The 1948 Arab-Israeli War

2430 words (10 pages) Essay in International Relations

23/09/19 International Relations Reference this

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The  1948 Arab-Israeli  War

The  War  of  1948,  which  pitted  Israel  against  the  Arabic  nations  of  Egypt,  Iraq,  Syria,  and  Lebanon  had  been  a  confrontation  over  fifty  years  in  the  making;  beginning in  the  early  1880s  with  the first  arrival  of  Jewish  immigrants  from  Eastern  Europe  into  Palestine. [1]  The  Jews  who  immigrated  to  Palestine  were  known  as  Zionists  and  other  than  to  escape  the  anti-Semantic  impression  that  had  swept  through  Eastern  Europe,  they  were  determined  to  establish  a  Jewish  state  in  their  ancestral  homelands.[2]  Lands  that  had  been  inhabited  by  a  majority  of  Arabic  people  for  the  last  few  centuries.  The  very  idea  of  uprooting  native  peoples  from  their  homes,  especially  a  people with  whom  the  Jews  already  possess  a  rocky  relation  with  is  simply  treading  the  thin  line  between  strained   acknowledgement  and  warfare.  Due  to  the  nature  behind  the  Zionists  migrating  into  Palestine,  a  conflict  of  some  sort  between  the  Jews  and  the  Arabic  people  was  already  inevitable,  but  an  already  tense  situation  was  only  exacerbated  by  the  interfering  of  Western  Powers.

The  Jews’  homeland  of  Israel  had  been  conquered  by  Zionists,  as  they  first  started  moving  into  Palestine,  came  with  the  intent  to  reclaim  lands  by  lawful  means-  purchasing  lands  a  little bit at  a  time.  Yet,  peaceful  or  not,  purchasing  lands  from  the  Ottoman  Empire  inadvertently reduces  the  size  of  the  empire  that  was  already  struggling  to  keep  ahold  of  its  territories,  and  still  there  is  the  main  problem  of  buying  the  lands  of  people  who  already  inhabit  the  region.  Whatever  peaceful  intentions  in  which  the  Zionists  assumed  that  they  would  collect  their  land  for  a  Jewish  nation,  they  were  idealistic  at  best.  However,  the  Arabs  lacked  political,  nationalist  awareness,  they  had  no  sense  of  nationalism  and  were  thoroughly  unorganized.[3]  This  is  the  only  reason  that  Zionist  did  not  encounter  more  violent  measures  by  the  locals  to  remove  the  Zionists  from  Palestine.  At  least,  for  the  first  few  decades.  The  early  1900s  witness  the  violence  toward  the  Jews  rise  with  a  distinct  nationalist  undertone [4]  and  the  Zionist  recognize  that  the  have  been  negligent  in  underestimate  the  Arabs  resolve  to  keep  Palestine.  The  breakout  of  World  War  I  only  served  to  strengthen  the  new  budding  Arab  nationalism,  further  straining  the  tensions  between  the  Arabs  and  Zionists.

The  Ottoman  Empire  rallied  with  the  Central  Powers  during  WWI,  and  despite  supporting  the  Ottoman  Empire  in  the  early  part  of  the  war,  Britain  ended  up  taking  control  of  Palestine  in  1916. While  Palestine  was  being  invaded  by  the  British,  Sharif  Hussein  of  Mecca  and  Sir  Henry  McMahon,  the  British  high  commissioner in Egypt,  were  ironing  out  plans  for  Hussein  to  encourage  the  Arabic  people  under  his  control  to  revolt  against  the  Ottoman  Empire.  In  return  for  turning  against  the  Turks,  Britain  would  recognize  Arab  independence  and  offer  protection  from  any  backlash  toward  the  Arabic  people  from  the  Turks.  Unfortunately,  the  promises  made  by  Great  Britain  were  half-baked  at  best  and  have  long  been  a  source  of  debate.  Also,  the  promise  to  recognize  Arabic  independence did  not  fall  to  Palestine  as  McMahon’s  promise  only  fell  to  lands  under  the  Sharif.[5]

On  top  of  the  unclear  stipulations  and  weak  promises  set  in  the  Hussein-McMahon  Correspondence, Britain  and  France  were  having  their  own  secret  discussions on  how  to  carve  up  the  Ottoman  Empire  after  the  war.  In  the  Sykes-Picot Agreement,  boarders  were  set  to  create  new  nations  out  of  the  Middle  East.  Palestine,  Transjordan,  and  Iraq  would  fall  under  British  control,  and  Syria  and  Lebanon would  come  under  French  control. [6]  Which,  due  to  the  debatable  conditions  placed  on  both  sides  of  the  Hussein-McMahon  and  varying  interpretations  of  the  Correspondence  agreements,  seemed  to  go  against  the  very  promise  of  freedom  Great  Britain  had  promised.  Yet,  despite  the  first  two  instances  of  imperial  powers  undermining  the  Arabic  people,  the  worst  blow  came  in  1917  with  the  Balfour  Declaration.  This  declaration  issued  by  the  British  government  state  that  Great  Britain  supported  the  Jews  in  establishing  a  national  home  in  Palestine.[7]  For  Great  Britain  to  publicize  this  statement  was  seen  as  betrayal  toward  the  Arabic  people  in  Palestine.

