Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The British Mandate

The Council of the League of Nations approved the British Mandate for Palestine, a document that created challenges for both Palestinians and Zionists. This included the Balfour Declaration and stressed the Jewish historical connection with Palestine. Article 2 puts power under “political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home…and the development of self-governing institutions.”(5) Article 4 created a Jewish Agency that worked with the Palestine administrations. Article 6 required that the Palestine administration, “while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced,”(5) should be helping Jewish immigration into Palestine.
The Mandate unified Palestine as an independent nation for the first time in centuries, causing problems for both Arabs and Zionists.(1) Both Arab and Zionist communities realized that by the end of the mandate, the region’s future would be determined by size of population and ownership of land. Jews sought to increase immigration and land purchases, while Arabs did the opposite. Often times, disagreement often evolved into conflict and violence, and the British had to keep the peace, often with force. Tension over British rule and Zionist growth continued to escalate: several Arab and Zionist parties were formed and traditional rivalries resurfaced.(1)

The Partition of Palestine

In 1947, United Nations General Assembly passed a proposal dividing Palestine into two separate nations, a decision opposed by the Arab states and sparking a war between Arabs Soon after the conclusion of World War II, the United Nations began determining the future of Palestine. Two plans were devised: a majority plan, dividing Palestine into two independent states and the international city of Jerusalem, and a minority plan, establishing a single Palestinian state, subdivided into an Arab state and a Jewish state, each with local autonomy.
Zionists supported the majority plan, because it gave them a completely independent Jewish state, while Arabs generally favored the minority plan, which gave them a single independent state, with Jewish immigration regulations and an Arab majority. On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted to recommend a partition of Palestine, although nearly all of ex-colonial Asia and the Near East were against it. It seemed the United Nations was making decisions for the Eastern people for the benefit of Western nations. The Arab states challenged the resolution on the grounds that, according to the UN Charter, the Assembly only had the right of recommendation, not of binding decision, marking the beginning of Arab-Israeli conflict. 

The Arab-Israeli War

The partition passed by the UN General Assembly sparked even more tension between Arabs and Zionists, inciting a Civil war within Palestine between the two parties. Zionists in Palestine brought in armed forces and increased their efforts to bring new Jewish immigrants. The Arab League pledged its support to the Palestinian Arabs in December of 1947. The civil war began to spread through Palestine during the continual deterioration of the British administration, which was in the process of extricating itself from the tenuous and delicate situation.(2) Due to the rapid escalation of fighting, the United States changed its decision and began to oppose the partition in an attempt to halt the conflict. In mid-March, 1948, the Zionists received a shipment of weapons from Czechoslovakia and began their offensive. In April, 250 Arab civilians at Dayr Yasin were slaughtered, causing an exodus among the Arab people in heavily-populated Jewish areas.
Although Arabs outnumbered Israelis, the Arab soldiers, for the most part, were inexperienced and lacked training, while the Israelis were well trained and had from 20,000 to 25,000 European World War II veterans. Originally, the Arabs were better armed, but the Israelis quickly remedied that situation with foreign aid. The Israelis proved to have the upper hand, and armistice agreements were signed in 1949, conceding much of Palestine to the Israelis. In the end, the war drove almost a million Arabs out of Palestine/Israel, and the Palestinian Arabs lost land that had originally been accorded to them in the partition.