Ethos of Struggle

This concept refers to a Palestinian narrative according to which a Palestinian state is to be established on all of Mandatory Palestine, thus negating Israel's right to exist.


The concept of the Ethos of the Palestinian Struggle (hereinafter Ethos of Struggle) refers to a Palestinian perception that negates Israel's right to exist and calls for the realization of Palestinian nationalist aspirations through the establishment of a Palestinian state on all of Mandatory Palestine using diplomatic, political and military means.1

Opposing Narratives

The Re’ut Institute frames two polar narratives regarding the realization of Palestinian nationalist aspirations: the Ethos of the Palestinian Struggle and the Principle of Historic Compromise.

The concept of the Principle of Historic Compromise refers to a Palestinian perception that the existence of the State of Israel is a fait accompli, and therefore the Palestinians should adopt the Two-State Solution based on the partition of Mandatory Palestine between the State of Israel and a Palestinian State.

Principle of the Ethos of Struggle

The central principle of the Ethos of the Struggle is the aspiration for a One-State Solution (see also the One-State Threat). In other words, a Palestinian state in place of Israel and a complete negation of the Jewish Right to Self-Determination (see Anti-Zionism2); hence,

  • The Palestinian Right to Self-Determination will be realized only with:
  1. The liberation of Mandatory Palestine in its entirety; including
  2. The complete realization of the Right of Return of the Palestinian Refugees to their original place of residence; after which
  3. The state of Palestine will become the sole representative of the entire Palestinian people (See Map of the Palestinian People).
  • Israeli-Arabs are Palestinians in every respect.
  • A Palestinian state within the 6/4/67 Borders is possible solely as a provisional arrangement – any liberated territory will subsequently serve as a platform to continue the struggle with Israel (see also the Phased Plan). A Permanent Status Agreement with Israel that comprises End of Conflict and Finality of Claims is unacceptable.

Historical Background

The Palestinian Ethos of Struggle existed prior to the Palestinian rejection of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (Partition Plan) (11/47).


The Arab invasion of Israel in 1948 largely subjugated the Palestinian struggle in favor of a broader pan-Arabic nationalism. In addition, Palestinian leaders were in exile and their military and political preparations were hampered by factionalism and personal rivalries.3

After the 1948 War, Palestinian resistance was carried out mainly under Egyptian auspices. Throughout the 1950s Egypt recruited Palestinian militants (fedayeen) to carryout attacks inside Israel.


The Arab defeat in the 1967 War and the ensuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip prompted the PLO (founded in 1964) to undergo a re-organization during which the Palestinians:

  • affirmed Palestinian leadership over their national struggle;
  • emphasized the centrality of the Doctrine of Armed Struggle4;
  • expressed the goal of establishing a Palestinian state (heretofore, the articulated objective had been the liberation of the area of Mandatory Palestine).

The PLO's Phased Plan (6/74) affirmed that through armed struggle the Palestinians would establish an "independent combatant national authority" over any territory that is "liberated" from Israeli rule (Article 2), and subsequently continue the struggle against Israel using this territory as a base of operations (Article 4).


The Palestinian Declaration of Independence (Algiers Declaration (11/88)) seemed to be a setback to the Ethos of Struggle, as it provided for the creation of a Palestinian state on the basis of the Partition Plan, i.e. a two-state solution.

The Declaration of Principles5 (9/93) signified formal Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel and commenced the Oslo Process, which had as its implicit end-goal the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. 6


The current political process of the Roadmap (4/03) calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel after both sides fulfill a set of obligations. Included among these is the formulation of a Palestinian Constitution written in the spirit of the Roadmap. (See: First Phase of the Roadmap).

The current draft of the Constitution is ambiguous, containing elements of both the Ethos of Struggle and the Principle of Historic Compromise7 (see Palestinian Constitution – Third Draft (5/03)).

The electoral victory of the Hamas Movement in the Palestinian Legislative Council, strengthens the Ethos of Struggle, as it has never officially recognized Israel or existing agreements and refuses to disarm. The Hamas Covenant (8/88) states that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad”.8


For the table of the two opposing Palestinian narratives as they relate to key issues that define the Palestinian nationalist aspirations, click here.

1 The concept of the Ethos of the Palestinian Struggle is distinct from the Doctrine of Armed Struggle. While the Ethos of Struggle accepts that liberating Palestine will require diplomatic, political and legal battles (as well as military means), Armed Struggle ideologically restricts the Palestinian liberation struggle to military tactics. For more detailed information regarding the “Doctrine of Armed Struggle” see: Bechor Guy, Lexicon of the PLO, Israeli Ministry of Defense; Tel Aviv, 1991 p. 191. (in Hebrew).

2 Furthermore, there are increasing expressions calling for a “binational-state” or a “state-of-all-its-citizens”, which seek to undermine the Jewishness of the state of Israel. In this context, the concept of The Contemporary One-State Argument represents a new form of Anti-Zionism that relies on political theory, coupled with current demographic trends, to deny the right of Jews to self-determination in the area of Mandatory Palestine. Prominent examples of this mindset include: Judt Tony, “Israel: An Alternative”, NY Review of Books, September 2003; Said Edward, From Oslo to Iraq and the Roadmap, Pantheon Books; New York, 2004. pp.48-51; Tilley Virginia, The One-State Solution, University of Michigan Press; Ann Arbor, 2005.

3 Sayigh Yezid, Armed Struggle and the Search for State, (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1997), pp. 2-4.

4 The year 1961 marked the first appearance of the phrase Armed Struggle (in the Fatah magazine Filastinuna). However, Armed Struggle did not achieve prominence until Fatah took over the Palestinian National Council (7/68) of the PLO and simultaneously amended the Palestinian National Charter to state that Armed Struggle was the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. Ibid. p.87.Palestine National Charter (Article 9). See the text of the Charter at the Jerusalem Media Communications Center website.

5 An Exchange of Letters between Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat accompanied the Declaration of Principles. In the letters, Israel recognized the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

6 Though these developments present an ideological setback to the Ethos of Struggle, they can be explained as adhering to the strategy of the Phased Plan. On multiple occasions PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat justified the process by referencing the Phased Plan, under which the establishment of a Palestinian Self-Governing Authority would be used to continue the struggle for a single Palestinian state. Begin, Zeev Binyamin, A Sad Story, Miskal-Yediot Ahronot; Tel-Aviv, 2000, pp. 44-45 (in Hebrew).

7 For example:According to the Ethos of Struggle, the PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian People until the liberation of Mandatory Palestine in its entirety and the realization of the refugees' Right of Return to their original homes.In contrast, according to the Principle of Historic Compromise, the Palestinian state is the representative of its residents and successor to the PLO.The Third Draft reflects an inability to decide between the two approaches. The undefined nature of the borders and lack of resolution of Outstanding Issues means that the PLO will have a valid claim for representation even after the establishment of a Palestinian state. The Third Draft does not clearly distinguish between the authorities of the two bodies. (For further elaboration see Israel's Interface with the Palestinian Constitutional Structure).

8 Hamas Covenant (Article 13).