Is Palestine a Country?'s complicated

is palestine a country
We understand that Palestine is a sensitive topic. It is an issue that brings out passionate feelings for many. In this post, we’ll discuss a little history of the region, some of the considerations Sporcle uses to determine “what is a country”, and ultimately try to answer the question – is Palestine a country?

Is Palestine a Country?

The short answer – yes, as of January 16th, 2013, Palestine has been recognized as a country by the UN and on Sporcle.

The driving force behind this decision came on November 29th, 2012, when the United Nations voted to change Palestine’s status within the organization to a non-member observer state. Politics aside, this was a pretty big deal at Sporcle as suddenly and without much warning Palestine met our criteria for what we consider a country.

When the UN voted to award it non-member observer state status, Sporcle suddenly had an interesting decision. Leaving Palestine off our Countries of the World quiz would have put our site in a situation in which it included two nations (Kosovo, Taiwan) that have less UN recognition than Palestine and one (Vatican City) that has basically the same status (non-member observer state).

To be consistent, it was decided that we would add Palestine to all the appropriate Sporcle quizzes.

The United Nations

The United Nations is a global organization, which brings together its member states from all over the world. Its mandate is to promote international cooperation, encourage mutual action on laws and worldly development, and to progress international issues and events.

Many people believe that for a state to be designated as a country, it must have inclusion within the UN. This however, as is seen with Palestine, is not necessarily the case, especially when a state has the support and validation of other member states recognizing it as independent sovereign land.

Understanding the Land and History

The landmass known as Palestine, or more accurately, Palestinian Territories, comprises the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. These two areas are in two separate locations within the bounds of Israel, and are connected via designated safe passages. With this land locked within the formal Israeli borders, Israeli settlements occupy all areas of these territories, and continue to expand their hold.

This region has a long, complex, and often messy history. In more recent times, this land was under British rule. During World War I, Britain favored Palestine as the national home for the Jewish people. Upon capturing the country, Britain mandated over Palestine until 1948. In this same year, Palestinian Arabs revolted against British rule, initiating the Palestine War, whereby division occurred between the Jews and Arabs.

Ultimately, the Jewish people would declare independence over the state of Israel.

Determining a Country

Today, Palestine is governed by Israel, and while this may impede its ability to govern and control itself, this does not dismiss the UN’s decision to grant Palestine a UN non-member observer status. This status is the same as that of the Vatican City, and allows the state toparticipate as observers in the sessions and the work of the General Assembly (of the UN) and maintain permanent observer missions at headquarters”.

In addition, economic stability is also important when it comes to functioning as a country. In the case of Palestine, despite ongoing constraints to economic independence, they have experienced expansion in their economy since the 2014 recession and a surge in construction activity has afforded growth within the Gaza Strip. Collectively, these conditions support Palestine as being established as a recognized country and confirm the fact that it is not necessary for UN membership or universal recognition to occur in order for country status to be granted.

Future of Palestine

Over the past several years, more and more countries have become supporters of Palestine as a country, jumping on board to recognize Palestine as an independent state. To date, 135 of the UN member states support Palestine’s bid to also be recognized as a state, and it is only the countries of Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Australia and Japan that do not.

While there continues to be civil unrest, and much progress to be made in terms of democracy and economy, Palestine meets Sporcle’s criteria for country status.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments section below, or you can send messages directly to our Feedback page.




  1. I personally support the change, even though this quiz was hammered in 2010 for its support
    Looks like I’ll be busy with my Contributed games on Wednesday. I’ll leave my published games (“Asia, Alphabetically” etc) to the Admins, to avoid duplication of effort, unless they want me to modify my own quizzes.

  2. So Jerusalem is now two times the capital? Sporcle standards seem to accept official (In the case of Benin, Porto Novo) over de facto (Cotonou.) This will definitely be interesting and confusing. Best of luck with these changes!

      • Only a modern day concentration camp (and I use that term extremely lightly) because their own government is refusing them access to food, water, medicine etc. Ironically, Israel provides them with all these, plus electricity and transport. Funny sounding oppression?

        • “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet but not to make them die of hunger,” said a senior Israeli official in 2006.

          • ^ Preach. Israel doesn’t “provide” anything but human rights abuses. Read a book, buddy.

          • “We shall not rest until we have driven Israel into the sea,” said many senior Palestinian officials in 1948 [the year of the founding of the State of Israel]

    • I’m glad we could keep this discussion civilized without descending into defamatory remarks about Muslims (or racism if you prefer that terminolagy)

  3. I think Sporcle should also clear up some murky areas here. Does Palestine include Gaza, which split from the Palestinian Authority? What is the capital of Palestine, for the purpose of quiz creation? Obviously, Plaestine borders Israel and, if Gaza is included, it borders Egypt. Does it border Jordan?

