Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Robert Baker

Second Advisor

Krisanna Scheiter




Isreal, Palestine, conflict, war, Gaza


The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most complex political issues of our time. It involves two groups of people with a strong claim to a tiny piece of land, both historically and religiously. In the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Many people claim that the occupation is unethical because the occupier holds restrictions on those who are occupied. This paper does not address the question of who is to blame for the conflict or whether Israel has maintained an ethical occupation; it addresses instead the ethics of occupation of territories acquired by Israel during that war. I argue that an occupation, such as the current Israeli occupation of the territories on the West Bank of the Jordan River, is morally permissible insofar as it is done for the defense and safety of the occupier’s citizens. The first purpose of any state is to defend the lives of its citizens; and no state should be forced to tolerate random rocket attacks on its cities and towns. Additionally, there are moral obligations of the occupier, for they must uphold the human rights of those they are occupying. In this paper I draw on the philosophical analyses of two political thinkers: John Rawls and Michael Walzer. Both argue that a war is just if a state is fighting in self-defense to protect its institutions and its people from an aggressive neighbor. I show that these same arguments can be applied to explain when an occupation is ethical.