Not That Complicated

A 101 Course to Understanding Israel’s Oppression of the Palestinian People

Many people are held back from taking a stand on the issue of Palestine/Israel by the common misconception that it is “complicated.” Here, we explain the steady continuation of the more than 100-year-old settler colonial project that is Zionism. Palestine 101: Not That Complicated can help folks both familiar and unfamiliar with the issue understand the ongoing process of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and the legacy of Palestinian resistance to the colonization of their homeland. Make sure to explore the other tracks of the curriculum: Freedom Bound: Resisting Zionism and White Supremacy and Together We Rise.

The sections below offer an introduction to the different topic areas of the Palestinian issue. From the root of the problem (Zionism as a colonial project) to the topic of Palestinian political prisoners, you’ll find resources, videos, and organizations to keep learning from.

Zionism is Colonialism

Zionism is the political ideology behind establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic majority in Palestine through the state of Israel and at the expense of the native Palestinian population. Early Zionist leaders understood that to manufacture a Jewish majority in Palestine, they would drive out the native Palestinian population and settle Jewish people in their place. This objective continues to guide Israeli policies, manifesting in ways that include a network of illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, the siege of the Gaza Strip, the ongoing displacement of Bedouins in the Naqab inside Israel, and the ban on return for millions of Palestinian refugees.

Zionism is, and always has been, a settler-colonial project. We highlight this in the graphic series below, “Zionism is Colonialism: In Their Own Words.” Israel commonly justifies its oppressive policies in the name of security, but these quotations from early Zionist leaders expose the reality of discrimination, dispossession, and exile of Palestinians necessary to have a Jewish state with an artificial Jewish majority in a land whose native population is not majority Jewish.

With this understanding, the common demand of Palestinians and others to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state can be understood as asserting Israel’s perceived right to continue its oppressive policies that maintain its Jewish majority.

Learn more about Zionism, including how it impacts not only Palestinians but people across the world, by visiting the Freedom Bound: Resisting Zionism and White Supremacy section of the curriculum.

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For the Visual Learner

In Their Own Words

Israel's Military Occupation: A Matrix of Control

Since 1967, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have lived under a brutal Israeli military occupation, which is among the most visible forms of its settler colonialism and apartheid. This occupation has included Jewish-only, illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land; military checkpoints; thousands of Palestinians imprisoned and killed by the Israeli army; theft and restriction of natural resources, tens of thousands of home demolitions; and more than one million olive trees uprooted. Israel’s actions since 1967 make clear that the occupation was never meant to be temporary. It is just the latest extension of Israel’s ethnic cleansing and subjugation of Palestinians, which continues to this day.

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The Gaza Strip: Blockaded & Occupied

More than 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been living under a complete siege by Israel since 2007. This blockade of Gaza, which is enforced by both Israel and Egypt and backed by the US, denies Palestinians adequate food and potable water, makes it nearly impossible for Palestinians to receive medical treatment or travel abroad, and prevents Palestinians from operating power generating stations and sanitation systems at their needed capacities. In 2012, the UN released a report predicting that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020. In 2017, the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities stated that the “unlivability threshold has been passed quite a long time ago.”

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Keep Reading 

  • Gaza Unlocked provides first-hand accounts from Palestinians living in Gaza, information about the blockade, and opportunities to make a difference. The website is run by member group American Friends Service Committee.
  • Obliterated Families is an award-winning multimedia web documentary that draws attention to the families from Gaza whose lives were shattered during the Israeli offensive in 2014. Blending together striking images, in-depth text, infographics, animations and short videos, the project is designed to bring the audience closer to the reality of life for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. The site also includes a do it yourself exhibition.
  • The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is a human rights organization based in Gaza City that documents and investigates human rights violations.
  • We Are Not Numbers is a platform to share the human stories behind the numbers in the news, written by Palestinian writers and artists from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon who team up with mentors from around the world.

For the Visual Learner


According to countless UN Security Council resolutions and the International Court of Justice in 2004, East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967. Its annexation by Israel is not recognized internationally. Israel’s policies there, including forced land acquisition and population transfer, are meant to change the composition of this Palestinian city and “Judaize” non-Jewish areas. More than 9,000 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem have been demolished and around 15,000 Palestinians have had their residency revoked. Meanwhile, there are now 200,000 Israeli settlers living in East Jerusalem.

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For the Visual Learner

Palestinian Refugees

More than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes when the Israeli state was established in 1948. Denied the right to return to their homes for more than seven decades, the 7 million Palestinian refugees scattered through the world today—including those in the occupied Palestinian territory and internally displaced within Israel—make up the world’s most protracted refugee crisis.

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Palestinian Citizens of Israel: Second-Class in Their Own Homeland

While hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, 150,000 Palestinians remained in their homeland and were eventually granted Israeli citizenship. Today Palestinian citizens of Israel number 1.5 million, about 20 percent of Israel’s population. Despite being citizens, Palestinians face institutionalized discrimination through for example more than 50 laws that privilege Jews over non-Jews. Learn more about the myth of citizenship here.

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“Targeted Citizen” surveys discrimination against Palestinian citizens in Israel.

How Israel’s facade of equality actually creates inequality in education for Palestinian citizens.

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For the Visual Learner

Palestinian Political Prisoners

Since 1967, Israel has imprisoned or detained more than 800,000 Palestinians from the occupied territories. Around 70 percent of Palestinian families have had at least one relative detained. Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence. At least 200 Palestinian prisoners have been killed because of such actions.

Israel’s policies of detention and imprisonment are used as political tools to suppress resistance and to maintain control over Palestinian society. These policies are intended to obstruct the daily lives and social fabric of Palestinians and undermine their ability to oppose Israeli oppression by criminalizing basic political affiliation and activities and intimidating individuals and communities.

As of October 2019, approximately 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners, including 190 children, are being held in Israeli prisons. More than 400 are administrative detainees, a procedure that allows Israel to hold prisoners indefinitely on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial.

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For the Visual Learner

Factsheets & Other Resources

Read and distribute our fact sheet on the 2017 anniversaries: commemorating 100 years since the Balfour Declaration in 1917, 70 years since the UN partition of Palestine in 1947, 50 years since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, and 10 years since Israel imposed total blockade on the besieged coastal enclave in 2007.

The Making of Israel and Palestine Shrinking, Expanding Israel from Visualizing Palestine chart out Israel’s settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Primer on Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict from Middle East Research and Information Project.

The Museum of the Palestinian People presents Palestinian history, culture, and stories through art, multimedia, personal narratives, and interpretive forms of storytelling.

The Palestine Teaching Trunk contains lesson plans, curriculum, posters, maps, artifacts, class sets of novels, books, and DVDs about Palestine.

Colonialism in Destr(A)uction maps out Palestinian and Syrian localities destroyed by Israel.

Israel & Palestine: A Very Short Introduction video from Jewish Voice for Peace

More videos from the Institute for Middle East Understanding on a variety of topics including settlements, refugees, and the U.S. complicity.

Get Involved: Advocacy & Action

This is an [incomplete] list of organizations working on this issue…

Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel works to promote and defend the rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel as well as Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association is a Palestinian non-governmental, civil institution that works to support Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons.

BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights is an independent, human rights non-profit organization committed to protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons.

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is based in Gaza City and documents and investigates human rights violations.

Palestinian BDS National Committee is the broadest Palestinian civil society coalition that works to lead and support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns in support of Palestinian rights.

Stop the Wall Campaign aims to bring down Israel’s apartheid wall meant to confiscate even more Palestinian land and further limit Palestinian freedom of movement.