  4. Hey Caramba,

    We’ll have a separate post with those details soon. But to answer your questions:

    Yes, we intend to include Gaza, and accept both Ramallah and Jerusalem as the answers for the capital. Yes, we’re going to consider Jordan as a bordering country

    • Why are you accepting Jerusalem as the answer for the capital? Have I missed something? When was Jerusalem made the capital of Palestine?

      East Jerusalem MAY become the capital of Palestine in the future, but it certainly is not the capital now.

      What criteria are you using to make Jerusalem the capital of Palestine?

  5. Well, I hope you don’t get any static. I am a devoted Zionist as well as a devoted Sporcler, and I think you made the right decision. You have rational criteria, and you applied them objectively. Good for you.
    I am starting to doubt that I will live long enough to see two states living together in peace in a region of peace. But at least I get to see it on Sporcle!

    • Kudos for your response and to Sporcle for acknowledging reality. Nobody’s policies are really promoting peace in the region. That doesn’t mean it can’t ever change.

  6. I am appalled at Sporcle. Western Sahara is not accepted on these quizzes, why should Palestine be?

    1) Palestine = Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the Sinai (of Egypt). Most international diplomats, and most people on the internet seem to forget this.

    2) Palestine, if a country, does not exist. Palestinian Territories does (Occupied if you so wish to call them, even though no occupation is currently ongoing)

    3) If Palestine is included, so must other made-up countries like Oompa-Loompa Land and Narnia.

    To conclude: If Sporcle does not stand up to the terrorist Islamist ‘threat’, I will withdraw my membership of the website, and alert this mistake to the Jewish community on the web, who will take necessary action.

    • David, 15% of Palestinians are not even muslim. Also, your point No. 1 is incorrect. Those countries are collectively referred to as THE LEVANT, NOT Palestine.

      • Good points, Rob. Also, replace the word “occupation” with “blockade” then you have the same situation. Educate yourself.

    • David,
      Please feel free to withdraw your membership if you are not willing to engage in a debate without hostilities and exaggeration. There are plenty of extremest sites out there- Sporcle, though, is purely based on fact, and if that’s hard for you to handle, it’s fine and you can find a better place elsewhere.

    • David, you’re a racist! The Jewish community has nothing to do with Israel. That’s only the zionist part. I know many Jews who are very, very ashamed about the apartheid regime in Israel and therefore don’t feel connected with it. And you probably haven’t read the explanation by Sporcle. I’ve never seen Narnia at the UN, did you? And one last thing; if Palestine isn’t occupied according to you then please explain why there are so many Jewish extremists being allowed to live on the West Bank while it’s been almost made impossible for Palestinians to cross the border to Israel?
      Sporcle, I’m proud of you. Equality is very important.

  7. David Saunders, Sporcle is trying to approach this matter without opinions–something that you should consider. Their threshold for Sporcle Standard has been UN recognition. Palestine has been recognized by the UN (to a certain degree), unlike Oompa-Loompa-Land. This rule wasn’t even made for the purpose of Palestine getting into Sporcle, it was made to clarify the aforementioned cases of Kosovo, Vatican City, and Taiwan. Boycot the 100+ nations thatvoted for Palestine’s new status, not the website that is merely following protocol.

    • Colmar: Sporcle needs to wait until a nation is a MEMBER STATE of the UN, or has recognition of the security council, but has not applied for full statehood (a la Vatican City) to be recognised as an official nation. I only vent my fury because this is yet another organisation taken in by the BS surrounding the situation. The fact is, Palestine is not an official nation, not a nation (see original point 1) ergo Sporcle schold not accept it as a country. QED

      • Sporcle “needs” to do whatever it wants. It’s not up to you. If you don’t like, don’t use it. Simple.

          • Well, the problem here is that there is no internationally agreed clear cut definition of what constitutes a state. Your definition may have some merits itself, but it is far from being the only one. E.g. your first point seems to regard that the name is a misnomer – but that does not stop us from accepting all the “Democratic” countries in the world. So calling it “factually correct” only holds water when the criteria are agreed upon, which they are not.

            Also you’re not helping your case by linking the question of statehood to the “islamist terrorist threat”. The question whether what a country does is good or evil (I’m not saying that I do consider Palestine any of these) has nothing to do with the question of whether that state exists.

            In conclusion: you can argue against it being included, but it is not intrinsically wrong – it’s a matter of definition. You have yours and Sporcle (and many of your diplomats) have another.

      • David, so you are advocating that the nation of Palestine remain in limbo forever? This is totally against Israel’s interests. BTW – I have an ancient relgious text I have found which shows that the land actually belongs to Angolans. I’m sure you won’t object to Angolans coming to claim their rightful, God-given land! An ancient scroll says so!

