Mideastweb: Middle East


Following is a list of common words, terms, phrases, abbreviations used in the Middle East and in Middle Eastern political discussions. Spelling and pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H " ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation. The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G" designates a deep glotteal sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r." There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters.

Suggestions and corrections are welcome. A larger and more ambitious project is underway here: Middle East Encyclopedia

Note - More information about Middle Eastern holidays and religious terms is given in our Holidays pages. More about Palestinian organizations and political parties is given in the Palestinian Parties page.

The Middle East Encyclopedia expands on the definitions of many terms.

An expanded dictionary and glossary of Zionism and Israel related terms:  "Encyclopedic Dictionary of Zionism, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Click the links to see the expanded definition

A.H.   - After the Hijra. It is the reference used in the Islamic calendar, instead of A.D. which is used in the Christian calendar.

Abbas, Mahmoud - Palestinian leader, President of the Palestinian Authority (2008).

Abu-Bakr - the first Caliph after the death of Muhammad.

Abbasid - Arab Caliphate.

Abduh, Muhammad - Islamic reformist and student of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani.

Absentee Property Law - Law governing refugee property.  

Adhan  - (Arabic)  The call for the daily prayers. The person who calls the Adhan is called a Mu'adhin (or Muezzin). A Mu'adhin calls the Adhan five times a day before Muslims are to perform their daily Salah (Prayer). The Adhan is composed of specific words and phrases to be recited loudly in the Arabic language so that the neighbors can recognize the time schedule for the prayers: There is no God but Allah, Muhamed is the Messenger of Allah.

Aflaq, Michel - Syrian politician. Founder of Ba'ath party.

Ahzab - (Arabic) "Parties;" the different tribes that fought the Muslims in the Battle of the Ditch in 627.

Al-Afghani, Jamal_al-Din - Iranian Islamic reformer and anti-colonialist.

Al-Andalus - (Arabic) The Arabic name for Spain. Spain was the farthest extent of the Arabic Islamic empire, after the first Muslim expansion was stopped by their defeat by Charles Martel at the battle of Tours in 754. Al Andalus, and other former Muslim conquests are considered by radical Islamists to be Islamic lands lost to the infidels.

Al-Aqsa - The famous mosque in Jerusalem, third holiest place in Islam.

Al-Aqsa Intifada - One of the names given to the Palestinian violence that erupted about September 28, 2000.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - Palestinian militant group.

Al-ar-ra'y - (Arabic)  "People of opinion;" learned people consulted on Islamic matters.

Al-asharatu-mubashshirun - (Arabic)  The ten people that were given the glad tidings of assurance of entering Paradise. They were Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, Abdur Rahman ibn Awf, Abu Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah, Talhah ibn Ubaydullah, az-Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, Sa'id ibn Zayd.

Al-Banna, Hassan - Egyptian Islamist leader, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Al-Futuwa (Al-Futtuwa)- Palestinian Arab militant group in 1948.

Al-Najada - Palestinian Arab militant group in 1948.

Al-Qaeda (or Al-Qaiada) - (Arabic) Radical Islamist militant network organized by Osama Bin Laden.

Al-Quds - (Arabic) "The holy;" Jerusalem.

Al-Sa'iqa - (Arabic)"The Storm." Palestinian armed group created by Syrian Ba'athist party in 1966.

Alawi -(Arabic) A sect of Shi'ite Muslims in Syria.

Ali - Fourth caliph, and the first Shi'a Imam. He was a cousin and later son-in-law of Muhammad.

Alim - Muslim scholar. It is the singular form of Ulema

'Aliyah - (Hebrew) "Going Up;" refers to immigration to Israel or Palestine.

Allah - (Arabic) God.

Altalena - Ship carrying ammunition from France to Israel in June, 1948 under the command of the Etzel (Irgun) and in direct challenge to authority of the IDF and the Israeli government. The weapons were to be used to maintain the Irgun as a fighting force separate from the IDF. Some believe that the revisionists were planning a coup d'etat that would overthrow the government of David Ben Ben-Gurion. The Altalena. was destroyed by the IDF in Tel Aviv Harbor, killing 21 on board.

Amazigh - Natives of North Africa. Referred to derogatorily as "Berber" by Arabs.

Andalus - Muslim Spain.

Ansar - (Arabic)  "Helpers;" the people of Medinah who responded to the Prophet's call to Islam and offered Islam a city-state power.

Arab - A native of the Arabian peninsula or a member of any of the Arab speaking peoples.

Arab Higher Committee  - Group established in 1945 by Arab League. The AHC represented Palestinian Arab interests, rejecting all compromise on rights of Jews in Palestine.

Arab League -  the League of Arab States, a voluntary association of independent countries whose peoples are mainly Arabic speaking. Its stated purposes are to strengthen ties among the member states, coordinate their policies, and promote their common interests.

Arabic - The Arabic language or an adjective referring to anything pertaining to Arabs.

Arafat -  A plain north of Mecca, where the dead will be raised on judgment day.