Britain  was  given  mandatory  power  over  Palestine  in 1920  by  the  League  of  Nations  and  The  Mandate  was  put  into  effect  in  1923 [8]   Under  the  Mandate  Years  in  Palestine,  Britain  helped  nudge  Palestine  toward  modernity.  Literacy  dramatically  increased  among  Palestine’s  Arabs  under  Britain  Mandate  and  with  this  came  a  spread  of  national  consciousness.[9] The  Arabs  in  Palestine,  however,  chose  to  display  their  newfound  nationalism  through  violent  anti-Zionist  protests. On  top  of  a  new  interpretation  of  Arab  nationalism,  there  were  Arab  leaders  using  religious  methods  to  turn  the  people  not  only  against  the  Zionists  but  against  Britain  as  well. That  anti-British  sentiment  sprung to the forefront  in  1936,  when  the  Arabs  in  Palestine  revolted  against  the  British  Mandate.

Revolts  in  Palestine  against  Britain  lasted  until  1939  and  the  force  used  to  surpass  the  rebellions  cost  Palestinians  many  of  their  nationalist  leaders  and  weakened  their  economy  greatly.  But,  due  to  the  timing  of  the  insurgences,  “Britain’s  primary  concern  in  the  Middle  East  was  to  win  over  the  Arab  world  in  its  regional  rivalry  with  Nazi  Germany  and  Fascist  Italy.” [10]  So  Britain  gave  what  Arab  people what  they  wanted-  it  suspended  Jewish  immigration  into  Palestine.  Though  this  appeased  the  Arab  people,  this  did  not  bode  well  for  Britain  in  terms  of  their  relations  with  the  Jewish  people  in  Palestine;  this  new  mandate  went  completely  against  the  Balfour  Declaration.  Even  still,  when  WWII  finally  broke  out,  thousands  of  Jews  surged  to  support  Britain  against  Hitler  and  his  Holocaust.  Toward  the  end  of  WWII,  a  radical  Zionist  group  known  as  the  Irgun  began  launching  attacks  on  British  officers  and  institutions  in  Palestine.  The  Jewish  paramilitary  team Haganah  and  the  elite  Palmah  forces  (both  of  which  had  been  created  at  the  beginning of  WWII)  assisted  in  trying  to  control  these  radicals,  but  by  this  point  Great  Britain  had  had  enough [11]. Britain  turns  the  future  of  Palestine  over  to  the  newly  created  United  Nations.

  Bibliography 

            Balfour, Arthur J. Balfour Declaration. Letter. From Jewish Virtual Library. British   L     I                      Library. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/text-of-the-balfour-declaration  (  a c c                      (accessed February 17, 2019).

Friedman, Isaiah. “The McMahon-Hussein Correspondence and the Question of Palestine.” Journal of Contemporary History 5, no 2 (April 1, 1970): 83−122.

Gelvin, James. “The League of Nations and the Question of National Identity in the Fertile Crescent.” World Affairs 158, no. 1 (1995): 35− 43.

Gilbert, Martin. The Routledge Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. 8th ed. London and New York, 2002

Gill, Natasha. “The Original “No”: Why the Arabs Rejected Zionism, and Why It Matters.” Middle East Policy Council, 2017. http://www.mepc.org/commentary/original-no-why-arabs-rejected-zionism-and-why-it-matters (January 28, 2019)

Horowitz, Dan. The Israeli Concept of National Security. London: Macmillan Publishing Limited, 1983.

Miller, Rory. Britain, Palestine, and Empire: The Mandate Years. London: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2010.

Morris, Benny. 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.

Oren, Michael. “Escalation to Suez: The Egypt-Israel Border War, 1949-56.” Journal of Contemporary History 24, no 2 (April 1989): 347−373.

Tal, David. “Israel’s Road to the 1956 War.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 28, no 1 (February 1996): 59−81.

Tal, David. War in Palestine, 1948: Israeli and Arab Strategy and Diplomacy (Israeli History, Politics and Society). London: Routledge, 2004.

[1] Morris, Benny. 1984: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. Yale University Press, 2008. Pg. 1

[2] Morris, 1948, pg. 1

[3]  Morris, 1948, pg. 8

[4]  Morris, 1948, pg. 8

[5]  Friedman, Isiah. “The McMahon-Hussein Correspondence and the Question of Palestine.” Journal of Contemporary History 5, no 2 (1970). pg. 102.

[6] Balfour, Arthur. The Balfour Declaration. 1917.

[7] Gilbert, Martin. The Routledge Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. 8th ed. London and New York, 2002. Pg. 23

[8]  Miller, Rory. Britain, Palestine, and Empire: The Mandate Years. London: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2010. Pg. 18.

[9] Morris, 1948, pg. 12

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