Israel-Arab conflict FAQ

September 2005
Version 1.6

Israel has been losing the media war in regards to the Israeli-Arab conflict. This simple "Question and Answer" formatted document is meant to help people argue and debase Arab and Palestinian claims. If you have a specific question you wish researched and added to this FAQ, please email it to:

Hank Nussbacher (

There is another excellent FAQ style document available called Myths & Facts Online A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict

  1. Aren't you scared of the demographic problem. Statistical projections show that by the year 2000, Arabs will outnumber Jews?
  2. What has Israel done in the past to help the economic development of the Arabs in Yehuda and Shomron?
  3. How does Israel's control of Yehuda and Shomron enhance its security?
  4. What has Israel done to improve the education of Arabs in the "occupied territories"?
  5. How large is the Palestinian refugee problem and when were all the refugee camps set up?
  6. Zionism is racism?
  7. Is there such a thing as Palestine?
  8. The demolition and sealing up of homes is against the Geneva Convention. True or false?
  9. How many Jewish refugees are there?
  10. Are settlements in Yehuda, Shomron and Azza illegal according to the Geneva convention?
  11. Back in the 1800s, Arabs living in Palestine were thriving and were turning the land into an oasis of green. True or False?
  12. Where do Arabs living in refugee camps want to return to?
  13. Where does the word Palestine come from?
  14. How many Jews have been killed since the renewed outbreak of violence in September 2000?
  15. How rich is Arafat?"
  16. Israel is doing genocide to the Palestinian people. True or False?
  17. What are Israel's legal rights and title to Yehuda, Shomron and Azza?
  18. Gaza has the highest population density on earth - true or false?"


1) Q: Aren't you scared of the demographic problem. Statistical projections show that by the year 2020, Arabs will outnumber Jews?

A: The following numbers are from the Central Bureau of Statistics (1986 journal)

Population analysis in Israel and "West Bank":


 Jews in Israel            2,383,000 (63.68%)
 Non-jews in Israel          392,000 (10.49%)
 Arabs in Yehuda v'Shomron   585,900 (15.65%)
 Arabs in Gaza Strip         380,800 (10.17%)
 Total                     3,743,000

1967 projected totals for 1986 based on birthrate:

 Jews in Israel            3,210,000 (56.57%)
 Non-jews in Israel          738,000 (13.00%)
 Arabs in Yehuda v'Shomron 1,033,000 (18.21%)
 Arabs in Gaza Strip         692,800 (12.22%)
 Total                     5,675,000

Actual populations in 1986:

 Jews in Israel            3,517,200 (62.75%)
 Non-jews in Israel          749,000 (13.36%)
 Arabs in Yehuda v'Shomron   813,400 (14.51%)
 Arabs in Gaza Strip         525,500 ( 9.38%)
 Total                     5,605,100

One can see that statistical projections over a period of 20 years are never accurate.

2) Q: What has Israel done in the past to help the economic development of the Arabs in Yehuda and Shomron?

A: In the summer of 1986, Jordan initiated a Five Year Program (1986-1990) for the Economic and Social Development of the Occupied Territories. The first draft was for $1.3 billion, in Nov 1986 it was scaled back to $1.014 billion and in May 1987 it was further scaled down to $900 million.

For 1986-1987: out of the initial $200 million, less than $60 million had been made available. $30 million was supplied by Jordan, $25 million by UK, US and France and the rest by Saudi Arabia. UNRWA spent $75 million in the refugee camps. During that same period Israel made capital investments to Arab "West Bank"ers to the tune of $122 million (electricity, water, roads, sewage, schools, health, etc.)

So the actual scorecard is:

        $122M Israel
         $75M UNRWA
         $30M Jordan
         $25M France UK and US
         $ 5M Saudi Arabia

The Israeli numbers do not include the $143 million it spent in the West Bank and the $66 million in the Gaza Strip for Civil Administration (land registry, legal system, salaries, etc.)

