Hamas or "Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya" or "Islamic Resistance Movement"; the Arabic acronym means "zeal") is a Palestinian Islamist organization that since January 2006 forms the majority party of the Palestinian National Authority. Created in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin of the Gaza wing of the Muslim Brotherhood at the beginning of the First Intifada, in 1987, Hamas is best known outside the Palestinian territories for its suicide bombings.

Fatah, a reverse acronym from the Arabic name "Harakat al-Tahrir al-Watani al-Filastini" (literally: "Palestinian National Liberation Movement") is a major secular Palestinian political party and the largest organization in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a generally secular multi-party confederation. In Palestinian politics it is on the center-left of the spectrum. It is mainly secular and nationalist although not predominantly socialist. Fatah has maintained a number of militant groups since its founding.

The movement, which espoused a Palestinian nationalist ideology in which Palestine would be liberated by the actions of Palestinian Arabs, was founded in 1958 or 1959 by members of the Palestinian diaspora - principally professionals working in the Gulf States who had been refugees in Gaza and had gone on to study in Cairo. Yasser Arafat was head of the Palestinian student movement in Cairo from 1952 to 1956. Fatah became the dominant force in Palestinian politics after the 1967 Six-Day War dealt the coup de grâce to the Arab nationalism that had inspired George Habash's Arab Nationalist Movement.

Christian Fatah martyr poster in Bethlehem

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) (Arabic: al-Jabhah al-Sha'biyyah li-Tahrīr Filastīn) is a Marxist-Leninist, nationalist Palestinian political and military organization, founded in 1967. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestinian Liberation Organization (the largest being Fatah). It has generally taken a hard line on Palestinian national aspirations, opposing the more moderate stance of Fatah. It opposed the Oslo Accords and was for a long time opposed to the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but in 1999 came to an agreement with the PLO leadership regarding negotiations with Israel. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, and Israel.

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) (Arabic Al-Jabha al-Dimuqratiya Li-Tahrir Filastin) is a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist political and military organization. It is also frequently referred to as the "Democratic Front," or "al-Jabha al-Dimuqratiyah" (الجبهة الديموقراطية). It is a member organization of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The Palestinian People's Party (PPP, in Arabic "Hizb al-Sha'b al-Filastini), founded in 1982 as the "Palestinian Communist Party," is a socialist political party in the Palestinian territories and among the Palestinian diaspora.

The Palestine Democratic Union ("Al-Ittihad al-Dimuqrati al-Filastini," generally known as FIDA) is a small Palestinian political party active in the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).


Central Bethlehem.

The West Bank, the larger of the two areas under the Palestinian Authority, has undergone a sharp economic decline since the second intifadah began in September 2000. The increased violence and Israeli checkpoint closures associated with the conflict caused a recession in 2001-2002. The World Bank compared this recession to the Great Depression of 1929. Loss of international aid after Hamas won legislative control of the Palestinian Authority, worsened financial problems.

As of December 2006, unemployment in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has risen from 23 percent in 2005 to over 50 percent. Two-thirds of Palestinians are living below the poverty line. In the last four months of 2006, approximately 10,000 emigrated, and approximately 50,000 have applied to do so. For the last nine months of that year, the 160,000 civil service workers, who were the primary breadwinners for a third of households, have not received their full salaries due to the cuts in foreign aid.

The West Bank has 2,800 miles (4500km) of roads, of which 1680 miles (2700km) are paved. In response to shootings by Palestinians, some highways, especially those leading to Israeli settlements, are completely inaccessible to cars with Palestinian license plates, while many other roads are restricted only to public transportation and to Palestinians who have special permits from Israeli authorities. Israel maintains more than 50 checkpoints in the West Bank.

The West Bank has three paved airports which are for military use only. The only civilian airport of Atarot Airport in northern Jerusalem, which was open only to Israeli citizens was closed in 2001 due to the Intifada.

The Israeli Bezeq and Palestinian PalTel telecommunication companies provide communication services in the West Bank. The Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts from an AM station in Ramallah. Most Palestinian households have a radio and TV, and satellite dishes for receiving international coverage are widespread. PalTel has begun implementing an initiative to provide ADSL broadband internet service to all households and businesses.

