The state of Israel was founded 60 years ago out of a monstrous crime - the expulsion of nearly a million Palestinians from their homes.
This violence is known to Palestinians as the Nakba - the Arabic word for “catastrophe”. It was followed by a second humanitarian disaster in 1967 when Israel seized the whole of Jerusalem and the entirety of historic Palestine - leading to more than 40 years of military occupation and wave after wave of killings in defence of the Zionist state.
The events surrounding the Nakba and the creation of Israel in 1948 are crucial to understanding the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today.
The origins of the Zionist movement lie in Europe. The movement emerged in the late 19th century as a response to the growth of racist nationalism and anti-Semitism.
The tragedy of Zionism is that although it was driven by the desire to found a Jewish state as a safe haven for the oppressed, the movement’s leaders recognised that in order to do so they would need the support of a European government. So they fashioned an ideology which made Zionism into a vanguard for European colonialism. Far from escaping European racist nationalism, Zionism aimed to export it by creating a Jewish colonial project.
After considerable debate the Zionist movement agreed on Palestine as a suitable site for the Jewish state and small groups of Jewish settlers began to move there over the first decades of the 20th century.
The British government, attracted by the Zionists’ promises that their settlements could help consolidate Britain’s control of newly-captured Ottoman lands, issued a declaration in 1917 agreeing to support the creation of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.
Only two years before, British officials had also promised the same area to form part of an Arab kingdom, while behind the scenes they carved up Ottoman territory into spheres of influence in a secret deal with their wartime allies, the French.
At the peace negotiations after World War I, Britain was given control of Palestine under the League of Nation’s mandate system. During the following two decades increasing numbers of Jewish immigrants moved to Palestine. The Jewish population grew from 50-60,000 in 1919 to nearly 450,000 in the mid-1930s.
The situation in Europe worsened with Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, and the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Most European governments acted towards these victims of the Nazis with double standards, condemning their treatment, as they shut their doors in the face of desperate refugees.
The birth of the new state of Israel was assisted by the world superpowers - as the US and the Soviet Union first backed the United Nations (UN) plan for the partition of Palestine and then recognised the state of Israel, hoping that this would accelerate British decline elsewhere in the Middle East.
The starting gun for the Zionist seizure of most of Palestine was fired by the United Nations General Assembly, which voted in November 1947 to divide Palestine in two, leaving a Jewish state and a Palestinian state side by side.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
68 posts so far.