At the end of the 19th century, Jews from Europe began to immigrate to Palestine to create their own country. As immigration increased in the early 20th century, conflicts arose with the Arabs living in the area and the Arabs began working to establish an independent Palestinian state. When the UN after World War II proposed that Palestine be divided into a Jewish and an Arab part, the Arabs said no. The Jews then proclaimed the state of Israel, which was immediately attacked by surrounding Arab countries.
The roots of the conflict go far back in time. Israel is the biblical homeland of the Jews and ever since they were expelled from there during Roman times, when the area was called Palestine, the dream of returning has been kept alive by Jews in the “exile” (Jews living in other parts of the world).
According to itypejob, Palestine was conquered by the Arabs in the 630s and the inhabitants, who at that time were generally Christians, were gradually converted to Islam.
From 1517, Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey). Most of the inhabitants were Arabs. Almost all the Jews had been expelled by the Romans in the 100th century AD and now only a few remained, mainly in Jerusalem. The whole area was called Palestine or the Holy Land. The area did not constitute a political entity and had no fixed borders.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Zionism emerged as a nationalist revival movement among Jews in Europe. The Zionist movement was named after Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of Judah, one of the Jewish state formations that existed in the area in biblical times.
The message of Zionism was that the Jews, in order to survive as a people, would again have their own land. Bloody persecution of Jews in Russia had by this time driven large numbers of Jews into exile, and the Dreyfus affair in France in 1895 (when a Jewish officer was subjected to a conspiracy and convicted of treason) showed that anti-Semitism (anti-Semitism) was still alive in Western Europe.
The first Zionist World Congress in 1897 stated that the goal was to create “a home guaranteed by public law in Palestine” for the Jewish people. In 1901, the Jewish National Fund was established, which began buying land in Palestine on behalf of Jewish immigrants.
Under Turkish rule, agriculture in Palestine had fallen into disrepair. Some areas that had been cultivated had been abandoned.
Previously, the lands had been owned by Arab clans, but the Turks introduced private land ownership. Arab clan leaders became landowners, often living in the cities themselves. Landless farmers, fellaher, were allowed to live on the estate and cultivate the land according to old custom. When landowners sold land to Jewish immigrants, the situation became complicated. Israelis and Palestinians dispute the extent to which the land sold to Jewish immigrants was unused and uninhabited.
The Zionists built a Jewish community in Palestine, alongside the Arab one. Within Zionism there were different political directions, but during the early 20th century, the pioneer period, the left was strong. Historical and religious arguments for the right of Jews to live in Palestine weighed heavily on many immigrants, but the pioneers of Zionism also created a new utopia: They wanted to build a socialist ideal society, and they hoped it would become a model for the outside world. Around 1910, the first kibbutz, a Zionist model of collective agriculture, was founded.
Not even two percent of Palestinian land was yet Jewish-owned. There seemed to be plenty of space in the sparsely populated country. Zionist immigration stimulated the economy, and Arabs from neighboring countries came to Palestine to work. Palestinian Arabs, however, were concerned about the deliberate Jewish immigration and tried to persuade the Turks to restrict it.
The Arabs’ dream of unity
During World War I, the Arabs, who had been under Turkish rule, saw an opportunity to liberate themselves. Arab nationalist sentiments grew strong. Britain sought the support of the Arabs in the fight against the Turks and made promises of independence for various Arab territories. The Arabs in Palestine assumed that the promises also applied to them.
The British conquered Palestine in 1917. In the Balfour Declaration of the same year, however, Britain supported the idea of a Jewish national home in Palestine, but on the condition that it did not adversely affect the non-Jewish communities in the area. The Balfour Declaration was seen as a betrayal by Arabs both inside and outside Palestine. After the First World War, the Arabs’ hopes of creating a strong and united Arab state were shattered in the areas liberated from the Turks. Instead, several smaller Arab states were formed, where European politicians determined the borders and where European powers retained the ultimate control.
After the First World War, the UN’s predecessor, the League of Nations, commissioned Britain to govern Palestine as a so-called mandate area, and Palestine now for the first time had fixed borders. In addition to what is today Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, the area east of the Jordan River was also initially included in the Palestinian mandate, but in 1921 it was separated by the British and proclaimed the emirate of Transjordan (later Jordan).