Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi

(1947-2004) A Palestinian political figure. In 1987, Rantisi co-founded the Palestinian movement Hamas. He was part of organizing early protests in Gaza that sparked the First Intifada. Rantisi was arrested/detained by Israel 4 times between 1988-1991, and was expelled by the Israeli government in the 1992 Mass Deportation to no-man’s land in south Lebanon. Rantisi emerged as the spokesperson for the deportees and returned to the Gaza Strip in early 1993. He was instrumental in organizing Hamas’s welfare network. By 1999, Rantisi was the effective political head of Hamas. He was appointed as the leader of Hamas after Sheikh Ahmad Yassin was assassinated by an Israeli missile strike in March 2004. Rantisi was a proponent of armed resistance against Israel, had strongly opposed the Oslo Accords, and frequently called for the liberation of all of historic Palestine. In later years, however, Rantisi’s tone became more moderate, and in 2004, he offered a 10-year truce with Israel in exchange for withdrawal and a Palestinian state. The Israeli Airforce assassinated Rantisi in April 2004. See Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi Obituary, The Independent, April 19, 2004.

Administrative Detention

The practice employed by the Israeli military of detaining people indefinitely based on an administrative order, without charges brought against them and without standing trial. Administrative detention is predominantly used against Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. Israel has placed thousands of Palestinians under administrative detention over the years, many for prolonged periods of time. During the First Intifada, Israel held its highest number of Palestinians in administrative detention; nearly 1,800. The numbers of administrative detainees shrank dramatically during the 90’s (there were 12 administrative detainees in December 2000), but rose again sharply to over 1,000 during the April 2002 Israeli Military Invasion. As of July 2014, 446 Palestinians were being held by Israel in administrative detention. Israeli citizens (including settlers) can also be held in administrative detention, but this occurs rarely and the detentions are short in duration. Though some forms of administrative detention are permitted under international law, under very strict circumstances, human rights groups have decried Israel’s widespread use of administrative detention as a violation of human rights and of the protections of due process enshrined in both Israeli and international law. See “Administrative Detention,” Addameer; and “Israel: The injustice and secrecy surrounding administrative detention,” Amnesty International, June 6, 2012. See also infographic "A Guide To Administrative Detention," Visualizing Palestine.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade

The militant wing of Fatah that began in Balata refugee camp near Nablus in the northern West Bank shortly after the start of the Second Intifada. Though the group was not openly associated with Fatah early in its existence, in 2004 Fatah acknowledged them as its armed wing. The Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade has been responsible for multiple attacks and attempted attacks against Israeli soldiers, settlers and civilians, most of them taking place between 2001-2005. The United States, the European Union and several other governments consider the group a terrorist organization. In July 2007, the Israeli government made a deal with the Palestinian Authority (PA), under which 178 members of the Al-Aqsa Brigade were granted amnesty on condition they surrendered their arms to the PA, renounced future attacks against Israel, and were absorbed into the Palestinian security services. The number of gunmen granted amnesty increased later in 2007 and in 2008 pursuant to further agreements. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade had been relatively quiet for a number of years until it claimed responsibility in July 2014 for opening fire on Israeli soldiers at Qalandia checkpoint, separating Ramallah from Jerusalem. See " Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade," Holly Fletcher, Council on Foreign Relations Backgrounder, April 2, 2008; see also "Al-Aqsa Brigades opens fire on Qalandia, injuring Israeli soldiers," Ma’an News Agency, July 26, 2014.

Al-Aqsa Massacre

On October 8, 1990 an extremist Jewish group called the Temple Mount Faithful attempted to place a cornerstone for the Third Temple at Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount, sparking riots in which between 19-23 Palestinians were killed with live ammunition and 150 more wounded, an event known to Palestinians as the “Al-Aqsa Massacre” and to Israelis as the “Temple Mount Riots.” See MIDEAST TENSIONS; U.S. Presses the U.N. to Condemn Israel, Paul Lewis, The New York Times, October 10, 1990.

