Just like you, I am woefully ignorant of the particulars of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Aside from the late Yasser Arafat and odious Benjamin Netanyahu, I usually find the combatants very much worthy of empathy.
Robert Fisk, a British writer and historian without peer, has made a career of mapping out the morass that is Middle Eastern politics. His tome, The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East, is just a wonderful, if demanding, read. It's the book I fall back on in between books; I hope to finish someday, but I am in no hurry.
Fisk just posted a piece at Truthdig that is a good introduction to both his work and the aforementioned struggle.