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Forming a State: The Birth of Israel and the Arab Response

Forming a State: The Birth of Israel and the Arab Response

Establishment of the State of Israel ...38
Occasion of the Entry of the Arab Armies in Palestine ...46

In the 1920s, after World War I (1914–18; war in which Great Britain, France, the United States, and their allies defeated Germany, Austria-Hungary, and their allies), an international organization called the League of Nations authorized a mandate, or system of control, for Britain in the Middle Eastern land of Palestine. Under this system, Britain served as the ruling power of Palestine. The British mandate also recognized that Jews had a historical connection to Palestine and had the right to a Jewish state. At that time, Arabs made up the majority of Palestine's population, and they too felt that they had a historical connection to the land. Both Arabs and Jews made claims for the same land, and leaders of the two sides vied for power. Tensions rose, but no solution to the problem was found.

Many Jews adhered to Zionism, the belief in establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. The British mandate initially supported Zionism and Jews began to immigrate to Palestine in larger numbers in the 1920s and 1930s with the goal of settling the land and establishing their nation. The new Jewish settlers clashed with Arab Palestinians over ownership of land and resources. The two sides came into increasing conflict, which the British government was unable to resolve.

During World War II (1939–45; war in which Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, the United States, and their allies defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan), German leader Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) oversaw the Holocaust, a mass extermination of European Jews and others. Millions of Jews were killed. This persecution made Jews more intent on establishing their own nation. Though the British had restricted the number of Jews who could immigrate to Palestine to appease Arab leaders in the late 1930s, many Jews already there smuggled in those fleeing persecution in Europe. These illegal activities generated hostility between the British government and the Jewish activists, and the rise of Jewish immigrants escalated tensions between Jews and Arabs.

By the end of World War II Jews and Arabs in Palestine were both working to gain independence from British rule. They each wanted their own nation. In 1947 Britain relinquished, or gave up, its mandate in Palestine and turned the problem over to the United Nations, an organization formed in 1945 to find peaceful solutions to international problems. The United Nations drew up a plan to partition, or divide, the land of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.

While Jewish leaders in Palestine accepted the plan of the United Nations, Arab Palestinian leaders called for Arab control over all of Palestine. Arabs turned for direction to the Arab League, which formed in 1944 as a body to coordinate the political and economic efforts of Arab member states. The organization resolved to protect Palestine from the threat of Zionism, but infighting between Arab leaders for ultimate control of the league weakened its effectiveness in responding to the issue.

In May 1948, the British officially gave up control of Palestine, and both Jews and Arabs issued documents outlining their plan to create their own states in Palestine. The Declaration of Israel's Independence and the Statement Issued by the Governments of the Arab League States on the Occasion of the Entry of the Arab Armies in Palestine explain in detail each side's perspective on its claims to Palestine. These documents began a war between the newly created Jewish state of Israel and Arab Palestinians supported by various Arab countries. Israel, backed by the United States and other Western European countries, proved to be stronger in the conflict and thousands of Arab Palestinians were forced out of Palestine into surrounding Arab-controlled countries such as Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, creating refugee camps. Yet both of these documents make strong cases for why each group is entitled to the land of Palestine and continue to be the cause of many of the conflicts in the Middle East.

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