Arafat, Yasser  - Palestinian Arab militant leader and politician.  Founder of PLO and Fatah.

Assad, Hafez - Former President of Syria.

Asr - (Arabic) The obligatory prayer of late afternoon.

Ataturk, Mustafa Kemal - Turkish statesman and founder of first president of the Turkish republic.

Ayyubids - Dynasty founded by Saladin.

Ba'ath  (Ba'th, Baath) - (Arabic) Pan Arab party with extreme Arab nationalist leanings founded in 1940's in Syria by a Michel Aflaq and SalahEdin Bitar. Both Syria and Iraq are ruled by Ba'athist regimes, but the regimes are rivals.  Lebanese Ba'ath party split from the Syrian party in 1966 and moved to Iraq in 1968.

Bahai - Universalistic religion founded about 150 years ago by the Baha'u'llah in Iran. It is distinct from Muslim and Christianity. It is a progressive religion that promotes world peace, universal human rights and economic development. The Bahai have a world temple in Haifa Israel, and Israel is a center of Baha'i worship owing to imprisonment of the Baha'u'llah in Acco prison in 1868.

Balfour Declaration - 1917 Letter to Lord Rothschild from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, declaring that Great Britain favors the establishment of a "national home" for the Jewish people in Palestine.

British Mandate for Palestine - League of Nations Mandate granted on the basis of the Balfour Declaration and thereby recognizing the Jewish national home in international law.

Barghouti, Marwan - Modern Palestinian Arab militant leader.

Betar - Zionist revisionist youth movement established 1923, emphasizing Hebrew language, culture, and self-defense. Motivated by ideologies of Jabotinsky and Trumpeldor, with goal of Jewish state "on both sides of the Jordan." The name is an acronym for "Brit Trumpeldor," (Covenant of Trumpeldor, a hero who died defending the settlement of Tel Hai) also after ancient fortress of Bar Kochba.

BILU -  Student proto-Zionist organization for immigration to Israel. Founded settlements in the center of Israel. Name consists of initials of the words in verse in Isaiah II:5, "House of Jacob, come, let us go up."

Blood Libel - False accusation that Jews prepare Passover Mazoth (unleavened bread) from the blood of Christian or gentile children. The Blood Libel was primarily a phenomenon of Christian anti-Semitism, but spread to the Middle East as early as 1775, when there was a blood libel in Hebron. A second blood libel occurred in Damascus in 1840. Blood libels in the both the West and the East were generally occasions for large-scale persecution of Jews. A book by Mustapha Tlass, former Syrian defense minister, recent newspaper articles in Egyptian newspapers and a recent Egyptian movie all attest to the blood libel as if it is true.

Bnei Akiva - Religious socialist Zionist youth movement, founded 1929, emphasizing the religious importance of life and work in Israel. Motto: "Torah v'avodah," "Torah and work [in Israel.]." Bnei Akiva spawned the National Religious Party.

Burqa - (Arabic) Long garment covering the entire body worn by extremely religious Muslim women.

Caliph - Name given to Muslim rulers.

Caliphate  - the office of Caliph, symbolic of the Muslim empire, that was abolished by the Turkish Republic.

Chabad - Non-Zionist followers of the Rabbi Shnierson in Brooklyn New York. Though non-Zionist, this sect is associated with extreme right wing elements in Israel and opposes withdrawal from any territories.

Chador - Garment used as part of modest dress, particularly in Iran.

Clean Break - Document prepared by US right-wing think tank for Israeli PM Netanyahu.

Copt - The Coptic church is an offshoot of the ancient Egyptian Christian church, one of the oldest Christian churches. In 451 the Copts split  from the Catholic church after the Council of Chalcedon, following the Monophysite ("one nature") doctrine of the nature of Christ. The Coptic church is the by far largest Christian group in both East as well as North Africa/Middle East, with over ten million adherents. The name "Copt" (gupt in Arabic) is derived from Ayguptos - the Greek word for Egypt.

Custodian of Absentee Property - Official in charge of absentee property.

Dar al Harb  - (Arabic) "The house of war;" the part of the world not subject to Islamic rule.

Dar al Islam - (Arabic) The house of Islam;" the part of the world subject to Islamic rule.

Dhimmi - (Arabic)  Christian, Jew or Zoroastrian living in a Muslim state. Dhimmi are supposed to wear special dress and pay the jizyah tax. They are exempt (or forbidden) from fighting and from paying the Muslim Zakah tax.

Dhuhr - (Arabic) Muslim noon prayer.

DFLP - Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (Damascus - led by   Nayif Hawatmah ) Palestinian Marxist radical movement. DFLP was founded in 1969 when it split from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Believes Palestinian national goals can be achieved only through revolution of the masses. In early 1980s, occupied political stance midway between PLO and the rejectionists.

