HIS 1111 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Peel Commission, Deir Yassin Massacre, David Ben-Gurion

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5 Sep 2014

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Week 6b – The Palestinian Question I
Background: Brief History of Palestine and Zionism
The origin of the modern state of Israel lies in Europe and the tide of anti-
Semitism that emerged during the late nineteenth century in the wake of the
nationalist fervor sweeping over the region.
After WW1, the British had control over Palestine
The modern state of Israel revived an ancient legacy, but the descendants of the
Hebrews had been evicted from their historic home almost two millenia ago.
While they retained their distinctive culture, they had become mostly a European
people, with yiddish as their predominant language.
The Jews were mostly driven out by the Romans, and over time the Arab groups
settled in the land
Jews and the Land of Israel
oAfter the Maccabee Revolt, Jews were evicted from Judea and their
peoples were exiled and scattered largely in urban communities
throughout the Roman Empire. In Medieval Europe they were subject to
persistent discrimination and frequent persecution.
oDuring the Diaspora Jews generally fared much better in the Arab world
than in Christian Europe.--> were not persecuted by the Arab world,
unlike the Christian world
Arabs in Palestine
oEviction of Jews
oPalestine as Province in various Empires  Ottoman Empire
oEarly 20th Century Arab Society = divided by social classes
oIn WW1, The British had involved themselves in Arab policy  promised
the Arab homeland if they helped to revolt against the Ottomans
But at the end of the war the British didn’t hold up their end
Early Zionism (1870-1914)
oassociated with Palestine, the historic hearth of Jewish culture.
oEthnic Nationalism on the rise  Jews became an identified as a minority
and persecuted by states
o Theodore Herzl idea of Zionism
Zionism: a Jewish intellectual and social movement that originated
in late nineteenth century Eastern Europe and which proposed that
Jews needed to settle their own homeland, which most adherents
Reversing the Diaspora
oWeizmann  influenced the British parliament to create pressure to support
Since the British control Palestine, it seemed only natural to make the Jewish
Homeland its original land  promises they made to both sides clash
oNot only would Arabs not get their own state, but they would be ruled by a
Christian colonial system
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o Essentially during World War I the British had promised the same thing to
Arabs and the Jews. It is actually more complicated than that, and it
hinged on ambiguity as to the form and location of the Jewish “homeland”
as it was then called. Was the Jewish homeland to be a state or were they
to be just a recognized minority inside a larger Palestine?
In the 1920 Jerusalem Revolt popular angst among Palestinian Arabs manifested
itself in a violent riot that targeted Jews and their property. Historians see this
event as marking both the formal beginning of Jewish-Arab tensions inside
Palestine and increasing the subsequent balkanization of the British mandate into
ethnic enclaves
oSignaled that in an area where Arabs and Jews lived peacefully, not there
is animosity
After the Holocaust, there was a wave of immigration  illegally into Palestine
After World War II, the Jewish cause was sold according to the slogan, a land
without people, for a people without a country, but that is a myth. Between the
wars nearly one million Arabs inhabited Palestine, a considerable number given
the rather barren and arid conditions of this land, but most of them were poor
farmers living in isolated hamlets, and as such did have a strong feeling of what
we would call national identity today.
The 1936-1939 Arab Revolt
o1937 Peel Commission  idea to split the state in two, Arabs refused to do
this bc most of the Jews were illegal European immigrants
o1938 White Paper  agreed to strict Jewish immigration… Jews were upset
and the Arabs pacified
oThe British policy towards Palestine was inconsistent and vacillated
according to its changing imperial needs and the difficulties presented by
the occupation. The primary rationale of British policy was to maintain
tranquility in Palestine, an area of limited direct strategic significance.
An Intractable Dilemma: The UN and Formation of Israel
Since 1947, and even before, some of the worlds greatest statesmen have
struggled with the parameters of a problem: how do you equitably divide a small
strip of arid land between two peoples that do not want to live together?
The pivotal precondition for the creation of the state of Israel, however, was the
Holocaust. This impressed upon even non-Zionists the importance of having a
state in nation-state governed world. Also, it influenced politicians, including
Harry Truman after the war, to support the Zionist formula for a state in Palestine
 Western “Guilt” and sympathy
Western public support for creating a Jewish state increased after World War II
British Policy after the War
oBritain wasn’t supportive of Zionism, all the holocaust refugees into
Palestine’s would be responsible for them and the Arabs would be violent
(which they didn’t want to upset them bc they had just pacified them)
They supported the ideological aspect of Zionism but not the fact
that the Jewish survivors wanted to settle in Palestine
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