Source: 1987 Report: Demographic, economic, legal, social and political developments in the West Bank, Meron Benvenisti

3) Q: How does Israel's control of Yehuda and Shomron enhance its security?

A: The border of the "West Bank" is 9 miles from Netanya, 11 miles from Tel Aviv, and 4 miles from Israel's national airport. 67% of all Israeli population lives within a radius of 10 miles from the West Bank border. The entire country, including the West Bank, only makes Israel 50 miles wide.

In 1941 Germany invaded Russia with 2800 tanks and 800 planes. In 1973 Egypt and Syria hit Israel with 4500 tanks and 1000 planes. In 1943, Russia survived by retreating over 800 miles, Israel survived in 1973 by retreating 7-12 miles. If it wasn't for the Golan Hgts and Sinai, Israeli population centers would have been overrun.

The topography of the West Bank is most unique. It is best described with a diagram:

 Israel        West Bank                    Jordan
         |                     ..         |
         |                 ..--  .        |
         |             ..--      .        |
         |         ..--           .       |
         |     ..--                .      |
        .|..---                     .     |
 ....--- |                          .     |
         |                           .    |
         |                            ....|.
         |                                |

The left side is the Western end, and slopes down to the Med sea. Most of all Israeli population is situated in that costal area. The elevation averages 0-100 meters above sea level. As you progress eastward (rightward on the map), you ascend the Shomron and Yehuda hills, which eventually reach an elevation of 900-1200 meters above sea level. When you reach the top, you have an *extremely* steep descent till you reach the Jordan valley which is mostly under sea level. The middle of the Jordan valley has the river Jordan as a natural division.

There are a total of 5 roads that lead up from the Jordan valley to the top of the Shomron hills (there are none in Yehuda other than the main road that ascends to Jerusalem). These 5 roads are generally, single lane roads. An Army controlling the summit would be able to hold off any attempt at climbing the roads until reinforcements came along.

If Israel was positioned outside the West Bank, and if Jordan were to allow the Iraq army to pass through their country, an army would be able to climb the Shomron roads and come within four miles of Kfar Saba. Kalkilye, located 4 miles from Kfar Saba, had a cannon called 'Long Tom' situated on the top plateau of the city in the pre-1967 days and regularly shelled Israeli cities in the costal plain.

In addition, flying time from Amman to Jerusalem by Mig21 is 4 minutes and from Damascus to Haifa it is 10 minutes. Israel currently has early warning radar sites situated on top of the Shomron and Yehuda hills. By giving up these areas, Israel would be giving up its "eyes" into Jordan and Syria. In matters of fighter plane scrambling, 3 minutes can mean the difference between victory or defeat.

Source: The Palestinian Labyrinth - A way out, Moshe Aumann, 1985

4) Q: What has Israel done to improve the education of Arabs in the "occupied territories"?

A: In 1967 there were no universities in Yehuda or Shomron. Israel helped establish the following universities:

   El Nagach (Shechem) - est. 1977
   Beir Zeit - est. 1972
   Bethlehem - est. 1973
   Islamic College (Hebron) - est. 1971
   Jerusalem University
     - College of Scientists (Abu Dis) - est. 1982
     - College of Social Welfare (El Bira) - est. 1979
     - College of Religion (Beit Hanina) - est. 1978

By looking at the illiteracy rates and high school completion rate, one can see a vast improvement between 1970 and 1983, when Israel controlled Yehuda and Shomron:

 - The percentage of illiterates among Arabs in Yehuda and Shomron:
     - men: 1970 - 27.8%
            1983 - 13.5%
     - women: 1970 - 65.1%
              1983 - 38.9%
 - The percentage who finished high school among Arabs in Yehuda and
     - men: 1970 - 1.4%
            1983 - 12.4%
     - women: 1970 - .5%
               1983 - 5.3%

Source: West Bank Handbook, Meron Benvenisti, 1987

5) Q: How large is the Palestinian refugee problem and when were all the refugee camps set up?

