Jewish claim to Palestine post WWII

It is very rarely one finds conflict of a country with another from the formation of a country and that rare event in history is the Israel Palestine conflict. Israel and Palestine became two countries in 1948 and from that year to this day the conflict is going on. This conflict is between two groups of people, the Arabs and the Jews, who claim the piece of land between Iraq and Egypt as their land. Since both the groups are vying for the same stretch of land, the result is conflict.

A Peep into History

Jesus was born a Jew. The Hebrew Bible mentions the land of Israel as the land of Jews. The Arabs also trace their history to many centuries before the World War I. The conquest of Palestine by Muslims in 640 CE has been recorded. One of the oldest mosques, the Dome of the Rock, in the world is found in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is evident that the claim for the stretch of land was on for long but the conflicts started after World War II. But even after World War I there were killings between the Arabs and the Jew. After World War II Britain asked UNO to handle the formation of the two countries and it was done in 1948. But how did the Arabs and Jews stake an equal claim to the land?

  • For many centuries Arabs and Jews considered Palestine to be their land.
  • Ottoman Empire, ruled by Turks, came under the control of Britain after World War I.
  • Since Arabs had helped the British in capturing the Ottoman Empire, Britain promised a land for the Arabs.
  • Through Balfour Declaration of November 1917, the British government wanted a home for the Jewish people in Palestine.
  • In 1922 this was granted by the League of Nations and Jews had a home which attracted immigrants from all over the world.
  • Arabs opposed Jewish immigration and began to attack them.
  • A royal commission called the Peel Commission was appointed 1936 to investigate into the issue.
  • The Peel Commission recommended partition of the country between Jews and Arabs.
  • While Jews accepted the idea Arabs rejected it.
  • In May 1939 one-state solution in Palestine was released by the British government. There was a restriction on Jewish immigration; the quota was set by Britain.
  • But with Hitler’s policy of massacre of Jews, there was mass exodus of Jews from Germany and all wanted to come to Palestine. The quota set by Britain was violated.
  • Towards the end of WWII, conditions worsened and Britain handed over the decision of Palestine over to the UN.

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Palestine During WWII

During the Arab revolt of 1936-1939 Arab leadership developed ties with the Nazi Movement. During the war the Palestinian supported the Axis Powers. Arabs declared a holy war against Britain. They sought support of Germany in opposing a separate homeland for the Jews in Palestine. Hitler even promised to eliminate the Jews in Palestine once Germany gained victory in the war. Even during the war a Nazi-Palestinian military operation was conducted in Palestine. Britain did not take this lightly and Britain began to collaborate with the Yeshuv (group of Jewish residents). There were attacks by the Nazis on the Britain supported Jews and it was later called “200 days of dread”. However the victory was finally for the Allied powers.

Palestine after WWII

The policies of the British after World War II were not welcomed by the Jews in Palestine. The Yeshuv became more organised and they established Jewish Resistance Movement, which was an amalgamation of many small resistance organizations as well. Many armed attacks were held against British between 1945 and 1946. King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which was the headquarters of the British administration, was blown up. This event shocked the public as many innocent civilians were killed. The Jewish Resistance Movement was disassembled in 1946. The Yeshuv now began to concentrate on the immigration of Jews. There was a massive immigration and most of them were fleeing because of the holocaust. Britain tried to stop this and some of them were captured and imprisoned in the camps of Cyprus.

On May 15, 1947 UNO decided to create a special committee for this issue and it was called United Nations Special Committee on Palestine. The committee had representatives from 11 countries. On September 3rd a division of the country was proposed by the committee. In the division, by size of the land Arabs got less than the Jews. But in the Arab area majority were Arabs and Jews were only few in number. But in the Jew area there was a sizable population of Arabs. Jerusalem and Bethlehem were under UN custody. Though Jews were unhappy about losing Jerusalem, most of them accepted the plan, exception being the extremist group, Irgun. Every Arab leader opposed the plan. On November 29, 1947 the General Assembly passed the resolution which was put forth by the special committee as 33 states voted for it. 13 opposed and 10 abstained from voting.

Fighting began almost as soon as the resolution was passed. The consulates of Poland and Sweden were attacked as they had supported the partition. The Arabs were the offenders most of the time. As the British began to evacuate the attacks, riots and killings increased. One day before the British Mandate expired, on May 14, 1948, the Jewish State was formally declared and it was called the State of Israel. Israel had to “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture;” Jews accepted the resolution in spirit even though a few extreme groups were not happy. But Arabs were totally unhappy and they showed their unhappiness through violence. The new state of Israel had to deal with two issues. One was to fight with the Arabs and the other was to tackle the huge number of immigrants coming to their homeland.

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