Palestine had an area of about 10,000 square miles.
The ancient land was not only the matrix of Judaism and Christianity,
but also sacred to the Muslims. From 1517 it became a part of the
Turkish Empire. It continued to be so until World War I, after which
Britain was given a Mandate over Palestine.
Though the Jews were scattered all over the world,
they did not lose the hope of returning to the Promised Land.
The movement became more purposeful with the founding of the World
Zionist Organization under Theodore Herzel in 1897.
On November 2, 1917 Lord Balfour, the British
Foreign Secretary, promised the Jews a separate homeland in
Palestine after the cessation of hostilities. However the British
government created trouble for itself, by giving a similar promise
to the Arabs in 1915, since both parties began to assert their claims,
and Palestine became the "too much Promised Land."
The British Mandate in Palestine put Britain
under the obligation to "place the country under such political,
administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment
of the Jewish National Home, while at the same time safe-guarding
the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine."
In 1917, the Jews formed hardly 2% of the total
population of Palestine and occupied only 3% of the land. Yet, the
relations between the Arabs and the Jews became bitter. In 1921,
there were Arab disorders in Palestine, which were suppressed by
the British government. In 1936 there were riots in Palestine. The
White Paper issued by the British government on May 17, 1939
proposing that Palestine was to become an independent state in
which the Jews and the Arabs would share authority, was rejected
by both the Arabs and the Jews.
In May 1942, the Jews led by David Ben Gurion,
adopted the program of creating a Jewish state and a Jewish army.
The British government tried to secure the co-operation of the U.S.
to solve the Palestine problem. The Truman administration
was strongly pro-Jewish. The Anglo-American Committee (April
1946) recommended the immediate entry of 100,000 Jews into Palestine.
In February 1947, the British government expressed
the desire to end its Mandate and to place the issue before the
United Nations. A special Commission of the U.N. on Palestine,
recommended the partition of Palestine and provided for separate
Jewish and Arab states in Palestine. The Jews, the Soviet Union
and the U.S. accepted the partition plan, but the Arabs opposed
it. The Jewish State of Israel was proclaimed on the night between
May 14 and 15, 1948, at Tel Aviv with Dr. Weizmann as
its first President. The U.S. and the Soviet Union recognized the
new state immediately.
First Arab-Israel War (1948)
When the state of Israel was proclaimed, the countries
- Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq attacked Israel. Though the Arabs
outnumbered the Jews, they were defeated. Guerilla organizations
such as Al Fatah, Fedayeen, and the Black September group were
created, to restore Palestine to the Arabs.