DOP - Declaration of Principles of the Oslo Agreements that formed the basis for the Oslo peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Druze - A religion that broke away from Islam about 1000 CE following the teachings of Darazi, Hamza ibn Ali ibn Ahmad and Baha El-Din. Druze call themselves Mowahhidoon (plural) or Mowahhid (singular) which means "monotheistic." The religion is officially secret, and they do not proselytize. They believe in reincarnation and in abstract concepts of heaven and hell. They have few holidays, but celebrate the granting of the Qur'an to Mohammed (Muslim Ramadan),  Druze are loyal citizens of whatever state they live in. Large Druze minorities live in Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

Dunum (Donum, Dunam) - Turkish unit of measure.

Egyptian Islamic Jihad -Egyptian militant movement.

Eid - (Arabic) Any Muslim festival.

Eretz Yisrael Hashleimah - (Hebrew) "The Whole Land of Israel." In English, "Greater Israel "  An Israeli extremist ideology that believes Israel should expand to take up all of the "historic" land of Israel, sometimes viewed as all of Palestine West of the Jordan river, sometimes including all the land of the original Palestine Mandate, including Transjordan, and sometimes including all of Israel as promised by God and never fulfilled - from Homs in Syria in the North and from the Euphrates River in Iraq to the Mediterranean.

Etzel - (Hebrew) Irgun Acronym for "Irgun Tzva'i Leumi" - National Military Organization; Dissident (revisionist) Zionist terrorist group founded in reaction to Arab riots. Etzel conducted a number of terror operations against the British, alone or in cooperation with Lehi, as well as brutal bombings of Arab civilians.

Fajr - (Arabic) Dawn; the dawn prayer in Islam.

Faqih -  (Arabic) An expert in Islamic jurisprudence.

Fatah - (or Al-Fatah) (Arabic) Palestinian radical movement founded approximately 1957, but officially founded about 1965. It has the declared aim of destroying Israel and replacing it with a secular democratic state. Fatah means victory in Arabic. The name is also a reverse acronym for Harakat Tahrir el Wataniyeha Filistiniyeh - Palestine Liberation Movement. Fatah is the party of PNA chairman Yasser Arafat, and represents the moderate end of the Palestinian political spectrum. Their slogan is "Revolution until Victory."

Fatah Revolutionary Council - Organization led by Sabri al-Banna ("Abu Nidal") and hosted by Iraq. Split from PLO in 1974.

Fatimid - Arab  dynasty claiming descent from Fatima, daughter of Muhammad. Ruled over varying areas of North Africa, Egypt, the Levant, and even Sicily and Yemen from 909 to 1171

Fatwa - (Arabic) Islamic religious edict or proclamation.

First Intifada (Arabic) - The name given to the low level disturbances and popular uprising of the Palestinians that began in December of 1987 in the West Bank and Gaza.

Fiqh - (Arabic) Muslim jurisprudence.

Fitna - (Arabic)  Strife, civil war (usually over Muslim religious issues). Forbidden under Muslim law. 

Futuwa (Futtuwa) - Palestinian militant group of 1948.

Gamaa al Islamiya  - Radical militant offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Gaza - Area along the Mediterranean seacoast between Egypt and Israel.

Ghazi - Muslim holy warrior.

Greater Israel - Refers to Israel from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean, as desired by the movement of the same name.

Gush Emunim - (Hebrew) "Bloc of belief or Bloc of loyalties." Radical right-wing religious movement formed in 1974, that gained popularity after the 1967 war. Affiliated with the NRP.

'Habad - (Hebrew) - (or Chabad) - Non-Zionist followers of the Rabbi Shnierson in Brooklyn New York. Though non-Zionist, this sect is associated with extreme right wing elements in Israel and opposes withdrawal from any territories.

Hadith - (Arabic) Reported saying or traditions of the Prophet Muhammad that are not part of the Qur'an.

Haganah - (Hebrew) Literally "defense;" underground organization founded June 1920 by Ze'ev Janotinsky during the British Mandate for Palestine, to protect the Jewish Yishuv from Arab riots and violence. The Haganah became the unofficial army of the Jewish Agency, and the backbone of its leadership was taking from the Zionist socialist movements and the Kibbutzim, and was a model of a citizens' army.  The Haganah evolved into an effective military force by 1948 and was able to hold its own against the Palestinians and the invading armies of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Iraq  and Palestinian irregulars despite inferiority in arms and numbers during the initial fighting. The Hagannah refrained from attacks on civilians and on political figures, for the most part, unlike the Irgun and Lehi terror groups.  The Hagannah was converted into the IDF in 1948. The Haganah philosophy and political opinions were to some extent reflected in the organization of the IDF.

Hajj - (Arabic) Obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca that is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is done during the last month of the lunar calendar, Zul-Hijjah.

Halacha - (Hebrew) Jewish religious jurisprudence.

Halal- (Arabic) Lawful according to Islamic din (law), especially food that may be eaten by believers.

'Hamas - (Arabic) Islamist Palestinian party that believes all of Palestine is a holy Muslim waqf, and that no part may be surrendered to foreigners. The Hamas Charter quotes the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Hanukkah - Jewish holiday commemorating victory of the Maccabees over the Seluecid kings in 164 BCE.

