IGCSE History


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The creation of Israel

The discovery of the Holocaust created great sympathy for the Jews. Many western countries wanted to create a homeland where they could settle and feel safe. The problem was that there were hundreds of thousands of Arabs living in Palestine and they naturally believed that the land was theirs by right. They had lived there for more than a thousand years. Jews had been arriving in the area since the 1890s. Jews believed that Palestine was the ‘Promised Land’ of the Old Testament and that therefore they had a right to settle there.  Friction had soon developed between them and the Arabs. In the 1930s there had been a civil war between the two groups. The British had tried to solve the problem but in the end only managed to make the situation more difficult. They appeared to make promises to both sides, which they could obviously not keep. Eventually they had been forced to give up. In 1947 the United Nations was faced with having to come up with a solution.

The United Nations recommended dividing Palestine between Arabs and Jews. The plan was published in November 1947. The Arabs immediately rejected partition, because they believed that Palestine was theirs by right. The Plan also appeared to favour the Jews. Although the population of Palestine was about 60 percent Arab, the Jews received more than half of the land and the more fertile areas as well. The Arabs were allotted areas that were mostly desert.

As the British withdrew, the Palestinians fought to gain control of every town. On the other side, Israeli terrorist gangs, the 'Stern' and the 'Irgun', forced Arabs to leave their homes and flee for their lives. Those who stayed, or tried to fight, were killed, men, women and children. This was a major factor in the bitter hatred that developed between Jews and Arabs. Nevertheless, the United Nations plan was approved and preparations began for the new state of Israel.

For their part, the Israelis announced that Israel would be a secular state, that meant that religion would have no influence, and that all people living within its borders would have the full rights of citizenship. In other words, although Israel was being created as a homeland for Jews, Arabs would qualify as citizens and be able to vote and stand for the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. This did not satisfy many Arabs. They did not want to live in Israel. They wanted a state of their own.

On 14 May 1948 the Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, announced the creation of the state of Israel. There was great rejoicing in Tel Aviv, but the Arab governments in the surrounding countries objected to the new state and tried to destroy it. On 15 May 1948 the armies of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt attacked Israel.

The impact of the war of 1948-1949


King David Hotel bombed!