Middle East Primer - Answer Key
Theodor Herzl: Austrian who founded the political movement of Zionism. He was the first to propose that the so-called Jewish question was a political issue.
David Ben-Gurion: Israel’s first Prime Minister, he declared the country’s independence. Polish born, he first moved to Palestine in 1906 in order to work for the Zionist movement. He was one of the leaders of Zionism until the formation of Israel.
Yasir Arafat: Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization since 1969. In 1989 he was elected to be president of a hypothetical Palestinian state. Along with Israeli leaders, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.
Yitzhak Rabin: Israeli leader who twice served as Prime Minister (1974-77 and 1992-95). He was instrumental in Israel’s 1948-49 struggle for independence, overseeing the defense of Jerusalem. Two decades later, he was chief of staff of Israel’s armed forces during the Six-Day War. During his second term as Prime Minister, he halted new Jewish settlements in occupied territories and sent a negotiator to Oslo to work toward peace with the PLO. He, along with Shimon Peres and Arafat, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. He was assassinated by a Jewish settler who opposed the peace process in 1995.
Menachem Begin: Zionist leader and Prime Minister of Israel from 1977-1983. He signed a peace treaty with Anwar Sadat of Egypt in 1979, ending years of fighting between the two nations and winning the Nobel Peace Prize as a result.
Anwar Sadat: Egyptian army officer and president (1970-81). Despite opposition from other Arab leaders, Sadat traveled to Israel in 1977 to present plans for peace between the two nations. The treaty he signed with Prime Minister Begin in 1979, for which they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, was the first peace treaty between Israel and any Arab nation. He was assassinated by Muslim extremists.
Ehud Barak: Elected as Israel’s Prime Minister in 1999, he is the most decorated soldier in the country but also one of the strongest advocates for peace. He has pursued a peace settlement, particularly during a Camp David meeting with President Clinton and Chairman Arafat in summer 2000, despite very strong opposition from many factions in the Israeli Parliament.
Golda Meir: A founder of the state of Israel, she was the fourth, and currently only woman, prime minister (1969-74) of the State of Israel. In 1921, she and her husband moved from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to a kibbutz in Israel, where she quickly became a leader for women workers. Later she was instrumental in negotiating with the British during World War II for the release of Jewish activists. In 1948, she was a signatory of Israel's independence declaration.
Jimmy Carter: Thirty-ninth president of the United States (1977-81), he is credited for organizing the Camp David Peace Accords that established a lasting peace between Egypt and Israel. For this effort Carter, along with Anwar Sadat, then President of Egypt, and Menachem Begin, then President of Israel, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
King Hussein: King of Jordan from 1953 until his death in 1999. He was believed by many Muslims to be a direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad. During the 1967 war, Israel captured the part of Jordan that is now known as the West Bank. On October 26, 1994, Hussein signed a bilateral peace treaty normalizing relations between Jordan and Israel. In 1998, he was instrumental to the success of the Wye River Accord. Hussein’s 38-year old son, Abdullah, became the new leader of Jordan almost immediately after his father’s death, ruling over a country that is 70 percent Palestinian.
Hafiz al-Assad: President of Syria from 1971 until his death in 2000, he is said to have ruled by tyranny. When Assad was Minister of Defense in 1967, Syria lost the territory known as the Golan Heights to Israel during the Six Day War. The loss shaped the rest of Assad’s political career, becoming one the largest obstacles to total peace in the Middle East. Assad’s successor as Syrian leader is his 34-year old son, Bashar Assad.
Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif: The temple mount is believed by Jews to be the site of Solomon’s Temple, the 2nd Temple of Jerusalem, of which the Wailing or Western Wall is a remnant. It is also the site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aksa Mosque, thus making the site one of the holiest places for both Jews and Muslims.
Dome of the Rock: Built between AD 685 and 691, the Dome of the Rock is a mosque built over a large boulder sacred to both Muslims and Jews. It is believed that Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, ascended into heaven from the site. Jews believe that this is the site where Abraham, the first patriarch of the Hebrew people, prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Wailing Wall or Western Wall: A wall in the Old City of Jerusalem that is a place of prayer and pilgrimage for Jews. It dates to the 2nd century BC, and is the only remaining part of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. The wall is part of a larger wall surrounding the Muslim Dome of the Rock. Arabs and Jews have long fought over its control.
Gaza Strip: A 140-square mile territory along the Mediterranean Sea and just northeast of the Sinai Peninsula. Home to a large number of Palestinian refugees, Gaza switched control between Israel and Egypt several times (though neither country allowed the refugees to return to their homeland or to emigrate to another Arab nation). Some of the worst violence of the Intifada occurred in Gaza. In 1994, as part of the Oslo Accord, Israel began withdrawing troops and transferring governmental power to the PLO.
Jerusalem: Inhabited since 1800 BC, the city of Jerusalem is considered one of the holiest places by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Israel captured Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967, declaring it its “eternal and indivisible capital” (Tel Aviv is the governmental capital of Israel). Called the city Al Quds, the Palestinians have always regarded it as the capital of their future state. The fate of Jerusalem is one of the biggest sticking points to negotiating a lasting peace agreement.