Hapo'el Hatza'ir - (Hebrew) ("The Young Worker") Labor Party, founded 1905 by pioneers of Second Aliyah, stressing Jewish labor as Zionist value. First Jewish workers' party founded in Palestine, whose members helped found the first kibbutz at Degania.

Haram -  (Arabic) Not lawful according to Islam. Engaging in an act that is Haram (i.e. eating food like pork, drinking alcohol, having sex outside of marriage) would lead to punishment in the Next Life, and maybe even in this Life.

Hashomer - (Hebrew) ("The Guard") Jewish defense organization in Palestine organized 1909, ceased to operate after founding of Haganah, 1920.

Hashomer Hatzair - (Hebrew - "The Young Guard") Marxist-Leninist Zionist  youth movement, founded in Europe in 1916, to prepare Jewish youth for kibbutz life in Israel. In addition to Zionism, its ideology meshes Jewish culture with universal culture and values and it retains strong ties to the left-wing kibbutz movement today. Hashomer Hatzair spawned the Mapam Party.

Hebrew - The Hebrew language or a person of the Hebrew nation.

Hechalutz (or He-Halutz) (Hebrew) Zionist youth movement begun in Eastern Europe to promote settlement , primarily agricultural.

Herut - Literally "Liberty." The political party formed by revisionist Israeli leader Menahem Begin after creation of the state of Israel. Their slogan and anthem was "There are two banks to the Jordan" - claiming Transjordan for Israel as well as all the land West of the Jordan. Herut merged with other parties and evolved to the Gahal party and later to the Likud.

Hesder - (Hebrew) "Arrangement;" name given to the agreement between the Jewish Agency for Israel and Nazi Germany, that made possible the ransoming of German Jews who became immigrants to Palestine.

Hezbollah - (Arabic) (also Hisbulla, Hisbolla, etc.) "The party of God." Shi'ite extremist group formed in Lebanon under Iranian guidance with the original aim of ending the Israeli occupation of Lebanon.

Hibbat Tsion (Hovevei Tsion) -  (Hebrew "Love of Zion") - A proto-Zionist movement for the redemption and rebuilding of Israel which sprang up among the Jews in Russia and spread to other countries at the end of the 19th century.

Hijab - (Arabic) Headdress of Muslim women prescribed by Qur'an.

Hijra, Hejirah - (Arabic) The migration of Muhammed from Mecca to Yathrib, renamed Medina ("the city') in 622.

Hirbeh - (Arabic) A ruin; a ruined town. Prefixed to the names of many abandoned Arab towns existing in Palestine before 1948.

Hirbet Hizah (Hirbet Hizeh) - Israeli short story about expulsion of Palestinian Arabs in 1948.

Histadrut - (Hebrew) The Zionist Trade Union founded in 1920. Originally excluded Arabs and promoted "Avuda Ivrit" - Jewish Labor. Histadrut was for a long time the single most powerful nongovernmental force in Israel.

Hitnachlut or Hitnahlut - (Hebrew) - Settlement.

Ibn Khaldoun - Medieval North African philosopher and polymath.

IDF - Israel Defense Forces (Tzahal - "Tzva Hagana Leyisrael"). The abbreviation of the official name of the Israeli Army.

Ijma - Consensus principle of Muslim decisions.

Ijtihad - (Arabic) Innovation in the Islamic religion.

Ikhwan - (Arabic) Literally "brotherhood." Refers to Wahhabi and Egyptian Islamic militant groups.

Imam (Arabic) - Muslim religious leader or jurisprudent. In Shi'a Islam, the first 12 caliphs are also called "Imam" as are the current rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Intifada (Arabic) - Literally "Shaking up." The name originally given to the low level disturbances and popular uprising of the Palestinians that began in December of 1987 in the West Bank and Gaza. It is now called  First Intifada

Irgun - (Hebrew) Literally "Organization" - The Irgun Tzvai Leumi (Etzel) - National Military Organization - pre-1948 Palestinian Jewish military group.

Islamic Jihad -The Palestine Islamic Jihad group originated among militant Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during the 1970s. Committed to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel through holy war. Specializes in suicide bombings. There is also an Egyptian Islamic Jihad that is associated with the Al-Qaeda group and Osama Bin Laden.

Isha'a - Night prayer in Islam.

Islam  - Monotheistic religion founded by Muhammad.

Islamism - Radical fundamentalist Islamic doctrine that seeks to run the state according to Muslim religious law.

Ismaili -  A Shi'ite Muslim sect centered in Lebanon.

Israel - Country in the Middle East, established 1948, on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.  

Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades - armed wing of the militant Hamas movement.

Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, Sheikh - Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam was a Syrian born religious and political leader who emigrated to Palestine and raised a revolt against the Jews and the British.

Jadid, Salah - Syrian military leader and politician.

Jahiliya - (Arabic) - Muslim term for the time before the rise of Islam in Arabia.

