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Revisiting the creation of Israel

By M Reyaz,

In the history of creation of Israel, the holocaust under Nazi Germany when about 6 million of Jews, almost two third of over 9 million population in whole of Europe were killed, is often pointed to justify the establishment of a Jewish national home. Of course, there can be no justification of such heinous crime, but it should be pointed here that the persecution of Jews in ‘Christian’ Europe had not really begun with Hitler.

In fact after their exile first by Babylonians and later by the Romans at 70 CE (some of them intermittently returned during the Persian rule), the Jewish population that largely migrated to Europe and North Africa had to suffer great deal. They were expelled from England (1290), France (1391), Austria (1421), Spain (1492), etc. that spurred Aliyah (the act of ascending to Israel) into the “Promised Land” during the period, when the Ottoman Empire by and large remained a “safe haven” for Jews fleeing persecution. (Turkey continues to have a small Jewish population today.) No doubts there have been instances of sporadic clashes between Jews and Arabs in past too, but for most of the Ottoman reign Jews enjoyed certain degree of prosperity as they dominated in trade and commerce, banking, as well as diplomacy and other high offices compared to other subjects. The situation deteriorated in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the Arab countries, however, when the decline of the ottomans coincided with conflicting Arab nationalism and Zionism; as the later encouraged Aliyah or immigration of Jews to Jerusalem, the land promised to them by God according to the Testament. The World Zionist Organization consequently established Jewish National Fund (1901) and the Anglo-Palestine Bank (1903) for a Jewish National Home.

Revisiting the creation of Israel

Like political Islam, Zionism is a dangerous cocktail of faith, nationalism and politics that has made establishment of Jewish National Home and its preservation as the sole purpose, while its critics see the movement as colonialist and racist. Zionism as a movement was started by Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl in 1897. As the Zionists had earlier declined the offer to make a Jewish ‘national’ home in Uganda, British government endorsed in 1917 a Jewish homeland in Palestine under Balfour Declaration: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object…”

Great Britain had in fact outsmarted both the Arabs and Jews and made promises to both of them on behalf of fighting for them in the First World War, against Ottoman Turks who were on the side of the Germany and other Axis powers. The unholy alliance also saw a short lived Faisal–Weizmann Agreement (1919) for co-existence of two conflicting ideologies. After the World War I, as the Ottoman Empire disintegrated several new Arab states gradually became independent while a British Mandate for Palestine in 1922 that also favoured the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. Although restricted by law, widespread immigration of Jews began during this time. Consequently motivated influx of large number of Jews and their purchases of land from feudal lords’ fuelled unrest among landless Arabs as right from 1920 to 1921 and 1929 saw several riots, in which both Arabs and Jews were killed. In the wake of the riots, several Para-military organizations like Haganah and breakaway militant groups like Irgun and Lehi, often supported by the British Force played critical role. These three groups merged in 1945 to form the short-lived Jewish Resistance Movement. Haganah, it should be mentioned here, consequently became the essential part of the Israel Defense Forces.

As the table below shows, the immigration jumped many folds from 1920s onwards, first from Eastern Europe (1919-23), Poland and Hungary (1924-29) as they faced anti-Semitism; but it saw highest influx so far in the wake of the rise of Nazism in Germany between 1929–1939, although technically speaking according to the rules of the Mandate, most of it was illegal.

Periodical Population of West of Jordan River, Erstwhile Palestine and Present Israel+Plaestine (In Thousands)*






































85 1









The holocaust and centuries of persecution of Jews thus became the raison d’être, besides the already settled large number of Jews in Palestine and their strong lobbying made the long held dream of a Israel – a home for Jews – a reality when Ben-Gurion declared the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, a day before the British Mandate expired.

May 15 is celebrated by Israel as the Independence Day, but for the Arab population of Palestine, the day turned into Yawm an-Nakba, the “Day of the Catastrophe.” The combined troops of Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia had attacked to capture the Palestine Mandate for a United Palestine, but had to give by 1949. Gaza Strip came under the control of Egypt while West Bank was controlled by Jordan. Arab countries and Palestinians have since been humbled in several war and skirmishes, including the Six Days war of 1967 and Yom Kippur War of 1973. Besides, the Palestinians rose into Intifada (uprising) in 1987-93, and subsequently in 2000. Many see current crisis as turning into the third Intifada.

Fwd: Peaceful Ijtemai Dua (Congregational Prayer) And Protest Against Inhuman Killing's Of Pepole Of Palestine And Gaza By Israel. At Madanpura Hari Masjid. Photo Rahul More

According to the Oslo Accords of 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) which had announced the government-in-exile on 15 November 1988 recognized the Israel’s right to exist in peace, while Israel acknowledged the PLO negotiating team as “representing the Palestinian people”. However, Israel, with full support from USA, has continued unabated its expansionist policy (as the map shows) and Palestinians are left in lurch with International community providing lip services.

Thus few things need to be reiterated here, first not Arab Muslims, but Romans were the ones responsible for exodus of Jews from Jerusalem and subsequently Europeans were the one responsible for their persecutions, although it’s a fact that Jews-Muslims clash did take place at several instances. The land of Jerusalem, holy to not only Jews but also the followers of other Abrahamic faith, namely Christians and Muslims, later became part of the Byzantine Empire, and subsequently won by the Arab Caliphates that changed hands several times from Crusader states, Ayyubids of Egypt and Damascus, Mamluks of Egypt and finally the Ottoman Turks, before Palestine was declared a British Mandate.

The return to the ‘original’ land for migrant population on the pretext of original home is a hallow concept in the sense that can all Americans of European origin return to Europe and demand their right on land? That too forcibly!

(M Reyaz tweets at @journalistreyaz)