History of Struggle

Who can condemn a harassed and scattered people’s quest for a State in their ancient homeland by overt economic and political efforts…”
Reverend Edward H. Flannery, President of the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel, (June 1969).

The Claim of the Arabs for the Land of Israel

The Arabs living in Israel today claim that they are descendents of the Edomites, Arameans, Jebusites, Hittites and Assyrians from whom the ancient Jews conquered the country. They also claim that the Jewish scriptures are forgeries and the validity of God’s promise to the Jews has expired. Furthermore, they say that the attachment of Moslems to Palestine is deeper than that of the Jews.

The Arabs also claim that for centuries they lived in the land, before the Jews returned to the land in the 19th century. They add that they, the Arabs, had nothing to do with the Holocaust and the unfortunate condition of the Jews in Europe. They therefore feel it was unjust to have solved those conditions at their expense.

Key Facts

  • The land of Israel, or ‘Palestine’ as it is called today by the Arabs, was never considered a national home for the Arabs at all. Abdul-Hadi, a local Arab leader told the Peel Commission in 1937: “There is no such country as Palestine. ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was, for centuries, part of Syria.”
  • The word “Arab” originated in southern Arabia where the majority of the people were sedentary and engaged in agriculture. The term was then used for Bedouin, to describe the nomads from the north. The word “Arab” in the Koran is used exclusively to mean Bedouin, and never townsfolk.
  • Prior to the period of the Zionist settlement, the Arabs living in Israel never demanded national self-determination. Even after the War of Independence, there was no request for a separate Palestinian state. Until the Six-Day War in 1967, the Arabs did not call for national self-determination as a Palestinian people.
  • Jewish religious tradition has impressed on every successive generation that God promised the Land of Israel to the Jewish people. The Bible reiterates the promise of return. The oath that the Lord made with the Jewish Patriarchs for redemption in the Land of Israel is also the leitmotif in the Five Books of Moses.
  • Throughout the two thousand years of exile, the Jews were always recognized as both a religion as well as a nation. Nobody challenged this notion. Based on these grounds, together with the natural right of every people to form a state of their own, the Jews lay special claim to their land.
  • The laws and customs of Judaism are based on the Land of Israel. The religious festivals follow the seasons of Israel and/or are linked to events in the history of the people and the Land of Israel. 
  • The Yishuv or Jewish community in the Land of Israel survived for thousands of years in cities such as Jerusalem and Safed, despite the national exile and the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth. The people clung stubbornly to the country, making its indestructibility a magnet for all Jewish spiritual movements. It was through the Yishuv that numerous important rabbinical works were completed. In fact, the restrictions, persecutions and sufferings the Jews experienced as a result of their exile, only increased their love for their homeland.
  • The Jewish people have no other home. They were forced out under duress. Other people have lost their land, but they either found another land or perished. The Jews never ceased to assert their rights to the Land of Israel.


The origins of the struggle for land in Israel between the Arabs and the Jews did not begin with the first Zionist Aliyah (immigration) or the return of Jews from Eastern Europe in 1881. Neither did it begin with the exile of Jews from the land after the destruction of the Second Temple. Rather, the land of Israel refers to an entity of Biblical history. The struggle began in Biblical times when God promised the land to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He again repeated this promise to Moses and from Moses to Joshua. Joshua conquered the land and all the Jewish leaders since him, whether they were judges, kings, rabbis and Biblical scholars have guided the people in light of this promise.

Biblical Times

God promised Abraham, “And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your dwelling – the whole of the land of Canaan – as an everlasting possession,” (Genesis 17:8).

The patriarch Abraham fathered two sons, Isaac and Yishmael. Abraham understood even then, if he wanted peace, the brothers could not live together. The Bible notes that God promised of Yishmael “He will make of him a great nation” (Genesis, 17:20.21) Some commentators explain further that God also promised Yishmael a share in the land, “In the face of all his brothers shall fall out his portion” (Genesis 25:12). However, it was the great Matriarch Sara that understood, “The son of the handmaiden is not capable of sharing an inheritance with my son, with Isaac.” (Genesis 21:10) for “…His hand is against everything” (Genesis 16:11). 

God reconfirmed His promise that He gave to Abraham, with Isaac saying, “Dwell in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and your offspring will I give all of these lands, and establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.” (Genesis 26:3)

Birth of Zionism

Towards the late eighteenth century, there was an influx of Jews returning to the Land of Israel after the nation had been exiled centuries before, and the Zionist movement was born.
Zionism is a modern expression of the ancient Jewish ideal to return the Jewish people to its own country of origin - to Zion (another name for Jerusalem). It is historically based on the unique and unbroken connection extending 3,000 years between the People and the land of Israel. The Zionists did not return to the land to rule over its inhabitants. Rather the Zionist movement stressed the return had to be carried out in peaceful ways based on international agreements and legal purchase of land.  The goal was to develop the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants as well as future Jewish settlers.
The Zionist settlement was carried out in a legal and ethical manner. The Zionists strove to settle and work the lands they bought. They paid full price for the land, which was often deteriorated, poor land. They endeavored to create a new type of society and national economy, where Jews would engage in all types of labor without exploiting anyone, in their native Homeland.

Arabs Sell the Land

It was the Arabs themselves that primarily contributed sale of land to the Jews in Israel, thus enabling a Jewish national home to be created. For example, from 1920 to 1928, one-quarter of the 89 member committee of the Arab Executive were, either personally or through family members, directly involved in land sales to Jews. At the Seventh Arab Congress in June 1928, 14 delegates out of 48 had participated in land sales to Jews.
Some of these included Musa Kazim al-Husayni who sold an unspecified amount of land in the village of Dilb (Kiryat Anavim) near Abu Gosh and Jerusalem before the British Mandate. Mu’in al-Madi, formerly the head of intelligence for Faysal in Damascus and a member of the Arab Executive at the time, sold land to Jews near Atlit in Haifa. Asim Bey al-Said, the mayor of Jaffa at the time, sold 1,200 dunams of land to the JNF through an Arab land broker. Muhammad Tahir al-Husaini sold an unknown quantity of land to Jews in the Jerusalem region. Raghib al-Nashashibi, the mayor of Jerusalem in 1920-1934 sold the land on Mount Scopus on which the Hebrew University was built. There were many more like these people, with the transactions benefitting both the Jewish purchaser and the Arab sellers.

Israel Land Fund

The State of Israel today was built on land which was legally purchased by Jewish organizations such as the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and other private individuals.  Unfortunately today there are large portions of the land that rightfully belong to the Jewish people that still remain inaccessible.
The Israel Land Fund is continuing the chain of events that began centuries ago. It strives to encourage the Jewish people to participate privately in redeeming the land, by encouraging the movement of Jewish people back to the Land of Israel. As it is commanded in the scriptures and was promised to the Jewish Forefathers, the Land of Israel is part and parcel of its traditions and obligations. These obligations include commandments one can only perform while Jews live and own land in Israel (such as shmita, bikurim, orlah and so forth).

As history has been a witness, the Jewish people have a connection to the land of Israel, not just from 500 years ago, but more than 3,000 years ago. The Land of Israel is the nation’s past, present and future. For further information about the History of the Struggle for the Land of Israel, click here. (insert PDF)