Jallabiya -  (Arabic) - Long garment (dress) worn by Muslim men.

Janissary -  Ottoman Turkish professional soldier corps.

Jerusalem  - Claimed capital of modern Israel, ancient capital of Israel, and site of Al-Aqsa mosque and other holy places.

Jewish Agency - The Jewish Agency (Hebrew - "sochnut") was established under the terms of the British Mandate for Palestine to promote Jewish immigration and to administer the affairs of the Yishuv.

Jiftlik - (Turkish) In Ottoman Turkish law, land that had been bequeathed to the Sultan by its owners and could be rented out directly by the government.

Jihad - (Arabic)  "Struggle;" usually applied to an Islamic war. The Ottoman Turks waged "Jihad" against Constantinople and other parts of Europe. According to Muslim sources, "Jihad is not a war to force the faith on others, as many people think of it. It should never be interpreted as a way of compulsion of the belief on others, since there is an explicit verse in the Qur'an that says:"There is no compulsion in religion" Al-Qur'an: Al-Baqarah (2:256). Jihad is not a defensive war only, but a war against any unjust regime. If such a regime exists, a war is to be waged against the leaders, but not against the people of that country. People should be freed from the unjust regimes and influences so that they can freely choose to believe in Allah." (see Islamic glossary at www.cwis.usc.edu/dept/MSA/reference/glossary.html)

Jizya - (Arabic) - Tax paid by non-believers in Islam.

Jund - An administrative district in the Ottoman Turkish Empire.

Ka'aba - A large stone in Mecca that is the center of Muslim worship.

Kafiyeh - (Arabic) - Head-dress worn by Arabic men.

KhomsHoly city in Iran.

Kibbutz - (Hebrew) Zionist collective communities. Kibbutzim served as the keystone of Jewish defense in the period prior to the state, and remained important factors in the economy, army and politics for many years thereafter, exerting an influence well beyond their small numbers.

Knesset -  (Hebrew)   The Israeli Parliament.

Koran - Holy book of Islam.

Kosher - Food permitted under Jewish dietary laws.

Kuffar - (Arabic)  Non-believer ("Kafir").

Kurdistan - Area of Kurdish settlement in eastern Turkey, northern Iraq and Iran.

Kurds - A people residing as a minority in Kurdistan and Syria. 

Kureish (Quraish, Koreish etc.) - (Arabic) -  the most powerful and prominent tribe in all of Arabia at the time of Muhammad. They   were the keepers of the Ka'bah and therefore one of the wealthiest and most powerful tribes. Mohammed was from among the Quraysh. When he started to preach Islam, the Kureish fought him and his followers. Mohammed concluded a treaty with them, but then destroyed them and conquered Mecca in 630, after they had broken the treaty.

LEHI -  (Hebrew) Acronym for Lohamei Herut Yisrael (also called "the Stern Gang" after its founder, Avraham ("Yair") Stern.) Freedom Fighters of Israel; terrorist organization founded in Palestine under the British Mandate to fight the British and bring about an end to the mandate. Lehi had leftist anti-imperialist ideological components as well as right-wing ones. The Lehi was absorbed into the IDF in 1948.

Likud - (Hebrew) -The amalgam of right-wing and center Zionist parties that is the successor to the revisionist Herut party.

Madh'hab - (Arabic) -

Maghreb - (Arabic)  The Western lands of North Africa. 

Maghrib - (Arabic) 1. Muslim evening prayer. 2. The Western lands of North Africa. 

Mahdi - (Arabic) Muslim savior or Messiah - the hidden Imam. His coming will bring judgement day.

Mahlul - (Arabic) In Ottoman land law - Miri agricultural land that had reverted to the crown because the owner had died without an heir.

Majlis - (Arabic) - Consultative assembly, the Jordanian houses of Parliament. Majlis al-Umma) consists of an upper house or House of Notables (Majlis al-Aayan) and a lower house or House of Deputies (Majlis al-Nuwaab).

Makrouh -  (Arabic)  Something that is not liked. Also defined as offensive.

Mamelukes - Slave Dynasties that ruled in Egypt and Palestine following the Ayyubids.

Mandatory Palestine - 1. The area administered by the British Mandate, 2. The period in history when the land was under British administration .

Mapai - (Hebrew) -The Israel Labor Party (Mifleget Poalei Eretz Yisrael). The party of David Ben Gurion, first prime minister of the State of Israel, that held a majority and governed Israel until 1977, and again held power under Yitzhak Rabin and briefly under Ehud Barak. Mapai had a center-socialist ideology and was at timed allied in the "Ma'arach (alignment) with both Mapam (Mifleget Hapoalim haMeuchedet - United Workers Party) and Achdut Ha'avoda (Unity of Labor).

Mapam - (Hebrew) -Mifleget Hapoalim haMeuchedet - The (Israel) United Workers Party. Formed from left-socialist groups centered around the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement and the Kibbutz Artzi. Merged for a time with the Ahdut Ha'avoda party. Mapam advocated a binational Jewish-Arab state in Palestine and supported Stalinism and the USSR until approximately 1967. Mapam became a part and major constituent of the leftist Meretz party.

