Issues In The Palestinian—Israeli Conflict
__ Refugees Forever __
The Birth Of Israel
In order to understand the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is necessary to
review the events that led up to it. The concept of a homeland for the Jews was
advocated by the Zionist Movement in the 19th century - although the return to
the Promised Land was a 2000-year-old dream.
Dr. Theodor Herzl translated the Zionist Movement's concept into a political program, namely a Jewish State. This was supported by the famous Balfour Declaration of 1917. International recognition was assured by the League of Nations in the Treaty of San Remo in 1920. Following the defeat of Germany and her allies in WWI, Turkey lost her empire. Its vast domains were divided in order to create the new states of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Palestine, on both sides of the Jordan, was entrusted to Britain for the establishment of the Jewish National Home.
Although the original area designated National Home was considerably reduced by the British in 1922 in order to provide for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan - the Jews nevertheless succeeded in developing the small area left to them into a flourishing enterprise, literally causing the desert to bloom. With the benefit of hindsight, it is instructive to compare Arab gains from the Allied victory in WWI with those of the Jews. On the one hand, five independent newly- born states on an enormous area, as against the promise of a National Home on a very small area.
The growth of the Jewish population in Palestine was resented by the Arabs who expressed their hostility by fomenting bloody riots in 1920, 1929, 1933 and 1936-39. The most tragic was the massacre of the ancient Jewish community of Hebron in 1929. In order to resolve the conflict, on November 29, 1947 the UN voted in favor of a Partition Plan which provided for two independent states, one Jewish, one Arab, while Jerusalem would be internationalized. Although there was hesitation among the Jewish public, it was decided to accept the Plan, notwithstanding that the area allotted to the Jewish State was, once again, considerably reduced. The Arabs rejected the plan outright. Contemptuous of the will of the world, bands of Palestinian Arabs, aided by irregular volunteers from neighboring countries, attacked Jewish communities and clashed with the Hagana defense force. With the termination of the UN Mandate on May 14, 1948 the British forces had withdrawn from Palestine. Regular troops of the armies of Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, Syria, and Lebanon invaded the country, along with volunteer detachments from Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Yemen.
"The Arabs intend to conduct a war of extermination and a momentous
massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the
Crusades," declared Azzam Pasha, secretary-general of the Arab League,
on the BBC, May 15, 1948.
Despite the fierce resistance of the nascent Israel Defense Force, the Arabs made significant headway in their assault. Egyptian troops reached the Jerusalem suburb of Talpiot, and, advancing along the coast, were stopped 40 km. short of Tel Aviv. In the North, the Syrians took Kibbutz Mishmar Hayarden, only 25 km. from Tiberias.
Jordan captured the Old City of Jerusalem and destroyed its 58 synagogues. They also took Gush Etzion, the resort hotel of Kalia (and the kibbutz next to it on the Dead Sea) and the Monastery of Latrun on the Tel Aviv- Jerusalem road. The Latrun stronghold - as well as the bitter fighting at the nearby Castel fort and Arab villages - frustrated Israeli attempts to break the six month siege on Jerusalem. The Jewish casualty toll in the 1948 war was far greater than that of the Arabs. Estimated at 3.2%, it is among the highest casualty rate of any recorded conflict.
Israel and the Axis of Evil
One and a half million Jews fought with the Allies against Germany, Italy and Japan in WWII. Among them were over 30,000 Jewish volunteers from tiny Palestine. In the cemeteries of Normandy, Stalingrad and El-Alamein, one can see tombs engraved with the Magen David but none with the Islamic Crescent. The Arab world stood aloof. Moreover, leaders like the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the ruler of Iraq sided with the Nazis. Some Western democracies, while misjudging Israel's present struggle, seem to have forgotten these facts.
This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post 1-15-2003 approximately,
and is reproduced solely for educational purposes.
To return to MENORAH'S Israel Page
To return to MENORAH'S Web Page