Exports (including Gaza Strip) totaled $301-million in 2005. Export commodities included olives, fruit, vegetables, and limestone. Export partners included Israel, Jordan, and Gaza Strip.

Imports totaled $2.44-billion. Import commodities included food, consumer goods, construction materials. Import partners included Israel, Jordan, and Gaza Strip. Per capita GDP in 2005 (including Gaza Strip) was $1500.


Palestinian Children in Hebron

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimated that approximately 2.5 million Palestinians lived in the West Bank (including Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem) at the end of 2006. But a study by the American-Israel Demographic Research Group suggests that there are 1.4 million Palestinians there, and after that study the Palestinian statistics bureau reduced estimates by more than 700,000. There are some 267,163 Israeli settlers, more than 200,000 in East Jerusalem. There are over 260,000 Israeli settlers living there, as well as around 185,000 Israeli Jews living in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem. There are also small ethnic groups, such as the Samaritans living in and around Nablus, numbering in the hundreds or low thousands. The Jews in the West Bank live mostly isolated in Israeli settlements with little social interaction with other Palestinians. The population density is fairly high, with over 1095 per square mile (423 people per square kilometer). Life expectancy for the total population was 73.46 years, and more than 40 per cent of the West Bank population is under the age of 15.


Palestinian Family, 2004

Canaanites are considered to be among the earliest inhabitants of the region today known as Palestine/Israel, Canaan being its earliest known denomination. Some of the Canaanites are believed to have migrated in the third millennium B.C.E. from the inner Arabian Peninsula. However, the Arabization of Palestine and the Palestinians began in Umayyad times (661-750 C.E.).

Advanced genetic surveys have suggested that most of the various Jewish ethnic divisions and the Palestinians-and in some cases other Levantines-are genetically closer to each other than the Palestinians to the original Arabs of Arabia or European Jews to non-Jewish Europeans.

In 2007, Palestinian Arabs and others made up 83 percent of the population, while Jewish make up 17 percent.


Predominantly Sunni Muslim make up 75 percent of the population, 17 percent are Jewish, while Christian and others make up 8 percent. Christian Arabs are concentrated in Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, and Rām Allāh. These towns are clustered around Jerusalem, which has a sizable Christian population.

The Islamic holy book, the Qur'an, sets out rules for everyday behavior as well as religious doctrine, so religion, politics, and culture are bound together in Muslim communities. An imam (spiritual leader) delivers a weekly sermon at a mosque on Fridays.


Languages in use are Arabic and Hebrew corresponding to ethnic affiliation; English is widely understood. Arabic is the largest living member of the Semitic language family in terms of speakers. Classified as Central Semitic, it is closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic. In Umayyad times (661-750 C.E.), increasing conversions to Islam among the local population, together with the immigration of Arabs from Arabia and inland Syria, led to the replacement of Aramaic by Arabic as the area's dominant language.

Men and women

Palestinian women are restricted to homemaking or local cottage industries, since many Palestinian men consider it unacceptable for women to work outside the home. Women dress in the traditional Muslim jilbab, a long jacketlike dress, with a scarf to cover the hair. Men are the center of Palestinian life. The family patriarch is the key decision-maker regarding living arrangements, children's marriages, and money. Women must obey their father or husband.

For Israeli settlers, under the Orthodox tradition, women and men live separate lives, women are excluded from many traditional activities, although women are generally accorded equal status to men.

Marriage and the family

For Palestinians, polygamy is common, although most Palestinian men have only one or two wives. When a couple wishes to marry, the man approaches the woman's family. They declare their engagement, and the families get to know one another. This tradition is weaker in urban areas and among university students. A wedding is an occasion for singing, dancing, and feasting. The couple exchanges vows in a Muslim ceremony called the Katb al-Kitab.

The extended family is the strongest social unit, and share the same household. Married children live with their parents. Elderly parents are cared for at home by the families of their children. If a man with several wives can afford a large house, each wife gets her own rooms. But houses tend to be small and lack privacy. Palestinians are proud of their children. An infant boy's circumcision is celebrated. Extended families help in caring for infants and young children. Arab boys and girls are raised separately, and girls are expected to help more with domestic chores.

