Dictionary of Terms

Balfour Declaration - Written in 1917, the Balfour Declaration declared the support of Britain of the foundation of a Jewish state in Palestine. It was a point of reference for many later decisions and documents regarding the region.

Camp David Accords -Signed on September 17 of 1978 the Camp David Accords stated Israel's commitment to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for normalization of relations between Israel and Egypt.


Canaan - An ancient region made up of Palestine or the part of it between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. In the Bible it is the Promised Land of the Israelites

Fatah - Meaning "victory" in Arabic, the goal of this group is to destroy Israel and replace it with a secular, democratic state. Yasser Arafat belongs to this party and is on the moderate end of Palestinian politics.

Hamas - An Islamist Palestinian party that believes that Palestine is a holy Muslim region and cannot be given to foreigners.

Intifada - An uprising among Palestinian Arabs (see more)

Madrid Peace Summit - Held in October of 1991, the Madrid Peace summit was prepared by the United States. Israelis were reluctant to become involved and would have preferred to negotiate with individual Arab nations. A major point of discussion were the settlements on land won by Israel in 1967.

McMahon Correspondance - In communication between Sir Henry McMahon of Britain and Sharif Husayn of Mecca, suggested that Britain supported granting independence to Arab states. Different areas of land were divided, and recipients of different sections suggested. However, maps drawn at the time conspicuously excluded Palestine.

Meretz - the Israeli labor movement (see more)

MIFTAH - an organization founded by Hanan Ashrawi (see more)

Oslo Declaration of Principles - Israeli and PLO officials met secretly to negotiate in 1993. Under the Oslo agreement, the Israelis and Palestinians recognized each other and made several other agreements, including where Palestine would first be granted self-rule, the ability of Israeli residents to remain in the West Bank and Gaza, and the withdrawal of Israeli Defense Forces from densely populated areas. The formal agreement was signed on September 13, 1993 at the White House.

Ottomans - The Ottoman dynasty, present day Turkey was the longest empire, lasting 641 years.  It was one of the most powerful Arab empires.

Palestinian Authority - Palestinian Authority an autonomous government created after Israel transferred powers to Palestine and withdrew from certain territories. It is headed by Yasser Arafat.

Palestinian Legislative Council - a law-making body separate from the Palestinian Authority.

PLO - Founded in 1964, was founded hoping to destroy Israel. It is an umbrella organization under which most Palestinian political parties fall.

Solomon's Temple/Wailing Wall - built by Solomon in 960 BCE, the temple was destroyed twice, first by the Assyrians and then by the Babylonians, and rebuilt. Only one wall now remains, and it is one of the most holy sites for Jews.

Sykes-Picot Agreement - a document signed in 1916 that stated that different regions of the Middle East would be under the control of Britain and France, while Palestine would be under international control. (see more)

Yasser Arafat - Elected president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996, Arafat has held the formation of an independent Palestinian State very dear for much of his life. Much of his early life was spent involved in politics; he was involved in the founding of al-Fatah and the PLO.

Zionism - the doctrine that Jews are a nation without a homeland, and should establish their own state.