A: Some major refugee camps:
 Name      Est.    Where from
 --------  -----   -------------------------------------------------
 Balata    1950    From 65 towns around Yafo, Ramla and Lod
 Askar     1950    From 25 towns around Yafo and Haifa along with
                   Beduins from Beersheva
 Al Fara   1949    From 61 towns around Haifa, Yafo and Beersheva
 Tulkarem  1950    From 85 towns around Haifa and Yafo

The last refugee camp set up was Shuafat in 1965/1966.

What is interesting to note are some numbers as taken from an UNRWA census in 1984:

 Balata      11,685           Askar        7,914
 Kalendia     4,816           El Amaria    4,681
 Shuafat      5,219           El Jilazun   4,791
 Nur A'Shamps 4,374           Tulkarem     9,567
 Jenin        8,085           Dehaisha     6,165

The total refugee camp population in 1984 was 183,000 in Gaza and 83,000 in Yehuda and Shomron; total 266,000. But suddenly, the UNRWA numbers jump to 494,000 refugees in camps as of 1995!

The total refugee population is as follows based on UNRWA numbers:

                        1950   |  1984    1984 living in |  1995       1995 living in
                               |            camps        |                camps
                       ------- | -------  -------------- | ---------   --------------
 Yehuda and Shomron    373,000 | 357,000      83,000     |   517,000      132,000
 Gaza Strip            200,000 | 428,000     183,000     |   683,000      363,000
 Jordan                 92,500 | 800,000     248,000     | 1,288,000      238,000

Note how there has been a decrease in refugees living in Jordanian camps over the period 1984-1995 (based on UNRWA numbers) but in the West Bank we have seen a 60% increase and in Gaza a near doubling of the camp population within a period of just 11 years! Normal growth cannot explain this growth in numbers and most probably shows how inaccurate the census is in these areas.

6) Q: Zionism is racism?

A: "Zionism is the embodiment of the millennial longing of a people driven out its country by the Roman conquest and dreaming of a Return to Zion - an authentic 'Movement of the National Liberation'"

Andre Gromyko(USSR), at the United Nations Organization, May 20, 1948

"We Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement...We will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home."

The Emir Fayzal to Felix Frankfurter of the American Zionist delegation, Paris Peace Conference, 1919. Reprinted in "The Arab Israeli Conflict: Documents Vol III, pages 42-49, John Moore, editor.

7) Q: Is there such a thing as Palestine?

A: "Sir, there is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not."

This was said by Phillip Hitti, representative of the Institute of Arab American Affairs before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry (State Dept Building, Jan 11, 1946, hearing minutes, page 5). Arabs and the rest of the world associated the word Palestine with Jews and therefore did not want to be called Palestinians.

The Palestine Foundation Fund, The Palestine Workers' Fund, The American League for a Free Palestine, The Federated Appeal for Palestine Institutions, The Palestine Economic Corp., The United Palestine Appeal - all were Jewish organizations that existed in the 1920s and 1930s.

Source: The Palestinians - A Political Masquerade, Kahn & Murray, 1977

8) Q: The demolition and sealing up of homes is against the Geneva Convention. True or false?

A: Article 53 of the 4th Geneva Convention (Aug 12, 1949): "Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations."

J.S. Pictet, in his "Commentary, IV Geneva Convention" (1958) states, "The prohibition of destruction of property situated in occupied territory is subject to an important reservation." He states that "imperative military requirements" can serve as the basis for said destruction.

Article 78 of the 4th Geneva Convention: "If the Occupying Power considers it necessary, for imperative reasons of security, to take safety measures concerning protected person, it may, at the most, subject them to assigned residence or to internment." Pictet states that Article 78 is different than all previous articles, in that it relates to people who have not been found guilty of any crime by the Occupying Power, but rather the Power has decided that the person is dangerous and therefore it is entitled to restrict their freedom of action.