For Israelis, arranged marriages are uncommon, but there are social taboos against intermarriage, and it is illegal for a Jew to marry a non-Jew. Divorce is legal, but Orthodox Jewish law applies, meaning men have the power to prevent their ex-wives from remarrying. If the woman enters into another relationship, the courts do not recognize it, and any children are considered illegitimate and cannot marry in Israel. The nuclear family is the most common domestic unit, with grandparents sometimes included. The mother takes responsibility for raising the baby, helped by the extended family. Jewish boys are circumcised eight days after birth.


Frank Sinatra International Student Center, and tree memorializing the student victims of the July 31, 2002, Hamas bombing at the Hebrew University cafeteria.

Two main types of schooling are available for Palestinian children. One has a government-directed curriculum, while the other is guided by Islamic principles. Approximately 91.9 per cent of Palestinians aged 14 years and over are literate; 21 per cent of the population has received one to six years of schooling. Christian private schools operate in a number of towns, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) operates schools in the refugee camps of the West Bank.

In the last 25 years of the twentieth century, a number of Palestinian institutions of higher learning opened in the West Bank, foremost among them Bir Zeit, Bethlehem, and Al-Najah universities, the Islamic College in Hebron, and the Technical College in Abu Dis.

In total, seven universities have been commissioned in the West Bank since 1967: Bethlehem University, a Roman Catholic institution; Birzeit College; An-Najah National University; the Hebron University; Al-Quds University; the Arab American University; and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Most universities in the West Bank have politically active student bodies, and elections of student council officers are normally along party affiliations.

The founding of Palestinian universities has greatly increased West Bank education levels. According to a Birzeit University study, the percentage of Palestinians choosing local universities as opposed to foreign institutions has been steadily increasing; as of 1997, 41 percent of Palestinians with bachelor degrees had obtained them from Palestinian institutions.


Jewish Israeli settlements remain separated from Palestinian communities, and the best roads, shopping centers, jobs, and services tend to be in the Israeli areas. Within the Palestinian community there are two distinct cultures-the privately educated Palestinians, who lived in the United States or Europe before their parents returned in the mid-1990s, and the majority, who lived through the Israeli occupation. The returnees got the best jobs, and many flaunt money and automobiles. The majority lives in poverty. The gulf between rich and poor may be a bigger problem than attaining Palestinian sovereignty.


The United Nations definition of a "Palestinian refugee" is a person whose "normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict,” and their descendants, regardless of whether they reside in areas designated as "refugee camps" or in established, permanent communities. The number of refugees who fled or were expelled is controversial; estimates range from under 500,000 to over 950,000. The final UN estimate was 711,000. The West Bank has 699,817 refugees.

Thousands live in refugee camps that have gradually become permanent settlements. The crowded camps comprise small concrete-block huts with corrugated metal doors and roofing. Food is cooked on a metal grate placed over charcoal. Thin mats serve as beds. People bathe and wash clothes in metal drums filled from a community well.

Balata is the largest West Bank camp with a registered refugee population of 21,445. The camp was established in 1950 on land at Nablus. The first West Bank group to defend refugee rights was established in Balata in early 1994. The camp was very active during the intifadah (1987-1993). Many refugees were killed and injured, and numerous shelters were demolished by the Israeli army.


Traditional villages comprise single-story houses made of white stone. They have a kitchen, a sitting room, bathing room, and small bedrooms. Many homes have gardens and are enclosed by a high wall with a gate. Wealthier people can have two-story homes, the top used for living quarters and entertaining, the bottom for utilities and storage.


A serving of baklava

The main meal is eaten between 2pm and 3pm, and may include falafel, sandwiches made with deep-fried balls of garlic- and lemon-flavored chickpea mix, hummus, or grilled lamb sandwiches, called shwarma. Pita bread is a part of every meal. Lamb, eggplant, chicken, and rice are widely eaten, as are baklava pastries, made with honey and almonds or pistachios. Palestinian men drink coffee or tea as a social activity. Mensaf, a large platter of rice covered with a lamb or goat stew and pine nuts, is served at weddings, feasts, and funerals.