Marj al Taqlid - A religious leader to be emulated in Shi'a Islam.

Maronite - Ancient Christian sect, centered primarily in Lebanon.

Mashbooh - (Arabic) Questionable or doubtful.

Matruka - (Arabic)  Land set aside for public use such as highways in Ottoman Turkish law.

Maududi, Abul ala - Pakistani Islamist. 

Mawali - Non-Arab Muslims, who converted to Islam in the lands conquered by the Arabs. 

Mawat - (Arabic) In Ottoman law, waste land that was declared unsuitable for any purpose,

Mecca - City in Saudi Arabia. Holiest city in Islam.

Medina - City in Saudi Arabia. Second holiest city in Islam.

Meretz - (Hebrew) - An Israeli leftist party formed from Mapam, the Democratic Party for change and Ratz parties.

Mesha - (Arabic) (or Musha) - Under Ottoman Empire land laws, land that was owned in common.

Miri - (Arabic) - Under Ottoman Empire land laws, land that was leased by the government on condition that it must be used. 

Mishna - (Hebrew) - Jewish law book compiled about 200 CE (AD) in Palestine under Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, in Hebrew, superseding and enlarging on biblical law.

Mohammed - The prophet of Islam (Muhammad).

Mujahedin (Mujahadeen) -  (Arabic) Muslim Jihad fighters.

Mujtahid -  (Arabic)  One who practices Jihad - holy war.

Muhammad -  (Arabic)  The prophet of Islam.

Mukhabarat - (Arabic) Secret police.

Mulk - (Arabic) In Ottoman law, land that is owned outright.

Muqaddimah -  (Arabic) The famous introduction to Ibn Khaldoun's universal history. 

Musha - (Arabic) (also Mesha) Under Ottoman Empire land laws, land that was owned in common.

Mushtabahat - (Arabic) In Muslim religious law, the “grey area” that is found between Halal and Haram (forbidden). It has also been defined as questionable (Mashbooh).

Muslim - (Arabic) A follower of Muhammad.

Muslim Brotherhood - Militant Egyptian Islamic group.

Najada - Palestinian Arab militant group in 1948.

Nakba - (Arabic) Disaster; the Arabic name for the exodus of Arab refugees from Palestine in 1948 and loss of the war against Israel.

Nasser, Gamal Abdel - Pan- Arab Statesman, President of Egypt.

Nasserism - Movement that follows the doctrines of Gamal Abdel Nasser,

Nathan, Abie - Israeli peace activist, initiator of Voice of Peace radio.

National Religious Party - (NRP) - (in Hebrew "Mafdal - Mifleget haPoalim Dati-Leumi meaning National Religious Workers Party) See NRP.

Neturei Kartah - Literally, "keepers of the gates." A tiny sect of ultraorthodox anti-Zionist Jews who do not recognize the state of Israel. They claim that the Jewish state can only be formed when the Messiah comes.

Niqab - (Arabic)  Veil and facial garment worn by Muslim women to fulfill religious modesty strictures.

NRP - National Religious Party - (in Hebrew "Mafdal - Mifleget haPoalim Dati-Leumi meaning National Religious Workers Party) - Orthodox Jewish Zionist party that was originally socialist in ideology and founded several Kibbutzim. Associated with the Mizrahi religious movement.  In the 1960s, the party began to break with its traditional ideology under the influence of Gush Emunim. NRP became the mainstay of the policy of settling the West Bank and Gaza strip, areas occupied by Israel in the 1967 war.

Omar - (or Umar) (Arabic) Caliph, successor to Abu-Bakr.

Oslo Declaration of Principles - Peace agreement framework signed in 1993 between Israel and the PLO.

Ottoman Empire - Turkish empire founded by Osman that ruled much of the Middle East prior to 1918.

Palestine - 1. Roman province in part of the original Jewish kingdom. 2. Filastin - Arab administrative district. 3. Geographic region corresponding to 1 and 2, given the name "Palestine" by Europeans during Ottoman rule. 4. The territory of the Palestine Mandate. 5. Areas under Israeli sovereignty administered by the  Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian Authority - (PA, PNA, Palestinian National Authority) Governing body created under the Oslo Interim Agreement to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad - Jihadist Palestinian militant group, now supported by Iran.

Palestine Liberation Organization - The umbrella organization of Palestinian political groups founded with the intent of destroying Israel (see PLO).

Palestine Mandate - The British Mandate for Palestine.

Palestinian National Authority - (PA, PNA, Palestinian Authority)  Governing body created under the Oslo Interim Agreement to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel.

Palmach - (Hebrew) -  (or Palmach - Plugot Mahatz) - A Jewish military force in Palestine created with the assent of the British in 1941 to help defend Palestine against the possibility of invasion from Syria, which was under the control of the Vichy French government. Palmah eventually had a few thousand fighters and evolved into the underground spearhead commando force of the Haganah.

