FAQ #1: The Palestinian People & Israel: Where Are We & How Did We Get Here?

November 08, 2022


  1. What is the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and equality about?

BIG PICTURE: Today, 7 million Palestinians and 7 million Jewish Israelis live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The Israeli government and military have near total control over all 14 million people. 

Despite their lives being controlled by Israel, 5 million of these Palestinians do not have citizenship or any say over the government that rules over them with military force. Palestinians have been denied their right to self-determination and the Palestinian Authority (PA) has only extremely limited autonomy over certain parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In essence, we have today a one-state, undemocratic reality. 

And for the past 75 years, Israel has oppressed the Palestinian people through unjust policies, including forcing Palestinians off their land, denying refugees their right to return home, brutal military rule, inequality and discrimination, killing civilians, destroying homes, and many other human rights abuses.

  • Palestinians deserve freedom from Israel’s 55-year brutal military rule over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, which is also under Israeli siege.
  • Palestinians deserve justice for refugees who Israel pushed out or who fled their homes out of fear in 1948. Israel continues to deny Palestinian refugees their right to return home.
  • Palestinians deserve equality. Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are 20% of the population. Israel has over 60 discriminatory laws making Palestinians second-class citizens. 

​ 2. How does Israel impose apartheid against the Palestinian people?

BIG PICTURE: Israeli laws and governance privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. This two-tiered system is the textbook definition of apartheid. Palestinian, Israeli, and international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch all agree. From the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, Israel controls all of historic Palestine and imposes separate-and-unequal rule over the Palestinian people. 

  • Israel prevents Palestinian refugees from returning home but grants citizenship to any Jewish person in the world. And Palestinian citizens of Israel are not allowed to rent or own public land, which Israel reserves for the exclusive use of Jewish people. 
  • Israel imposes harsh military rule on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel denies millions of Palestinians the right to vote for the government that controls every aspect of their lives, but Israeli settlers living on stolen Palestinian land are subject to civil law and have full rights. Palestinians under the age of 55 have not enjoyed a single day of freedom in their entire lives. Children are harassed by settlers on their way to school, women are forced to give birth at checkpoints that soldiers will not let them through, and cancer patients in the Gaza Strip die because Israel does not allow them to leave for medical care.  
  • Israeli apartheid even intrudes into the private lives of Palestinians. Under Israeli laws and military regulations, Palestinian citizens of Israel are not allowed to live with their spouses if they are from the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Foreign passport holders are required to tell Israeli military authorities about their personal relations with Palestinians. And Palestinians under military rule in the Gaza Strip are not allowed to live with Palestinians under military rule in the West Bank.  

 ZOOM IN: How Israel Practices Apartheid | IMEU Policy Backgrounder

 3. What happened to the Palestinian people when Israel was established in 1948?

 BIG PICTURE: The UN unjustly recommended partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab states against the wishes of the indigenous Palestinian majority in 1947. Almost immediately after, Zionist militias began massacring Palestinians, forcing Palestinians from their homes, stealing their land and property, and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee. 

  • By the end of 1948, Israel had pushed out or forced most Palestinians to flee from almost all of Palestine, destroyed hundreds of Palestinian cities, towns, and villages, and refused to allow Palestinian refugees to return home. Palestinians mark 1948 as the beginning of their Nakba, which means “catastrophe.”     


  • The UN proposed taking 55% of Palestine for a Jewish state even though Jewish people were only one-third of the population and owned only 7% of the land.
  • Israel stole even more Palestinian land than proposed, establishing its rule over 78% of Palestine.
  • Israel pushed out or forced at least 75% of Palestinians to flee. From an original 750,000 refugees in 1948 to more than 5 million today, Israel denies Palestinian refugees their right to return home.
  • Israel destroyed between 400-500 Palestinian cities, towns, and villages, often wiping them off the map completely or settling Israelis in stolen Palestinian homes.       

ZOOM IN: The Nakba and Palestine Refugees | IMEU Policy Backgrounder

4. What is Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip?

BIG PICTURE: Israel invaded the Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, and has imposed brutal military rule ever since. This means that for the past 55 years, Israel has ruled over all of original Palestine. 

  • Palestinians in the West Bank are subjected to Israeli military rule with no rights. Palestinians are all affected by Israeli violence, land theft, home demolitions, and other human rights abuses. 
  • Israel has imposed a 15-year siege on the Palestinian Gaza Strip, denying over 2 million Palestinians adequate food, clean water, medicine, electricity, and the freedom to travel. Israel also frequently bombs Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip who are trapped and unable to leave, killing thousands of civilians.


  • As of 2020, 674,000 Israeli settlers lived in approximately 300 illegal Israeli settlements. All of these settlements are war crimes under international law.
  • Since 1967, Israel has destroyed about 55,000 Palestinian homes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. 
  • Since 2008, repeated Israeli attacks against 2 million Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip have killed more than 4,000 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were civilians. 

ZOOM IN: Israeli Settlements and The Gaza Strip | IMEU Policy Backgrounders

5. How are Palestinians with Israeli citizenship unequal compared to Jewish Israeli citizens?

  1. BIG PICTURE: The small percentage of Palestinians who were able to remain in what became Israel in 1948 are today citizens of the state, but are discriminated against by over 60 laws and widespread Israeli racism, making them second-class citizens in their own homeland. 
  • Israel placed almost all Palestinian citizens under harsh military rule (very similar to what Palestinians experience in the West Bank today) until 1966. 
  • Many Palestinian citizens of Israel were expelled from their family homes in 1948. Like Palestinian refugees outside Israel, they have not been allowed to return home and are still internally displaced persons today.
  • Until today, Israel has even refused to officially recognize some Palestinian villages, which denies these Palestinian citizens of Israel access to services like water and electricity.
  • Israeli police have massacred Palestinian citizens of Israel for protesting for their rights or while returning from work after a curfew was imposed on them unknowingly. In 2021, mobs of Israeli Jews attacked Palestinian citizens in Israel during Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip.


  • Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are more than 20% of the state’s population.  
  • Israel has passed more than 60 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel based on their national origin and religion.
  • 93% of land in Israel is controlled by the government, and about 80% of this public land is off-use for Palestinian citizens. Israeli courts also have allowed so-called “admissions committees” in Jewish-only communities to prevent Palestinians from living in them.
  • Israel is threatening to destroy the 60,000-70,000 homes of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who are typically not granted permits by Israel to expand or build their houses. 

ZOOM IN: Palestinian Citizens of Israel | IMEU Fact Sheet