined place where the Syrian desert began. In various European sources, the eastern boundary was placed anywhere from the Jordan River to slightly east of Amman. The Negev Desert was not included.

Formal use of the English word "Palestine" returned with the British Mandate (see above).

Status of territories occupied in the Six-Day War

The territories occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War are three:

  1. the area north and south of Jerusalem and eastward to the Jordan River, generally called the West Bank, though some Israelis call the region by its biblical names of Judea and Samaria
  2. the Gaza Strip
  3. the Golan Heights (not included in the British Mandate of Palestine, part of Syria).

Israel has annexed the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. However, the Israeli annexation are not recognized by the United Nations nor by most states, which regard them as territories under Israeli military occupation. Israel had not formally annexed the West Bank and the Gaza Strip first out of an intention to negotiate a peace agreement with Jordan and Egypt using the territories as a bargaining chip. Egypt withdrew its claim for the Gaza Strip in 1979 as a part of the Israeli-Egypt peace treaty signed and Jordan for the West Bank in 1988. This paved the way for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. After increasing international pressure and the first Intifada Israel began negotiations with the PLO to allow at least for Palestinian self-administration, which resulted in the Oslo accords. Since the Six-Day War, Israeli settlements have been illegally constructed in the territories.

It should be noted that neither the Gaza Strip, nor the West Bank are formally claimed by any universally recognized state - both Egypt and Jordan revoked their demands to them at the signing of peace treaties with Israel. The "State of Palestine", whose independence was declared by the PLO in the 1980s, claims these territories, and 2/3 of the world's nations recognize the "State of Palestine" as a state. According to the 1993 Oslo Accords, the final status of the West Bank and Gaza is subject to a final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, temporary agreements now being in place. The status of the Golan Heights is subject to an agreement with Syria.

UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) and Resolution 338 (1973) state that the status of the territories needs to be resolved by negotiations, and requires Israel to withdraw from these territories. The Israeli government and some critics world-wide maintain that the wording of these resolutions is extremely ambiguous and no longer relevant due to the changing political situation in the region, while many Palestinians and critics worldwide maintain that they remain not only relevant but essential.

Modern terminology

Palestine has been recognized as a state (in the de jure sense) by 94 countries[1], and there is a seat for "Palestine" in the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Conference. At the United Nations, Palestine is listed under "Entities and Intergovernmental Organizations having received a standing invitation to participate as observers in the sessions and the work of the General Assembly and maintaining permanent offices at Headquarters"

The area of the West Bank has been divided to three zones:

See Proposals for a Palestinian state for a discussion of the current argument for the future development of this situation.


Palestinian refugees

See Palestinian refugees.

The Palestinian refugees left their homes during two events, first in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and secondly after Israel's invasion of the West Bank in the Six-day war.

On midnight on May 14, 1948, the last British soldiers departed and the new state of Israel was proclaimed. By then, Palestine was already in a state of war, the Arab Liberation Army had entered the land to fight for the Palestinians against the Jews. West Jerusalem and parts of the Old City were under Jewish control, but the city was effectively under Arab siege. Jaffa had been captured by Jews, as well a corridor between the coast and Jerusalem. Arab inhabitants of that area had launched numerous attacks on the young Jewish state's vital route; because of that, several Arab villages had been destroyed according to Plan Dalet, and their inhabitants expelled, in order to remove the Arab siege from Jerusalem.

In response to the declaration of the State of Israel, armies from the surrounding Arab states of Egypt, Syria, TransJordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon entered Palestine, thus beginning the 1948 war, which was lost by the Arabs.

By the end of this war, there were between 400,000 and 850,000 Arab refugees. (Progress Report of the United Nations Mediator on Palestine, Submitted to the Secretary-General for Transmission to the Members of the United Nations, General Assembly Official Records: Third Session, Supplement No.11 (A/648), Paris, 1948) The Palestinian refugees have not been permitted to return home. According to the UNRWA there are now over 5 million Palestinian refugees (including descendants).

A fiercely contested question is exactly how the refugees came to flee the country. Some hold that most Palestinian Arabs left their homes because they were encouraged to do so by the surrounding Arab states, through various media, such as radio broadcasts in order the clear the area for operations by the invading Arab armies. Some international observers and historians have stated that most of them left because some were driven out by force from the Haganah and the Jewish undergrounds or fled in fear of massacres such as Deir Yassin. Separate articles exist on Palestinian refugees, Jewish refugees and the Palestinian Exodus.

In the Six-day War 1967, 300,000 additional Palestinians were evicted from their homes, including 180,000 formerly resettled refugees from the 1948 war.

The UN's agency, UNRWA has a unique definition for the Palestinian refugees: UNRWA's definition of a refugee also covers the descendants of persons who became refugees in 1948 [1]. This differs from the standard UN definition of a refugee: people who are outside their country of origin (or their habitual residence, in the case of stateless people) and who, due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for race, religion, nationality, a group membership or political opinion, cannot or will not avail themselves of the protection to which they are entitled [1], which excludes the descendants of refugees (other than dependents) from refugee status.

For a list of camps, see: List of Palestinian refugee camps


It is recognized that all refugees have a right to return home. The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 (December 1948) Paragraph 1, states:

"Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for the loss or damage to property..."

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "every person has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country."

In the negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, both parties signed an agreement saying that financial compensation was a necessary and legitimate way of dealing with many of the refugees from both sides.

Related Articles

External links

Some of the links below represent Palestinian point of view; others represent the Israeli point of view. Unfortunately much of the information on this issue, from both points of view, is closer to propaganda than unbiased factual reporting.

Photos of Palestine

Pro-Palestinian links

Pro-Israeli links

U.N. links

Other sources