In the 1880s Palestine was an under-populated area with about 1 million Arabs and a few hundred thousand Jews. Many of those Jews had lived in the region for hundreds or even thousands of years and some cities and areas had been predominantly Jewish for as long as people could remember.
Jews from Europe started arriving in Palestine in the 1880s. These people wanted their own homeland since they were often persecuted in Europe and there was no country in the world where Jews could call home. There were many countries in the Middle East where Arabs/Muslims had a homeland and could determine how they wanted to live, but nowhere for Jews.
Unlike Australia, where the British immigrants simply took the land from the Aborigines, the Jews arriving in Palestine legally bought the land from rich, Arabic landowners. Often the land was of poor agricultural quality but the Jews generally managed to turn this unpromising land into productive farm land. They set up schools and hospitals and many civic organisations. This created wealth in the region which often attracted Arabs to areas where Jews were settling.
Jews had always lived in Palestine but in smaller numbers than Arabs. Neither group had ever ruled in the area. Palestine was simply an area of desert land with a few cities that had been ruled over for several centuries by the Ottomans and then for a short time after World War One by the British who had to do something with it. Palestine has never been a country.
Jews already living in the region and Jews who started arriving from Europe were happy enough to live alongside the Muslim Arabs already there. However, the Arabs didn’t feel the same. This was either due to tribalism or because the Koran teaches that Jews are apes and pigs and should be ruled over by Muslims.
When the two sides started attacking each other the British administrators found themselves in the middle. The Jews asked for a part of Palestine to be given to them as a Jewish homeland while the Arabs were understandably against what they considered to be the division of their land.
During WWI the Jews had fought alongside the British and this counted in their favour when the war finished. The British drew up a plan called the Balfour Declaration which separated Palestine into two states, one which had a Jewish majority and would be ruled over by the Jews and one which had an Arab majority which would be ruled over by the Arabs. Since the Arabs refused to live alongside the Jews, this was the only possible solution – unless you call giving the Arabs total control of the region and then letting them slowly kill off or drive out the Jews ‘a solution’.
When the British took over the running of Palestine after World War One it was a large area of land much larger than it is today. The British government gave 80% of this land to Arabs who with it created Jordan. Since there had never been a country called Palestine nothing really changed for these Arabs and their lives went on as before. However, there was now only 20% of Palestine remaining to divide between the Jews and the remaining Arabs.
The area offered to the Jews under the Balfour Declaration was small and consisted of two separate pieces of land, one containing the Negev Desert. The area offered to the Arabs was a little larger and consisted of a contiguous area of land. The Jews were not happy with this offer but accepted it nonetheless. They were desperate for any kind of land to call home.
The Arabs refused the offer. The only plan that would satisfy them was one in which the Jews had no homeland at all, or where the Jews were living alongside their Arab neighbours and in constant fear of being attacked.
The Palestinian Arabs attacked and killed Jews and sometimes also attacked the British rulers of Palestine. The British, instead of cracking down on the perpetrators, attempted to mollify them them by giving them concessions. Jewish groups perpetrated attacks on the British in revenge for them siding with the Arabs.
It was at this time that the Nazis came to power in Germany and hundreds of thousands of Jews started escaping from Europe. If they had been allowed to flee to Palestine, as was their right, they would have soon formed a majority there. This was something the Arab Palestinians desperately wanted to avoid, so they put pressure on the British rulers to limit the numbers of Jews that could enter Palestine. The stream of refugees became a trickle. The British should feel ashamed of their part in this episode of history.
Until 1941 Hitler was still allowing Jews to escape from Europe but now, because of the restrictions on the number that could enter Palestine, most Jews had nowhere to go, since America and Britain had also restricted the number of Jewish refugees who could enter their countries. The Jews, especially the poorer ones, thus had nowhere to run to and were caught and transported to concentration camps.