Al-Aqsa Mosque

(Arabic for "the Farthest Mosque") A mosque located in the Old City of Jerusalem, adjacent to the Dome of the Rock on the area known to Muslims as Haram Al-Sharif (Arabic for “the Noble Sanctuary”). Al-Aqsa Mosque, a name which is used both to refer to all of Haram Al-Sharif, or the actual mosque itself, is the third holiest site in Islam. The mosque was completed in the 7th century, destroyed by an earthquake in the 8th century, and restored to its current structure in the 11th century. The mosque is currently under the supervision and authority of the Waqf (Islamic Endowment). Haram Al-Sharif is known by Jews as the Har Ha-Moriah (Hebrew for the Temple Mount and is the holiest place in Judaism. Due to its religious and symbolic significance, Al-Aqsa Mosque and Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount have frequently been at the epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some examples include the Al-Aqsa Massacre and the provocative visit to Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount on September 28, 2000 by then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon igniting the Second Intifada, which is sometimes called the Al-Aqsa Intifada. See the Haram Al-Sharif website and Al-Aqsa Intifada Timeline, BBC.


(Arabic for "the catastrophe.") Refers to the uprooting, expulsion and displacement of 700,000-800,000 Palestinians (approximately 80% of the population at that time) concurrently with and in the years following the 1948 War and the establishment of the State of Israel. During and after the 1948 War, many Palestinian villages and properties were seized or destroyed by Israeli forces and the remaining territories (the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights) were seized by Jordanian, Egyptian and Syrian forces respectively. The vast majority of Palestinians displaced from what was now Israel became refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Israel considers these same events to be its War of Independence and, especially in its first three decades, maintained that Palestinians were not expelled, but fled of their own free will, or at the instructions of Arab leaders. Starting in the late 1970’s more critical narratives began to emerge from Israeli soldiers who had participated in the events of 1948, as well as from academics and journalists. Some official Israeli government agencies, including the Ministry of Education and Israeli National Archive, have published accounts that are more inclusive than the traditional Zionist narrative, though the Zionist narrative remains dominant among most Israelis. Al-Nakba Day is commemorated annually by Palestinians and supporters on the 15th of May. The Israeli Knesset passed the controversial Nakba Law, criminalizing commemoration of al-Nakba. See "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited," Benny Morris, Cambridge University Press, 2004; "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine," Ilan Pappe, Oneworld Publications, 2006; "All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948," Walid Khalidi, Institute for Palestine Studies, 2006; and Institute for Middle East Understanding's FAQ on the Nabka.

Ami Ayalon

(1945- ) A Jewish Israeli military, intelligence and political figure. Ayalon was a career naval officer, holding the position of Commander of the Israeli Navy from 1992-1996. Following Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995, he became the head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, retiring in 2000. In 2002, he launched the People’s Voice Initiative with Sari Nusseibeh, a civilian initiative meant to demonstrate Israeli and Palestinian popular support as a member of the Labor party in 2006 and served until he lost his seat in the 2009 elections. As of May 2015, he is the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the University of Haifa. See "Ami Ayalon appointed Chairman of the Executive Committee,” University of Haifa, January 19, 2011. See also the Oscar-nominated 2012 documentary, "The Gatekeepers."

April 2002 Israeli Military Incursion

A large-scale Israeli military incursion into the West Bank from March 29-April 21, 2002. Named Operation Defensive Shield by the Israeli military, it was the largest military operation in the West Bank since the 1967 War and included invasions of the cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarem, Qalqilia, Bethlehem and Jenin, and included the Battle of Jenin. The incursion was launched after a series of bombings inside Israel perpetrated by Palestinian militants, and was immediately preceded by a suicide bombing that killed 30 people at a Passover seder in a hotel in the city of Netanya. According to the United Nations, 497 Palestinians were killed during the fighting, and 30 Israeli soldiers. 7,000 Palestinians were detained, and wide-scale destruction of property and infrastructure occurred. According to multiple human rights organizations, the Israeli army employed several tactics during the incursion that are illegal under international humanitarian law, and that constituted war crimes. See " Operation Defensive Shield: Soldiers’ Testimonies", B’tselem, September 2, 2004; and "Israel and the Occupied Territories: Shielded from Scrutiny: IDF Violations in Jenin and Nablus," Amnesty International, November 4, 2002.

