Israel/Palestine: How did this happen?
On the post 51st: “State of our Union,” Jim P. asked @5/25: 1:35, “I’ve seen it stated that a still-existant Palestinian state was established at virtually the same time that modern Israel was established: the Kingdom of Jordan, which seemed to include, at the conclusion of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the West Bank of the Jordan River.”
The story of Israel/Palestine and the origins of the current issues are indeed complicated. From my reading yesterday and today, the following background context is important:
1. Israel/Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey) and was a piece of the province of Syria. It was populated largely by Arabs who were Muslims (about 80 percent; Christians (a bit more than 10 percent; Jews (a bit less than 10 per cent). The province was a bit of a backwater. Jerusalem and surrounding Christian sites were no doubt the main interest of Westerners.
2. The Ottomans fought on the side of the Axis Powers (Germany, etc.) and were defeated in 1917 by General Allenby of the British Army. The end of the Ottoman Empire followed and for all intents and purposes the British were in charge until after WWII.
3. The British are central to the story from this point. The League of Nations divided up pieces of the Ottoman Empire, assigning this parcel to the British. The British had previously agreed in the Balfour Agreement to allow Jewish settlers (Zionists) to immigrate and settle there. The Zionists had actually been doing this from the end of the 19th century.
4. The British favored the Zionist settlement. First, because many of them were bible-reading Protestants who thought the Jews should return to “Zion.” And along with many Europeans, they thought this would settle the Jewish question by providing a homeland, a nation for them (in an era of high nationalist views).
5. In general the local population of Arabs were opposed to Jewish settlement both under the Ottomans and the British.
6. I think this is key: the Zionists were modernizers within their own Jewish community and certainly in contrast to the Arabs of Palestine who were largely an agricultural, herding society with several elite families more or less culturally and economically dominant. The Arabs were unprepared for the events that followed.
7. The Zionists, i.e., Jewish settlers bought up land from both the local elite and absentee landlords living elsewhere. This no doubt upset the local land usage practices and tenancy agreements.
8. Skip to WWII. The British having put down an Arab rebellion 1936-39 were deeply concerned about Arab loyalty and feared their alliance with Germany. To placate the Arabs, they banned Jewish immigration. Nonetheless, the Yushuv (Jewish community in Palestine) was well organized economically, politically, and culturally. Various Jewish military forces were organized to support the British giving the Yushuv well trained soldiers and various kinds of armaments of use in the 1948 war with the Arabs.
9. The end of the war and news of the Holocaust turned world opinion in favor of the establishment of the Jewish state.
10. The Arabs remained divided among themselves and were no match for the better organized Jewish community. When the British mandate ended, Israel became a state authorized by the UN; the Arabs protested mightily but seemed unable to either unite themselves or to effectively press their own legitimate claims to a state. While their “territory” was recognized in the UN ruling, it was actually to be part of Transjordan under the King–a plan the British favored.
What we have here is a struggle between the modern and not yet modern; between Jews with national aspirations and Arabs still existing in a quasi-feudal system. The Jews were favored by the West; the Arabs of Palestine had no effective support from the then nascent Arab League, formed after WWII.
This is a very capsule account. Corrections (real facts please!) welcome. This info is from three books:
Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood, Introduction, Chapters 1 and 2.
Benny Morris, 1948: The First Arab-Israeli War, Chapter 1.
Ilan Pappe, A History of Modern Palestine, Chapter 3.