What is "imperative military requirements? Meir Shamgar, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Israel, in "The Observance of International Law in the Administered Territories" (1971), writes,

Military requirements can be of two kinds: on the one hand, there is the necessity to destroy the physical base for military action when persons are discovered committing hostile military acts, and in this respect, a house from which a grenade is thrown is a military base, not different from a bunker in other parts of the world. The measure under discussion is of utmost deterrent importance, especially in a country where capital punishment is not used against terrorists who kill women and children.

Regulation 119(1) of the regulations that are in force in the Occupied Areas states as follows:

A Military Commander may by direct order the forfeiture to the Government... of any house, structure or land from which he has reason to believe that any firearm has been illegally discharged, or any bomb, grenade or explosive or incendiary article illegally thrown, detonated, exploded or otherwise discharged, or of any house, structure or land in any area, town, village, quarter or street the inhabitants or some of the inhabitants of which he is satisfied have committed or attempted to commit or abetted the commission or have been accessories after the fact to the commission of any offence against these Regulations involving violence or intimation or any Military Court offence; and when any house, structure or land is forfeited as aforesaid, the Military Commander may destroy the house or structure or anything in or on the house, the structure or the land.

Source: "The Rule of Law in the Areas Administered by Israel", Israel National Section of the International Commission of Jurists, 1981

9) Q: How many Jewish refugees are there?

A: Only 22,000 Jews remain today in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. In 1948, there were 856,000 Jews living in these 9 countries. Israel absorbed these refugees at a cost of over $11 billion. Note that as of 1950, the Palestinians stated their refugee numbers at 850,000. Jewish refugees are requesting the same asset rights as Arab refugees, and

Source: Third International Conference WOJAC, Proceedings (Oct 26, 1987); Congressional Record, Jan 27, 1988, Volume 134, No. 3.

10) Q: Are settlements in Yehuda, Shomron and Azza illegal according to the Geneva convention?

A: First of all, it is only illegal if we are occupying stolen land. We are merely reclaiming that land that was *stolen* from us from 1948-1967. But let us just suppose for an instance that we are occupiers.

The Geneva Convention, Article 49, paragraph 6 states:

The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territory it occupies.

  1. There is absolutely no mention that setting up settlements is illegal. There is only a mention of population movement.
  2. In the book "International Law: A Treatise, Vol II, Disputes, War and Neutrality", by L. Oppenheim (1952), page 452, he writes "The occupying power must not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory occupied by him - a prohibition intended to cover cases of the occupant bringing in its nationals for the purpose of displacing the population of the occupied territory". The key word here is displacing. No one is being displaced.
  3. In the paper "Palestinian Self Determination" by Eugene Rostow, Yale Studies in World Public Order, Vol 5, 1979 (pp 147 & 153) he writes, "...the provision was drafted to deal with individual or mass forcible transfers of population, like those in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary before and after the second World War. Israeli administration of the areas has involved no forced transfers of population or deportations.
  4. If we wish to be on strictly legal terms, paragraph 6 of Article 49 does not cover VOLUNTARY movement of individuals who have settled in Yehuda, Shomron, Azza, and parts of East Jerusalem like Ramot Eshkol, French Hill, Ramot, Talpiot Mizrach, Gilo, etc.

11) Q: Back in the 1800s, Arabs living in Palestine were thriving and were turning the land into an oasis of green. True or False?

A: "Stirring scenes...occur in the valley (Jezreel) no more. There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent - not for thirty miles in either direction. There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings."

To find "...the sort of solitude to make one dreary...Come to Galilee for that...these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness, that never, never, never do shake the glare from their harsh outlines, and fade and faint into vague perspective, that melancholy ruin of Capernaum: this stupid village of Tiberias, slumbering under its six funeral palms."

"Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes...desolate and is dreamland."

From Mark Twain's trip to the Holy Land in 1867.

Source: "The Innocents Abroad", Mark Twain, London 1881

12) Q: Where do Arabs living in refugee camps want to return to?