Arab League

Also known as the League of Arab States. Founded in 1945, the Arab League consists of 22 member-states, including Palestine. It is headquartered in Cairo, Egypt. According to Article II of the Arab League Charter, its purpose is to strengthen "the relations between the member-states, the coordination of their policies in order to achieve co-operation between them and to safeguard their independence and sovereignty; and a general concern with the affairs and interests of the Arab countries." See the League of Arab States website.

Arab Peace Initiative

Also referred to as the Saudi Peace Plan and Abdullah Plan. On March 27, 2002, participants of the Arab League summit in Beirut adopted the Saudi-proposed Arab Peace Initiative, calling for “full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967, in implementation of [United Nations (UN)] Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and Israel’s acceptance of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel.” The plan also called for a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee issue based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194. The Israeli government rejected the initiative immediately, calling it a “non-starter,” though the Quartet on the Middle East endorsed the Initiative in 2003. The Arab League voted to renew its commitment to the plan in 2007, and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas from Fatah endorsed it enthusiastically, though Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh from Hamas abstained. This time, the Israeli government reaction was mixed, with some political leaders expressing reserved support for certain aspects of the plan, and others continuing with a rejectionist line. Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert expressed readiness to negotiate on many of the plan’s points, but stressed Israel’s refusal to negotiate on the refugee issue. U.S. President Barak Obama officially supported the plan in 2008. Arab states began revising elements of the peace plan in 2009, in order to make it more palatable to Israel, including the provisions dealing with the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and possible land swaps. See "The Arab Peace Initiative for Peace," Alia Al-Kadi, The Atkins Paper Series, June 2010; and "Israel shows new openness to Saudi Peace Plan," Ilene Prusher, Christian Science Monitor, May 16, 2007.

Areas A, B, C

Administrative divisions of the Occupied Palestinian Territories as outlined in the 1995 Oslo II Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Area A, according to the Accords, consists of land under full civilian and security control by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and constitutes approximately 3% of the West Bank, including major population centers such as Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, Qalqilya, Bethlehem and Jericho. Area B was to be under Palestinian civil control, and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control, and comprises approximately 24% of the West Bank. There are approximately 440 Palestinian villages and their surrounding lands in Area B. Area C is under full Israeli civil and security control, and comprises approximately 73% of the West Bank. Most of the West Bank’s natural resources and open spaces are in Area C, as well as all Israeli settlements. It was stipulated in the Accords that much of Area C was gradually to be transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction, though with the breakdown of the peace process, this did not happen. Israeli security forces control borders between Areas A, B and C, and, though Area A is supposedly under PA security control, there are frequent Israeli incursions into Area A cities. Hebron, which is the only major population center inside of which there are Israeli settlements, is a category unto itself. 80% of Hebron considered H1 (under Palestinian control) and 20%--including most of the Old City of Hebron, which used to be the city’s commercial center—is considered H2, and under Israeli military control. There are checkpoints/turnstiles controlled by the Israeli military between those areas, greatly constricting and limiting movement of Palestinians who reside in H2. See Btselem website for a map delineating Areas A, B, and C in the West Bank. See also, "Humanitarian Update: The Closure of Hebron’s Old City," United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, July 2005.

Faisal al-Husseini

(1940-2001) A Palestinian political figure, al-Husseini was active in Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as well as numerous other organizations, including the Arab Studies Society, the Higher Islamic Council, the Palestine Human Rights Information Center and the Orient House. Al-Husseini was long engaged in resisting Israeli occupation, which resulted in his receiving travel bans, house arrest, imprisonment and administrative detention by successive Israeli governments. He was willing to hold talks with Israelis when the official position of the PLO was still armed struggle, earning him praise from some quarters and criticism from others. Al-Husseini was the first prominent Palestinian to hold talks with a senior Israeli Likud party politician (Moshe Amirav) in September 1987, and was instrumental in launching the 1991 Madrid Conference. He served as the PLO representative to Jerusalem/Palestinian Authority Minister in charge of Jerusalem Affairs beginning in the mid-1990’s until his death in 2001 from a heart attack. See "Faisal Husseini Obituary," The Guardian, June 1, 2001.

