Birth of Israel

In 71 A.D, a number of Jews were driven out from Palestine which was then their homeland by the Romans and over the next 1700 years there were hardly a few Jews came back in the area to make the Arabs feel threatened.

In the 7th century, Arabs had a vast empire which stretched from North Africa to Central Asia but the successors failed to maintain the empire and were subjects of Kurds, Turks, British and the French for the next 1000 years. In 1919, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Middle East was divided between the French and the British much to the dismay of the Arabs. The Arabs were more united under the Turks than under the new rulers who were lured by international politics and by oil and became an impediment to Arab unity and independence. The French were driven out by the British when French authorities in Syria and Lebanon declared for Vichy and thus British were the only ones remaining when Arab nationalism came to the forefront after the Second World War.

In 1897, World Zionist Organization was founded by a few Jews in Europe and they believed that Jews need to go back to Palestine as they were facing persecutions in Germany, France and Russia which created tensions among the Arabs who feared losing their land to the Jews.

The British had supported the Zionist aim of a Jewish National Home in Palestine with the Balfour Declaration. The Arabs were divided among themselves mainly with an old order which was largely monarchial and traditionalist in its views on society and religion and a new order which wanted to modernize religion and politics so that the gap between the rich and the poor is reduced. The British had struggled for a long time to reconcile their promises to the Jews and the Arabs but were unsuccessful and the whole responsibility of the mandate was abandoned in 1948. British even tried a partition with the Peel Commission (1937), a tripartite division into an Arab and Jewish state leaving Britain with a mandate over a reduced area which would include the holy places of Jerusalem and Bethlehem with access to the Mediterranean Sea. But this plan seemed impractical and British forced by the advent of war in Europe to choose between the two sides chose the Arabs and undertook in the White Paper of 1939 to keep the Jewish element in the population of Palestine to one-third of the whole which had risen from 10% in 1919 to 30% in 1939.

The Nazi Holocaust changed the whole scenario and the misery and optimism of the survivors achieved what Theodor Herzl and his successors had never come near to achieving. After the 1939 White Paper, Zionists changed their priorities from Britain to the United States, abandoning their hope of achieving their objectives by persuasion in London in favor of an actively anti- British policy to be financed with American money after the war. The Zionist cause was supported by the two American Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. The major American concern was to persuade Britain to admit Jews to Palestine as generously and quickly as possible. Both the British Prime Ministers Churchill and Atlee were men of generous disposition and sympathized with the Zionist cause and hence wished to do something for the survivors and also hoped to secure American support for their policies in the Middle East but this was not possible as the Americans wanted to help the Jews without being entangled in the British positions of a suspiciously imperialist nature.

The Jews began a terrorist campaign against both the Arabs and the British and the blowing up of King David Hostel in Jerusalem which the British were using as their headquarters was one of the most spectacular incidents. The British in response arrested a number of Jewish leaders and turned back ships carrying Jews intending to enter Palestine.

The British weakened by the Second World War were unable to cope up with the problem and asked United Nations to deal with it in November 1947 who voted to divide Palestine with half of it to form an independent Jewish state. Even as the fighting between the Arabs and the Jews was going on, Britain decided to withdraw all its troops in early 1948. In May 1948, Ben Gurion declared independence and a new state of Israel was created.