Since the Roman conquest of the first century, Jewish communities were scattered throughout western and eastern Europe, Russia, and the United States. Since their dissemination around Europe and America, the Jewish communities cherished the hope to return to the Holy land.
Millions of Jews lived in East Europe and many started immigrating to the United States. The Jews in Europe had suffered discrimination and prejudice so they always hoped that a new nation would gather them together. Consequently, political Zionist movement started in Europe and Palestine.
In the 1880s, a Jewish group assisted Jewish communities to settle in Palestine and in 1884 the Lovers of Zion cautioned agricultural settlements in Palestine. Leo Pinsker, in 1882, wrote a treatise about the bad treatment that Jews were receiving in Europe and he said that they will never be treated as equals (Cleveland, 2009). Therefore, Pinsker declared that Jews needed an independent Jewish state where they would be respected and they would be able to develop a national identity. In addition, Theodor Herzl, in 1897, declared at the Zionist Congress in Basel that Zionism’s goal was to create a legally recognized nation in Palestine for the Jewish people. Therefore, the world had witnessed the creation of a World Zionist Organization.
The Ottoman Empire decided to help Germany during the World War I so Britain, France, and Russia decided to divide the Ottoman territories.
During the war, the British made many promises to different people. First, they promised Sharif Husayn of Mecca that he would have the land of Palestine. Second, through the Sykes-Picot Agreement, French had a claim on Palestine. Then, from the Jewish point of view, the British promised Palestine to them (fpri.org).
The international Zionist community had helped the British during the war. In addition, the Jewish groups started to have a big influence in the United States and Russia. A Zionist spokesman named Weizmann emerged in London and he decided to push all the political doors at the British cabinet in order to create a Jewish nation. Therefore, the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour sent a letter to Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, saying that the British government would help the Jewish people in Palestine to get their “National Home.”
Consequently, on November 2, 1917, the Balfour Declaration stated that “his Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” (avalon.law.yale.edu).
. The British governing of the Palestinian Mandate from the end of World War I to the creation of the state of Israel had been through many negotiations and both formal and informal talks.
- In 1917, British troops captured Jerusalem and the San Remo Conference granted Britain the mandate for Palestine. From 1917 to 1920, British officials had helped Weizmann and Faysal of Syria to find a way to solve the Jewish problem.
- In 1919, Weizmann promised Faysal of Syria that the Jewish communities would work with the Arabs and they will develop Palestine’s economy.
- In return, Faysal of Syria recognized the Balfour Declaration. However, when the French occupied Syria, the agreement between Faysal of Syria and Weizmann could not be realized.
- Meanwhile, the League Nations gave a lot of hope to the Zionist movement but they raised many worries within the Arab groups. According to Cleveland (2009), “the terms of the League mandate incorporated the Balfour Declaration and recognized Hebrew as an official language in Palestine.” (245)
- The Zionist movement was also helped by Sir Herbert Samuel who was a British civilian and a high commissioner. Then, at the Paris Peace Conference, Weizmann declared that a Jewish state will see the day in Palestine.
- Consequently, in 1922, the White Paper confirmed the right to Jewish people to immigrate to Palestine. Samuel, the High commissioner, created an advisory council with ten Arabs and two Jewish representatives designated by the High commissioner. But the Arab nominees could not attend the advisory council because they were bullied into refusing to serve.
- Consequently, Palestine was ruled only by the High commissioner and British officials alone. Hostility grew in Palestine between the Arabs community and the Jewish community and each community started developing its own political system and its own economic activity.
- While the Zionist movement was well organized in Europe, in America, and in Palestine, the Arabs were having difficulties in organizing themselves into a cohesive political organization.
- Destructive factionalism and British policy of “divide in order to rule” did not help the Arabs to organize their members into a strong movement.
- In addition, there was a strong rivalry between the two Muslim notable families of Jerusalem called the Nashashibis and the al-Husaynis. There was a strong struggle for power and the British made sure to keep the divisions between these two powerful local elites.