West Bank: The territory west of the Jordan River was claimed by Jordan from 1949-88, though Israel captured it in 1967. It is the center of land contentions between Arabs and Israelis. The area is nearly similar to that provided for Arab settlement by an earlier UN agreement. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Israelis established multiple settlements in the area, mainly on uncultivated land and areas for which no legal claims existed. Anti-Israeli demonstrations broke out in 1987 as part of the Intifada and continued for years. Via the Oslo Accords in 1993, Israel agreed to withdraw from parts of the West Bank heavily populated by Arabs and to give governance to the PLO, beginning with withdrawal from Jericho in 1994.
Golan Heights: A strategic plateau overlooking the Jordan River, Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 during the Six Day War. There are now over 30 Jewish settlements in the Golan, though Syria wants the land returned.
Suez Canal: Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea that is both strategically and economically crucial to many nations in the region. The much-disputed Sinai Peninsula borders the canal to the east. Built in 1869, the canal was under French and British control until 1956 when Egypt seized the canal.
Sinai Peninsula: The northeastern tip of Egypt, a triangular piece of land connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Red Sea to the south. Israel occupied the Sinai briefly in 1956 and again after the Six Day War in 1967. It returned the area to Egypt in 1982, following the Camp David Accords.
Hebron: A city located in the southern most part of the West Bank. It was part of Palestine during British rule from 1920 to 1948. Following the war of 1948-49, it was annexed by Jordan, and then occupied by Israel in 1967 following the Six Day War. The Wye River Accords of 1998 established transfer of governmental control of Hebron to the PLO, which now controls it. Hebron is considered a holy place by both Jews and Muslims.
Lebanon: An Arabic country directly to the north of Israel. Lebanon did not take part in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, although beginning with a civil war in 1975 through fighting with Israelis and other skirmishes, the country was involved in some kind of internal violence for nearly two decades. When Jordan ousted the PLO in 1970, the organization and many Palestinians moved to Lebanon so that roughly one-tenth of all Lebanese were Palestinians. A civil war broke out in 1975 largely over the PLO’s role in Lebanese politics. In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon ostensibly to oust the PLO and secure its border, but it also hoped to secure a pro-peace treaty President in the country. Nearly a year later, Israel left having forced out the PLO but not having altered its relations with Lebanon.
Balfour Declaration: Based on a letter written by the British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour during WWI, it established Britain's support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, but not at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs. It was validated by the United Nations as part of a peace treaty in 1922, two years after Britain occupied Palestine in the wake of the Ottoman Empire's collapse after World War I.
Oslo Accords: A series of secret negotiations between Israel and the PLO held in Oslo, Norway, resulted in the Oslo Accords. Signed on September 13, 1993, the two parties agreed to Israel’s withdrawal of its security forces from the city of Jericho and its environs and from most of the Gaza Strip, thereby transferring civil administration and security responsibility to the newly established Palestinian Authority. Those who signed the treaty, Yasir Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin, were awarded the 1994 Noble Peace Prize.
Wye River Accords: Following a stall in peace negotiations, Israeli and Palestinian leaders met in Wye Mills, Maryland, in fall 1998. With the mediation of both President Clinton and Jordan’s King Hussein, Yasir Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a land-for-peace deal. It called for a crackdown on terrorists, redeployment of Israeli troops, transfer of 14.2 percent of the West Bank land to Palestinian control, safe passage corridors for Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank, the release of 750 Palestinians from Israeli prisons, and a Palestinian airport in Gaza.
The Holocaust: The 12-year period before and during WWII (1933-1945) when the German Nazi regime persecuted Jews and other minorities, interning and ultimately killing them through the so-called “Final Solution.” The Holocaust left many surviving European Jews homeless and/or frightened to return to their original homelands, making Zionism and a new home in Palestine one of the few choices available to them.
1947 partition of Palestine: In reaction to the large number of Jewish refugees flooding into Palestine during and after the Holocaust, the United Nations voted in 1947 to divide Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, the latter occupying 55 percent of the land west of the Jordan River. Jerusalem was designated as an international enclave.
Israel declares statehood: Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion declared Israel to be an independent state on May 14, 1948. Almost immediately, it was invaded by a conglomeration of countries – Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Transjordan, and Syria – that rejected the plan to partition the country into Arab and Jewish states. At the end of the war, Jordan had occupied the West Bank, Egypt, and the Gaza Strip, and Israel was established.
Six Day War: In June 1967, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan formed an alliance against Israel and began to mobilize. Israel made a first pre-emptive strike on June 5, destroying Egypt’s planes on the ground. When the U.N. Security Force established a cease-fire agreement six days later, Israel had a major victory. Not only had they proved themselves as the military leader in the area, but they’d won crucial land areas: East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the West Bank of the Jordan River, and Gaza.