Hanan Ashrawi

(1946- ) A Palestinian politician, academic and spokeswoman. In 1973, she established the English Department at Bir Zeit University and, as of 2015, still occasionally teaches there. Ashrawi was a member of/spokesperson for the Palestinian negotiation team at the 1991 Madrid Conference and during the Oslo Process. She has served on the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) several times and in 2005, switched party membership from Fatah to the Palestinian National Initiative (Mubadara).In addition to serving on the advisory boards of several international organizations, including the World Bank Middle East and United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, in 1988 she founded MIFTAH, the Palestinian Initiative for the promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy. In 2003, Ashrawi was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize. See "Geneva Conference Biographies," June 7-8, 2004.

Izz ad-Din al-Qassam

(1882-1935) A Palestinian religious and resistance figure. Born in Syria, Qassam was a key figure in the 1921 Syrian revolt against the French rule of Greater Syria after World War I and fled to the city of Haifa in British mandate Palestine after the French besieged parts of Syria. In Palestine, he preached among the Palestinian lower classes, gathering a large following among landless ex-tenant farmers who had lost their livelihoods due to purchases of agricultural land by the Jewish National Fund as well as exclusionary labor policies. He became a leading resistance figure against the British and Jews, forming the Black Hand (al-Kaff al-Aswad) in 1930, which was an anti-Zionist and anti-British militant organization, and launched multiple attacks which resulted in the killing of Jewish civilians and sabotaging British rail lines. In 1935, Qassam was killed by the British in a manhunt and gun battle that turned him into a popular hero and an ongoing symbol of resistance. The Izz-Id-Din Al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing of Hamas) is named after Qassam. See "The Life and Thought of 'Izz-Id-Din Al-Qassam'," Salaam.

Khalil al-Wazir

(1935-1988) Also known as Abu Jihad. A Palestinian political and military figure. He helped found Fatah in 1959, set up the movement’s first office in Algeria, and conducted military training for Fatah fighters. He was also a high-ranking member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), serving as its Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Palestinian forces. He planned multiple attacks that targeted both Israeli soldiers and civilians. Wazir is well-known for developing underground militant cells in the West Bank and Gaza and for organizing the PLO’s defense in Jordan during Black September and against Israel’s invasion of Beirut in the 1982 War. Wazir helped create youth committees in the West Bank and Gaza in the early 1980’s, which eventually became the backbone of the First Intifada. In 1988, Israeli agents assassinated Wazir in Tunis. See "Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad): The 17th Palestine National Council," Journal of Palestine Studies, University of California Press, 1985. See also "Abu Jihad Killing: Israeli censor releases commando’s account,” BBC, November 1, 2012.

Mahmoud Abbas

(1935- ) A Palestinian political figure, also known as Abu Mazen. Abbas has been a leading figure in Fatah which he co-founded along with Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) since its inception. Throughout his career, Abbas has been involved in negotiations between West Banks and the Israeli government, most notably as the leading West Bank negotiator of the Oslo Accords and as the PLO signatory of the Oslo Accords’ Declaration of Principles in September 1993. He served as the first Prime Minister of the West Bank Authority (PA) from March to October 2003, when he resigned after an internal West Bank power struggle. Following the death of Arafat in 2004, the PLO executive committee appointed Abbas as Chairman of the PLO. In January 2005, he was elected to a four-year term as President of the PA. He unilaterally extended his term for another year due to the Hamas-Fatah conflict and, though that second deadline expired in 2008, as of May 2015, he continues to hold both positions, as presidential and legislative elections continued to be delayed. Due to the Hamas-Fatah conflict, Abbas’s authority has extended only over the West Bank since 2007. Abbas is viewed by some as a moderate and pragmatic politician who calls for negotiation rather than armed struggle, and is credited for helping improve the economy of the West Bank. However, he is also perceived by many as primarily appeasing Israel and the United States rather than advocating for the rights of his people. See "How Long Can Mahmoud Abbas Hold On?" Dalia Hatuqa, Foreign Policy, Jan 16, 2015.

Mubarak Awad

(1943- ) A prominent Palestinian-American advocate for nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. Awad was a leader of nonviolent civil disobedience during the First Intifada, was arrested by Israel many times, and was deported by the Israeli government in 1988. He was the founder of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in 1983, and the DC-based Nonviolence International in 1989. As of 2015, he is an Adjunct Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution at The American University in Washington, D.C. See “A Quiet Revolution: The First Palestinian Intifada and Nonviolent Resistance,” Mary Elizabeth King, Nation Books, 2007; and "Mubarak Awad," American University, July 21, 2011.

