Arabisraeli Conflict

Arab-Israeli Conflict The Arab-Israeli conflict came about from the notion of Political Zionism. Zionism is the belief that Jews constitute a nation (or a people) and that they deserve the right to return to what they consider to be their ancestral home, land of Israel (or Palestine). Political Zionism, the belief that Jews should establish a state for themselves in Palestine, was a revolutionary idea for the 19th Century. During World War I, Jews supported countries that constituted the Central Powers because they detested the tyranny of czarist Russia. Both the Allies and Central Powers needed Jewish support, but Germany could not espouse Zionism due to its ties with the Ottoman Empire, which still controlled Palestine. British Prime Minister Lloyd George & Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour, favored Zionism and supported their cause in a letter that became known as the Balfour Declaration, ensuring that the British government would control Palestine after the war with a commitment to build the Jewish national home there, promising only to work for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine and not harm the civil and religious rights of Palestines “existing non-Jewish communities”. After the Great War, Britains Forces jointly occupied the area known as Palestine with Faysals (Iraq) Arab army.

The British set up a provisional military government in Jerusalem that soon became a struggle between Jewish settlers and the Arab inhabitants. In April 1920, the Palestinian Arabs revolted, killing Jews and damaging property, opening the Arab nationalist revolution in Palestine. The League of Nations awarded the Palestine mandate in 1922, charging Britain with carrying out the Balfour Declaration, encouraging Jewish migration to Palestine and help create the Jewish “national home”. But the Arabs suspected the British mandate would hold them in colonial bondage until the Jews achieved a majority in Palestine. Winston Churchill issued a white paper denying that the British government meant to give preferential treatment to Jews with a proviso for restricting Jewish immigration to conform with Palestines “absorptive capacity”. Another action that seemed to violate the mandate was the creation of the Emirate of Transjordan, removing two-thirds of Palestine that lay east of the Jordan River from the area in which Jews could develop their national home, claiming the partition was only temporary.

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During the first civilian governor of Palestine, it looked as if Jewish-Arab differences would be resolved when more Jews emigrated out of Palestine than immigrated and with the presence of a complementary relationship among the two peoples, but the hopes dissipated during the 1929 “Wailing Wall Incident”. The Wailing Wall (a.k.a. the Western Wall) is a remnant of the second Jewish Temple, symbolizing the hope that one day the Temple will be rebuilt and the ancient Jewish rituals revived; but the Wall also forms a part of the enclosure surrounding the Temple Mount, which the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque stand atop; Muslims feared that Jewish actions before the Western Wall could lead to their pressing a claim to the historic site. In 1928, Jewish worshipers brought some benches to sit on. The police took them away several times, but the Jews kept putting them back.

To Muslims, this activity was an attempt by the Jews to strengthen their claims to the Wall and retaliated by running a highway past it to distract the worshipers. Several fights broke out that escalated into a small civil war. Arabs perpetrated massacres in other places in Palestine. The British constabulary was inadequate and Britain sent a commission of inquiry; later issuing a report that justified the Arab position. The colonial secretary, Lord Passfield, placed blame on the Jewish Agency and the Zionists, and Britain tightened restrictions on Jewish immigration. Due to domestic embarrassment, the British government issued a letter explaining away the Passfield condemnation, hardly appeasing the Zionists, but angering the Arabs.

As Arab animosity increased, the Arab Higher Committee in Palestine called for a general strike, paralyzing the country for several months. The British sent another commission of inquiry, headed by Lord Peel, which recommended partition, giving a small area of northern and central Palestine to the Jews, while leaving the most to Arabs. But the Palestine Arabs opposed the partition, fearing its acceptance would be a step toward their loss of Palestine. Britain scaled down the offer and eventually retracted it. Seeking a peace plan that would satisfy all parties, Britain called a conference of Jewish and Arab leaders in 1939; but no agreement was reached. Then, Britain issued the White Paper, announcing that the mandate would end in ten years, providing Palestine with full independence.

Jewish immigration would be limited until 1944, after which it could continue only with Arab consent. The White Paper seemed to sell out Britains commitment to help build the Jewish national home. The Arabs also rejected the White Paper, stating it postponed their independence and did not stop Jewish immigration. As World War II came to a close, Zionist terrorist groups, such as the Irgun Tzvei Leumi and the Stern Gang, blew up buildings and British installations in Palestine. The British went before the UN General Assembly in 1947, admitting that it could no longer maintain the mandate. The UN created the Special Committee on Palestine, who recommended partitioning Palestine [again!] into seven sections: three for Arabs, three for Jews and one for both.

Neither the Palestinians nor the Arab countries welcomed the plan. The Zionists did not like the plan completely, but accepted it as a step toward forming the Jewish state. But Jewish paramilitary groups soon seized lands not allotted to them, while Arab commandos retaliated against Jewish targets. Both sides committed acts of terrorism against civilians. Large numbers of Palestinians panicked and fled to nearby countries.

In May 1948, the Jewish Agency Executive Committee declared those parts of Palestine under Jewish control were now part of the State of Israel and that the provisions of the White Paper limiting Jewish immigration were null and …