1972 Olympic Games: In September 1972, a Palestinian terrorist organization held Israeli athletes hostage and killed eleven of them.
Yom Kippur War: Egypt and Syria, aided by other Arab nations, launched an attack against Israel on October 6, 1973, on Yom Kippur, a Jewish Holy Day. The Israelis were caught off guard, but quickly rebounded, pushing both sides back and even capturing more land in the process.
Camp David Accords: On March 26, 1979, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty that ended the state of war that had existed between the two nations since 1948. In return for Egypt’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula.
1982 War: On June 6, 1982, Israeli jets bombed PLO strongholds in Beirut, the Lebanese capitol, and southern Lebanon. The Israelis hoped to eliminate the PLO and secure a new Lebanese president who would sign a peace treaty. The PLO agreed to leave Beirut after ten weeks of intense shelling, and to relocate to other Arab countries, after which the organization underwent an intense leadership struggle. The new president did not agree to a peace settlement, and violence continued in the area against a multinational peacekeeping force, including Americans. Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon by 1985, but it continued to hold a buffer strip along its border.
Intifada: Named after the Arab word for “uprising” or “shaking,” the Intifada began in 1987 and lasted for several years. Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem rioted against Israel. Many of the public demonstrations resulted in violent and deadly skirmishes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.
Groups & isms
Judaism: The Jewish religion is one of the three main monotheistic religions, along with Islam and Christianity, and is the oldest of the three. It is a set of beliefs and values that dictate not only religious life, but also the culture of the Jewish people. Although Jews have always lived in the area known as Israel, many who live there now immigrated from all over the world, including parts of Europe affected by the Holocaust, the United States, the former Soviet Union, and Ethiopia. Between ethnic/national differences and the differences among the many varying traditions of Judaism, there are often disagreements; these are part of political differences and wrangling for power as well. Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall, is located in Old Jerusalem.
Islam: The religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century AD, it is considered one of the three main monotheistic religions. Those who adhere to Islam are called Muslims. They comprise the largest minority group in Israel. More than three quarters of the Arab population in Israel is Muslim. Islam’s third most holy place, the Dome of the Rock, is located in Old Jerusalem.
Christianity: The world’s largest religion in terms of number of believers. It is the most geographically diffuse of the three main monotheistic religions, and is based on the life and teachings of Jesus in the century 1 AD. Although many Christians from around the world and from various sects and branches of Christianity make pilgrimages to holy places located throughout Israel, especially Jerusalem (site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre), the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholics are the largest Christian communities in Israel.
Palestinian: One of the estimated 4,450,000 Arabs who lived in Palestine prior to the creation of Israel in 1948 and their descendents. Palestinians now live in Israel, especially the West Bank, as well as in surrounding countries, such as Lebanon.
Israeli: A citizen of Israel. The majority of Israelis are Jewish, however Arab Muslims and Christians, as well as people of other religious and ethnic backgrounds also comprise the Israeli population.
Arabs: People who share the Arabic language, and who live mainly in the middle east and northern Africa. Arabs are largely but not exclusively Muslim, with about five percent of Arabs worldwide adhering to Christianity or other religions.
Ottoman Turks: The Ottoman Turks ruled the area known as Palestine for nearly 300 years, until the end of World War I, when the Ottoman Empire was overthrown.
Zionism: A movement to re-create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. It originated in the late 19th century, but grew greatly during WWI, as dozens of Jewish settlements were established in the Ottoman territory (Palestine) during the war.
Anti-Semitism: Persecution of Jews as both a religious and cultural group. Anti-Semitism in Russia and Romania in the late 1800s caused the first large-scale immigration of Jews to Palestine. Immigration continued throughout the early 20th century, before accelerating in response to the Holocaust, an enormous and absolute Anti-Semitic campaign undertaking by the Nazi regime against the Jews of Europe.
Nationalism: Loyalty to a nation or country above all else. One form of nationalism occurs among racial, ethnic, or cultural communities that do not exist as a politically recognized government or group. Although tied to the Islamic religion, Arab or Palestinian nationalism often supercede religion, seeking to unite all peoples despite religion, for the cause of an Arab or Palestinian nation.
Terrorism: Method of using violence and acts of terror to force political gain by a group or individual. Many groups in the Middle East have relied on terrorist acts, such as suicide bombings, to harass the other side into a change of position.
Arab League: An organization of Arab states formed in 1945. It aims to mediate disputes between members and to cooperate in matters of economics and defense. The PLO joined the Arab League in 1976. All of Israel’s neighbors belong to the League.
Palestinian Liberation Organization: Political organization representing Palestinians. Formed in 1967 to centralize various resistance movements. Since 1969 the group has been led by Yasir Arafat.
Hamas: A militant Palestinian movement formed in 1987 at the beginning of the Intifada. Hamas is opposed to the Oslo Accords and the peace process. Unlike the PLO, which recognizes the existence of Israel, Hamas strives to eliminate Israel as a state and establish an Islamic state in its stead.