Poet and journalist Mahmoud Darwish is highly political and deals with the Israeli occupation. His poem "Identity Card," written in 1964, is one of the best-known works by a Palestinian. He also composed Palestine's Declaration of Independence. In his anthology The Wind-Driven Reed and Other Poems, (1979) Fouzi al-Asmar evokes the Palestinian longing for a homeland.

Palestinian-American Edward Said, a historian and essayist, explored Palestinians problems and aspirations in Peace and Its Discontents and other books. Other highly regarded émigré writers include Liana Badr and Hassan al-Kanafani.

Fiction writer Ghassan Kanafani, depicts the aimlessness and desperation of Palestinian refugees in short stories in All That Remains: Palestine's Children. The works of many leading Palestinian writers are translated in Salma Khadra Jayyusi's Modern Palestinian Literature.


DAMPalestinians dance the Dabke.

Palestinian music is one of many regional sub-genres of Arabic music. While it shares much in common with Arabic music, both structurally and instrumentally, there are musical forms and subject matter that are distinctively Palestinian.

Palestinian farmers (fellahin) sang a variety of work songs, while fishing, shepherding, harvesting and making olive oil. Traveling storytellers and musicians called zajaleen were also common, known for their epic tales. Weddings were home to distinctive music, especially the dabke, a complex dance performed by linked groups of dancers. Popular songs were in widely-varying forms, especially meyjana and dalauna.

After the creation of Israel in 1948, the centers for Palestinian music were in the Israeli towns of Nazareth and Haifa, where performers composed in the classical styles of Cairo and Damascus. The shared Palestinian identity first arose during this period, and a new wave of performers emerged with distinctively Palestinian themes, relating to the dreams of statehood.

Late in the 1970s, a new wave of popular Palestinian stars emerged, including Sabreen and Al Ashiqeen. After the 1987 Intifada, a more hard-edged group of performers and songwriters emerged, led by El Funoun, a songwriter.

In the 1990s, Palestinian cultural expression began to stabilize. Wedding bands, having long since disappeared during the fighting, reappeared and played popular Egyptian and Lebanese songs. Tania Nasser soon emerged as a major star, and became well-known for her support of feminism among Palestinian women.

Beginning in the late 1990s, Palestinian youth forged a new Palestinian musical sub-genre - Palestinian rap or hip hop - which blends Arabic melodies and Western beats, with lyrics in Arabic, English and even Hebrew. Young Palestinian musicians tailored the style to express their own grievances.

DAM were pioneers in forging this blend. As Arab citizens of Israel, they rap in Arabic, Hebrew, and English often challenging stereotypes about Palestinians and Arabs head-on in songs like Meen Erhabe? (Who's a terrorist?) Other Palestinian hip hop artists include members of The Philistines, N.O.M.A.D.S, MWR, and the Palestinian Rapperz.


  1. ↑ Ramallah is also the location of many foreign representative offices, including that of Canada, Germany, Australia, and South Africa. Gaza currently functions as the administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority.
  2. ↑ "Positions on Jerusalem" Wikipedia 1. accessdate July 13, 2006
  3. ↑ Gaza City, Municipality of Gaza. Retrieved May 20, 2007.
  4. Encyclopædia Britannica 2007. West Bank, Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved May 19, 2007.


  • Albin, Cecilia. 2001. Justice and fairness in international negotiation. Cambridge studies in international relations, 74. Cambridge England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521793289
  • Bamberger, David. 1985. A young person's history of Israel. New York, NY: Behrman House. ISBN 0874413931
  • Gibney, Mark and Frankowski, Stanislaw (1999). Judicial Protection of Human Rights. Praeger/Greenwood. ISBN 0275960110
  • Playfair, Emma, Ed. 1992. International Law and the Administration of Occupied Territories. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198252978
  • Hoyland, Robert G. 2001. Arabia and the Arabs: from the Bronze Age to the coming of Islam. London; New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415195349

External links

All links retrieved August 8, 2013.

  • West Bank World Fact Book.
  • Palestine Facts & Info Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs.
  • Israel and Palestinian Territories BBC News Country Profile.
  • The Westbank Dispute Analysis from ProCon Israeli-Palestinian