  8. I agree with the decision by Sporcle. For the same reason that the Vatican is included, I feel that Palestine should be included as well. While if it were up to me alone, Palestine, the Vatican, or Taiwan are not a legal country, I am not the arbiter of such things (which is a good thing for everyone, of course!)

    So I will have to brush up on my Palestine facts so that I can be prepared!


  9. @David Saunders: so your response to Sporcle using logical criteria and following a UN decision is a childish reference to Charlie and the chocolate factory, bigotry and a threat of e-terrorism. Classy.

    Personably, I think it’s great that Sporcle made a valid decision earlier on what countries should be represented, and has the guts to stick to it. Im sure there are plenty of people on either side of the conflict who can respect this.

  10. Stan, fairly ironic to accuse me of e-terrorism when actual terrorism and terrorists are the reason Palestine isn’t recognised. When Hamas illegally overthrew Fatah (and quite literally overhtrew them off rooftops) they had and to this day have no legal mandate for forming a state or a government. Ergo the Vatican, Taiwan and Kosovo ARE all countries, but the terrorists in Gaza and the West Bank are not. Sporcle warp the logical criteria, leaving out other logical criteria, like mentioned in my original post (Criterion number 1 is proof enough)

    • You can’t exclude a country just because you don’t agree with the principles of its government. Yes there are many people in Palestine who have committed atrocities and who have ill will towards the Jewish people but equally there are plenty of people in Israel with the same ill will and intent towards Arabs.
      If Sporcle were to decide to rank countries entirely based on their rulers these quizzes would have scant few answers.

      • It’s not that I disagree with it’s government’s principles. I disagree with it’s recognition as a ‘state’. Why do you think there are many people in Israel who have mal-intent towards Arabs? They kill the Israelis. At least Israel tries to kill only the guilty Arabs. What is Sporcle gonna do if, after the 16th, I refuse to accept Palestine? Send round terrorists and suicide bombers. Why not, it’s how the scum get voted into government. ‘Vote for me or die’.

        • “At least Israel tries to kill only the guilty Arabs.” Oh boy. You don’t realize what a foolish and ignorant statement that is, among others you’ve written.

          If you enjoy the content and criteria Sporcle operates under, then stay. If you don’t enjoy, keep it moving. No need to write political opinion after political opinion. Good grief.

    • Hamas is the legal government of Palestine you know. They were elected into goverment by the Palestinians

  11. Noooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!! Living in Israel, I can tell you that Palestine is NOT and will NEVER become a country!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Good for Sprocle for being consistent with their country qualifications, and giving a nice, polite and clear explication of why this change is happening. Wherever they personally stand on the issue, they’ve taken a reasonable response to it.

  13. Palestine is an artificial construct, and since it doesn’t recognize Israel, does Israel disappear from your quizzes too? To accept Palestine means this user is no longer interested in adding hit to your site.

  14. Ardent Sporcle fan… till now-
    Good By!
    When you give the Indians Canarsie-tell me and I will reconsider my position.


  15. I honestly do not agree with the decision of the United Nations to accept Palestine as a non-member state, but so be it. Palestine is technically a country now and not recognizing it is a country is just being ignorant and childish. It’s just like how so many countries don’t recognize Israel is a nation: just because you don’t agree with a country’s recognition, does that mean you should pretend that it doesn’t even exist? Anyway, I believe Sporcle is right in adding Palestine to the quizzes on the site.

  16. Sounds great! Are other non-countries also to be admitted? How about Oz, Wonderland, Never-Never-Land, Atlantis, Lilliput, Narnia, Middle-Earth or Shangri-la? Together with Palestine they would constitute the Bermuda Triangle regional block. Like the others is has no fixed borders, currency, single government, or legal foundation.

    On a side note, can any of you scholars identify a time when rights to declare sovereignty over the area claimed by the Arabs of Palestine was taken away from the Jews? Good luck because it never happened.

    Don’t rely on the UN to be the authority in this matter because the OIC, the 57 member Organization of Islamic Countries, can get a resolution passed in the General Assembly that the earth is flat. Between them and the countries dependent on Middle Eastern oil for their economic survival they can, and do, get any absurd anti-Israel motion passed that they can dream up.

    Victims of Arab propaganda, revisionist “historians” and others who believe the Arabs were lying before 1967 when they repeatedly gave documented testimony that there were no such things as Palestine or Palestinians have proven Joseph Goebbels right; Lies repeated often enough become perceived as truths.

    One must ask if Arab leaders are lying to their people when the teach and preach hatred of Jews and a future with no Israel; or are they lying to everyone else when they say the Arabs of Palestine, with their new found national identity, are only struggling to end an “occupation” (of a land over which they never had sovereignty) and for self-determination. These mutually exclusive concepts can’t both be valid.

    Making this lunacy acceptable is tantamount to validating their stated genocidal goals.