 1947 name         2001 name
 ----------------  ------------------
 Beisan            Beit Shaen
 Sheik Munis       Ramat Aviv
 Zarnuka           Rehovot
 Yibna             Yavne
 Isdud             Ashdod
 Ma'gdal           Ashkelon
 Bir-a-Saba        Beersheva
 Bit Ilpa          Kibbutz Beit Alfa
 Kfar Zoboba       Kibbutz Givat Oz
 Kfar el-MaSadiya  Kibbutz Gan Shumel
 Hirvat Balkiya    Kibbutz Gash
 Abu Shusha        Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek
350 out of 450 Arab towns and villages were destroyed in 1948 and were replaced with places like those listed above.

Source: Carta's Atlas of Israel, The First Years 1948-1961, Carta, 1978, Jerusalem

13) Q: Where does the word Palestine from?

A: The name Palestine is derived from the biblical name Peleshet designating the coastal plain in which the Philistines (Peleshtim) settled in the course of their 12th century (BC) expansion. The Philistines were an Aegean people who were driven out of Greece and the Aegean islands around 1300 BC.

The first time the area which is today named Israel was given the name Palestine was in 135 AD after the Roman conquest of Judea. This was immediately after the Romans crushed the revolt led by Simon Bar Kochba in 135 AD. The Romans renamed the land Syria-Palesitina in an attempt to cancel the Jewish claim to the land. They proceeded to destroy Jerusalem and rename it Aelia Capitolina. But we can still find as late as the 4th century, the Christian author, Epiphanius referring to "Palestine, that is, Judea." Previous to 123 AD (a turning point in Jewish history), there is about 2000 years of Jewish presence and history in the area today termed Israel. Here is a brief history, leaving out thousands of names and places. Pick up any history book that covers this period and this region:

2000-1225 BC  - The period of Abraham
1120-1180 BC  - Moses, the exodus from Egypt, the crossing of the
                Red Sea
1180-1100 BC - The assault on Jericho
1080-1030 BC - Samson, Samuel, Shaul
1030-1013 BC - David, battle of Gilboa
1013-1006 BC - David proclaimed king at Hebron, David captures
1006-980  BC - The wars of David (Arameans, Moab, Edom)
980-933   BC - The death of David, Solomon, the 1st Temple
933-875   BC - War between Israel and Judah, Omri founds the 3rd
               dynasty of Israel
987-851   BC - The era of Samaria
854-746   BC - Ahab, the Assyrian advance, the end of the Omri
746-720   BC - Amos at Bet-el, Shallum, Menachem, Pekahiah - kings
               of Israel, Ahaz king of Judea, deportation of
               Israelite population to Assyria
720-692   BC - The fall of Samaria, the capture of Ashdod
692-609   BC - Beginning of decline of Assyrian power, the fall of
               Ninveh, death  of Josiah.
608-586   BC - The end of the kingdom of Judea, the destruction of
               Jerusalem, the flight to Egypt by Jews
586-538   BC - Babylonian exile
538-432   BC - The restoration of the 1st Temple, Nehemiah builds
               the walls
424-187   BC - Greek rule
187-142   BC - Hellenism, rededication of the Temple, Judah the
142-37    BC - Simon, Syrian invasion repulsed, Samaritan temple
               razed, rise of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Pompey,
               Caesar, Herod named by Romans to be king of Jews
37-4      BC - Herod the Great
4BC-67    AD - Jesus, Pontius Pilate, Agrippa confirmed by Claudius,
               Josephus in the Galilee
68-135    AD - Titus, destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the
               capture of Masada, Hadrian, the Jewish uprising led
               by Bar Kochba, the renaming of Judea to
               Syria-Palestina by Rome

Only in 632 AD did the Moslem Arabs invade Syria-Palestina and by 640 AD the area was part of the Moslem empire. This reign lasted 450 years, with first the Omayyads, then the Abbasid dynasty and finally by the Fatimids.

14) Q: How many Jews have been killed since the renewed outbreak of violence in September 2000?

A: As of April 25, 2004, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 958 people have been killed by Arab terror, of which 19 were killed in May 2001, 30 in June 2001, 26 in August 2001, 38 in December 2001, and 31 in Feb 2002.

