USC Students for Justice in Palestine

history, analysis, news, and event updates on the struggle for justice in palestine

Steven Shalom: Background on the History of the Crisis in Israel-Palestine

Posted by uscsjp on September 10, 2006

WHAT ARE THE MODERN ORIGINS OF THE ISRAEL-PALESTINE CONFLICT?

During World War I, Britain made three different promises regarding historic Palestine. Arab leaders were assured that the land would become independent; in the Balfour declaration, Britain indicated its support for a Jewish national home in Palestine; and secretly Britain arranged with its allies to divide up Ottoman territory, with Palestine becoming part of the British empire. Historians have engaged in detailed exegesis of the relevant texts and maps, but the fundamental point is that Britain had no moral right to assign Palestine to anyone. By right Palestine belonged to its inhabitants.

In the late l9th century, anti-Semitism became especially virulent in Russia and re-emerged in France. Some Jews concluded that Jews would only be safe in a Jewish state and thus founded Zionism. Most Jews at the time rejected Zionism, preferring instead to address the problem of anti-Semitism through revolutionary or reformist politics or assimilation. For many orthodox Jews, especially the small Jewish community in Palestine, a Jewish state could only be established by God, not by humans. At first Zionists were willing to consider other sites for their Jewish state, but they eventually focused on Palestine for its biblical connections. The problem, however, was that although a Zionist slogan called Palestine “a land without people for a people without land,” the land was not empty.

Following World War I, Britain arranged for the League of Nations to make Palestine a British “mandate,” that is, a colony to be administered by Britain and prepared for independence. To help justify its rule over Arab land, Britain arranged that one of its duties as the mandatory power would be to promote a Jewish national home. (continued. . .)

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