Muhammad al-Dura

(1988-2000) A twelve-year-old Palestinian boy who was caught with his father in the crossfire during an exchange of fire between the Israeli army and Palestinian militants at Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip on September 30, 2000, at the beginning of the Second Intifada. Footage of Muhammad’s father trying to shield his son during the gun battle, followed by footage of Muhammad, who appeared to have been killed, was filmed by a Palestinian cameraman and first aired by a French television station. The footage was soon publicized extensively, with the image of the frightened child huddled against his father becoming an iconic image of the Second Intifada. Within Palestinian society, Muhammad al-Dura was deemed a shaheed (martyr) and became an international symbol for all Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces. Israel initially took responsibility for the killing, but later retracted and said Muhammad had been killed by Palestinian fire. In 2013, Israel announced the findings of a special internal Ministry of Defense investigative committee that the boy had not actually been killed, and that the scene had been staged. Journalist Doha Shams visited the al-Dura family in Gaza 2012, and interviewed multiple family members who spoke about their martyred son/brother and their experiences the day Muhammad was killed. Controversy over the footage and the incident continues. See "Media analyst convicted over France-2 Palestinian boy footage," The Guardian, June 26, 2013; and "Muhammad Al-Dura: The boy who wasn't really killed,", Ben Caspit, The Jerusalem Post, May 12, 2013; and "Seeking Justice for Muhammad al-Durrah," Doha Shams, Al-Akhbar, May 2, 2012.

Shulamit Aloni

(1928-2014) A Jewish Israeli political figure. Aloni was first elected to the Israeli Knesset (parliament) in 1965 as a member of the Labor party. She was dropped from the Labor party election list in 1969 due to disagreements with party general-secretary Golda Meir. After officially resigning from Labor in 1973, she founded the Ratz party, which merged into the Meretz party in 1992, and was aligned with the Israeli peace movement. During the 1980’s, she advocated for direct negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and participated in meetings with the PLO as a member of the International Center for Peace in the Middle East, which she established. Between 1992 and 1995, she served in the positions of Minister of Education, Minister of Communications and Minister of Science and Culture. In 1996, she retired from the Knesset and taught at various Israeli universities. She was a board member of the Israeli organization Yesh Din-Volunteers for Human Rights. Aloni repeatedly spoke publicly against Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and called for the construction of an Israeli Bill of Rights. See “Shulamit Alon"i Naomi Chazan, Jewish Women’s Archive, December 9, 2011.

Uri Avnery

(1923- ) A Jewish Israeli political figure and peace activist. Avnery was a founding member of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace in 1975, and a founding member of Gush Shalom (Hebrew for "Peace Bloc"), an activist peace group founded in 1993. Avnery also served three terms as a member of the Israeli Knesset, and founded the opposition magazine “Haolam Hazeh” (Hebrew for “This World”). See "Uri Avnery – Biography," Gush Shalom, July 21, 2011.

Yasser Arafat

(1929-2004) Also referred to as Abu Ammar. A Palestinian political and military figure. In 1959, Arafat was one of the founders of the Palestinian Fatah movement. Arafat served as Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from 1969 to 2004. He oversaw political and guerrilla activities of the PLO first from Jordan, then Lebanon and later Tunisia. In 1996, he became the first elected President of the Palestinian Authority, which has governing authority over certain parts of the West Bank and Gaza; Arafat held this position until his death in 2004. In a speech at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in December 1988, Arafat stated his willingness to accept Palestinian statehood based on UN Resolution 242 a resolution that recognizes the rights of all states to sovereignty. Many viewed this as the beginning of the PLO’s recognition of the right of the State of Israel exist. He signed the Oslo Accords with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1993, for which he received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 along with Rabin and Israeli political figure Shimon Peres. Arafat became increasingly marginalized by the United States and Israel after the Second Intifada started, and was isolated completely from diplomatic relations in 2003. Arafat died on November 11, 2004 in Percy military hospital in Paris from causes that are still unverified. One controversial theory is that he was poisoned, a theory that was supported by an independent Swiss investigation, yet rejected by a Russian one. See "Yasser Arafat: 1929-2004," Kristina Nwazota, PBS Online News Hour, July 15 2011.