The leader of the Palestinian Arabs, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, was a supporter of Hitler and fought on the side of the Germans during WWII. He lived in Berlin during much of the war and oversaw the extermination of European Jews in concentration camps like Auschwitz. He asked Hitler for support in setting up the same kind of camps to exterminate the Palestinian Jews. Hitler agreed. Unfortunately for both men, Germany lost the war so the ‘Final Solution’ to the Jewish problem in Palestine was never implemented. Of course, the Jews fought on the side of the Allies during WWII. This also counted in their favour when the war ended.
After the war, Al-Husseini was accused of war crimes but managed to avoid trial by escaping to Egypt. He died in Lebanon in 1974. He was a hero to many Palestinians, including Yasser Arafat, who called him ‘Our Hero’.
Finally in 1948 the United Nations agreed that the state of Israel should be established to give Jewish people their own state. There are about 22 Muslims states in the world today but only one Jewish state. Israel was immediately attacked by the surrounding Arab countries. It was assumed by almost everyone that Israel would lose this war because Jewish numbers were few and they were still not a well organised state. However, unlike the surrounding Arab countries, the Jews were literally fighting for their lives. If they lost this war that would mean the end of Israel as a state and of the Jewish people, who the surrounding Muslim countries have vowed to ‘push into the sea’.
However, after about a year’s fighting and losing 1% of its population, Israel won the war. This was a humiliating defeat for the surrounding Arab nations, a defeat that was repeated in 1967 and 1973 when they attacked Israel again.
When these countries lose then very little happens. They just go home with their tails between their legs. Israel gives back most of the land it has won during the war in exchange for an agreement that it won’t be attacked again. Officially the attacks stop but unofficially the surrounding countries train, finance and encourage young Muslims to attack Jews wherever they find them. Of course, if Israel ever loses one of these wars then that will be the end of Israel and its Jews. Israel simply can’t afford to lose a war.
During the war of 1948-1949 many Palestinian Arabs were displaced. Some escaped from the fighting of their own accord while others were driven out by the advancing Jewish army. After the war was over these people were living in temporary refugee camps on Israel’s borders and they are still there now – or rather their descendants are there now since most of the original refugees have died.
The surrounding Arab countries refused to give these refugees citizenship or to integrate them into their society, despite all the talk of solidarity between Muslims. The reason for this is that having large refugee camps paid for by the UN acts as a way of putting international pressure on Israel to take back these Palestinians. Israel refuses to let these people back because the number of the descendants of the original refugees has grown from about 500,000 to about 4 million. If all these people were allowed back into Israel then the Jews would find themselves immediately in a minority in their own country. This would also mean the end of the only Jewish state since the majority Arabs could vote for whatever they wanted, including becoming a part of Jordan and dissolving Israel altogether.
But it wasn’t only the Palestinian refugees who suffered in this war of aggression against Israel. After losing the war, most Arabic countries, even countries not involved in the fighting, expelled all of their Jews. This meant that Israel had to quickly integrate 800,000 Jewish refugees at very short notice. Somehow they managed it.
The large number of Arabs that could claim Israeli/Palestinian citizenship is one reason there can never be a One-State solution. It would only be a matter of time before Arabs formed a majority in Israel and then it would be curtains for the Jews. The only way Israel can continue to exist is with a Two-State solution for Palestine. This would involve Israel keeping the land it now possesses and pulling out of the land captured during the war, which is basically the West Bank.
The problem with this is that as soon as Israeli soldiers move out of the West Bank rockets will start flying at Tel Aviv. At present the West Bank acts as a kind of buffer region between the major cities of Israel and the hostile Arabic countries beyond. Israel is so small that a rocket sent from across its borders only has a few miles to travel before it reaches a major city. Israel therefore needs certain international guarantees that once it moves out of the West Bank it won’t immediately be attacked, as happened a few years ago when it pulled out of Gaza.
The problem is that all Palestinian parties, groups and leaders have vowed to destroy Israel. This is often written into their charters. They have stated openly that if they do make an agreement with Israel it is only as a first stage to actually destroying it. It is therefore almost impossible for Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians, both sides knowing that Arabs won’t rest until all Jews are gone from the Middle East.
Here is a good article by David Cole written 7 years after I wrote the above.