  17. There is no recognized country of Palestine. What about Somaliland, or South Ossetia. Is this your effort to be politically correct, or pressure from some wealthy investors. (see Al Gore and Al Jazeera). You are speaking out both sides of your mouth. You state you include non-UN member countries as the reason. Yet it is a UN vote that you site as the reason for your decision. That is at a minimum inconsistent and more to the point disingenuous. Whether one believes there should be a nation of Palestine or not is not the point. Including Palestine which has NOT been as of yet officially recognized as a sovereign nation and is neither a colony nor a possession is a perversion of history and geography. I am seriously considering ending my using Sporcle even though I enjoy it immensely.

  18. I had hoped this wouldn’t degenerate into tedious old political polemics, but of course it has. The point to me is not the politics, it’s the standards. I have my own strong political views, but I don’t see how they belong here, and are not related to my position that Palestine should not feature in Sporcle quizzes. The UN did not vote that Palestine is a country. In fact, Palestine has held off from pushing that vote, calculating it would not,win. So a person sits at a Sporcle quiz, trying to think of 196 or 197 countries in thirty seconds and has to come up with an observer state. This is rather like calling Washington D.C. A state because it has a shadow senator. The fact that the Vatican and others have quasi status and yet keep coming up on quizzes falls under the “two wrongs don’t make a right” rule for me. Last word on politics: someone should make a quiz of “blameless citizenry, utterly nonviolent government countries.” I could do that one in under three seconds.

  19. The key difference between Palestine and other non-UN states is that Palestine does not have control over its territory. The PA controls only part of the West Bank and has no power in Gaza (where 1/4 of the Palestinian population is). The Montevideo Definition of statehood says (according to Wikipedia): “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.”

    Palestine has a permanent population, but no defined territory. Although the PA claims the ’67 borders (Hamas still claims all of Israel), the settlements mean that it becomes unclear where Palestine begins and Israel ends. In addition, criterion (c) isn’t fulfilled because the Palestinian population is governed by three different entities: the IDF, Hamas, and the PA.

    Yes, Palestine is now a UN observer, but the Montevideo Convention also states: “The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states.”. So no matter how many states recognize Palestine, under customary international law, that doesn’t make it a country.

    If Sporcle wishes to be consistent, they should use the international legal definition of a country. Under this definition, Kosovo, Taiwan, and the Vatican City State are all countries. Until a State of Palestine achieves all these criteria under a peace deal with Israel (or maybe a unilateral withdrawal by Israel) and reconciliation with Gaza, I don’t see Palestine as a legitimate person under international law. Really, Palestine is in the same boat as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, in that it possesses sovereignty in the international legal sense of the word, but that alone doesn’t make it a country.

  20. David Saunders actually brings up a good point. Why isn’t Western Sahara a country? It’s been marked separately from Morocco on every map, globe, and atlas I’ve seen in my entire life.

    We demand Western Saharan statehood today!

  21. Okay, well if you’re going to add palestine, then what about guam, netherlands antilles, french polynesia, american samoa, french guiana, etc??

  22. Everyone protesting about Palestine’s status as a country shouldn’t do it here where they can do nothing about it. Go tell UN that Palestine isn’t a country. Also if you think that UN is wrong and want your quizzes be correct, go on and contribute a quiz of your own and not include Palestine.

  23. How is ” non- member observer state” a “country”??? This totally smacks of a purely political position vs just following definition criteria. I am shocked and saddened that now even Sporcle has come to this. I would have hoped that the administrators of a (wonderful) trivia game site would be above this. I hope there can be a reconsideration here.

  24. Kudos to Sporcle on announcing the change transparently and basing it on objective criteria. The policies of Palestine’s government are irrelevant for determining whether they should be considered a country, or else we might have to deny recognition to North Korea, or deny that the nation of Germany existed between 1933 and 1945. The decisive fact is that Palestine has a government, which controls an area of land and the people within it, and which is not a subsidiary component of another national government. The fact that Palestine is recognized by more countries than either Taiwan and Kosovo (whose continued recognition in Sporcle I also support) is persuasive too, but secondary in my opinion.

    As for implementing the change, I don’t envy Sporcle’s task of updating old published quizzes. However, on the issue of Palestine’s capital, I strongly suggest that its capital be designated as East Jerusalem rather than Jerusalem. First and foremost, the UN application submitted by Palestine refers to its capital as East Jerusalem (see link below). Second, using the same name for Israel’s capital and Palestine’s capital would create ambiguities in some quizzes because there would no longer be a one-to-one mapping from capital to country. Third, it would eliminate a gap because we would finally have a world capital beginning with the letter E, and I’m sure creative Sporclers will take advantage of that.

    Palestine’s UN application, specifying their capital:

  25. I find it funny that people support Israel and then reject Palestine despite the fact that Israel was created by the UN and they have got more land then was given to them by the UN.

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