1948…the year Israel was established.
Imagine being a Palestinian that year. The British have given the majority of your land to a minority of foreign immigrants. Your greatest fear has come through, the Zionists now rule the majority of the Palestinian lands.
With the support of the USA and the UN, Israel’s rise to power was just beginning.
Frustration grew in the minds of the Palestinians…you can easily imagined what happened next.
Over the next few episodes, in Season 2, we will dive deep into the events that led to the formation of the State of Israel. Together, we will understand the roots of the Palestine-Israel Conflict, and understand the history of this important region of the Muslim world.
The End of the British Mandate
When we last left Palestine, the British had decided to end their Mandate in Palestine. The UN had issued a resolution to partition Palestine, handing over the majority of the lands to the Jewish immigrants, even though they were the minority. This did not sit well with the Palestinians.
In May 1948, the British ended their Mandate and Ben Gurion declared Israel an independent nation. The Zionist mission to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine was complete, but they were not satisfied. There was still work to do to assert the power and authority in the region. The Zionists turned to terrorism to establish their power.
The Israelis began to acquire arms, and build their forces. They attacked various targets around their lands to assert their authority. In 1948, The UN Mediator Folke Bernadotte was assassinated in Jerusalem by Lehi terrorists.
The Israeli terrorists targeted civilians, and in April 1948, the Deir Yassin Massacre occurred. 120 Irgun and Lehi terrorists stormed a village of 600 Palestinians and slaughtered approximately 110 villagers, including women and children. The leader of the Irgun at the time, though not at the raid, was future Israel PM Menachem Begin. The massacre was condemned by another Israeli terrorist group, the Haganah, and by the two chief rabbis of the Mandate, who delivered an apology to King Abdullah of Jordan, which was rebuffed by the monarch. This stands as an example of brutal ethnic cleansing and deliberate targeting of civilians, it was sign of things to come as Israel grew more powerful.
Recognition of the State of Israel
It was around this point in time that the US stepped in and began to play an important role in the rise of Israel. President Harry S. Truman was in a very tight reelection campaign in 1948 against a popular opponent, the governor of New York, Thomas E. Dewey. New York was the largest state by population (thus, most electoral votes), and was home to the strongest pro-Israel population.
Clark Clifford, Truman’s White House Counsel was so concerned about Truman’s election prospects that he threatened to resign if Truman did not come out strongly in favor of recognizing the State of Israel, for fear Truman could lose New York in the November elections. Truman was getting advice from the State Department that recognition of Israel would be unproductive for US policy interests in the region, especially when it came to Saudi Arabia and oil sales. Ultimately, Truman beat Dewey, but in an extremely close race.
Israel declared their independence on May 14th, 1948. On May 15th, they applied to the United Nation for recognition. The US gave them de facto recognition immediately, as did Iran, Guatemala, Iceland, Nicaragua, Romania, and Uruguay. On Ma y 17th, the Soviet Union gave them de jure recognition along with Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Ireland, and South Africa. On January 31, 1949, after the first Israeli election the US gave it de jure recognition. In March that year, the UN Security Council held a vote with the majority voting in favor of Israel. In May, the UN General Assembly held another vote, again the majority voted in favor of Israel. The Arab countries in the region were unanimous in their rejection of Israel and the grounds under which it gained independence. Not a single Arab country recognized it diplomatically. As a result, Israel was isolated in the region.
The Arabs strike back
On September 18, 1948, Egypt occupied Gaza. The Arab League proclaimed an All-Palestine Government for the area. It was recognized by Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, but not Jordan. No country outside the Arab League recognized it. They had their own passports, but no Egyptian citizenship.
Jordan annexed the area west of the Jordan River as the West Bank, and declared it Cis-Jordan, while the area to the east of the river as TransJordan; they received Jordanian citizenship.
Despite Arab administration now governing Gaza and the West Bank, the weakness of the Arabs and lack of strategy led to a stalemate. The stalemate lasted until 1956.
In 1955, the President of Egypt, Gamal Abdul Nasser announced an arms deal with Czechoslovakia. This raised concerns with the USA. In May 1956, Egypt recognized the communist regime ruling China, and were offered financial aid from the Soviet Union in exchange for the Aswan High Dam. At the same time, the US had denied aid to Egypt, and convinced the World Bank to do the same. In retaliation, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal.
In October 1956, Britain, France and Israel coordinated an attack to seize the Suez Canal from Egypt. Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula, and before things could escalate, President Eisenhower intervened and forced a ceasefire, due to the Soviet Union threatening to enter the conflict.
Various external conflicts affected the situation, and finally in 1957, all countries withdrew their armies from the region. As a result of losing the Suez Canal to Egypt, Great Britain’s empire came to an end. Nasser, on the other hand, was now the leader of the Arab world, but even he was unable to change the situation for the Palestinians.
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