Pan-Arabism - Arab Nationalist doctrine of Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Passover - Jewish holiday commemorating the Exodus from Egypt.

PFLP - Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, founded in 1967 by George Habash as a member of the PLO.  Marxist radical movement that has the goal of eliminating the state of Israel through terror and other means. Joined the Alliance of Palestinian Forces (APF) to oppose the Declaration of Principles signed in 1993 and suspended participation in the PLO. Broke away from the APF, along with the DFLP, in 1996 over ideological differences.

PFLP-GC - ( Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine- General Command) - A group that split from the PFLP in 1968.  to focus more on fighting and less on politics.  Led by Ahmad Jibril, a former captain in the Syrian Army. Closely tied to both Syria and Iran.

PLC - (Palestine Legislative Council)- Officially, the chief lawmaking body of the Palestine National Authority.

PLO - (Palestine Liberation Organization) - The umbrella organization of Palestinian political groups founded with the intent of destroying Israel. Founded in 1964 as an initiative of Arab states, it evolved into an organization advocating a sovereign separate Palestinian nation after the 1967 6-day war. It was initially headed by Ahmed Shokairy. Yasser Arafat, head of the Fatah group, became the head of the PLO in 1968. The PLO charter called for the destruction of Israel and its replacement by a secular democratic state, in which non-Zionist Jews would have have equal rights. The parts of the charter calling for destruction of Israel were declared to be annulled after the 1994 Oslo agreements, but the Charter of the PLO is still published in its entirety by many Palestinian groups, including the annulled sections.

PNA - (Palestine National Authority or Palestinian Authority) - The name of the governing authority of the Palestinian autonomy created under the Oslo Agreements.

PNC (Palestine National Council) - The governing body of the PLO.

Poalei Tzion - (Hebrew "Workers of Zion") - Jewish workers party founded by Ber Borochov in Russia that eventually became Mapai.

Popular Resistance Committees - A group or umbrella organization of Palestinian militants of diverse ideologies, who united under the extremist banner of destroying Israel.

Postzionist - A term used to describe "revisionist" Israeli historians including  Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris, who presented accounts of Israeli history less favorable to Zionism than the conventionally accepted Zionist narrative. The chief innovations are 1. Arabs were in part or in whole expelled from Israel in 1948 by pre-calculated design rather than fleeing or being expelled in the course of the war. 2. Zionism deliberately planned to expel the Arabs of Palestine from its inception and plotted the 1948 war in order to carry out this plan, and 3. the claim that Jewish forces  won the Israel war of Independence because they were stronger than the regular armies fielded by the Arab states.  The term is often misunderstood or misapplied as referring to a political ideology. However, there is no "postzionist movement" and the different historians labeled as post-Zionists have different political opinions.

Protocols of the Elders of Zion - Document forged by the Czarist secret police in order to incite violence against Jews in Russia, about 1905. It is based on an earlier French satire of the Emperor Napoleon III. The Protocols are alleged minutes of a meeting at which non-existent leaders of the World Jewish Conspiracy planned to take over the world. The Protocols were published by US Industrialist Henry Ford in his newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, occasioning a lawsuit. Ford lost the suit and admitted he was wrong. The Protocols are regarded as fact by many Arabs, and are mentioned as such in the charter of the Hamas.

Qur'an - (Arabic) ("Koran" in English). The holy book of Islam.

Qurei, Ahmed - Palestinian Arab leader - "Abu Ala."

Qutb, Sayyid - Egyptian Islamist and ideological mentor of modern Islamism.

Ramadan - (Arabic) - Principle Muslim holiday commemorating the gift of the Quran

Rejectionists - Arab countries and Palestinian groups who totally reject any possibility of accommodation with Israel.

Revisionists - 1. Right wing Zionist movement that broke away from mainstream Zionism following the British White Paper of 1931, under the leadership of Ze'ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky. Revisionists believed in conquest of  Palestine for Zionism by military force and claimed the Transjordan section of Palestine as part of Israel. They became the Herut party after independence, which later evolved into the modern Likud. A small minority at first, the revisionists gained popularity due to the changing nature of Israeli society and the intransigence of the Arabs, which formed a perfect foil for their militaristic ideas. 2. The term revisionist is sometimes applied to Israeli historians like Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris, who presented different accounts of Israeli history than the conventionally accepted Zionist narrative. See Post-Zionist.

Rida, Muhammad Rashid - Islamic reformer and political Islamist. Student and disciple of Muhammad Abduh.

Salafi (Salafism) - (Arabic) - Fundamentalist Sunni Muslim extremism. 

Salah -Ed- Din (Saladin) - Muslim general and leader who made peace with the crusaders and later drove them from Jerusalem.

Salam - (Arabic) Peace. Salam and Salama'at (much peace) are Arabic greetings of hello and goodbye. In longer form: Salam Aleikum (Peace be on to you) , Salam Aleikum Warahmatulla (Peace be on to you and the mercy of Allah). The English "So long" is a corruption of "Salam."