15) Q: How rich is Arafat?

A: Israel has transferred $150M to secret Arafat bank accounts between 1994-1997. In addition, Arafat has a $60M stake in the Jericho casino. Arafat is oft referred to as one man bank. With all this money, Arafat likes showering his friends with gifts, like $12,000 in jewels to Hillary Clinton, and $17,400 in jewels to Madeleine Albright. But Arafat had a much earlier start in stealing. In 1976, Arafat robbed the British Bank of the Middle East in Beirut for approximately $650M.

16) Q: Israel is doing genocide to the Palestinian people. True or False?

A: Lets look at some numbers of what many may consider genocide. For example, 500,000 in Rwanda, were killed in 1994. Another major "genocide" in the past 25 years would be the 1-3 million killed in Cambodia, between 1975-1979. By comparison, B'Tselem lists 2,010 Palestinians killed from 1987-2001 and 3208 from 2000-2005. Of course if one looks at the numbers closely, one can find that from 1987-2001, 611 Jews have been killed by Palestinians, or 971 Jews killed from 2000-2005.

A fascinating analysis has been done called "An Engineered Tragedy Statistical Analysis of Casualties in the Palestinian - Israeli Conflict, September 2000 - September 2002", which shows how Palestinians have been targetting Israeli women and children at random.

17) Q: What are Israel's legal rights and title to Yehuda, Shomron and Azza?

A: Attorney Howard Grief's original thesis is "that sovereignty over all of the Land of Israel or Palestine was vested in the Jewish People as a direct result of the adoption of the San Remo Resolution by Britain, France, Italy and Japan on April 24-25, 1920." The San Remo Resolution was inserted into the preamble of the Palestine Mandate and confirmed by 52 states. This view finds support in Israeli constitutional law and the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel [See Howard Grief, "A Petition to the Supreme Court of Israel Challenging the Legality of the Oslo Accords," International Journal of Statesmanship (Foundation for Constitutional Democracy), Vol. I, No. 2, Summer 1996, Part 1, Division A, Chapter 5.].

Even though the Palestine Mandate was terminated in 1948, the rights that it gave to the Jewish people to develop "close settlement" in Yehuda, Shomron and Azza remain intact. Howard Grief explains, "Under the principle of acquired legal rights, though the international instrument upon which those rights were founded did indeed expire, the rights themselves conferred on the Jewish People remained in force. This principle of international law is now codified in Article 70(1)(b) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties."

Unlike the previous view, ignored in each of the following analyses is the interpretation of de-facto sovereignty abated during Jordan and Egypt's occupation and reserved for the Jewish people (Cf. Alan Levine, "The Status of Sovereignty in East Jerusalem and the West Bank," New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, Vol. 5, No. 3, Winter 1972, p.495.):

"They include: (1) The rule that would attribute sovereign title in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and Gaza to Israel, by virtue of the fact that Israel is the state in lawful possession of territory affected by a "sovereignty vacuum" (view of E. Lauterpacht); (2) The rule that in a situation of disputed sovereignty that state is entitled that can establish the best title thereto, a rule well recognized by the International Court of Justice; (3) The rule that a state in lawful possession of territory to which no other sovereign has a supportable claim of sovereignty is entitled to take the step of formal annexation" (Julius Stone, Israel and Palestine: Assault on the Law of Nations. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1981, pp. 168-169.). The first two of these views "conclude that under international law, sovereignty is already vested in Israel" (Ibid., p. 116.).

For a comprehensive treatment of these and related issues, an excellent online resource is Israel White Paper.

18) Q: Gaza has the highest population density on earth - true or false?"

A: One of the larger urban legends that has circulated in recent years is that the Gaza Strip has the highest population density of any place on earth. In actuality, the Palestinian area is ranked #13 worldwide, after Macau, Monaco, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Gibralter.

In actuality, Tel-Aviv has a higher density of 7,170 people per square kilometer vs. Gaza which has a population density of 3,823 people per square kilometer.

This page is maintained by Hank Nussbacher (