- Hajj Amin al-Husayni became the Mufti of Jerusalem and the chief of the Supreme Muslim Council in 1922. He was an active anti-Zionist but he was a pragmatic politician who was ready to negotiate and to find a solution to the question of Jewish immigration into Palestine. But as we have mentioned above, the Jewish community had strong leaders and very well organized institutions in Britain and the United Sates.
- Hence, the Jewish community had both human and fiscal means to help Jewish around the world to settle in Palestine. In 1921, The Palestine Zionist Executive had created recognized Jewish agencies, banking systems, and immigrant settlement. The Yishuv, the Jewsih community in Palestine, created a Federation of Jewish Labor called Histadrut. This federation promoted trade unionism and the enterprises hired only Jewish workers. They created Kibbutz, farming properties belonging to the community and workers worked and shared responsibility.
- The Histadrut and Kibbutz have developed a socialist economic way of working. The Histadrut was also bringing Jewish people from the ghettos of Europe and turning them into soldiers. In 1920, the Haganah had been created in response to Arab riots. They were trained soldiers organized into a centralized army.
- In 1930, two labor groups had merged into a party called the Mapai Party. Ben-Gurion, who was already the executive secretary of the Histadrut, became responsible of the Mapai Party. Jewish immigration grew haphazardly in the Palestinian Mandate and the immigrants were acquiring more lands.
- Therefore, tensions between Arabs and Jews grew in Palestine.
- The Arabs of Palestine failed to negotiate with the British and the Zionist movement so outbreak of violence and armed revolt from the Palestinians started in Palestine. The Jewish and Muslims also fought about the holy places (Wailing Wall, Dome of Rock, and Al-Aqsa).
- In 1929, violent clashes starting happening between the two communities. Therefore, after the Arabs rioting, Sir Walter Shaw supervised an inquiry. The Hope-Simpson Commission declared that Arabs were becoming a landless class and that they were afraid of being dominated by the Jewish.
- Then, Britain sent another commission and they issued the Passfield White Paper. This commission had decided to leave lands for Arab landless peasants and to restrict Jewish immigration.
- In the late 1930’s, the Jews of Germany and Austria were in great dangers so Ramsay MacDonald disclaimed the Passfield White Paper. Therefore, the Arabs organized themselves into a movement called Istiqlal. This group was constituted of Palestinian notables who developed strong relationships with other Arab countries and they took actions against British.
- In 1936, violence and strikes were taking place in Palestine. Britain sent another commission and Lord Peel reported that Palestine must be partitioned into two separate states, an Arab state and a Jewish State.
- In 1937, Galilee, the British district commissioner was murdered. Britain dissolved the Arab Higher Committee and the Mufti escaped to Damascus. In 1938, Arab rebel groups took over and they started to spread terror.
- During the World War II, in response to the Holocaust, the American Jews and the United States, ruled by Truman, were becoming strong supporters for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Truman created the Biltmore Program. Furthermore, Haganah had trained veterans and they were ready to fight in Palestine. The Yishuv were determined to get their state from the British. The Haganah and Irgun started to also spread terror and sabotage locations.
- In 1944, after the assassination of the British minister of State for the Middle East, Lord Mayne, the United Nations sent a special committee on Palestine.
- The UNSCOP terminated the British Mandate and they granted to Palestinians and Jewish people two independent states.
- The Arabs rejected the offer but the Zionist accepted it. In 1948, Britain declared that the Palestinian mandate was finished.
- The General Assembly declared that Palestine was going to be separated into an Arab and Jewish states. The Arabs regimes rejected all negotiations and 400, 000 Palestinians had fled from Palestine. Britain had not created political institutions during its mandate so they left the Arabs and the Jewish communities into a great struggle for power and land.
In 1948, Ben-Gurion proclaimed the independence of the State of Israel which was automatically recognized by the United States and Soviet Union. Consequently, in May of 1948, the Arab-Israeli war started. Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Iraq sent army troops to invade Israel. Six months later, Israel defeated the Arabs and they extended their territories. Palestine had been shared between Israel, Egypt, and Transjordan. Therefore, the Palestinians did not see the creation of a Palestinian state and 700, 000 Palestinian became refugees. In 1948, a Palestinian mass exodus took place. In 1949, only 160, 000 remained within the borders of Israel.