Salat - The five obligatory Muslim prayers.

Second Intifada - The name given to the Palestinian violence that erupted about September 28, 2000.

Sha'aria (Sharia, Sha'ariyeh)  - (Arabic) Muslim religious jurisprudence and law.

Saladin -  (Arabic: Salah al Din)Founder of the Ayyubid dynasty and Muslim liberator of Jerusalem from the Crusaders.

Seljuk - Persianized Turkish dynasty that conquered much of the Byzantine empire for a while as well as all of the eastern Muslim empire.

Shahada -  (Arabic) Muslim confession or testimony of faith.

Shahid - (Arabic) A holy martyr. Used to refer to suicide bombers as well as saints.

Shalom - (Hebrew) Peace. Hebrew greeting of hello and goodbye. In longer form: Shalom Aleichem (Peace be on to you). Shalom Aleichem was the pseudonym of a famous Yiddish writer, known as "the Jewish Mark Twain."

Shas - Israeli ultraorthodox party under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Ovadia Yossef. This party appeals particularly to poor Jews of "Eastern" (Sephardic) origin.

Shchita - (Hebrew) Ritual Jewish slaughter of animals for food.

Shi'ite - (or Shi'a, Shia) (Arabic) - A sect or branch of the Muslim religion centered in Iran, with large followings in southern Iraq and sub-sects (Alawi, Ismaili) in Syria and Lebanon.

Sufism or Suffism  - Mystical and ascetic branch of Sunni Islam. Devotees are nearly all Sufis are men.

Sunnah (Arabic) - Muslim legal precedents. 

Sunni - (Arabic) Largest branch of Islam.

Supreme Arab Council - Arab leadership of Palestine, established during the Arab rebellion 1936-1939, led by Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini.

Syria - Country in the Middle East.

Takfir - (Arabic) In Sunni law, Takfir  is the practice of declaring a Muslim to be a non-believer or kafir,

Talmud - Either of two collections of Jewish legal precedents and glosses on the earlier Mishna. The Babylonian Talmud was written in Aramaic, while the less accepted Jerusalem Talmud was written in Hebrew. Both were written in the second to fifth centuries AD.

Tanzim - (Arabic) - Palestinian Arab militant force active in the violence that erupted after 2000.

Taqiyah - (Arabic) -  Shia Muslim concept of dissemblance in order to escape persectuion.

Taqlid - (Arabic)  Emulation - applied to emulation of religious fervor and righteousness. 

Tawriah - (Arabic) A form of Taqiyah (deception) using double meaning. 

Tel - (Arabic, Hebrew) - A hill; specifically it is often a hill formed over archeological ruins.

Ulema - (Arabic) Muslim religious authorities.

Umma -  (Arabic) A people or community. Used to designate the community of Muslims and also the community of Arabs or Arabic nation.

Umar - Second Caliph, successor to Abu-Bakr.

Umayyad - Second of the four Arab caliphates, following the Rashidun (Rightly Guided Caliphs) and preceding the Abbasid.

Uthman - Son-law of Muhammad,  third Caliph  of Islam following Umar.

Vilayet - An administrative district in the Ottoman Turkish Empire.

Wahhabi - (Arabic) (also Wahabi) Muslim Sunni reform movement founded mid-eighteenth century by Abdul-Wahhab. Wahabi is the English name and the name used for them by other sects. They call themselves Muwahidun (unitarians) and believe in strict asceticism. Muwahidun (Wahhabi) are the dominant Muslim sect of Saudi Arabia.

Waqf - (Arabic) Muslim religious endowment.

West Bank - Land west of the Jordan river, a part of the biblical Judea and Samaria, Designated "West Bank" by Transjordan following World War II. This was the area of the proposed Palestinian state that was conquered and occupied by Transjordan in 1948 and subsequently conquered by Israel in 1967.

Ya'ad - Israeli party that replaced the Meretz party and includes the followers of Yossi Beilin. The name reverted to Meretz very quickly.

Yathrib - (Arabic)  Ancient name of Medina.

Yesha - (Hebrew Acronym) - The abbreviation of "Yehuda Shomron veAza" - Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the Hebrew names for the occupied lands in the West Bank of the Jordan and originally, in the Gaza Strip.

Yishuv - (Hebrew) The Jewish community in Palestine prior to the declaration of the state of Israel, including the pre-Zionist era as well as the mandate.

Zakah - (or Zakat) (Arabic)  Islamic charity tax.

Zibah - (Arabic)  Ritual Muslim slaughter of animals.

Zedaka - (Hebrew) Jewish charity.

Zionism - The doctrine that the Jews are a nation without a country and should have a country of their own in Israel/Palestine. The Zionist movement was founded as an official organization by Theodor Herzl in Basle in 1897.  See also History of Zionism here, and Zionism and Definitions of Zionism at  Zionism-Israel

Zoroastrianism - Ancient Persian faith that centered around Ahura Mazda.

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